The Halo show is nothing like the games, and that’s why it’s good

After seeing the first episode of Halo, I’m all on board. I’m a Halo Lore hobbyist, which means that while I have enthusiastically experienced Halo’s Combat Evolved through Guardians campaigns, have done regular Halopedia wiki dives and have a beloved copy of Eric Nylund’s The Fall Of Reach, I have it consumed everything the Halo universe has to offer. (Ghosts of Onyx, I swear I’ll get to you one day.) But based on the Halo stories I’m aware of, I think Paramount Plus’ series offers a much more compelling look at the Master Chief than anything the games have done far.

Spoilers for the first episode of Halo below:

It is difficult to translate video games to film and TV. It’s only recently been done well with Arcane, Castlevania, and the Sonic movie. And the common thread running through all of these successful titles seems to be “throw out every existing story the public knows and tell a new one.” Halo’s showrunner Steven Kane said: in an interview with Variety that “We didn’t watch the game. We didn’t talk about the game. We talked about the characters and the world. So I never felt limited by the fact that it was a game.” his comments received criticism from Halo fans on social media worried that this show would be nothing like the games. It’s not, and that’s what makes it so good.

I love that the central premise of the first episode has hardly anything to do with the fight against the Covenant. It would have been very easy to put on a show about the Master Chief with his Blue Team friends running into the Gravemind or 343 Guilty Spark. Instead, the entire first episode revolves around the friction between the Chief and his UNSC masters – a topic that was only broached in Halo 5: Guardians, and even then only in the context of “I need to save my AI girlfriend / Mom , and you won’t let me.’

The showrunners were absolutely right in their choice to “not watch the games”. The result is a story that asks us to grapple with why Spartans were created: as weapons for the oppression, oppression, and subjugation of humanity — a premise the games have almost never asked us to interrogate. Spartans have always been these superhuman human killing machines with no emotion, but we’ve never had a chance to see what the Spartans think about it themselves. That’s the promise of this show, and I’m super invested in the conclusions it will draw.

That’s not to say I liked everything about the show’s first episode. I’m stunned by the introduction of a high-ranking man to the Covenant faction, and, as my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore said in his Halo review, it’s a little too horrifying. Halo as a game was never like Gears of War. You fired at the Covenant and they fell down – they never exploded in a cloud of purple mist. Maybe that choice was made out of consideration of the game’s ratings or some other unknown, but I’ve always felt that that choice made when horrific things happen (like That scene in Halo 4), they hit harder. The Halo show’s gory violence seems to lack that same gravitas and comes across as cheap-feeling Game of Thrones-esque gratuity.

I also say this: Master Chief is already the chosen one. In the games, Cortana literally chooses him based on nothing more than her perception of his “happiness.” So I find his extra “I am a very special boy” modifier in the form of his supernatural connection to the show’s mysterious artifact a bit annoying.

After all, this is only episode one. There’s still time to turn the show into an “oorah let’s kill some aliens” fest. But if it continues down the path this first episode charted, I think the show will be a refreshing entry into the Halo canon.

Leave a Comment