Now the whole season is finally out, we've pulled together our thoughts with a full review.
After the first episode of Paramount's long-awaited Halo series, it seemed that not only Spielberg but everyone else had misunderstood the source material and had struggled with a worthy interpretation of Bungie's expansive universe. It was clear that there was neither a large enough budget nor enough respect for this to be worth following.
But then something happened, and little by little the series managed to not only erase the memories of the initial missteps from that premiere episode, but actually ended up with one of the most interesting departures from the source material I've probably ever seen, and actually that's not a criticism, but pretty significant praise.
Because yes, the Halo series is markedly different from the games that inspired it, and you need look no further than Master Chief himself. Pablo Schreiber, by the way, delivers a dazzling performance as the central pillar throughout the series, and the reason I can say that is down to his interpretation of John-117, which is something else entirely. He spends 95% of the series with his helmet off, having sex, overreacting and overinterpreting, misreading and misunderstanding. He is, in other words, a human being first and foremost.
It's an interesting approach, and one that makes Chief undeniably more exciting to follow as the episodes unfold. No, he's not the same Chief as the one the legendary Steve Downes gave us over a myriad of interactive chapters over the years, but that'd never have worked anyway. Here we have Schreiber giving us an emotionally responsive portrayal that really works.
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Natascha McElhone's version of Dr. Halsey in particular also works brilliantly, and the folks behind the series, and McElhone herself, have managed to showcase the character's ambiguous duality. Indeed, Spartan soldier Kai, played by Kate Kennedy also ends up impressing, and overall there are strong performances across the board.
There are departures from the source material that just don't work quite as well. For example, the Chief is connected to the Halo ring, along with the mysterious Makee, through some sort of prophecy, and it seems to take away a bit of the Chief's appeal that he's destined to find this galactic superweapon. Likewise, only in the very last episodes does Cortana seem to become the very fantastic companion that made the game version of the duo so exciting.
And then we get to Kwan Ha, the absolute worst facet of the series, and a character who almost threatens to bring the whole season down about halfway through. Actress Yerin Ha fails to hold her own, her character's odd focus on the freedom of the planet Madrigal from UNSC control seems misplaced when humanity is about to find out our entire livelihood is threatened by The Covenant, and the way she discovers her "true potential" through a Mad Max-like desert trek is downright embarrassing.
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There's an entire episode, an entire episode, that focuses solely on Kwan Ha, and it's without a doubt the absolute worst of the season.
Fortunately, in the big picture, she doesn't take up nearly as much space as the characters that do work. Chief, Halsey, Cortana, Miranda Keyes, Kai - the series deviates from the source material quite significantly, and in doing so has planted a number of seeds that will be interesting to see sprout in future seasons.
And yes, almost more than any other MCU or Star Wars series, I hope Halo continues, because it's pretty obvious when watching it that as things slowly kick into gear, the pieces start to fall into place. All in all, we end up with a pretty positive overall impression and in the midst of it all we find Schreiber's performance, which is worth applauding. It can't have been easy.