Moon Knight Episode 5 is arguably one of the best installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s television series. While answering a lot of questions about our protagonists and the nature of the show itself, it managed to feel incredibly unique from its companion episodes. Despite being a standout for the Oscar Isaac-led series, it had quite a few similarities to a popular episode of the first Phase Four installment, WandaVision.
If Episode 5 of Moon Knight reminded you of Episode 8 of WandaVision, you are not alone. Both penultimate episodes carried similar themes and structures that ultimately accomplished the same task: rewriting the origin stories of the MCU characters. This article explores the resemblances and differences between the two episodes to highlight Marvel Studios’ fresh technique in introducing or re-introducing heroes.
While often referred to as the “flashback” episode, WandaVision Episode 8 does not actually feature any true flashbacks, and the same can be said for Moon Knight’s most recent installment. While there are numerous memories showcased in each, they are in the form of physical spaces that the main characters can, essentially, be a part of. In both episodes, the physical path to the memories was represented by doors–Agatha leads Wanda through a door in her basement, while Marc Spector and Steven Grant travel from room to room in the mentally-projected psych ward.
A slight difference is how the characters exist within these memory spaces. In Moon Knight, Marc and Steven could move around as separate entities from their past selves as highlighted by Steven desperately trying to save the young Marc and his brother from drowning. In WandaVision, however, Wanda generally relives the memories and takes on the form of her past self. For example, rather than watching herself go through the HYDRA experimentation with the mind stone, she inhabited that past body and lived through it once more. Even with that slight variation, the outcome is the same. The memories of the lead characters play out in what feels like real-time, and the fact that our heroes relive these dark moments makes it more potent for the audience.
Obviously, both of the episodes at hand were the penultimate installments of the series. Both Moon Knight and WandaVision took a break from their ongoing plots to spend virtually an entire episode in the past. Because they were immediately before the finales, they changed the momentum of the Phase Four entries and paved the way to conclusions that feel drastically different than their beginnings. The memories served to answer many questions that plagued the shows. In both, there existed a sort of “final” or “peak” memory that revealed the most fundamental concepts that had before been mysteries.
In WandaVision, we see the build-up and finally the actual moment that Wanda created Westview. Previously, the viewer did not know when Westview started, and the memory furthermore explained how the Scarlet Witch’s background and then-current grief combined to manifest as the series. While Moon Knight has not yet concluded, it is safe to say that the reveal that Marc is the original personality is a watershed moment for the show. It answered several questions surrounding the existence and relationship between him and Steven, which is the bedrock of the series.
Spotlight on Mental Health
Neither the MCU nor other comic book franchises are known for their deep character-level emotional explorations or dives into the sphere of mental health. But both Moon Knight Episode 5 and WandaVision Episode 8 put the spotlight on those themes. These two episodes spend a great deal more time on the mental health or emotional aspects of their lead characters than other series or films in the MCU. Because of that, they are noticeably different experiences than what the viewer is used to.
Wanda’s depression, trauma, and grief were the underlying cause of Westview and all of the events of the series. While often media is satisfied in suggesting that, for example, a character is grieving deeply, the WandaVision penultimate episode genuinely and successfully elected to show it.
Similarly, Episode 5 of Moon Knight put the spotlight on Marc’s inner struggles. While deep trauma is unrooted like in WandaVision, the presence of and respect given to the character’s dissociative identity disorder leads the series to explore a much more concrete and narrow area of mental health. Still, Marc is developed as a well-rounded character with emotional and psychological turmoil beyond it.
While the emotional penultimate episodes certainly add fresh and enriching experiences to their respective series and the MCU at large, they both appear to do something interesting for their titular heroes. We know that WandaVision’s finale acted as a sort of renewed origin story for the Scarlet Witch in the cinematic universe. There, Wanda had been introduced as a character years before and her series served to re-establish the hero and her mantle. Moon Knight, in contrast, was introduced in the current series. While Moon Knight has less to rework, it is likely building up to establish the MCU’s own unique take on the character’s origin. His classic comics origin was very briefly shown in Episode 5, and it seems as though the show is eager to establish Moon Knight in a way unique from his history and expectations. The penultimate episode is almost certainly laying the foundations for the superhero’s true MCU-specific origin story to be fully revealed in the Moon Knight finale.
The first five episodes of Moon Knight are now streaming on Disney+, while the entire series of WandaVision is currently available on the streamer.