Widescreen: 'Moon Knight' baffles, 'Saul' gives hope, Killer Mike comes to Chicago

  • Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac) becomes a cloaked superhero with the help of Egyptian god Khonshu in "Moon Knight."

    Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac) becomes a cloaked superhero with the help of Egyptian god Khonshu in "Moon Knight." Courtesy of Disney+

 
 
Posted5/5/2022 10:23 AM

Marvel's "Moon Knight" finished its six-episode run on Disney+ this week with a baffling finale befitting a show that seemed to delight in confusing its audience.

Oscar Isaac certainly gives his all in a dual role as Steven Grant and Marc Spector, two identities battling for control inside one mind. (Wait, each of them has a superhero identity too, so I guess it's a quadruple role?) Steven is a shy, reserved British gift-shop employee; Marc is a violent mercenary with the obligatory troubled past. Both can become powerful heroes thanks to Khonshu (voice of F. Murray Abraham), the Egyptian god of the moon. The series' most interesting dramatic scenes have one identity speaking to the other in reflections.

 

Head writer Jeremy Slater ("The Umbrella Academy") asks so much of Isaac and, frankly, too much of the audience. This story about a man's psyche being fractured by himself, the god who possesses him, and the death-cult leader (Ethan Hawke) who used to be possessed by that god is told in a fractured narrative.

Scenes are omitted during Steven's blackouts. There are multiple detours into an apparent purgatory represented by a psych ward, where the villain is inexplicably a therapist. The story's rules for Khonshu and the other Egyptian gods that figure into the story seem to change scene by scene.

Thematically fitting? Perhaps. Satisfying? No.

The confusion is particularly galling given the great work everyone else is doing, starting with Isaac. Director Mohamed Diab and the visual effects team deliver an action-packed finale. The inventive musical score by Hesham Nazih, an Egyptian composer making his Hollywood debut, will be in heavy rotation on my Spotify account. (Check out the main title theme and "Constellation," the whirling choral track that accompanies "Moon Knight's" most visually striking scene in which Steven and Khonshu spin all the stars in the sky like a globe.)

"Moon Knight" isn't even bogged down by Marvel's usual roll-call of cameos, Easter eggs and "Avengers" callbacks. What sinks this most promising show is the writing, alternately overdoing and underexplaining.

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A glimmer of hope

Monday's fourth episode of the final "Better Call Saul" season has me envisioning a happy ending, of all things. Spoilers ahead?

Now that we know hard-boiled enforcer Mike (Jonathan Banks) is keeping an eye on Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn, who made her outstanding directorial debut this week) in the aftermath of cartel kingpin Lalo's (Tony Dalton) death-defying escape, an ending for the "Breaking Bad" prequel that allows Mike to save the morally compromised Kim -- and make her "disappear" -- comes into focus. Maybe even one in which Jimmy thinks Kim has been killed by Lalo ... until she strides back into his life in the black-and-white flash-forwards we've seen sporadically throughout the series.

Mike would get to be a hero before suffering his "Breaking Bad" fate, and Kim would be spared the death that many assume is coming.

But I'm sure producers Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan have more than a few surprises up their sleeves.

Rapper and host Killer Mike chats with comedian Taneshia "Just Nesh" Rice at Chicago's WDNR Museum on the fourth episode of "Tumbleweeds With Killer Mike."
Rapper and host Killer Mike chats with comedian Taneshia "Just Nesh" Rice at Chicago's WDNR Museum on the fourth episode of "Tumbleweeds With Killer Mike." - Courtesy of Vice
A different kind of travelogue

The legalization of recreational cannabis has certainly been a boon for Illinois' economy, with sales growing close to $2 billion -- and tax collections of $563 million -- as of December, according to a Sun-Times story that appeared in the Daily Herald. What has that meant for the Chicago area's "cannabis culture"? The last episode of a four-part documentary will find out this weekend.

"Tumbleweeds With Killer Mike," in which the rapper and activist tours the country's marijuana dispensaries and the cities they call home, comes to Chicago in an episode that premieres at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 8, on the Vice cable network, with the first of many encores at 11:30 p.m. Monday, May 9. The episode features guest appearances by comedians Chris Higgins, Jarrell Barnes and Abi Sanchez, and treks to the Curaleaf Dispensary and Chicago's WDNR Museum, 1130 W. Monroe St., an "immersive art and technology experience."

• Sean Stangland is an assistant news editor who wishes "Moon Knight" had been a tight two-hour movie instead of a meandering six-episode series.

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