No substantial spoilers if you’ve watched episode 1 — episode content warnings at the bottom.
TL;dr: this series has not yet made it to a “Must Watch” series yet. Stay tuned.
Marvel is delivering on the complicated hero/character in Moon Knight (Disney+ exclusive TV series) as we learn more about Marc in this episode. While still buffeted by dissociative symptoms, they aren’t as explicitly flaunted as they were in the first episode; there’s more plot, action, dialogue, and distraction in Moon Knight, episode 2: Summon the Suit.
We do appreciate the differences in physicality between Marc & Steven, how Marc’s more “present” and Steven is more nervous and distracted, and other tells like resting facial expression, etc. More goes into different headmates than accents and name changes.
Now a third of the way through the series, we have more pieces of the story, plot and background but still a lot of unanswered questions. Comments by characters make it apparent, however, that whatever they have going on they had before they became an avatar.
At this point, DID is still a questionable plot device; it’s not really driving the story in any satisfying way for this reviewer. It’s kinda there in an inconvenient way. We want to see something more like the resolution of the internal conflicts in Venom — and an uneasy alliance would be okay. Also, there’s sufficient space remaining in the story to work on this. We can still see a perspective where the main character (who we only know from comics or interviews to have DID) might be delusional, may be making things up or faking, and so on. Some choices of the writing/direction/cinematics emphasize this, such as the fronting character seeing inside headmates talking in reflections — and a fight scene that might remind viewers of the reveal in Fight Club. The overwhelming majority of folk with DID don’t experience headmates as being outside themselves, and although the episode 1 museum bathroom scene was careful about how they did the reflections, most people with DID do not experience anything like that (more about that below).
We don’t want to say too much, but this episode does have interactions that start to make the Steven/Marc differences more believable and obvious, and a singular main character is introduced who we can hope may serve to model appropriate behavior for interacting with someone with DID.
Critique: Issues with the Reflection Technique
Back to the reflection technique — this technique is continued in episode 2 and this reviewer finds it breaks suspension of disbelief and reminds us that it’s an actor playing a role. This is prolonging something discordant and out of sync with realism for us. And we’d love others to chime in on whether this works or doesn’t work for them in depicting DID inner world conversations. Mirrors were used sparingly in Heroes as well, for example.
It’s a difficult choice of how to represent plurality in singular cinematic (visual) mediums. We also wonder whether using reflections may create wrong assumptions amongst singular folk who take these depictions at face value. The choice of first person objective versus first person subjective is an important one; it’s challenging when the “camera” switches perspectives too much and the viewer can’t tell objective from subjective viewpoint any more.
In terms of ways to depict plurality on-screen, the best camerawork we’ve seen on a form of plurality was Sense8 (there’s a documentary going over the “making of” that shows how they filmed scenes where they bilocated vs body swapped or head hopping). Moon Knight filming has some perspective shifts that aren’t done as gracefully, in part because there’s only 1 actor playing all the alters, whether internal or external. Perhaps that’s a key problem in filming DID or plural depictions.
We appreciate Doom Patrol having other actors playing inner world depictions of Jane&’s plurality — that’s how any of the reflection/mirror scenes would have played out much better, and it’s so much more realistic in terms of relating with the situation and roles. It’s unusual for everyone in the inner world in DID to have the same face, even if the differences are just age-related. Doom Patrol handles matching inner world headmate actors & Diane Guerrero’s external tells for those headmates beautifully (not all of them come with overt costume changes, but you can definitely tell the differences when other folk “front” in Jane&, and could match folk you’d “met” in the external depictions with their inner world counterparts pretty easily aside from dialogue — with a big assist via costume & makeup alongside the premise of costume/makeup change superpowers though). We think Doom Patrol wins this “depiction” round and this may be one reason why they’re often cited as being one of the best representations on the screen to date.
Now we’re spoiled in representation; reflections using the same actor fall short of our subjective experiences.
Honorable mentions: Fight Club & Legion use different actors too.
So, note to any directors, spare no expense on getting a few actors to depict headmates in your DID & plural characters for inner dialogue, inner world scenes, subjective sensory issues, or these “reflection” dialogue scenes. We get that an actor would love to use DID as a way to break out of being typed and show off a reel of their acting range. But inner world & subjective depictions having the same face, body, gender, etc. are unrealistic and need to be modified to depict DID more accurately. It would also be a great way to practice acting chops to depict actual other actors’ roles as seen objectively as well.
C: gun, fake claiming/disbelief, jumpscare, arrest, abduction, ACAB, still creepy cult stuff, gaslighting, car accident, falls from heights, angry outburst, emotional blackmail.