SPOILER WARNING: This story discusses key plot points in Season 1, Episode 6 of “Moon Knight”, currently streaming on Disney+.
During Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight, it’s been clear that the titular superhero at the center, played by Oscar Isaac, was struggling with a serious mental health issue. His dissociative identity disorder had split his psyche in two: Mark Spector, a hard-working American mercenary, and Steven Grant, a sweet-natured British gift shop worker.
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However, savvy viewers of “Moon Knight” have picked up hints about Mark that fans of the Marvel comic series already know: Mark’s ghost harbors a third identity. And in the closing scene of the (possibly) final episode of “Moon Knight,” the audience finally met him: Jake Lockley. In the comics, Jake is a cab driver, but during the show, after Mark or Steven blacked out when their lives were in danger, the audience suspects that Jake is capable of blistering acts of overwhelming violence. However, it’s not until the post-credits scene that Jake finally appears. He retrieves Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow from a mental hospital, dumps him in a long limousine and kills him on behalf of the Egyptian god Khonshu. End of series!
Or is it? Marvel recently called the episode the “season finale” of “Moon Knight,” not the series finale. In addition to Jake’s introduction, we also see Mark’s wife Layla (May Calamawy) become a superhero, as the avatar of the Egyptian goddess Taweret. According to Marvel, Layla’s superhero name is the Scarlet Scarab, taken from a male superhero introduced in 1977 (and murdered in 1982), and she is officially the first Egyptian superhero to occupy the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
All of this suggests a wide-open future for Mark/Steven/Jake and Layla—something Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Diab, who directed the first, third, fifth, and sixth episodes of “Moon Knight”—certainly hopes to help realize. He spoke to Variety about bringing Jake to life, why it was so important for Layla to become a superhero, and why he’s proud that “Moon Knight” doesn’t have any crossovers with the rest of the MCU.
Did you know you wanted to end the show by proposing Jake Lockley?
All you see in the show is trial and error, a process we’ve all gone through. There were so many endings – not quite different endings, but let’s stop here, let’s stop here, let’s stop here. I think maybe the third or fourth version, everyone knew this was going to be the very last scene. But how much we see of Jake is something we’ve talked about for a while. I think we made the best decision. Everyone wants to know more about Jake. But if we’d introduced him to the show without really giving him time to develop and be a full-fledged character like Mark and Steven, it wouldn’t have been fair to him. I think we have now opened the door. If one day there’s an expansion – which I hope is there, that I don’t know there is – I could be a part of it and Jake could have his time to shine.
Well, Oscar Isaac was upfront that he approached “Moon Knight” as a contained story and that he was wary of being tied to the MCU out there given his experience with other franchises. But the Jake scene certainly suggests there is more to tell.
If you ask me, I’d tell you that “Moon Knight” is here to stay. He is an interesting character. If you’re Marvel, I think the smart business decision is to keep it. The only thing is that Marvel isn’t traditional. If you succeed, that doesn’t mean you’ll get a season 2. Besides, I’m in the dark. I have no idea. I’m just thinking like a businessman now. But I think they will stay. Maybe it will be a movie. Maybe it will be a journey like what happened with ‘WandaVision’. I wish that one day, if there is an expansion, I would be a part of it. We ended in a way that feels like a beginning. You see Mark and Steven forming a new dynamic, the two of them in one body. We see Jack. You see the Scarlet Scarab, who could be a superhero or not. Very interesting stuff.
The series does play with the idea that this is all in Mark’s head. Do you feel like the show ends with a definitive answer to that question?
My answer is that this is a show that needs to be watched once and twice and three times. There are so many clues. It is not clear what is real and what is not. We saw his brother draw a fish. So if this is the reality, how come Steven also had a one-finned fish? What inspired what? It’s a loop. And I think a lot of clues are like that.
Have you discussed the idea of making the show last forever, just in Mark’s head – to really have it as a ghost superhero story?
I’ve always wanted it to be open. This is funny: I’ve always told Kevin Feige that I want an ending when we find out the whole MCU is in his head. So it is an open question.
You also introduce Layla as the Scarlet Scarab in the finale. How did that happen?
First of all, I would like to thank the writers who created the idea that Layla is an Egyptian. When Sarah [Goher], my wife and producer on the show, and I went along, we helped develop the character as Egyptians. When May came along, she became Layla’s greatest ally. The most important thing for us was not just the idea of a superhero, but the idea of making her the complete opposite of any figure of speech about Arab woman as submissive or weak. I’ve directed three films: women in my films are completely fierce and strong – like my mother, my sister, my wife and my daughter.
As superheroes, we knew this was going to be historic. My daughter, when she was five, wanted to straighten her hair. I had to take her to Disneyland and tell Princess Elsa and Anna, “Please tell her her hair is beautiful.” She has never seen anything on TV that resembles her. So today, when you see Layla, you don’t know what that means to people who are like us. It is very important. “Moon Knight” becomes a national pride in Egypt. People treat it like the Egyptian ‘Black Panther’. They love that there are Egyptians behind the camera; in front of the camera are Egyptians. There is Egyptian music that the world enjoys. They believe in themselves. They believe they can do anything now. I’m so proud of that.
Did you always know that Layla would become the Scarlet Scarab, or have you looked into other possible characters with Egyptian ancestry that she could be?
To be honest, I didn’t come up with the name. I have not associated her with the Scarlet Scarab. Sometimes Marvel picks a name and then gives it to the character being developed [for the show]† Like, Arthur Harrow is definitely different from the Arthur Harrow that’s in the comic books. We only use the property. So we create Layla free of all that and then we gave her a name. I keep saying she may not be the Scarlet Scarab. Because right now she couldn’t get her powers from the scarab. But maybe, if the story continues, that’s going to happen – or not. So the name is not important to me. What she represents is more important. I can’t wait to find out one day if she will still be a temporary avatar? Is she going to accept it? What’s going to happen to her? I don’t know.
It sounds like you do, but I’ll ask straight away: Would you like to work with Marvel Studios again?
I would pay to do that. definitive. I wanted to be a director because I have stories that I want to share with as many people as possible. I have always made intimate films. My dream is to do what Denis Villeneuve does: make your small, intimate films on a larger scale, so that you connect with more people. Thank goodness I had the chance to do that on this show. I still feel like it has the DNA of my movies, the little intimate movies. I had allies like Oscar, Ethan, May and Marvel who supported me to do that.
There are only a few very cursory references to the MCU on “Moon Knight”, but there are no crossovers at all – right down to the post-credits scene, where crossovers almost always happen. What do you think of what that means for the show’s place in the MCU?
We had the freedom to post it whenever. I want to tell you the very first scene, there was a crossover, and the very last scene, there was a crossover. But as the story developed and we kept changing the scripts, we felt, “We don’t need that.” All of us. It was a collective decision. And then I kept thinking: it’s a rule. There has to be a scene at the end that connects us to the MCU. But I think they decided, “You know what, the surprise is there’s… is not, and what’s going to make this show unique is that it doesn’t take anything else.” The best compliment we get about the show is when people tell us, “This doesn’t feel like a Marvel show. It feels like a standalone show that feels more dramatic, darker and grounded.” I feel like we’ve managed to bring Marvel more to our corner. So, so proud and happy.
This interview has been edited and abridged.
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