Super Recaps: Halo – Episode 8

Halo the series is owned by Paramount Plus

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman

It’s the penultimate episode for the season, and while things have started to waver a bit in the second half, Paramount has done an admirable job of bringing Halo to the big screen! Well maybe not the big screen, but with the way streaming is these days, is there really that much of a distinction anymore? In any case, we can pretty much assume that there’s gonna be a big blow-out in the finale, but is the journey to get there just as enjoyable as the inevitable alien punch-up? Let’s find out!!

Following the artifact boom at the end of episode six, Chief and Makee (Pablo Schreiber and Charlie Murphy) have grown closer which is not escaping the notice of everyone else on Reach. Most think that it’s a bad idea, especially when Chief starts pushing for Makee to grab a hold of the artifact as well to see if it will tell her where this Halo weapon is, but the recently ousted Doctor Halsey (Natascha McElhone) sees this as an opportunity to weasel herself back into John’s good graces. With all of humanity hanging in the balance, is this budding romance between Chief and Makee exactly what the humans need to turn the tide of the war, or will Makee lead them all to their doom? Just how far will Halsey go to keep control of what she believes is hers, and will her allies fall in line behind her? Seriously, these two are perhaps the most emotionally stunted people in the universe. Is anyone else dreading to find out what they think foreplay is?

“Either you were dropped off by a sect of religious alien fanatics, or heaven just lost an angel.”     “Green was never my color until I met you.”     “Why don’t you show me what an alien probe is like?”     “Only if you check my six, petty officer!”

The show has done a more than admirable job with its writing to keep things from feeling too broad or too blunt. Every time it could have easily rested on its laurels and let the iconography from the game take center stage, it surprises you with interesting ideas and nuanced character moments. Chief being more than just a stoic warrior in battle armor is just one example of that, and while it may have perturbed some fans out there, it has given this show its own identity as well as an interesting protagonist to follow. It seems that after episode five, however, things have kind of settled into a narrowly focused storyline and we’re more concerned with plot progression than engaging with the finer details of this world. I certainly liked it more than the last time we were on Reach, but you can start to feel the crunch as we get closer to the end of the season. The most intriguing storyline of this episode is the budding relationship between Chief and Makee as it’s what’s driving the rest of the story as well as the characters who are trying to, in one way or another, deal with the situation. The problem ends up being that I just didn’t buy it as neither seemed interested in this kind of relationship before; let alone with each other given Chief’s reasonable suspicions of her and Makee’s entire life spent with the Covenant who have vilified him as a demon. I suppose a magical link that separates them from the rest of humanity is a compelling argument for this level of attraction, but it feels too fast and at least a little bit forced. Perhaps it would have sold better if we got a sense in episode six that the antagonistic back and forth between them was developing into romantic feelings, but as is it feels like a whole chapter went by while we were hanging out with Kwan Ha and Soren. Still, there are some interesting moments here, regardless of how fast it all feels, and the rest of the episode does a decent job of mounting the stakes as we head into the final episode. I like that Chief still has the wherewithal to understand what Makee is actually here for and directly challenges her on what the Covenant have told her all these years. It keeps him grounded throughout this whirlwind love affair and it forces Makee to confront these beliefs herself which only adds more layers to the drama; not particularly deep layers because again, it feels like at least two episodes of development crammed into one (especially once we get to the ending), but I’ll give them credit for finding something of a balance here.

We also get quite a few scenes with Halsey who’s been under house arrest since returning from Eridanus II and how she’s dealing with the demotion. Halsey has been a formidable figure in this series because she always stayed at least one step ahead of everyone else, whether it’s the UNSC brass, the Spartans under her control, or even her own daughter who she pretty much kept relegated to menial tasks while she kept the interesting research to herself. With the fallout from Eridanus II, however, she’s lost much of the clout that kept her at arm’s length from consequences and you can see the confidence start to slip away with each setback she just can’t overcome; from ONI’s interference to John’s cold shoulder. She even tries to influence Makee by hacking her stream box and is somehow surprised that she doesn’t immediately trust the mysterious woman projecting herself into her room. For someone so used to getting everything her way, she’s not ready to accept that she’s not in charge anymore and Natascha McElhone does a great job of stripping away those layers of control as things spiral out of control around her.

As she’s backed more and more into a corner she becomes quite dangerous (which doesn’t go unnoticed by Cortana) and it leads us to the third act which ends up being pretty spectacular. It’s by no means a high-stakes multi-million dollar war scene like we got in episode five, but the show does such a good job building the tension and setting the pieces in place that the payoff here is very satisfying to see. This is also where the Spartans get to shine once again as Riz and Vannak, for reasons I won’t spoil here, end up in a situation that has them pitted against Chief and Kai in an absurdly hard-hitting battle. I noted all the way back in the first episode that the Spartans lacked weight when fighting and that there wasn’t enough impact with their movements; both of which have been adequately addressed here as the scene does a great job of making every punch feel like a shotgun blast to the face and the armor as impenetrable as it would need to be for the war they’re fighting. It’s about as well-executed as the inevitable Spartan Vs Spartan fight should be and it ends the episode on a very high note!

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The next episode is the season finale and given the trajectory of this series I can only imagine one thing happening in it, but whatever the ending will be I thought this was a solid setup for it. It definitely felt a lot less nuanced than what I’ve come to expect from the show, and there really wasn’t a moment where they surprised me as every development was pretty obvious from the word go, but it was still a fun hour of sci-fi action and drama. This is pretty much what I hoped the Halo series would be when it was first announced which would have been more than enough for me to enjoy it, but the series has gone above and beyond in almost every aspect to give us something so much more than a well-choreographed adaptation of a video game. Still, there’s nothing wrong with keeping this simple when trying to get from point A to point B, and with so much built up here as well as the ominous final shot, there’s certainly enough groundwork for the finale to blow us all away!

3.5 out of 5

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