Disney+'s 'Moon Knight' joins another Marvel project, 'Black Panther,' on the exploration of African identity and themes. So how did the show do?
Disney+'s Moon Knight dimmed out its light this week. The season finale, which premiered today, left viewers asking if there will be another season. Moon Knight is a lesser-known caped superhero from Marvel Comics, so no one could predict what a small-screen adaptation would look like. So when the series Moon Knight was introduced for the first time, excitement around a new MCU project was usual, but this one had no reference for success.
Never danced to an end credits song this hard before \n\nHaving a favorite Egyptian street song of mine in a Hollywood series, a Marvel one too is just unfathomable to me.\n\n#MoonKnightpic.twitter.com/ZlxVYCuM1F— Manar Salah\ud80c\udc80 (@Manar Salah\ud80c\udc80) 1649284132
Interestingly, Moon Knight wasn’t filmed in Egypt. Much of the show’s scenery and action take place elsewhere, like Hungary, Slovenia, and Jordan. The first time Egypt is shown, it’s towards the end of the second episode, "Summon the Suit." Spencer opens the windows from a high building, revealing pyramids in a far distance and a cluster of houses with native architecture. Jordan was a stand-in location for Egypt, and it’s a testament to Diab’s creative imagination and production team.
Egypt was made to look and feel real, and not some orientalist La La Land. Social media is usually a great barometer for viewers’ reaction to pop culture events. So when Egyptian rap song "El-Melouk" — from Ahmed Saad, 3enba and Double Zuksh — played in the end-credits of the second episode, the reception was overwhelmingly positive. Many viewers, especially those of Egyptian or Arab identity, couldn’t hide their excitement, expressing how they felt seen.
Upbeat and lively, its feature on Moon Knight winked at Egypt’s burgeoning rap scene and dance music. Dubai-based Egyptian DJ Kaboo felt the same elation too. His song Enta, from his 2020 project Arab Trap, was featured at the end of the show’s third episode.
At the core of the show is Egyptian mythology, where viewers are introduced to a pantheon of gods and symbolisms, from the aforementioned Khonshu to others, including Ammit, Tefnut, Horus, Isis, Osiris, Hathor, and Taweret. Episode five, "Asylum," plumbed the depths of the spirit realm, using metaphorical placeholders and imagery.
For Diab, who incidentally is Marvel’s first Egyptian filmmaker, representation on screen was as important as representation off screen. The hiring of composer Hisham Nazih, editor Ahmed Hafez and other Egyptian creatives like Reem al-Adl and Ali Hossam came from a desire to achieve authenticity. Egyptian actors such as Amr Al-Qadi, Zizi Dagher, Ahmed Dash and Hazem Ehab appeared in various scenes in Moon Knight. Antonia Salib voiced Taweret, the Egyptian goddess of fertility shown as a CGI hippo. (A British actress but of Egyptian descent, this was Salib’s major debut role.)
While Moon Knight is a personality clash between Marc Spencer and Steven Grant (another alter ego), it makes allowance for Layla, another note-worthy character played by Egyptian-Palestinian actress May Calamawys. Layla is complex and interesting, can defend herself in crisis, steering away from orientalist framings of Arab women.
Moon Knight joins another Marvel project on the exploration of African identity and themes. Like Diab, Ryan Coogler wanted African representation in Black Panther, exploring mythos and cultures. Although both works vary greatly in scale and ambition, they align in depicting genuine African storytelling.