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Halo Season 2: Is It An Improvement?

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Thomas Richards
| April 18, 2024
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The first season of Halo was divisive, to say the least. The show made a lot of odd choices in terms of plot and characters that put off a lot of fans. When I wrote about Season 1 (which you can read here), I said that the show had potential, but I was ultimately disappointed with how the season turned out. I hoped that Season 2 would right the wrongs of the first and deliver a Halo show that everyone could properly enjoy. And now, with Halo Season 2 being all wrapped up and having a few weeks to reflect on it, the question on my mind is, did the show improve? Were they able to pivot the story to be closer to the games? Were they able to make the characters likeable (looking at you, Kwan)? And did they nail the look and feel of Halo? Let’s see if Halo Season 2 improved on its predecessor.

SPOILERS AHEAD

A Story in Two Parts

Teamwork makes the dream work. (Paramount)

The story of Season 1 wasn’t the greatest. Sure, they had some interesting ideas, like the forerunner relics and the exploration of how an everyday person experiences this intergalactic war, but they never did these ideas justice. They’ve fixed this in Season 2, which has a far better story than before. It picks up several months after Season 1 ended, with Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) and Silver Team still fighting the Covenant on various worlds. Season 2 quickly establishes that the Covenant is a much bigger threat this time, as they show them glassing a planet (Sanctuary) in the first episode! This led perfectly into the Fall of Reach storyline, which was all over the marketing for this season and was when I enjoyed the story the most. Each episode had a sense of uneasiness, as if shit could hit the fan at any second. Throw in the political side of things with the introduction of the new head of the Spartan program, James Ackerson (Joseph Morgan), and a compelling everyday human in the form of Perez (Cristina Rodlo), and you have four of the best episodes of television I’ve seen in a while.

It’s a shame, then, that after Episode 4, the story takes a detour away from Reach and starts to deal more with the next generation of Spartans, getting to the Halo and the Flood. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy this narrative shift, but I just wanted more of Reach. I wanted to see Silver Team fighting in cities like New Alexandria, pushing back against an overwhelming Covenant force. It would’ve made it feel like a proper war, even if the end result would’ve been the same. The second half of the season also suffers from some pacing problems, with everything moving at a breakneck pace after Reach falls. It makes sense because there was a lot to cover, but I wish they were able to take their time. That being said, I still liked the second half of the season. I liked how they further explored the mental states of the Spartan II’s, something they tried to do in Season 1 with various success.

I also enjoyed Kwan’s (Yerin Ha) story this time around (mostly because she stopped bitching every two seconds). The mystery surrounding her and the monster (the Flood) kept me hooked, even if I called it as early as Episode 1 (much to fellow contributor Dan’s disdain). Overall, I think they did a better job at exploring the themes they wanted to compared to Season 1. While it does lose a little steam in the second half, it was still an enjoyable time.

Course Correcting Characters

Ackerson, more like Dickerson. (Paramount)

The portrayal of these classic characters was a major point for discussion back in Season 1. People were upset that Chief wasn’t like the games, taking his helmet off and dealing with his trauma (what a bitch, amiright?) The show’s creators heard your criticisms because this version of Chief is much closer to his game version from the start and, by the end of the season, almost identical. He still has his helmet off most of the time, but his personality has seen a major improvement. While he struggles with his emotions, he deals with them how a child soldier would, poorly. He constantly pushes his emotions down for the sake of the mission/revenge. While he still has one or two outbursts, they’re much more tame and don’t feel as out of place. And while it does take way too long for him to get his suit back on after Episode 3 (it took until episode 7), I still really enjoyed this shift in his character.

Other returning characters from Season 1 are just as good or even better. Silver Team has proper personalities this time around, and I actually cared what happened to them (RIP Vannak). What were one-note characters in Season 1 were given proper depth, and I really enjoyed it. Captain Keyes (Danny Sapani) got a few moments to shine, especially in Episodes 3 and 4, where he drops the first F-bomb in the series. Halsey (Natasha McElhone) and Miranda (Olive Gray) are pretty much unchanged, which I was fine with because their characters were spot-on in Season 1. Cortana (Jen Taylor) is also pretty similar (besides her face); I just wish she was more present in the story besides being a prisoner for most of the time. I already mentioned how I liked Kwan this time around, but I also really liked what they did with Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) and his family. Like Kwan, I didn’t care for them in Season 1, but it turns out they just needed a story that didn’t suck, and they became interesting characters.

Newcomers James Ackerson and Perez were excellent additions, with Ackerson becoming one of my favourite characters. I loved how he came across as a massive prick but was shown to have this inner conflict about whether he was doing what was right. I especially liked what they did with his Dad and Sister in Episode 3 (totally didn’t cry). Perez was an excellent character who showcased how a normal marine deals with these situations. Not only that, but we see her hardened by this and even become a Spartan. These two were always entertaining to watch, and I hope we see more of them in a possible Season 3.

Make You Feel Like Halo

That’s gonna leave a mark. (Paramount)

Everyone can agree that for all its faults, Halo Season 1 nailed the look of the games. The costumes, sets, and CGI all looked distinctly Halo. But, somehow, Season 2 looks even better. The costumes are just as great as before, but the cinematography and lighting, in particular, make everything look so much better. My favourite example of this is the entirety of Episode 4. Everything from the multiple one-shot takes to the fight with the camouflaged elites and even the part where the only light source in a hallway is a glowing energy sword all looked spectacular. And this is where I think they made the best decision possible with the big battles this season; they weren’t in the middle of the day.

Sure, Episode 5 of Season 1 had that big epic battle, but being set during the day, the imperfections of the CGI were easy to notice. But if you have a major battle in a city at night, fighting in close quarters with minimal lighting, it all looks so much better. Speaking of gorgeous things, we finally got to see a Halo in a Halo show. We didn’t get much, though, because it was only in the last episode, but now that Chief is there, I’m keen to see what they can accomplish visually going forward.

Let’s get to work. (Paramount)

So, was Halo Season 2 an improvement over Season 1? Yes, absolutely, definitely! Season 2 improved in nearly every single aspect. The story was a step up despite some pacing problems and kept me engaged the entire time (even the Kwan stuff). The characters that needed a change got it and were better for it, and the new characters introduced were exceptional. And to top it off, the series is still one of the best-looking sci-fi shows you can watch. If you liked Season 1, you’ll love Season 2. Even if you hated the first season, there is something to enjoy here. And if you’re completely new, just watch a recap of Season 1 on YouTube and jump right into the good stuff. Keep it locked to Couch Soup for even more Halo content like the Watching Now Podcast, where we covered every episode of Halo Season 2!

Did you watch Halo Season 2? What did you think? Did it redeem the show for you? Let us know down below where we can talk all things Halo.

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Drew Lewis
3 months ago

Major storytelling improvement from season 1. But I would argue that season 1 had better action set pieces that felt more like Halo the game came to life. The addition of Perez’s character and the more depth into the spartans really did wonders for this season’s arc.

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