Halo Season 2 Episodes 1-4 Review

The live-action Halo series has irked hardcore gamers from the get-go. Master Chief sans helmet? Preposterous. Show-exclusive characters with substantial screentime? Focus on the Spartans, damn it! To many long-time Halo players, season 1 showrunners Steven Kane and Kyle Killen seemed to be screwing up at every possible juncture. But Season 2, now streaming weekly on Paramount+, represents a sort of rebirth for the beleaguered adaptation. New creative lead David Wiener tackles the material with verve, resulting in a second round of Halo that’s leagues more coherent and inspired than the first.

Wiener justifies the new season’s truncated episode count with a more efficient narrative. The first season, as intriguing as it became, took four(ish) episodes to capture interest. Season 2 wastes zero time cutting to the chase. Six months have passed since the conflict on Raas Kkhotskha, and the UNSC has removed Cortana (Jen Taylor) from the thoroughly addled brain of Master Chief/John-117 (Pablo Schreiber). In an especially compelling subplot, Spartan-turned-pirate Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) seeks the bounty on disgraced scientist Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone) and comes up short. The Covenant, meanwhile, has busied itself infiltrating various planets before destroying, or “glassing” them. Fear, paranoia, and apprehension underpin every move the UNSC makes, and the resulting chaos makes for entertaining (enough) TV.

Newcomer James Ackerson (Joseph Morgan) is a showstopper. A high-ranking intelligence operative, Ackerson compensates for his slight physicality with shrewd decisiveness and occasional cruelty, but thankfully that’s not all there is to him. His tender interactions with his aging father add some complexity to this archetype by showing us that he isn’t merely some power-driven dictator. He has plenty to lose, and his inner torment is never clearer than when he’s tending to his father or discussing his deceased sister. The other notable newbie, Cristina Rodlo’s Corporal Perez, doesn’t get as much to work with, but as the sole non-Spartan survivor of a Covenant ambush, she’s a valuable ally to John.

Of the returning cast members, Schreiber, Woodbine, McElhone, and Natasha Culzac have the most to do. Halsey remains a fascinating fixture in Halo’s mythos, and McElhone continues to imbue her with the character’s trademark charisma, determination, and chronic detachment from emotion. She snatches nearly every scene from her co-stars, and while she’s unquestionably the enigma she’s always been, she does begin to show her humanity.

One of the biggest questions I had heading into this season was: What exactly happened to John in last season’s finale? Cortana’s life-saving takeover of Master Chief was a hell of a way to leave us, and everything we’d seen so far pointed to more obstacles for the Spartan leader. Surprisingly, season 2 isn’t interested in exploring more of what a John/Cortana-led Spartan team looks like. Wiener doesn’t gloss over this development, but he stresses early on that his focus is on John the man, not John the Spartan.

What’s most commendable about Wiener and his rejiggering is how deliberate it all feels. Season 1’s exhaustive groundwork is complemented by a story-conscious time jump that helps Wiener orient these characters and their conflicts so that they serve the story he is bent on telling. That jump, coupled with the focus on the person underneath Master Chief’s helmet, moves Halo closer to the engaging and impactful series it so desperately wants to be.

Season 2 represents a sort of rebirth for Halo.

The first four episodes of season 2 could stand to have a bit more fun, but the action, stakes, and emphasis on the Covenant’s pivot to quieter – but no less devastating – invasions imbue these episodes with new, gnawing tension that the first season didn’t possess. The scripts remain excessively dry and self-serious, but they are also thoughtful, earnest, and committed to delivering the most riveting versions of themselves.

First appeared on www.ign.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top