Arthur Harrow sips water from a clear glass. He runs his finger around the rim, playing a soft tune. The wind whispers around him.

He places the glass on cloth and crushes it, shattering the glass. He folds the cloth over the diamond shards, picks up a pair of brown wicker sandals and pours the shards inside of them.

Harrow slides his feet into the sandals. He stands. The glass crunches. The shards dig into his feet. He walks out of his hut. The glass crunches against his feet. But he walks smoothly. All seems calm.

That is the opening scene of “Moon Knight.”

Right from the start, “Moon Knight” shows us this won’t be a buddy-comedy Marvel show packed with tricks, antics or Emmy-nominated tunes. The opening scene — where a man literally stabs his own feet with shards of glass — sets the tone for what to expect throughout the rest of the series. It’s clear that Disney+ and Marvel are not holding back anymore and that they’re opening the door for more mature content.

But the question is whether or not “Moon Knight” is too dark. Does it represent a shift into a more mature content space, such as the Defenders Saga of Marvel television shows that recently sneaked its way onto Disney+? Or is “Moon Knight” a softer show with a mild amount of violence?

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The show, in itself, is encased in a dark story. “Moon Knight” begins with Steven Grant, a museum employee who learns that he is sleepwalking at night. Soon he meets his other personality, mercenary Marc Spector. Grant comes to understand that he has dissociative identity disorder.

But, in a worrisome situation, Grant learns that Spector is a slave to the Egyptian god of the moon, Khonshu. He appears as a massive skeletal creature that looks like a mix of a raven and a witch doctor.

So, yeah, the show has a number of dark elements. And this is on purpose. In conversations with three “Moon Knight” directors, I learned that the show was always meant to push the boundaries about how dark the MCU can be, and why darkness is a key element of the show.

“It’s actually darker than the comic books,” director Mohamed Diab told me. “We really felt like expressing the action in a more violent way. It expresses the emotions ... inside Marc and Steven.”


The push for ‘Moon Knight’ to become darker

“Moon Knight” has been billed as a darker show since its inception, and it makes sense given the nature of the Moon Knight comic books, which often delve into a number of more mature topics, such as mental illness, depression, insomnia and, yes, even Egyptian gods of death.

Steven Grant in “Moon Knight.”
Oscar Isaac as Steven Grant in “Moon Knight. | Marvel Studios

In an interview with Empire magazine, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said “Moon Knight” will be more violent than previous Marvel Cinematic Universe shows. In fact, Feige said he was surprised that Disney+ let the show be so dark.

“It’s been fun to work with Disney+ and see the boundaries shifting on what we’re able to do,” Feige said. “There are moments when Moon Knight is wailing on another character, and it is loud and brutal, and the knee-jerk reaction is, ‘We’re gonna pull back on this, right?’ No. We’re not pulling back. There’s a tonal shift. This is a different thing. This is ‘Moon Knight.’”

This might be a sign of what Disney+ is planning for the future, as it looks to expand its audience with darker material. But the production of the show was focused on the darker elements from the beginning, according to interviews with three of the show’s directors.

It starts with Diab, the showrunner and director of the first, third, fifth and sixth episodes of the series. Diab had previously directed three small films. He said Marvel knew what it was getting when it hired him.

“Hiring me means that they wanted part of my tastes, and I’m very grounded in reality,” he said. “My pitch was about how to ground this story in reality.”

“I definitely was one of the people who were pushing it to be a bit darker as much as possible,” he said. “And it’s not a gimmick. It’s part of the essence of the comic book. Actually, it’s even — you can even say that it’s actually darker in the comic books, but we really felt like expressing the action in a more violent way expresses the emotions that is inside Mark and Steven.”

Oscar Isaac in “Moon Knight.”
Oscar Isaac as Steven Grant in “Moon Knight.” | Marvel Studios

It’s not only darker, but deeper, Diab said.

Take the first episode of the show. There’s a scene in which Grant doesn’t meet up with a woman he’s supposed to go on a date with. He has some self-reflection during that scene, wondering what he did wrong.

“It’s like, ‘OK, that’s gonna be a cute scene,’ and all of a sudden it turns into the most emotional scene in the episode,” he said.

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead directed the second and fourth episodes of the show. Both previously worked on five independent films together, which they described as “dark” and “genre-bending.”

“Moon Knight” gave them the opportunity to reunite for another project. Familiarity with comic books helped them understand the world. It seemed like a natural pairing, they said.

Moorhead said he couldn’t believe that Marvel approached them for the project since the darkness of “Moon Knight” was so similar to what the two directors find interesting.

All three directors told me that there were pitch meetings during the early production where they threw out random ideas for the show. Actor Oscar Isaac would offer an idea. Ethan Hawke would share his expertise. Diab, Moorhead and Benson took in all of these ideas as they were making the show.

“We were in the thick of it, using the word ‘dark.’ Everyone was just like, I want to make this as deep as possible and understand the characters as much as possible,” Diab said.


‘Moon Knight’ and its adult themes

Marvel and Disney+ are tackling bigger issues and more adult themes than what you might have seen in the original “Thor” movie. In fact, many of the recent MCU projects have tried to tackle bigger topics. “WandaVision” was centered around grief and depression. “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” spoke of racial injustice and modern politics. “Eternals” promoted the importance of diversity. “Moon Knight” — so far, at least — appears to be an exploration of one’s mental health and how one comes to terms with their condition.

Kingo, Makkari, Gilgamesh, Thena, Ikaris, Ajak, Sersi, Sprite, Phastos and Druig in Marvel Studios’ “Eternals.”
From left, Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Ajak (Salma Hayek), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) and Druig (Barry Keoghan) in Marvel Studios’ “Eternals.” | Marvel Studios

“Moon Knight” is a character study of Grant and Spector, two sides of the same body. As Diab told me, the show is told through the body and not the mind. We learn about each side of Grant and Spector, but it isn’t a show about either of them, specifically. The first four episodes paint Spector as more of the main character, though. All the while, we’re seeing how Grant and Spector understand themselves and their condition.

That condition is dissociative identity disorder, a cognitive issue where people have multiple personalities and can’t disassociate one personality from the other.

Handling darker and more mature subjects required extra attention to detail for the staff of “Moon Knight.” The production crew worked with experts for their depiction of Grant and Spector, making sure they told something that was close to accurate.

Diab said that it isn’t a perfect depiction, though.

“It’s very important to point out that as respectable as we were to (dissociative identity disorder) in getting experts involved, it’s not an accurate depiction,” he said. “It’s definitely set in a fantastical and supernatural world.”