Believe it or not, it’s been almost 10 years since Microsoft first announced plans to bring the Halo series to television. Back when the plan was to launch on TV, rather than streaming. But the day has finally come, with the first episode of the Halo TV show hitting Paramount Plus.
As a long-time Halo fan I was pretty excited when plans for a TV show were first announced. But more recently my expectations have been tempered slightly — and not just because someone decided it would be a good idea to reveal Master Chief’s face.
In the run up to the premiere I’ve been feeling very indifferent. After watching the first episode, I can confirm that not much has changed. If I were to pick a single word to describe my feelings towards Halo so far, it would be “eh.” Like Futurama’s neutral people from the neutral planet, I have no strong feelings one way or the other.
Heck, if Paramount were to turn around and cancel the show tomorrow I would not be sad about it. Then again, I’m not sure I’d care if the network announced it was renewing past the current two-season order.
I wouldn’t binge Halo, even if I could
That’s the thing that gets me most about Halo the show. If I had all nine episodes in front of me right now, I would not be binging through them, which happened on the night I finally started watching Game of Thrones way back when. I’d probably still watch them, but I’d be in no real hurry to do so. Sort of like watching Star Trek: Picard, but without Patrick Stewart to make it more interesting.
Honestly I’m not particularly sure why. I’ve been a die-hard Halo fan since early 2005, when I read the first trilogy of novels, and in the years since I’ve consumed almost every piece of expanded media as and when it arrived. Not all of it was good, but it’s been engaging enough that I’ve stuck around.
Granted, we’re only talking about a single episode, rather than the whole 9-episode run. But that one episode didn’t have anything to really engage me in the overarching story.
It’s not the fact that the show is in its own continuity, the so-called “Silver Timeline,” either. Plenty of expanded Halo media has been completely inconsequential, and I enjoyed most of that well enough.
So far there have been 29 full novels, 2 novellas, 2 short story collections, 11 comic series of various lengths, two graphic novels, two live action miniseries, one animated series and an anime anthology. I own every single one, and have read or watched them all at least once. Most of it’s good, some of it is eye-wateringly terrible and the vast majority is completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
The Mike Colter-led Halo: Nightfall is a great example. It was a live-action miniseries marketed as a pseudo-prequel to Halo 5: Guardians, but ended up having zero links to the game beyond Colter’s character - Jameson Locke.
The Halo TV series has a mix of good and bad
Credit where it’s due, the Halo series has done a remarkably good job with recreating the Halo universe. The costuming and set work are top-notch, despite the presence of a 21st century Chevy Tahoe, and the alien effects we’ve seen so far are pretty good for a TV budget.
The Elites are a lot bulkier than their video game-counterparts, with shoulders that you absolutely would not want in the middle seat of an airplane. But they look pretty realistic, or as realistic as a fake CGI alien could hope to be.
Some of the CG is a little janky, though, especially when you see Spartans flying through the air. Plus, the Chief takes off his helmet and reveals his face, something that isn’t done in the video games, in a scene that’s very reminiscent of the bridge scene in the first Amazing Spider-Man movie.
In the same way Andrew Garfield took off his mask to show a terrified kid he was just a normal dude, Chief too removes his helmet to prove to Kwan that he was a living breathing human being and not a robot. Totally unnecessary if you ask me, though at least they ripped off the proverbial band aid quickly — instead of teasing the audience for multiple episodes.
I have no idea where Halo is going, and I’m not sure how I feel about it
The thing about Halo existing in its own continuity, separate from the deep lore from the games and expanded universe, is that I have absolutely no idea what’s happening. The show has already deviated from the original plot quite severely, in ways that are too numerous to list here.
The best example is that Madrigal, the planet invaded by the Covenant in the first episode, had a very different fate in the original Halo canon. The planet was destroyed by invading Covenant forces in 2528, a few years after first contact, while the show shows it as a thriving (and rebellious) colony 24 years later.
A lot of the same elements are there, but it’s pretty clear that Halo the series will not be going the same way as Halo the game. Though I have a hunch that the titular ring world won’t be making much of an appearance until the very end of the first season. What happens in the interim, and where the show would go from there, is anyone’s guess.
I’m surprised that this state of unknowing hasn’t pulled me in. The fact is, I know the story of the first Halo game, and the events directly preceding it, inside out. It’s been 17 years since I first picked up a Halo book, and aside from making me feel so darn old you’d think the mystery would grab me even just a little bit.
What happens next? I can’t say for sure, though I have a few suspicions. Sadly, I don’t actually care, and it’s going to take more than a few shooting matches with aliens to make me change my mind.