- 1 Season
As someone who's never played the Halo video game franchise, starting the TV adaptation cold felt a bit like diving into the deep end. The beauty of this show is that, while it rewards franchise veterans with deep-cut references and Easter Eggs, it's designed to help newcomers keep pace.
The series begins in shambles. We get our first glimpse of the alien Covenant, longtime antagonists of the Halo games. They've massacred a human outpost on the planet of Harvest, leaving a lone Spartan soldier (Master Chief) to try and protect the remaining survivors. As the last genetically-enhanced human combatant remaining, Master Chief is a pivotal figure in humanity's war to survive, but also somewhat of a loner. He's the "silent protagonist" of the franchise, so it's wonderful that the show manages to get audiences into his head by way of his encyclopedic knowledge of the galaxy, his fond memories of a childhood friend, and his innate heroism.
Joining him (eventually) on this adventure are Dr. Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone), the brilliant mind that created the Spartan program; her protÃ©gÃ©, Agent Locke (Bokeem Woodbine), who is sent to help with the Harvest crisis; and the shipboard AI known as Cortana (Jen Taylor), who has a unique relationship with Master Chief. Cortana is often thought of as one of the franchise's most iconic characters, and Taylor is every bit as great here as she is in the games.
That said, I found the human characters in this show to be the most fascinating. McElhone is a great proxy for Halsey's intelligence, while actor Charlie Murphy brings a wounded sense of decency and humor to the role of marine Vannak-134, one of the show's most likable characters. But our real standout is Kate Kennedy's performance as an insurrectionist named SPARTAN-133, who has a past connection to Master Chief that's slowly revealed throughout the season. Kennedy plays the character with a tragic vulnerability, layered with a fierce desire to make a difference and survive.
The show's pacing and structure have some challenges, particularly in its middle episodes. It's clear the creative team had to stretch to fill out the show's runtime, and the story slows to a crawl in some moments. That being said, the action and set pieces in Halo are truly next level. The show's budget is evident, and the space and ground battles are genuinely thrilling. Whether it's a firefight in a Covenant-held structure or an orbital drop assault, the show's action scenes are often its standouts.
Unique among TV adaptations of video games, the production team opted to utilize practical effects wherever possible. The result is I found myself much more invested in both the scenery and the design than I was expecting. There are actual costumes and sets here, with real sweat and grime and dirt. The alien tech looks gorgeously alien, while the show's de-aging effects and motion capture are impressive.
As a newcomer to the world of Halo, I appreciated that the show managed to strike a balance between fan service and accessibility. Some characters and settings are introduced with a knowing wink, like Halsey's lab being located on the ironically-named planet of Reach. But the pacing allows newbies to jump in without feeling left out in the cold. The show acknowledges that there's a 20-year history to this franchise, but not at the cost of telling its own story.
Pablo Schreiber is perfectly cast as Master Chief, showing us the hero's humanity and heroism. But ultimately, the show feels like an ensemble affair. These are characters who are all struggling to survive this war, and there's a palpable sense of danger and desperation that infuses every episode. The show is committed to its themes of loyalty, sacrifice, and the costs of war, but with a twinge of hope that there might yet be a way for humanity to survive in this brutal universe.
Overall, while it's not quite perfect, Halo manages to establish itself as a thrilling action-adventure show that stands on its own two feet while still paying homage to the beloved video game franchise. Whether you're looking for a fun popcorn sci-fi show or a deeper meditation on war and survival, Halo is well worth your time.
Halo is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (18 episodes). The series first aired on March 24, 2022.