For the tenth time in just over a year, a new era of the MCU has begun. Moon Knight Episode 1 has been released on Disney+ and another character has been added to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe roster. There are a variety of reasons for fans to be excited about Moon Knight, ranging from excitement over the lead star Oscar Isaac to where this character is heading in future projects, but Moon Knight provides something that no other project, streaming or otherwise, has ever provided for the MCU.
Phase 4 has taken the post-Infinity Saga MCU to entirely new heights across the board. Narratively, fans are experiencing the passing of mantles and introductions to worlds unknown. Socially, characters like Wanda Maximoff, Sam Wilson, and Clint Barton are reaching leading levels of fandom they hadn't seen before. Behind the scenes, Marvel Studios has embraced the streaming world as a new way to tell their stories in new and exciting ways.
Now with Moon Knight, Marvel Studios has added another tool to their belt as they continue to build the most successful franchise of all time. Moon Knight's premiere is the first Marvel Studios release to ever introduce a title character in a streaming series. This is a huge step forward for the MCU as the studio continues to expand its universe, and it is great news for fans who are excited to see their favorite comic book heroes brought to life.
Moon Knight: A Character Meant For Streaming
When Marvel Studios announced their first projects being released on Disney+, fans saw this as the MCU's way to give shine to characters that have been supporting roles on the big screen. WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye all gave titular focus to characters who have been nothing more than role players in their MCU tenure, and the result of that commitment is already paying off.
Sam Wilson is the MCU's new Captain America and is receiving a solo movie. Loki introduced what is sure to be one of the biggest players on the board moving forward, Jonathan Majors' Kang the Conqueror, while also receiving a second season. Hawkeye gave Clint Barton six episodes to pass his mantle on to one of the brightest young stars the MCU has to offer. Wanda Maximoff went debuting as Avengers: Age of Ultron's secondary villain to being a major player in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, one of the most highly anticipated blockbusters of the year.
Disney+ has already proven it is an excellent resource to tell more personal and elaborate stories for characters who have not received big-screen title credits. The question has now become who will be the first character to use this medium to tell their origin story? Enter Moon Knight.
Marc Spector, Steven Grant, Jake Lockley, and Moon Knight are all the same character. That alone makes them a top candidate to warrant six or more episodes of an origin story. Add elements of world-building as the MCU creeps into the Supernatural Branch for the first time, and the star power behind Oscar Isaac and Moon Knight quickly becomes the clear choice to test the origin story waters on Disney+.
This historic decision puts Moon Knight in a spot to set the bar for which characters receive a streaming series, and which ones get their first title projects in theaters. Meaning that the story Marvel Studios tells introducing The Fist of Konshu into their universe has more implications behind its success than any other series before it. After Episode 1, it is revealed that this character is being introduced in medias res, as he is a fully developed version of Moon Knight right away. This allows for more time to develop this character even further in six episodes.
The MCU Origin Story: Bread and Butter
Taking a quick look back, the origin story is the cornerstone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Moon Knight pushing the boundaries of what an origin story can look like in the MCU, it is worth noting how efficient Marvel Studios has been pushing those boundaries in the past.
The MCU was built in a cave with a box of scraps, and that first scrap that led to this universe was 2008's Iron Man. No wheel was recreated as far as superhero origin stories here. It was the simple decision to ensure fans fell in love with Tony Stark first that made this such a monumental achievement for the genre. The character-first focus in the MCU has allowed them to swing harder in sequels, team-ups, and crossovers, which has led to the success fans have enjoyed for the last 14 years.
That said, Iron Man is a marketable character for comic book fans. What about characters who are less known to the general public? Can Marvel Studios make fans care about them the same way they care about Tony Stark? That question was answered in 2014 with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1.
The James Gunn space opera was another glass ceiling shattered by Marvel Studios, proving that they can not only get audiences invested in one lower-tier Marvel character, but five of them at the same time. Guardians changed the game the same way Iron Man did in that there was now a precedent set for which characters can work in live-action. Marvel Studios cemented the strategy of trusting its creators, investing in the characters as opposed to the heroes, and sticking to that classic Marvel shine that is on every project.
Television is different. Can you introduce a character fans care about, based on a low-tier Marvel comic, and hold their attention over multiple weeks and not a single two-hour sitting? While many would argue this question was answered over on Netflix with Daredevil, Marvel Studios proved that they can do it themselves in 2021's Hawkeye.
It was a "dip toes in the water" situation as Kate Bishop's MCU debut did not come with her completely owning the title of the project. Sharing the top billing with Jeremy Renner's Clint Barton allowed Marvel Studios to bring the next generation of Hawkeye to life without putting her out there to sink or swim all by herself.
Beyond Bishop, key players in the MCU were introduced on Disney+ throughout 2021 with John Walker, Sylvie, and Maya Lopez.
The Future of the MCU on Disney+
All of these things directly impact the weight behind Moon Knight being the first title character to be introduced on Disney+. They need fans to care about the character the same way they cared about Iron Man. They need to sell someone most fans have never heard of, like Guardians. They need to hold that excitement week after week like Kate Bishop in Hawkeye. If Moon Knight can accomplish all of those classic Marvel Studios milestones, then that means big things for the future of streaming superheroes.
There is a pretty clear cause-and-effect mentality in the MCU. Iron Man works, so they start building a universe. Guardians of the Galaxy works, so they begin introducing more obscure characters on the big screen, like Shang-Chi and Eternals. Though it has not come to fruition just yet, the success of 2021's rookie class on Disney+ can only mean more of that to come in future MCU projects.
If Moon Knight can capitalize on their premiere episode's introduction of this character and deliver a series that fans love, then that opens the doors for characters being introduced in the streaming format more. There are plenty of big-name characters and IPs that would greatly benefit from the pacing and time of a streaming series as opposed to a movie trilogy, the least of which is the X-Men.
As one of the biggest brands in comic book history, Charles Xavier's lot of mutants has a roster that rivals the Avengers in the final battle of Endgame. If a precedent can be set by Moon Knight that MCU characters can successfully be introduced on Disney+, then Marvel Studios might be willing to embrace a Game of Thrones-style plan for the mutants in the MCU.
While Moon Knight has already made history as Marvel Studios' first Disney+ origin story, it has the opportunity to become another pillar of the universe and the fuel to add to the streaming fire in the MCU.