Look, I’m trying, but after a premiere that surpassed my expectations at least by a little bit, I cannot say that Paramount’s Halo show is going terribly well after four episodes here, and things are getting worse every week.
For me, this has little to do with the show straying from series canon (though it certainly is doing that), it’s just not…a very good show overall, and keeps running into a bunch of issues both related and not related to the games that are only getting worse over time.
Kwan Ha – When Kwan Ha was paired with Master Chief as the lone survivor of a Covenant attack, her character made sense for the series. But since then, she’s been fully separated from Chief and has been given her own spin-off storyline that seems to have more or less nothing to do with the main storyline as she’s off trying to topple some bad governor on her old planet. Not that Kwan could have never gotten her own storyline, but after two episodes as a brand new character? The show felt like it was trying to establish a relationship between her and Chief and now that’s just…over, and she’s flung into some sideplot we just don’t really care about.
The Helmet – I maintain that the decision to have Chief not wear his helmet 98% of the time in this series was a bad one, even if I don’t have an issue with Pablo Schreiber’s performance per se. This week, we got a pretty goofy moment where Chief puts on his helmet for 15 seconds to drive through the woods and then he immediately takes it off again. I get the practical realities of why he might not have his helmet on out of combat that often, and yet it makes the character feel incredibly divorced from the game icon everyone knows and loves.
Master Cheeks – Look, I’m down with nudity in my TV shows, but it’s become a literal meme in the Halo series. I joked that each episode Master Chief was going to lose one more layer of clothing and…that’s exactly what happened. First the helmet, then he was down to his undersuit, then by episode three he’s fully naked to extract a chip from his back that he really probably could have kept his pants on for. The show keeps trying to be “adult” with nudity, as now we’ve seen nude butts in three of the last four episodes, but it’s an actual meme at this point, and I’m not sure what the show is trying to do here.
Halsey – In terms of actual storytelling, I simply don’t find this “Master Chief has flashbacks to his childhood” storyline interesting. Halsey literally runs a program that takes child soldiers, turns off their emotions and makes them her personal killing machines. We are building toward a “reveal” that Halsey did not kindly take in John when he was an orphaned boy and probably just straight up stole him and/or killed his parents herself but like, we know she’s shady. This is not surprising.
Logic Gaps – You can find these everywhere, but this week was particularly galling when we see Spartan Kai cut out her own emotion pellet (again, in the nude), and her fellow Spartan somehow doesn’t notice the giant wound in her back, nor does this extraction trigger any alarms back at home base when everyone knew the second Chief was trying to take his out. I get that Halsey and her assistant are on a trip, but still, obviously there would be mechanisms in place to indicate a Spartan has done something this drastic.
The Budget – Whether it’s Chevy Tahoes with armor plating or scenes that look like Master Chief is driving a Warthog through someone’s backyard in Michigan, the budget here does not seem like what it needs to be. It also may explain why there has been roughly zero real action since the pilot, and we have barely seen the Covenant at all. We had a whole scene this week with Kai talking about firing a Needler instead of…actually firing one. While I knew a Halo show wouldn’t be as action-intensive as the games, this is just getting boring.
There’s another half a season to come, but so far, I don’t think this is working very well for all the reasons I mention here. Hoping to see things turn around, but each week that feels less and less likely.