Marvel Studios' thirteenth year of content has begun. Just as 2021 kicked off with Disney+'s WandaVision, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is beginning its packed year of 2022 with a streaming series. Unlike last year's batch of legacy shows, Oscar Isaac's Moon Knight represents the first time an MCU rookie makes his debut in serialized fashion.
Isaac and company have embraced that rookie vibe as well. The leading man has referred to his solo series as the "first legitimate character-study" since 2008's Iron Man, and executive producer Grant Curtis claims this inaugural Moon Knight project has "no attachment to the current MCU."
Warning - The rest of this article contains spoilers from Moon Knight Episode 1.
The first dive into Steven Grant's mind exemplified those promises too. Moon Knight's premiere episode strictly focused on the vulnerable gift shop employee as he navigated life while attempting to outrun Khonshu's control. Supporting characters also focused solely on the world around them, as Ethan Hawke's Arthur Harrow introduced viewers to his cult following.
Harrow's inclusion in the series caught many by surprise. In the comics, Arthur Harrow is a renowned surgeon and scientist who only appears as a minor character. Hiring an Academy Award nominee like Hawke, who was initially rumored to play iconic antagonists like the Sun King or Dracula, to bring such a small role to life felt out of character for Marvel Studios. However, one of Moon Knight's writers explained this was by design.
Moon Knight Dodges Black Panther Connections
Is this your king?
Moon Knight writer Jeremy Slater took to Twitter to explain the inclusion of Arthur Harrow in the series.
According to the scribe, they wanted to "invent a villain" rather than pulling a "recognizable" antagonist that bared too many similarities to Black Panther nemesis Erik Killmonger.
"His only recognizable villain was Bushman, who just felt too close to Black Panther's Erik Killmonger. So we decided to invent a villain instead. Ethan Hawke in particular was instrumental in creating Harrow."
On the page, Raoul Bushman is a guerrilla warfare expert who formerly worked alongside Marc Spector.
Bushman is responsible for numerous senseless murders, and takes out his rage on Spector by beating him within an inch of his life. Spector first encounters Khonshu when Bushman leaves him for dead, which begins his Moon Knight origins.
While the series took liberties with antagonists, Slater emphasized that "preserving the character's Jewish faith" was a writers' room priority.
"Preserving the character's Jewish faith was important to our entire writing team. It's something that definitely gets explored in later episodes."
Getting into that writers' room was a long time coming for Slater, who noted he's wanted to work with Marvel Studios "for almost a decade."
"I've been trying to get into the MCU for almost a decade now! I had a general meeting with them a few years back and they gave me a list of characters they were interested in developing. Once I saw Moon Knight's name on there, I was all in."
Beyond being true to Moon Knight's comics origins, Marvel Studios stressed being accurate to the character's Egyptian ties.
"Not only did Marvel provide us with a wealth of research material, but we actually had a real-life Egyptian archeologist on speed dial for advice, ideas and fact-checking."
Too Many Marvel Mercenaries
No more parties in New York, and no more mercenaries in the MCU.
While Slater and company's decision to pass on Bushman does not rule out the character's appearance down the line, it does stay consistent with Marvel Studios' trend towards originality. Before the likes of Michael Keaton's Vulture and Josh Brolin's Thanos, many of Marvel's antagonists were carbon copies of the hero they were opposing. Everyone from Jeff Bridges' Iron Monger to Corey Stoll's Yellowjacket were simply the antithesis of Iron Man and Ant-Man, respectively. Bushman has no comparison to Moon Knight's supernatural powers, but he does hold many resemblances to the Marc Spector alias.
Beyond that, the aforementioned parallels to Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger are blunt. Not only are they both mercenaries, but they both fight their opposing hero and leave them for dead, before said hero finds that inner strength, transforms into their enhanced alias, and gets their win back.
The desire to avoid Black Panther connections makes sense from a narrative standpoint, but it also raises the question about Killmonger's future. The character dies at the end of the 2019 Best Picture Nominee, but his demand to be "[buried] in the ocean" leaves an Atlantean resurrection on the table.
Moon Knight Episode 1 is streaming now on Disney+.