“The Tomb” upends everything with a big twist after delivering a pared-back hour with a lot of character.
This recap of Moon Knight season 1, episode 4, “The Tomb”, contains spoilers.
And just like that, Moon Knight has upended basically everything we knew about the direction of the season thus far. It might be some temporary misdirection, or it might be a complete left-field deviation that nobody was expecting, but either way, “The Tomb” left things very much up in the air. And that’s good! This has been a weird show so far, and part of its weirdness is rooted in unpredictability. In a franchise so commonly derided for playing things safe, it’s a nice change to have very little idea where things are going.
Moon Knight season 1, episode 4 recap
And “The Tomb” really committed to the bit. I was expecting Marc suddenly waking up in an asylum to be a last-minute stinger, but when I checked the remaining runtime of the episode, I was surprised to see there were still ten minutes left. In that time, we got a sense of the illusion; everyone we’ve met thus far, from Layla to Harrow, existed in this presumed dreamscape, either as fellow patients or, in Harrow’s case, a therapist. The place was dotted with Egyptian artifacts and memorabilia. And a low-budget movie called Tomb Buster, which Marc was apparently obsessed with, had an uncanny resemblance to the adventure we’ve been on thus far, right down to the British archaeologist adventurer named Steven Grant.
Luckily, Moon Knight gives us enough credit as an audience to know we won’t buy into the whole “it was all a dream” line. We know that Marc hasn’t been imagining everything we’ve seen thus far, basing his alternate personality on a character in a straight-to-video movie, and dotting his adventure with details cribbed from his sterile surroundings like Keyser Soze. So, things quickly get weird. Marc discovers Steven as an actual physical version of himself hidden in a sarcophagus, and the two of them promptly run into a life-sized version of Taweret, the Egyptian hippo deity. I mean, why not, at this point?
But just because we know that the characters haven’t been stuck here all along doesn’t mean that the sudden change in direction isn’t welcome and intriguing, because I, for one, have no idea where all this is going or what it might mean. And, again, that’s good. It’s a welcome dose of weirdness in a show that threatens, at times, to become too reliant on its archetypes and the expected structure and safety of the biggest multimedia entertainment franchise in history.
And the rest of “The Tomb” seemed to be heading that way. With Khonshu having been encased in stone by the other Gods, we were left with Marc, Steven, and Layla on the hunt for Ammit’s tomb, racing against Harrow’s men and the supernatural guardians of her final resting place while also navigating a burgeoning love triangle. I suppose it’s novel for two personalities within the same body to both be in love with one woman, but the execution really amounted to fairly standard personality types interacting in fairly predictable ways. Layla is frustrated with Marc because he pushed her away, but Marc, being the stoic manly mercenary type, was only pushing her away to protect her. She’s intrigued by Steven because he’s a bumbling, unflappably honest Englishman whose totally unmysterious forthrightness is what she has always craved from Marc. Steven is in love with Layla but he’s privy to Marc’s true feelings for her, so feels too guilty to really pursue her, and Marc is in love with Layla and wants to brutishly scare Steven off, even though he knows he’d probably be better for her overall. You get the idea.
Luckily, the performances really sell all this. Layla is a great character; you can buy into why she’d be into both personalities, and we know that she doesn’t need either in any kind of physical sense. She’s as smart as Steven, more or less, and as physically capable as Marc, more or less, so the romantic connection feels more… well, romantic, I suppose. Layla isn’t looking for a protector, but an equal and honest companion.
“The Tomb” does a good job of cycling through all this character drama while also working as a kind of creature feature, with the chattering undead guardians of the titular sepulcher making for enjoyably horrifying threats, especially since we know that the heroes don’t have Khonshu to bail them out. It gave Steven some opportunities to be smart, it used the historical context to create a cool moment in which we discovered that Ammit’s ushabti was hidden down the decomposing throat of a long-dead Alexander the Great, and it provided Harrow with a great villain moment in which he revealed to Layla that Marc was present for the death of her father and has kept his involvement a secret during their entire marriage. All solid stuff.
How all this comes together is what leads us to the asylum. Layla, distraught, confronts Marc about what Harrow told her, and Marc finally gets control of the body just in time to try and make his case. He didn’t kill her father, but he was there when his partner did, and him having survived an attempt on his own life at the time doesn’t absolve him of the responsibility. When Harrow and his goons interrupt the party, Marc gets a chance to prove his point by holding them off while Layla escapes, but he’s quickly shot by Harrow, and as he falls into the mucky tomb water, that’s when we disappear into the asylum.
So, is he dead? Presumably not. But how has he managed to transport himself to this bizarre pocket dimension? How will he and Steven – and presumably Layla – get out? And once they do, how are they going to go about freeing Khonshu? There’s a lot to ponder here, and with only two episodes remaining, it’ll be really interesting to see how Moon Knight does about resolving things.