Halo Show is not a game, and that’s a good thing

The Master Chief stands in front of a big blue thing in the Halo series.

Image: Paramount / Microsoft

It only took one Spielberg exit as well as one decade hell development, and show based Halo finally here. I can’t believe I’m writing this: it’s really good. Surprisingly, there is no cause for concern.

Perhaps this is a case of low expectations. Initial trailers teased a bloated project that looked as low-budget as a YouTube fan movie. In recent comments made Diversity, the show’s creator seemed to have completely written off the source material. Of course, some initial reviews shoneboth of fans as well as criticsbut I, ardent game fanstill had my doubts. I fully introduced Halo it would be a kind of show that you watch halfway with your friends, joking. And indeed, that is how it began.

“Oh cool one more show set on Tatooine.”

“You can tell it’s not based on the game because the plasma gun is really useful.”

“Wow, those randos are even worse shots than Ahri!” (Uh, no comment.)

However, the good-natured joke stopped when Halo quickly established itself as a show that doesn’t joke around.

Halo: Not a Game: The Show begins with a group of teenagers dropping cosmic acid in a forest. A friend joked how bold it would be if the show chose this moment to introduce the Covenant – extraterrestrial zealots who serve as the main antagonistic faction in the games – who would then probably do what the Covenant does best (kill every human in sight). ). ). No way, I thought. There is never a show based on a favorite property of popular video games would be so daring. It will be carefully thought out every plot point so as not to scare away even part of the audience.

Nope. The Covenant really shows up just then. One child was blown to pieces. Another had limbs torn off. An extended fight scene later is even more brutal, showing decapitation, stabbing, charred skin from energy weapons. Halo is not restrained in a full display of cruelty, causing a seething in the stomach. For 20 years the company Halo games showed you their universe and its enemies through a first-person perspective of a super soldier named Spartan, protected by near-impenetrable titanium armor, where futuristic fire from enemy small arms is practically reflected back at you. To see how the Covenant act against ordinary people is to see pure horror.

Between shots, the message comes crystal clear: Halo no show at all Halo a game.

We see a bustling metropolis on the planet Reach in 2552, not reduced to glass by an interstellar armada. We catch a glimpse of the High Charity Covenant base, only to learn that it is also home to a human-like being in a purported leadership position. In the UNSC command center, we see Miranda Keyes, who, in a painfully awkward manner, remarks that Dr. Katherine Halsey is her mother.

If you don’t know the story Halo games, these statements mean nothing to you. If yes, then you understand how different the show is from the source material.

The key is how the UNSC, the main human faction in Halo games, is depicted. In UNSC games, heroes are infallible. They are fighting a good fight. They can’t do anything wrong against the existential threat of plasma weapons and energy swords. (Remember the first Halo came out in 2001, at the height of modern American jingoism.) But in Halo, show, the UNSC is anything but virtuous, veering into undesirable territory, not just some gray area. It’s terribly terrible.

This is a territory where games never…could never really is an address. But in a TV format where you don’t go on missions side by side with these soldiers fighting for survival, Halo can take those risks. Yes, this leads to some really groan-worthy dialogue about how we can’t “protect humanity” if we “sacrifice our own” and blah blah blah, but it’s a welcome digression. (This also matches UNSC images from secondary source materials, books, and comics that fill Halo knowledge outside games.)

A less desirable aberration is Mr. John Halo himself, the Master Chief. Actor Pablo Schreiber is believable as but Spartan super soldier, just not in a specific Spartan super-soldier we’ve come to know from the games. To be fair, this is partly a script error. (The Master Chief, at least when we meet him at the premiere, follows orders to the smallest detail, even when it comes to killing civilians without question.) Some of this, however, is Schreiber’s straightforward delivery, perhaps at the behest of the director and showrunner. Otto Bathurst. (In one tense moment, he actively loses his cool and panics.)

Either way, this guy is nothing like the Chief we’ve come to know from the six major video games. I applaud the show’s break with the tone and lore of games elsewhere, but focusing on a Master Chief who is so different from our deeply rooted notion of who a Master Chief is seems misguided. Why would he even be the main character? Why, aside from the obvious increase in interest gained from sticking the number “117” all over marketing, leading with such a well-established character, if you’re not going to stick with what made that character so well-established in the first place? Why in an adaptation that goes where it doesn’t Halo passed before rather than showing a Spartan we’ve never met? By focusing on the Master Chief – whatever the character’s take – the show implicitly suggests comparisons to the games, and that comparison seems destined to disappoint fans. Naturally, Chief, which has been around for two decades, is considered the definitive version.

Anyway, that’s what makes me think the most. Largely, Halo is betting that he is fully prepared to break out of the mold but is still held back by the same mold. For me, the protracted question after the premiere is not where the story will go next. Is it or not Halo, the show may turn out to be something different from what it’s based on. One episode in, obviously the answer is still up in the air. But somewhere between a brilliantly crafted title sequence and painstaking credit work, I was itching to figure it out.

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