Moon Knight is the first title character in the MCU to be introduced on Disney+. This series features plenty of classic Marvel Studios elements that make the Marvel Cinematic Universe what it is: charismatic characters, vintage MCU style, and a story/plot combination full of heart. But while this show heavily features three of the four pillars that the universe is built on (characters, style, and heart), it is specifically low on arguably the biggest one: world-building.
What makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe the biggest movie franchise of all time is countless examples of effortless world-building between projects. There are various ways Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and his team go about the synergy between this connected movie universe.
Familiar Easter eggs within the set hint at other events and locations throughout the MCU and character integration, ranging from references in dialogue to full-blown cameo appearances. All of these are used to make the audience feel like every project between the capstone event movies is a part of one world. While it is often memed to death as homework to enjoy movies, the connectivity of the MCU is what every studio making blockbuster movies dreams of.
In this new age of heroes post-Infinity Saga, many wondered how connected everything would remain moving forward, especially with the introduction of streaming projects on Disney+. While Phase 4 has had plenty of cohesion so far, Moon Knight is the most stand-alone project yet; it joins Iron Man as the only project to not feature or reference any character or event throughout the rest of the MCU.
The Rebuilding Phase of the MCU
Moon Knight does not feature a single character that had been previously introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Furthermore, there are no references to any of said characters or events that have happened in other MCU projects. Moon Knight could have been introduced as a different superhero series despite a handful of nods to factions and locations across this cinematic universe. No one would have known the difference.
So far, every MCU project has featured at least one reference to another character or event in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, except, of course, Iron Man. It was the first with nothing to reference to. Even the MCU's second installment, The Incredible Hulk, featured a post-credits cameo from Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark.
Another largely disconnected MCU project, Eternals, still namedropped notable Avengers like Iron Man & Captain America; Harry Styles' Eros was also referred to as the "brother of Thanos" by Pip the Troll.
For Moon Knight to join Iron Man on this exclusive list is a sign of the times. After the most historical dynasty in movie history in the Infinity Saga, Phase 4 is a rebuilding phase for the MCU. Introducing new characters and stories, there seems to be an initiative within the offices of Feige and his team to establish new heroes independently. This makes Moon Knight one of, if not the most, independent players on the roster despite the heavy potential for team-ups in the future.
Not Completely Disconnected From the MCU
Now, while the lack of references to other characters and events is significant and historical, Moon Knight still does connect to the greater MCU.
Plenty of Easter eggs connect Moon Knight to other projects across the universe, both on streaming and the big screen. However, the most popular nod featured in the Moon Knight trailers is a variety of signs and banners referencing the Global Repatriation Council or the GRC. This is a global council of world leaders responsible for the displacement and resources for refugees from the blip. This entity was introduced and used as a plot point for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in 2021.
Another Easter egg in this show is one thing that separates the MCU from other connected movie franchises. So often, an "Easter egg" in a lesser cinematic universe movie is a blatant and obvious image of a character or iconography that is right in the face of the audience. Moon Knight shows a vintage MCU subtlety with Steven Grant's book collection. Among the books in his library are "What's New Is Old Again: ASGARD" and "The History Of Wakanda," two books detailing two of MCU's most legendary locations.
Another Easter egg takes place in the dialogue of Episode 5. The Hippopotamus God Taweret mentions the Wakandan religion Ancestral Plane as one of the many afterlives. Again, this is a type of reference to another location in the MCU that brings synergy and cohesion to the franchise on a spiritual level.
The Grey Area of Kang
In Moon Knight, there is one Easter egg that teeters on the line between nod and reference to another character. On the jacket of one of the jobbers of the series is an image of Rama-Tut, an Egyptian god. Rama-Tut in Marvel Comics is an early ancestor of Kang the Conqueror. Another version of Kang was introduced in 2021's Loki as the final boss, He Who Remains.
He Who Remains tells the story of his journey within the MCU upon introduction, as he was a 31st-century scientist. He discovered the existence of other universes and his Variants within those universes. Buzzwords such as "conqueror" lead sharp-eared fans to believe that He Who Remains is a late descendent of Kang the Conqueror. This was all but confirmed by the fans and industry alike, with actor Jonathan Majors set to appear in Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantamania as Kang himself.
This certainly can be taken as a reference to an already existing character once the holes in the connection between He Who Remains and Rama-Tut are filled by fan theories. But Rama-Tut is not a character that has been seen in live-action. Only readers of the comics or patrollers of articles just like this one would be able to make that connection. So, in the spirit of canon, it does not count, and Moon Knight remains largely independent within the MCU.
The Universe Has Expanded
Moon Knight marks the first time since its inception that Marvel Studios was confident enough to introduce a new character without relying on a pop from the crowd at the mentioning or appearance of an already established one. That is not to say that any new character introduced at that time needed world-building assistance, but it is worth noting.
The first nine projects of Phase 4, all released in the same calendar year, introduced new characters with the same theme: legacy. Yelena Belova, John Walker, and Kate Bishop are all introduced as the recipients of their respective mantles. The Eternals were brought on as a galactic watchmen group that even mentions their ability to replace the Avengers. And Shang-Chi is recruited and has an introductory meeting with established and high-level members of the Avengers during a post-credits scene.
Virtually all of these projects mention the events of Avengers: Endgame in one way or another as well.
These characters are introduced and integrated into this universe with their own unique and special skills to bring to the roster. But they all debuted in projects that reference back to the MCU. As a result, Moon Knight was able to be different and stand completely alone in his own story. The Easter eggs allow Moon Knight to exist within the Marvel Cinematic Universe while relying only on these characters.
For fans that show up solely for the world-building pillar of the MCU, don't worry. Coming on June 8 is Ms. Marvel, the series starring a mega-fan of the superheroes in the MCU. While it took detective-level precision to find the references in Moon Knight, it would require a complete lack of paying attention to miss them in Ms. Marvel.