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Moon Knight’s Lessons About Mental Health and Freedom

Creator:
Published:
January 8, 2024
May 5, 2022
Read what this author learned from Moon Knight about mental health and freedom.|Read what this author learned from Moon Knight about mental health and freedom.

I’m not even a huge Marvel fan, but I was captivated by Moon Knight. Didn’t know anything about this character and the multiple personalities lurking below his surface. Had never heard of a superhero with special mummy armor. Was mostly ignorant about Egyptian mythology. And yet this was a fun show to watch.

(If you haven’t seen the show yet, you should stop reading here and come back when you’re finished — spoilers ahead!)

Now that we’ve crossed the finish line of this six-part series, we can connect a few dots. The action is great, the production value is high (Tawaret’s twitching ears!), Oscar Isaac’s acting is incredible, and the character development is intriguing — but even better, this show has something to say about how our mental health impacts our freedom. 

Freedom is always worth protecting

As we come to see that Marc is bonded to the Egyptian moon god, Khonshu, we also come to share his dread at having to serve the “travelers of the night” by doing his will … which often involves violence. For the first half of the story — as we are catching up to the split personality situation between Marc and Steven — the driving point of interest is whether Marc can escape the god’s influence. Khonshu seems to be the bad guy here, and Marc is terrified that Khonshu will choose his wife, Layla, as his next avatar.

As the story develops, though, we see Marc/Steven cooperate with Khonshu against a greater evil because they need each other. Khonshu needs a human avatar to effect change in the world; Marc/Steven need Khonshu’s powers to fight and defeat Harrow (who knew Ethan Hawke makes a great villain?) and, ultimately, Ammit, the devourer of the dead. 

In the finale, Marc/Steven can only re-enter the world by allying with Khonshu, but they make that relationship contingent on their freedom — they insist on it, and Khonshu promises to release them. 

That exchange comes at an odd time — the flow of the story has us on the edge of our seats, ready to tilt into the final battle, and that’s when Steven sits down on a rock, crosses his legs, and insists on discussing their work arrangement. Marc/Steven know the value of their freedom and won’t proceed without it. 

Earlier, Khonshu invites Layla to become his avatar, but she’s seen how destructive that relationship can be by watching Marc. She prefers to head into battle against Ammit without divine powers. And when Tawaret gives her the opportunity to become her avatar, she only accepts if she can retain her independence. 

If there’s one thing the characters learn in this story, it’s the value of freedom. 

Through five of the show’s episodes, we watch Marc/Steven struggle with their servitude to Khonshu and the cost of that compulsion. It’s not a leap to see Khonshu standing in the human psyche for other attachments or addictions that steer our will to places we don’t want to go. When we are under its power, that ruling figure — whatever force it is in our lives — is always present; when that deep, resonant voice emerges, it’s impossible to ignore. Fighting for freedom from that voice is worth the effort.

Integration leads to freedom

For most of this series, Marc and Steven are at odds with one another. It’s not only their servitude to Khonshu that limits their freedom — it’s their lack of integration.

We learn that Marc’s dissociative identity disorder comes from trauma he suffered as a child. Steven stepped in as a separate identity to help him cope with his mother’s abuse. But for most of the story, the two don’t know or acknowledge one another. 

Their emerging friendship forms the major story arc of this series. They move from ignorance of one another, to denial, to hostility, to begrudging cooperation, to friendship. It’s a movement toward integration, where each can see and appreciate what they offer each other. 

In the finale, Steven sacrifices himself for Marc in a battle and becomes trapped in sand in the Egyptian underworld, Duat. Marc has the opportunity to enter the afterlife in the field of reeds, but realizes that he’s incomplete without Steven, and goes back for him. Marc places his heart in Steven’s hands, prepared to suffer the same fate — he acknowledges that Steven was the only superpower he ever had. Steven’s innocence protected Marc just as much as Marc’s mercenary skills protected Steven. 

When Marc and Steven reach this point of integration, they step into a new form of life. Because they know who they are, they can negotiate for their freedom. The same is true for us: it’s only when we cease being multiple people in different situations that we find wholeness — and that integrity gives us freedom. 

Growing in freedom is a never-ending journey

You’re only reading this because you’re a Marvel fan, so you know that there’s always a scene after the credits. Fans of the comic series had seen hints throughout the final episodes that there’s yet another person within Marc/Steven: Jake Lockley. Sure enough, Jake steps into the story in the final minute to tie up loose ends. 

Marc/Steven only defeat Harrow because of Jake, but they are just as ignorant of Jake’s presence as Steven was of Marc’s at the start of the show. So even though Marc/Steven have achieved a measure of integration, they clearly have more work to do. And don’t underestimate the setting of that final end scene: it’s Jake who’s in the driver’s seat. 

Because we’re made in the image of God, the human person is a mystery — that’s not to say that we can’t know anything about ourselves, just that we can’t come to the end of knowing ourselves. There’s always more to discover. And the effort is always worth it. 

Creators:
Josh Noem
Published:
January 8, 2024
May 5, 2022
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