Halo TV Series Preview Review: First 2 Episodes Are An Intriguing Mess

At E3 2013, Steven Spielberg announced that he and Microsoft were planning to adapt Halo into a TV show. Nine games, nine years, a network change and a plethora of memes later, and Halo finally comes first. The Paramount Plus show debuted two episodes at SXSW on Monday ahead of its wider streaming premiere on March 24.

From the start, the talent involved resisted calling it an exact adaptation, preferring instead to think of it as a world built from the setting of the Halo games: an interstellar war between the religious aliens known as the Covenant and outer space. of the United Nations. Order. In the midst of it all are Spartan soldier Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) and insurgent Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha), both of whom find themselves at odds with the war unfolding around them.

With only two episodes screened to critics, it’s hard to know exactly what Halo hopes to be at that point, especially since the franchise is undergoing its own self-assessment. But there are certainly a lot of threads to be drawn from the show’s first two outings. For example:

Is it Halo or not Halo?

a group of Spartans led by the Master Chief

Image: Paramount Plus

Halo is like an adaptation of a video game series as handled by someone who played a few levels of it once in college. Or maybe he just watched his friend play, he can’t quite remember. There’s definitely a recognizable guy in green armor, and he’s definitely fighting aliens, but beyond that it’s a bit of a blur. There’s some sort of relic, which may or may not have something to do with a ring world, which could also be a weapon. It’s really hard to say.

It’s a show for people who have, at best, a passing familiarity with games. There’s little to no real explanation of who or what’s going on, so you better know about the Master Chief and the Covenant. But it’s also not a show for people to know too much about, because otherwise you might wonder why none of this seems to match the story of games released over the last 20 years. It is a very narrow window.

In other words, if your design of Halo is a guy in green armor who does space shit; congratulations, you finally have your Halo To display. —Austen Goslin

More Aliens, Please

a close up of an alien face

Image: Paramount Plus

As my colleagues have already suggested, it’s pretty hard to cash in on these first two episodes of Halo and find a reason to continue. Even for those like me who are more than willing to sign up for 40 minutes to an hour of anything as long as there’s some cool space shit involved. Unfortunately, space shit in Halo? Subpar. Not very legendary. A real overheated plasma gun, if you understand my drift.

What’s especially fun, though, is how committed they are to making Halo’s armor and aliens as accurate as possible in environments that require no imagination in Bungie’s games. It’s all bronze and concrete corridors, next to a few crowded sets of space stations that look like they’ve been put together since The extentLeftovers. Juxtaposed against this, the Master Chief’s impeccably recreated armor looks extremely funny, and the Prophet Mercy looks oddly cartoonish, like the annoying Orange himself just appeared on an otherwise normal TV show. . Elites have also been slightly redesigned to appear bulkier, like mandibular linebackers and less like scrawny warriors. This could all be in any sci-fi show. —Joshua Rivera

The CBS Of It All Could Be A Feature, Not A Bug

a military scene in halo

Image: Paramount Plus

The trailers for Halo made one thing very clear to fans: Paramount Plus’ path in hardware would be separate from game of thrones, the witcherand other giant series that define the era of television. Halo looks like NCIS, Criminal mindsand other CBS content litters the platform – which will rub people who wanted to see the epic-scale franchise get a $300 million per season treatment.

But consider that I am preparing for the choice. At a time when direct-to-video action movies can pull off smarter stunts than spectacle-focused Hollywood blockbusters, and digestible shows after a hard day’s work are drying up, the decision to make Halo an actual CBS show could work to its long-term advantage. The story is a bit fuzzy at first, but one can imagine Halo clicking on a TO CRUSH mold, or even get really deranged in Paramount Plus’ mode Wrong. Neither show was held back by budget or the traditional hour-long dramatic aesthetic that now defines network television.

If anything, it helped the character sides of these stories become more relatable and bring in gender elements. It is not the Halo show I was waiting for, but maybe it’s the Halo series that I keep watching, hoping to hang on to the characters and the low-key drama of the week’s plot. There’s also room for it to be trashy and still entertaining; shows like Babylon 5, Handyman, Xenaand those post-The next generation Trek shows have thrived in a lower-rent genre fashion. Maybe Halo could too? There’s enough character-driven plot chatter and proper production design to think it’s possible. —Matte patches

Master Chief bears the brunt of bad writing

Master Chief up close from the Halo TV show

Image: Paramount Plus

Master Chief has always been a thin character; all of his stuff is by design. He is taciturn, mortal and he gets to work. There might be a joke in there, but he’s mostly there to be our point of view, so he’s not risking much in terms of personality. In the pilot Halo he’s doing what he’s never done before: defying an order. But without the greater Halo lore, it’s hard to get a sense of who we’re supposed to think he is until now. An obedient soldier, yes, but everything about him (and his emotional journey) is told to us, rather than related to his actions. Almost as quickly as he is introduced to the public, he is shaken by a vision of an ordinary life, then rebels against a system he has (perhaps?) subjugated all his life.

Nowhere in this do we get a sense of who he’s important enough to care about, and the sci-fi story he directs feels as generic as he does. There’s little urgency or color in the world that outweighs Master Chief’s wooden ways. When he takes off his helmet, he’s not a mutated child soldier, he’s just a guy. Halo‘s Master Chief is all stiff dialogue and tortured looks, but the pain behind it gets lost in translation. —Zosha Millman

Episode 2 is promising

Image: Paramount Plus

my point of vue is Halo will be better served in series because the show is not exactly geared towards games. I don’t want, plan for plan, to recount what I have already seen or read. I want to love Halo in a new way and to live in places where I had not had the chance to live before. So while the first episode was a little lackluster, the second episode actually picked up a bit. I think Master Chief is really one of the least interesting characters for Halo to treat; as a longtime Halo player and book reader, I know many about the Master Chief. The new characters are the most interesting to me – I want to learn more about the politics of Madrigal and the chaos in The Rubble.

The world of The Rubble, a renegade corporation built from asteroids, is more vivid and dark than anything in the pilot. I’m enjoying seeing a part of the Halo world that I didn’t get before, and Bokeem Woodbine (Ghostbusters: Afterlife) is fantastic as Soren-066, a former Spartan who left training camp as a child. The other thing is that episode 2, if I remember correctly, doesn’t have scenes through the Spartan vision. There’s a lot of that first-person video game point of view in the first episode, and it’s a confusing decision. —Nicole Charpentier

They chose the wrong Halo theme song

Master Chief touching an artifact

Image: Paramount Plus

Anyone who’s ever been anywhere near Halo knows how the soundtrack sounds. This theme song and its muted angelic chorus of “ohs” instantly brings you back to the loading screen. While this iconic number plays at least once in the first two episodes of Halo, it’s about fighting an uphill battle, not just playing the credits to really get us in the mood. —ZM