Super Recaps: Halo – Episode 6

Halo the series is owned by Paramount Plus

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman

We’re back with another episode of the two best live-action shows based on a video game, and honestly, I don’t even think those who dislike this series can genuinely disagree with that statement. It’s basically this, The Witcher, and a huge drop off to… I don’t know the Super Mario Bros Super Show or one of those Mortal Kombat things? In any case, we’ve just had a big action set piece at the end of the last episode and there’s a lot of fallout to go through for Chief, the UNSC, and everyone else that’s caught in the middle. Is this an engaging and emotionally charged follow-up to the exciting battle we just saw, or do they pump the breaks too hard after giving us everything we wanted? Let’s find out!!

With the Battle of Eridanus II being, at best a “mixed bag” for the UNSC, everyone has low spirits and frazzled nerves as they make their way back to Reach; none more frazzled than Chief (Pablo Schreiber) who’s getting really tired of Halsey’s (Natascha McElhone) secrets and lies. Frankly, he’s not the only one as Admiral Parangosky (Shabana Azmi) is making moves against her and even her own daughter (Olive Gray) is starting to comprehend just how deep the well goes with her mother’s cruelty. If that wasn’t bad enough, they’ve got a Covenant prisoner (Charlie Murphy) on their hands that may hold the secret to winning the war, but since we know she’s a double agent, it’s unlikely they will get anything useful out of here and that she’s just here to stir the pot. With tensions high and spirits low, can our beloved cast of characters work through this funk and get back on track before the Covenant find them first? Just how far will Chief go to get the answers he’s looking for, and how much of this is still Halsey’s manipulations? Is it just me, or is something missing in this episode?

“Cortana; check my inbox for any communications from Kwan Ha or Soren.” “No new messages to report.” “Oh. Well I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about!”

This is kind of a weird one for me because I know why they are doing what they are doing and how it fits into the overall narrative, but it was also kind of a bummer to watch and I didn’t leave it feeling satisfied like I have with pretty much every other episode. The thing is that shows like this are not made like TV shows were in the past and they’re basically written to be one long narrative before the cameras start rolling on the first episode. From that perspective, it makes perfect sense for this episode to be as dour as it is. Being six episodes into a nine-episode series puts this right around the end of the second act where you would put the All is Lost moment before building us back up for the finale which is a good thing narratively, but in practice, it just led to an episode that I couldn’t really get into. It’s not just the tone that brings the mood down as there are some very strange decisions throughout the episode, and the whole thing left me feeling not necessarily negative, but less enthused than I have been at any other point in this series. That and we don’t even get an update on Kwan Ha and Soren which seems like a pretty big thing to leave hanging for more than an episode!

The episode is kind of all over the place with a lot of reveals, some major changes, and an uneasy status quo by the end, but I will point out the things that do work quite well here. I like that Chief is starting to fall apart in a way that you would never have expected for even a moment in the other versions of this character. His stoicism in the games is well-realized and lends weight to the emotional moments he is allowed to have (him finding Cortana in Halo 3 is probably the dramatic high point for him in the entire trilogy), but the chief here is a different animal, and I think Pablo Schreiber and the writers are handling this new interpretation well. What I like about it is that he’s still compelling even when he’s being cruel and foolish which was something of a shock to see here but fit with what they were trying to do. Again, this is positioned as the All is Lost moment where everything changes in response to the loss at Eridanus II, and Chief not handling it well is one of the best aspects of this episode. This also helps other characters shine as Halsey has two fantastic scenes with Chief; one that nearly gets her killed and another where she finally confesses her sins. Halsey’s confession is well done and lays out the Spartan II program for anyone who still might have been confused about it. It is pretty convoluted when you lay it all out, so having Halsey walk us through step by step is definitely helpful; especially the part about replacing them with terminal clones. That never clicked with me in the books, but this series has done a decent job of making the whole Flash Cloning thing fit with this world. The other big standout of course is Makee who finally gets to confront The Demon as it were, and her scenes with Chief are tense and fascinating. Chief knows not to trust her outright given that she was with the Covenant for so long, but Makee hits all the right emotional triggers to get him to act just erratic enough to suit her purposes. The escalating desperation for answers that the Chief is experiencing is easily the most compelling narrative in this episode and is the main reason to not skip this episode.

Sadly the rest of it stumbles to hit those decisive notes and things just feel muddled. As much as I like the scenes with Chief and Makee, it does end up devolving into nonsense at the end as her plan becomes incomprehensible. Makee’s there to be the serpent in Master Chief’s ear and she seemingly wants him to grab the artifact as it will accomplish two goals; make him sick (we’ll get to that in a moment) and send a signal out that the Covenant can track. Seems simple enough, but then at the very end she doesn’t want him to do it and I can’t figure out why. Perhaps she wanted to be there when he grabbed the artifact, but it’s just not very clear and is doubly problematic as it’s the note we end the episode on. On top of that, the machinations within the UNSC are starting to get unwieldy. Shabana Azmi as Admiral Parangosky has been a thorn in Halsey’s side throughout the series, but her coup as it were feels rather contrived and the fate of Halsey feels rather underwhelming. In addition to that, I believe this is the first time that they’ve referenced her as a part of Section 3 which will certainly fly over new fans’ heads. If they mentioned it before then I guess I missed it, but I’ve been paying pretty close attention and I feel like I would have noticed something like that given how much of the lore I’m familiar with, so throwing that concept at this late stage in the season feels like crowbarring in lore when the rest of the series has done such a good job of balancing it. There are other nitpicky things I can point to. There’s this ridiculously overcomplicated monitoring thingy where people put on brain reading chips to astral project into interrogation rooms (in a science-y way of course), and it makes about as much sense as it sounds. I don’t recall that in any of the games or the books, and it seems to be an overly complicated solution to a problem that one-way glass solved a long time ago. I also don’t like that Chief is getting physically worse every time he touches the artifact as it feels like a ticking clock that doesn’t need to be there when his motivations should be enough for us to be invested. It’s also poorly realized as all they have Pablo Schreiber do is grimace and grab his stomach which is pretty lousy as far as on-screen illnesses go. Oh, and they don’t follow up on Kwan Ha and Soren! What the heck!?

The last major thing I want to talk about is Cortana. Like with my theory of Chief not making it to Halo until the end of the season (which is looking more and more accurate with each episode), I think they are intentionally holding off on making Cortana the character we know from the games until later in the series. I don’t mind them taking their time with her character and letting us watch her grow into the AI we know and love, but she also seems to come off as more of a prop that gets bandied about wherever she’s needed in the plot. She has a few good confrontations with Chief (like everything else in this episode, it’s drastically better when the Chief is nearby), but her relationship with Halsey feels a bit muddled and honestly kind of strips her of the humanity that made her stand out in the games. She’s supposed to be more than just an AI given that she was built from a brain, but she doesn’t seem to have any thoughts or feelings about anything that’s going on and it makes her feel a lot smaller than she should be. What does she think about John and the other Spartans being taken from their homes as children? Does she support Halsey over the UNSC or even Chief? It’s unclear and not in a way that I found particularly fascinating, though I will reserve judgment for now and hopefully the next few episodes are where she will get to really shine and settle into the role she should have in this.


When the show focuses on Master Chief and his unraveling mental (and physical) state, then it’s firing on all cylinders and keeps things interesting. Unfortunately, his story is not the only one here and everything else is clumsily rearranging itself to set up a new status quo going into the final third of the series. It’s the risk of turning TV shows into long-form as it grants the showrunners a great degree of control over the narrative but it can also constrain it to the conventional three-act structure. It’s an episode that will probably play better once we have the whole picture, but even past its structural issues, it’s just not that fun of an episode and makes a few bewildering decisions throughout. Still, after all the work they put into this one and the tease of the Halo ring at the very end, I’m sure they can get us back on track and finish this off with a bang. If nothing else, at least let us know what happened to Soren!

3 out of 5

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