Paramount+’s Halo is Finally Giving Gamers Exactly What They Want





When I talked to Halo showrunner David Wiener about the new season, he teased a darker, grittier adventure for the Master Chief. 

Throughout most of the first three episodes, I was skeptical. Aside from a slick battle that served as a cold open for the second season premiere, the show seemed to backslide into some of the annoyances I saw last year: multiple storylines of varying quality, tons of ancillary characters, and a lot of people frustratingly doubting a Master Chief. 

But the third episode ended with a literal bang, and episode four, “Reach,” kicks it up several notches. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say Wiener backs up his claim and then some, offering audiences a relentless ride tinged with equal parts optimism, tragedy, intrigue, and drama. Oh, and a dizzying amount of ass-kicking action. 

In doing so, Halo is starting to finally live up to the vast potential set up by its source material. This is a Master Chief and UNSC brought to the lowest of lows, with the stakes at their absolute highest. It’s the stuff that fans of the storied gaming franchise have been waiting for, and I can only hope this marks a turning point for the show. 

It’s been a longtime coming for Halo, one of the flagship shows on the Paramount+ service. The franchise boasts a massive fanbase after a dozen games over 23 years. But the first season drew mixed reception, with its most ardent fans turning into the show’s harshest critics. 

A controversial sex scene between the Master Chief, John 117, and the Covenant’s human delegate, Makee, revived the “Master Cheeks” meme. There were a number of unlikable or underdeveloped characters with plotlines that seemed disconnected from the broader story. 

Some were put off by the Master Chief taking his helmet and armor off, letting actor Pablo Schreiber more fully emote.

For fans who can’t handle John 117 without his armor, this show will probably never redeem itself to you. But for everyone else, you’re in for a treat.  

Looking back at the slower start to the season, you can see how the show was setting up some of the pieces and lulling you into a false sense of how things would go. There were echoes of the first season that had me worried. Random characters and the kind of made-for-TV tension that takes you out of the show. 

It turns out, Wiener and the creative team behind the show were pulling an elaborate fast one over us. The fourth episode acted like a crucible, burning away extraneous storylines and characters, and whittling down the focus of the show so it’s crystal clear. The Covenant — the alien race that serves as the antagonists throughout the franchise — are here and ready to wipe out everyone.

It’s not just the secondary characters or random marines that serve as fodder. This episode saw some big losses – felt on many levels – with a few that felt like punches to the gut. 

The pacing of the episode was immaculate, with moments of intensity interspersed with quieter scenes that let you and the characters catch their breath, before things progressively grow worse. It left me completely exhausted, and desperate to see more. 

“Reach” airs on Thursday. You’ll need to sign up for Paramount+ to watch it.

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