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!”
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Super Recaps: Halo – Episode 7

Halo the series is owned by Paramount Plus

Directed by Jessica Lowrey

We’re back with another week of Halo, although I wouldn’t exactly fault you if you thought otherwise. Someone must have heard me complain about the lack of closure for the Kwan Ha/Soren storyline in my recap of the last episode, so now that dynamic duo gets a full hour just to themselves! Now I’ve found the character to be an interesting and welcome addition to the Halo lore, but there’s little doubt that the Kwan Ha storyline has been a mixed bag so far. On the one hand, she was fantastic in the first episode and she gives us an excuse to keep Soren around, but on the other, her story feels rather inconsequential to everything else and she herself hasn’t done much to guide her own narrative; mostly being escorted from place to place to give us updates on the goings-on on Madrigal. Still, the heat she’s been getting from some corners of the fan base has been inordinate and I’m more than happy to see them spend a good chunk of time on it if it means we’ll get to a resolution. Is this just the episode we need to make Kwan Ha and Soren feel like important people in this sprawling narrative, or will they have burned through whatever goodwill they had left by the end of it? Let’s find out!!

The story picks up some time after Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha) escaped from Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) and is still intent on finding the desert mystics who will hopefully help her reignite the rebellion; the same way they helped her father many years ago. The journey is difficult but she eventually makes her way to them while Soren managed to find a way off -planet and back to The Rubble where he’s trying to continue his life as the coolest pirate ever like nothing had happened. For both of them though, they seem to be getting more pushback than they expected as the desert mystics are skeptical of Kwan Ha’s intent of overthrowing the government of Madrigal while Soren has to deal with people whispering about how he returned empty-handed and if it means he’s no longer fit to be their leader. Time is running short for both of them as they need to step up and prove that they shouldn’t be underestimated, but with Vinsher Grath (Burn Gorman) on the hunt for Kwan Ha and a few knives looking to find their way in Soren’s back, is there a way to get through all of this alive even if they do prove themselves as worthwhile leaders? What will Kwan Ha have to do in order for the desert mystics to take her seriously, and what fears from her past will she have to confront in the process? It’s pretty amazing that sci-fi drugs are so good at revealing deep emotional truths about someone; otherwise, it’d seem irresponsible to give this Spice knockoff to a teenager!

“Looks like you’ve got a big green boulder to roll, Sisyphus! Good luck!” “Wait, you’re here too? Seriously, what was in that drink!?”
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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!”
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Super Recaps: Halo – Episode 5

Halo the series is owned by Paramount Plus

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman

I had my issues with the last episode, but the vitriol that continues to be rained down on this show is getting tiresome. There are legitimate complaints to have with the series, but more and more I see people refusing to engage with the material and are just trying to justify their resentment with Cinema Sins style gotchas, and look, I’ve been there! I’ve had movies I reviewed that I couldn’t articulate exactly why I didn’t like them and so I leaned into nit-picks and literalisms instead of thoughtful analysis. It’s an easy trap to fall into so I don’t want to come down too hard on people for it, but it’s also getting harder for me to take criticisms against the show seriously. So with that being said, does the latest episode manage to pick up the slack of the last one and deliver on what the show has been building towards, or will this be another plot-heavy episode that will only annoy the critics even further? Let’s find out!!

With Chief and Halsey (Pablo Schreiber and Natascha McElhone) finding a new artifact on Eridanus II, the UNSC has sent a detachment of troops and researchers to study it and hopefully find whatever this big weapon is that they seem to be pointing to. It’s an uneasy situation to be sure as Chief is still suspicious of Halsey and the secrets she’s kept from him, but with Cortana inside of his brain and still under Halsey’s thumb, she doesn’t have a lot to be worried about just yet. On top of the tension there, both Miranda and Jacob Keyes (Olive Gray and Danny Sapani) are part of this operation as well as the other members of Spartan Silver Team, and throwing them all back together after so much has happened is bound to bring out some bad blood and questionable actions. Say what you will about The Covenant, they seem to have their act together and are working diligently with Makee (Charlie Murphy) to try and locate the artifacts that the UNSC has uncovered. As soon as they do, the marines and the Spartans are gonna have a heck of a time repelling their attack and keeping the artifact for themselves. Also, let’s not forget about Kwan Ha and Soren (Yerin ha and Bokeem Woodbine) who are still on Madrigal with the latter trying to find a way off the rock while the former is realizing just what kind of uphill battle she’s got ahead of her if she wants to reignite the rebellion. Can Halsey and her team uncover the secrets of the new artifact before The Covenant find them and scorch the earth with plasma? Just how far will Kwan Ha go to save her planet, and who will have to pay the price for that in the process? Seriously, can The Covenant just not right now? Chief is going through a few things and doesn’t have time for this!

“The hell of it is, today was supposed to be my day off.”
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Super Recaps: Halo – Episode 4

Halo the series is owned by Paramount Plus

Directed by Roel Reiné

Another week, another episode of Halo for a certain segment of the fan base to get testy over! I think I’ve made it quite clear by now that the changes to the lore and the focus on characters have been a huge positive for me even if some of the fans out there are dismaying the lack of action and the shift in tone. Still, while I am enjoying everything they are doing so far, it’s possible that this slow burn will fizzle out at some point and all the buildup will be for naught; especially if we never do get to the thing that this series is named after. Does this episode continue the upward momentum of the series as it soldiers on in bold new directions, or will the cracks start to show as there are fewer and fewer things from the games to pull from to placate fans with? Let’s find out!!

With John the Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) finally remembering his home planet, he and Doctor Halsey (Natascha McElhone) head to the planet to see if they can find more clues as to what this mysterious artifact was that was found on the planet Madrigal and why it reacts so strongly to John. Of course, there’s always the risk that John may discover too much about his past that Halsey has worked hard to keep secret, but that’s what Cortana (Jen Taylor) is for as she is meant to keep Chief placated and in line. While this is going on, the other members of Spartan Silver Team, Kai, Vannak, and Riz (Kate Kennedy, Bentley Kalu, and Natasha Cultzac) are working with Miranda Keyes (Olive Gray) back on the planet Reach to conduct unrelated research on the artifact, though with Kai having just removed her own emotion chip, it’s possible that Keyes may learn more than she bargained for from these towering war machines. If that wasn’t enough drama for you, Kwan Ha and Soren (Yerin Ha and Bokeem Woodbine) have made it back to the planet Madrigal where Kwan is hoping to reignite the resistance against the planet’s new leader Vinsher Grath (Burn Gorman), though much like everyone else in this episode, the answers to her questions may not be the ones she was hoping to find. Will the Chief be able to go back to being a Spartan warrior and a tool of the UNSC once he uncovers the truth of his own childhood? Can the ideals of liberty and freedom survive on a planet that is now directly controlled by an authoritarian puppet of the UNSC; especially when they offer security from the impending alien threat? Speaking of alien threats, where are The Covenant in this episode!? Did everyone just agree to take a Mental Health Day as they deal with their tragic pasts and uncertain futures!?

“We have you scheduled for art therapy today.”     “Great! I’ll start by turning this head into a Jackson Pollock!”
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Super Recaps: Halo – Episode 3

Halo the series is owned by Paramount Plus

Directed by Roel Reiné

We’re back with another episode of the show that fans love to hate! Well, certainly not all fans have been down on this new version of the story, but there are certainly those who have had a hard time getting behind these reinterpretations of the characters and the sizable overhaul to the lore. Will this trend continue as we finally get introduced to the TV version of Cortana, or will it finally click for them the same way it clicked to me right off the bat with the very first episode? Let’s find out!!

With Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) returning to the UNSC at the end of the last episode, Dr. Halsey (Natascha McElhone) has to put her biggest project yet in motion if the Spartans are going to continue to function as a unit. Enter the Cortana Project which Halsey has been working on in secret but may just be the buffer between Chief and the UNSC that she needs to keep the program under her control. Cortana (Jen Taylor) is to be an AI built from the ground up on a copy of Halsey’s brain (where she got that copy is pretty disturbing, but we do what we must for science!), and it will be injected into Master Chief to keep him in line and provide invaluable tactical support. Chief is obviously skeptical of having an AI embedded into his head, but as a good soldier he does what he’s told with the minimum amount of pouting and spends most of his time focusing on those flashbacks he was having and the words from Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) that have stuck with him longer than he expected. While all this is going on, the Covenant’s sole human Makee (Charlie Murphy) starts her journey to recover the Keystone from the UNSC, and Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha) is getting antsy about the authoritarian crisis on Madrigal brought about by its comically over the top new leader Vinsher Grath (Burn Gorman). Can Chief and Cortana find a way to work together before Makee finds her way to the UNSC headquarters and the mysterious alien tech housed there? What will Kwan Ha do to try and save her planet from Grath, and can Soren ultimately keep his promise to Master Chief? I don’t know about you, but Cortana seems pretty useful to me! She’s like Siri, right?

“Cortana, play Spartan Party Jams volume 4.”     “Again? We just listened to that yesterday.”     “Fine. Play Spartan Party Jams volume 5, but we are NOT skipping volume 4 on leg day!”
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Super Recaps: Halo – Episode 2

Halo the series is owned by Paramount Plus

Directed by Otto Bathurst

We’re back with another episode of Halo; everyone’s favorite show about a quip spouting robot that isn’t Bender! Well I guess that’s a bit hyperbolic as the Chief in this version is somehow even more taciturn than he was in the games, but we’ll talk about changes to the source material soon enough. The first episode was an absolute delight that managed to capture the feel of Halo’s intense action while reworking its dubious source material into something new and exciting! Still, a lot of shows will frontload their first episode with flashy spectacle and surprise twists with the follow-up being a better indicator of what to expect from the series going forward. Can Halo sustain its momentum through its sophomore outing, or was that the peak and it’s all downhill from here? Let’s find out!!

After their daring escape from the UNSC, Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) and Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha) have to find a place that will not only protect them from the wrath of Earth but to also help explain what this mysterious artifact is that they found on her planet. Fortunately, Master Chief does in fact have friends outside of the military and goes to the one person in the galaxy who is equal parts friendly to him and spiteful to the UNSC. They arrive at a hidden space colony known as The Rubble where Chief’s friend Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) is a big wig and may have some of the answers they seek, though in a place outside of Earth’s control there is a clear sense of animosity towards the USNC’s biggest propaganda symbol and Chief may not have safe-harbor for very long. Can he keep Kwan Ha safe from the UNSC and any other parties that may have an interest in her disappearing? What does Soren know about this artifact they found, and are its secrets even more dire than anyone could have realized? Can we just get a show about Soren? Or maybe even a buddy show with him and Chief? I mean Cortana hasn’t shown up yet and we need someone to fill the personality vacuum!

“You ever hear of polishing a turd? Well, this guy is what you get when you polish a turd with a suit of power armor!” “Not funny, Soren.” “Oh, like YOU have a great sense of humor?”
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Super Recaps: Halo – Episode 1

Halo the series is owned by Paramount Plus

Directed by Otto Bathurst

The first Halo game released all the way back in 2001 as an Xbox exclusive, and even back then everyone involved knew that this was going to be a big deal.  Still, despite all the critical acclaim, the dozens of novels based in this universe, and a clear desire to make something more of the franchise, the leap from Video Games to Hollywood just never worked out.  Some version of a Halo television series has been in development since at least 2015 with attempts to make a movie going as far back as 2005, and while we do have some straight to video stuff like Halo Legends and Forward Unto Dawn, a big budget adaptation for the masses had always eluded them. Still, it’s probably best that we didn’t get one of these during the dark ages of video game movies when Max Payne and Hitman were stinking up the multiplexes, and the era of streaming has been good for sci-shows the last few years. With all that said, and with twenty years of hype behind it, does this first episode manage to capture the spirit of the series and is a good sign of things to come, or will this get cancelled faster than a typical Netflix series? Let’s find out!!

The Story of Halo takes place in the 26th-century as humanity has traveled well beyond our own solar system and has colonized planets through the galaxy. For the most part, this has gone well as humanity has thrived and the resources from these colonies have only furthered our technological and societal advancement; maybe not Star Trek levels of utopia, but still pretty good! Of course, as humanity stretched itself further and further away from Earth, those furthest away started rebelling against them and the Earth’s military force known as the United Nations Space Command, or UNSC. This proves to be poor timing for humanity to start turning against itself as an intergalactic group of alien races known as the Covenant started showing up at these outer colonies and didn’t come bearing fruit baskets. Nope, full-on genocide and ethnic cleansing as they kill every human they come across with their far superior technology. This is the state of things as we start the first episode on one of the outer colonies and we follow Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha) who’s about to have a very bad day. Her colony is attacked and destroyed by the Covenant with the UNSC only showing up after everyone else is dead to clean up the mess. Those sent to do the mess cleaning by the way are Spartans; the greatest soldiers (and greatest propaganda tools) that the UNSC has, and while we’re still learning the truth about them in this series, there are rumors about genetic augmentation that strikes fear into the more rebellious members of the outer colonies. With Kwan Ha as the last survivor and the Spartans finding some alien artifact that the Covenant were digging for, the head Spartan known as Master Chief (Chief if you’re colleagues, John if you’re friends, and played by Pablo Schreiber) takes her and the artifact back to the UNSC central command on a planet called Reach. The trip is tumultuous however as the UNSC, as well as the head of the Spartan program Doctor Halsey (Natascha McElhone), are unsure of what to expect upon their return. After touching the artifact, Chief’s vitals have been off the charts and he’s been acting a little strangely, while Kwan Ha is proving not to be overly gracious to the UNSC after being “saved” by them. Tensions escalate on this small ship and the command back on Reach until they hit a boiling point and Chief has to decide what his ironclad sense of duty truly means and what it will force him to do.

“So how do you pee in that thing?”     “We Spartans have been genetically engineered to be as biologically efficient as possible, and so we do not produce pee to dispose of.”     “Are you joking?”    “Maybe. You could say I’m… taking the piss?”     “Aaah! I see what you did there!”
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Twenty Years of Halo: Halo 3 Essentials & Halo Landfall

Artwork by Usbaia

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

Like with the bonus and behind the scenes content with Halo 2 this was planned to be an interim episodes instead of taking up its own cozy spot on the weekly schedule, but the more I dove into the two disc Essentials and everything involved, yeah there was no way I could get this done as a mere aside.  There are A LOT of features on these discs and plenty to talk about, so let’s not waste any more time and dive right in!

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Halo 3 Essentials (Bonus Features) – 2007

We’ll start things off with how they were released.  The first disc which was released in both the Collector’s and Legendary editions of Halo 3 is something I SOMEHOW managed to get a copy of many years ago (I’m still baffled that this thing wound its way in my collection) and only works on an Xbox 360 console.  I can’t even find information confirming that it works on Xbox One or Series S/X, so unless you’re like me and can’t throw away anything this disc and its content are going to be hard to get ahold of going forward.  The second disc on the other hand which was only available on the Legendary Edition is a simple DVD and will work in anything that plays those.  Considering the massive marketing campaign around this game it’s no surprise that something like this was added to the game to entice people to spend a little more, and I’m not sure how many games even bother with this kind of stuff anymore.  I remember the PS2 having a few games that had some pretty cool bonus features like God of War having a ton of Making Of videos and even something like Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am having an episode of the show on it, but I guess with YouTube being so accessible that companies will just post stuff on there if they even feel like bothering with it; and even then a lot of it is pre-release so there’s always the sense of it still trying to sell you on something whereas these kind of features are more of a celebration after the fact.  In any case, there’s a lot to talk about here so we’ll group them together into loose categories to try and cover a little bit of everything.

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Making Of Features

Now this includes the VERY extensive Making Of feature on disc 1, Seven Steps to World Domination on disc 2, and the unfortunately yet still appropriately named Git Tur Wurk back on disc 1. The Making Of document is the pick of the litter here as it’s a full hour but is filled with some VERY cool stuff about how the game was developed.  It’s well produced, we get insights into many of the interesting tools used, and the enthusiasm of those being interviewed is infectious.  Just hearing Xi Wang, one of the Graphics Engineers, talking in depth about the water engine is engaging and I learned about things you could do with the water in Halo 3 that I would have never even thought about!  There’s stuff like that, the in depth showcase of the damage system, the way the tested the online servers with teams in Japan, but my favorite bit was their play testing process!  There’s this really nifty tool they had where they would have play testers play the game and be able to report issues while in game.  Then, the developers not only get a list of these issues, they know exactly where in the level it occurred and can even watch a replay of the player playing the game at that time!  That is just really cool to me and I’m now wondering if this kind of software is standard in the industry!

If only they had this for the first game!  The Library level would just be one big sea of red!
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