Written by Bryan Dawson
The Halo TV series began development back in 2013. It stumbled multiple times as Microsoft wanted too much creative control over the property. It’s been a long and bumpy road, but after nearly a decade, Microsoft loosened up, and the first episode of the series will debut on Paramount+ this Thursday, March 24. After watching the first two episodes of the series, this is likely not what Halo fans wanted, but if you set your expectations low enough, you may find a bit of enjoyment. Our Halo TV series review only covers these first two episodes, so things could improve, but for now let’s take a look at how the series kicks off.
First and foremost, it should be made very clear that despite the massive following of the games, and successful release of multiple novels related to the Halo mythos, the creative team behind the Halo TV series has decided to throw all of that out the window and create something new and original. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s what Marvel Studios does with almost all of its adaptations. The difference is that Marvel characters still feel like themselves, even in these new stories. Very little in the first two episodes of the Halo TV series actually feels like Halo.
In the first episode we see Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) and his Spartan team taking down a small group of Covenant forces. There are some nice nods to the series with a few first-person sequences that show off a HUD somewhat similar to the games. It’s done much better than similar sequences in the old Doom movie, but these little nuggets from the games aren’t enough to make the series feel like Halo.
Master Chief starts off as the stoic super soldier we all expect him to be. Unfortunately, by the end of the first episode, he’s removed his helmet and begun exploring his feelings, trying to figure out where he came from. It’s a vast departure from the series, with John-117 feeling like a completely foreign character with his helmet off during almost the entirety of the second episode. A better approach likely would’ve been to have this emotional discovery happen to another Spartan on Chief’s silver team, allowing the series to keep Master Chief the same type of character he is in the games.
The creative team has stated that the removal of Master Chief’s helmet was done to service the story and allow audiences to better connect with the character. It’s an odd statement to hear after there were no issues connecting with The Mandalorian, who has a helmet covering his face for a vast majority of the series. It’s also unnecessary because there are no issues connecting with Chief throughout most of the first episode when he helmet is on and he’s acting like the character we all know and love from the games.
As the series moves into the second episode, we’re introduced to more characters and locations from the Halo universe. In the best cases they’re shadows of the versions in the games and novels, in the worst case one character is completely unrecognizable aside from their name and the location where we meet them. If the creative team is going to change a character that much, it would make more sense to just create a new character like they did with Makee (Charlie Murphy), a human character who is working alongside the Covenant.
It would be easy to forget the fact that the series doesn’t feel like Halo, or all of the changes that have been made, if the series was good on its own. However, despite the $90 million budget, the Halo TV series feels more like a low budget made-for-TV series on the Syfy Channel. Oddly enough, Star Trek: Discovery, another sci-fi series on Paramount+, has a lower per episode budget, but looks significantly more polished than Halo.
Your enjoyment of Halo will depend on your expectations of the series. If you’re expecting anything close to the Halo games or novels, you will be disappointed. If you’re expecting impressive storytelling, quality CG, and expansive environments, you will be disappointed. Halo feels like a generic sci-fi series from top to bottom. In fact, if we eventually learn that the writers of the series already had a bunch of scripts written for a new sci-fi show, and then they just added Halo on top of it, that wouldn’t be surprising at all.
We’ve only seen the first two episodes of Halo, so there’s still room for the series to improve over the course of the remaining seven episodes. It’s not difficult to imagine the series becoming a better sci-fi show by the end of the first season. However, based on the first two episodes, it would be hard to course correct and make the series feel like it belongs in the Halo universe. Go in with low expectations and you may still be entertained. Hopefully the creative team will realize their failure and make some significant changes for the already confirmed second season of the show.
- Master Chief looks accurate to the game (when his helmet is on).
- The Spartan-II silver team has a commanding presence whenever they’re on screen.
- Action sequences feel visceral and embrace the TV-MA rating of the series.
- Master Chief feels like a completely different character.
- Dialogue is generic and bland, with most of the characters feeling stiff and rigid.
- Environments lack scale and don’t come to life like they do in the games.
- Aside from cursory details, there’s very little about the series that feels like it belongs in the Halo universe.