Now that all nine episodes of Paramount Plus’s Halo TV show have come and gone in season 1, I wanted to reflect on the series as a whole, now that it’s all come together for its finale. No matter what, season 2 is coming, but even if it wasn’t greenlit ahead of time, it would have been, given that Halo was a viewership hit, Paramount’s biggest series in the streaming service’s short lifespan.
It’s just not…very good.
It’s not a very good sci-fi show, with so many better options out there in the streaming age (The Expanse! Raised by Wolves!), and it’s not a very good Halo show, with truly baffling character decisions and lore changes made almost every single episode. Spoilers follow.
There are a few things, very few, I liked about Halo’s first season. Easily the standout character and performance of the show is Kate Kennedy’s Kai-125, a member of Silver Team who is allowed to come into her own once she removes her emotional suppression chip and becomes just…very fun and goofy, the most likable character in a show full of intensely dislikable characters, and she brings life to every scene she’s in. By the end, I wished it was her leading the series.
I will also praise the show’s version of Cortana, where even if some of the decisions made using Cortana were weird and bad by the end, the decision to use the game’s Jen Taylor was the right one, and I even appreciated the CG blend they created for the visuals of the character, which went better than first looks suggested. She was one of the only pieces of the series that reminded me that yes, I was indeed watching a Halo show.
There was also one very good battle sequence where a bunch of Jackals and Grunts took on Master Chief, his fellow Spartans and the USNC. It was done really well and a lot of fun, but unfortunately, the other two major battles of the series weren’t nearly as good, and felt diminished by bad special effects and choreography.
That’s…about it, however. Everything else I think goes pretty poorly, and it mainly stems from the sheer amount of changes made to the source material at almost every turn. Not that Halo was some brilliantly masterful story to begin with, but if you are going to make changes, it should be for the better, not making everything worse.
Easily my biggest problem with the show is what they chose to do with Master Chief himself. As much as I can tell that Pablo Schreiber loves Halo and being Master Chief, his John-117 pretty never, ever actually feels like Master Chief. The decision to have his helmet off, often stripped of armor and with a million lines runs contrary to everything we know about the stoic, unseen Chief. It turns him into what I would consider a totally different character inherently disconnected from the gaming icon. And it’s amplified by the fact that Pedro Pascal’s Mandalorian is right there, showing you can still act and show emotion and “humanize” a character even when you can’t see their face under a helmet.
I would have been fine with a few “face reveals” over the course of the show, but it just ran so far in the opposite direction it was absurd, becoming a meme after Master Chief’s Master Cheeks were shown in an episode, and then later, when Master Chief has sex. The fact that Master Chief has sex was weird enough at baseline, but the context was just absurd, that he was sleeping with an enemy prisoner of war in her holding cell while Cortana watched and triggering events that will probably eventually lead to the Fall of Reach. Just a truly wild, colossally stupid writing decision.
And while Halo was nine episodes that were about 55 minutes each, it’s beyond easy to see how that could have been trimmed down by eliminating Kwan Ha’s entire storyline. I was fully on board with having Kwan Ha and Chief team up as unlikely allies at the beginning of the series. But again, another baffling decision was to immediately ship her off for an entirely separate storyline that as of yet, has practically nothing to do with anything else going on in the universe. After a Kwan-centric episode late in the season, she was literally never seen or heard from again, not even in a single frame of the finale. That’s how unimportant they made her. There was nothing inherently wrong with her character or her actress, but the script made her just entirely useless.
I do not have much faith in a second season of this show. Things seem to be moving at a snail’s pace. We didn’t even get to an actual Halo or see the Fall of Reach by season’s end. I have no idea what multi-year plan they may be plotting here, but it really does not seem like they’ve taken much feedback to heart, ignoring the “haters,” and it’s kind of concerning for the Halo brand as a whole that I keep seeing 343 employees saying how much they love the show every week.
To me, this is a failed experiment, and Halo does not need any help with its unstable brand at the moment given how Infinite has been going. I was fascinated to watch just truly bizarre story decisions unfold every week and I look forward to doing so for another year, but is the show actually good? No, no it is not.