The Halo TV Show Isn’t Terrible, But it’s Got a Long Way to Go

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Thomas Richards
| February 7, 2024
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TV adaptations of video games have become the new hotness over the past decade. with varying quality. There’s The Last of Us on HBO, Twisted Metal on Peacock, and even Netflix has jumped in with Arcane and Sonic Prime. Most of the series reviewed decently well (or were just forgotten about), seemingly breaking the game adaptation curse. Then there’s Halo, which stirred up a whole bunch of controversy. Airing on Paramount + in 2022, people were excited for this series, and the hype was real. This makes it all the more disappointing when people were already quitting the series after the first two episodes. I can’t blame them because I did the same thing. I wasn’t vibing with the series and didn’t feel like paying for another subscription any longer. Fast forward two years and Season 2 of Halo is just around the corner. With the new season looking like an improvement over the first, I thought it was the right time to give Season 1 another chance and see if it’s as bad as people say.

A New Timeline for a New Story

Master Chief is standing over an Elite. Chief has his gun pointed at the Elite. The Elite is dead and the Chief is looking in a different direction. They are in a town covered in sand.
Cool guys don’t look at their enemies. (Paramount)

The story of the Halo TV series is entirely separate from the main timeline (games and books and stuff) and has been dubbed the Silver timeline by the community. The story still follows Master Chief (Pablo Schrieber), however, his squad of Spartans isn’t Blue Team; it’s Silver Team (hence the timeline name). Season 1 revolves around a mysterious Forerunner artifact that Silver Team finds on Madrigal. After Silver Team takes out a Covenant search party attacking a nearby settlement, Silver Team finds the artifact in a cave. When Chief touches the artifact, he experiences cryptic visions of a family that may or may not be his own.

After ordering the rest of Silver Team to return to Reach, Chief takes the artifact and the sole survivor of the settlement, Kwan (Yerin Ha), back to Reach in a separate ship. After being ordered to eliminate Kwan, whose father is the leader of a rebel cell, the Chief disobeys this order and sets out with Kwan to figure out why he suddenly doesn’t follow the order to murder someone. Meanwhile, a human that the Covenant has adopted named Makee (Charlie Murphy) is shown to be looking for the same artifact that Chief found, as it’s important to their Great Journey.

This story starts and ends decently, but the middle is a slog. The introduction to Chief and the rest of the Spartans is action-packed and showcases that the Spartans mean business. The Forerunner artifact and that mystery interested me as well because I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. It’s just a shame that the season doesn’t keep its focus on the Spartans and the Forerunners and instead has chunks of episodes dedicated to Kwan and her story. This part of the season dragged with bad pacing, unlikeable characters, and all-around boredom, which is why I stopped watching in 2022. I did not care for her character at all and found her quite annoying. Fortunately, after episode 2, she’s not the main focus again until episode 7, which is a Kwan-focused episode (and the one episode I fell asleep watching).

Aside from the Kwan stuff, I found the rest an interesting take on the Halo lore. It isn’t one-to-one, but that’s okay because it’s established that this has no connection to the games. I enjoyed the exploration into the minds of the Spartans and how the Forerunner tech fits in with that. But I also like the story direction of Halo 4 and 5, so take this opinion with a grain of salt.

He’s a Whole New Chief

John is staring straight ahead with a blank look on his face. Cortana is to his left and is trying to talk with him. Two scientists are behind them along with various monitors and a table.
I don’t think he’s listening. (Paramount)

With a new timeline comes new versions of classic characters, and this is definitely a new version of Master Chief. In the games, Chief is a badass killing machine, humanity’s best weapon against the Covenant. He’s the typical strong and silent type, outside of responding to orders and delivering the occasional one-liner. Probably his most defining feature is that he never removes his helmet. This new version of Chief is still a killing machine (even if we don’t see much of it), but he spends a decent amount of the season without his helmet. This was something many fans had problems with, and while I agree that he takes the helmet off way too much, it didn’t bother me too much. With the different direction they take Chief in the show (focusing more on the psychological impact of being a Spartan), I get why they had his helmet off a lot. I mostly have an issue with the random sex scene that even Pablo Schreiber thinks was a bit much. But in the end, I didn’t dislike this version of Chief, and it allowed for a different take on the character, even if it was polarising.

What wasn’t as polarising was how Cortana was adapted into the series. Jen Taylor reprises her role from the games, and she kills it again. However, this time, she’s implanted directly into the Chief’s head instead of living in his helmet. She had a few moments to shine throughout the season, but I hope she plays an even bigger part in Season 2. Speaking of Cortana, her creator, Dr Halsey (Natascha McElhone), is also here, and she was probably one of my favourite characters from this season. I found her history with the Spartans and the expansion of her story very interesting. With Halsey now on her own, I’m curious to see what she does next. Other side characters that I enjoyed but wish had more screen time were the rest of Silver Team: Kai (Kate Kennedy), Riz (Natasha Culzac), and Vannak (Bentley Kalu). These three not only look cool, but their relationship with the Chief and the rest of the UNSC is something I wish they focused on more. They could’ve spent less time on the Kwan storyline, and given that time to Silver Team, I would’ve been a lot happier.

Looking the Part

Kai, John, Vannak, and Riz are walking together in a desert town. A large wall is behind them alongside a tipped-over truck. Other industrial buildings are also behind them.
Dropping in with the squad. (Paramount)

The one thing that everyone agrees on about Halo is that it looks visually impressive. Everything from the costumes to the sets and some of the CGI was weirdly impressive for a streaming show. I was taken aback by how much detail they could cram into the Spartan armour. The amount of time taken to create four visually distinct suits must’ve been excessive. If you want to learn more about the process behind making these costumes, check out Luiz Reza’s interview with the lead costume designer of the show here. Aside from the costumes, they nailed the important sets, such as the UNSC base on Reach. It all felt distinctively Halo, and I’m excited to see it explored more in Season 2. The action scenes, for the most part, also looked pretty good, even if some of the CGI was a bit wonky. I enjoyed the first-person scenes as an homage to the games, and it helped give the series a unique feel. The rest of the planets featured did look like generic sci-fi planet 58, but hopefully, the team has learned from their mistakes.

Master Chief is crouched and looking ahead. He has an assault rifle on his bike. The city wall is behind him and the area is covered in red sand.
Time to break some heads. (Paramount)

Halo Season 1 wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought, but It’d be a stretch to say it was good. In terms of the story, if you’re a fan of the original story, you might not vibe with this plot at all. If you liked the direction in which 343 Industries was taking the story in Halo 4 and 5, like I did, you’d like it a bit more. The Kwan stuff was bad, and the human being adopted by the Covenant also sucked, but it looks like both of them won’t be featured as much going forward. It looks like Season 2 is trying to address the criticisms of Season 1. Hopefully, they can get the series heading in the right direction. Keep it locked to Couch Soup for all the Halo content for your hungry nerd soul.

Have you watched the Halo TV show? What did you think? Will you be watching Season 2? Let us know in the comments where we can talk all things Halo.

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