“In the year 2552, humans on the planet Madrigal fight for independence from Earth, but a fatal encounter with the Alien Covenant complicates things; Master Chief John 117 and his super-soldier “Spartans” join the fight.”
Halo has been a topic of movie/television adaption for a very long time. Years went by and projects died, but on March 24th, Paramount+ released the pilot episode of a big-budget adaption set to make the video franchise created by Bungie proud.
Does Halo achieve it’s goal? Here we look at the first episode Contact, and see how it plays out.
Halo begins in the year 2552 on the outer rim on planet called Madrigal which acts as an independent colony primarily known its water extraction sites and its abundance of Hydrogen which is used for fuel for ship. We are introduced to the generic crew of the water plant and are given exposition on why they are independent, why they don’t like the UNSC, and what their thoughts on Spartans are. Spoiler alert, opinions on UNSC’s un-killable violent machine are not high. At one point, a former military man said that one Spartan is worth 100 marines because they are “faster, stronger and smarter…they kill without mercy.”
Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha) is the daughter of Jin Ha (Jeong-hwan King), the leader of the merry band of outsiders. Kwan is classic teenager who literally says she wants to get off the rock of Madrigal. She ventures outside the walls with her friends, but the expression of adventure backfires. Kwan stumbles upon a ship, one that she is sure not to be UNSC. Turns out the mysterious ship belongs to the Convenant.
This is where the show Halo defines itself to the audience. The showrunners are not afraid to get violent, and Halo will be embracing its bloody side. Kwan’s friends get killed and she runs back to the base in a panic, only to bring the Convenant forces right behind her. This is where clichés can work. Director Otto Bathurst embraces Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) and Darth Vader’s entrance for our first look at the Covenant forces. Through the fire and the smoke, they enter Jin Ha’s township and just begin wrecking all sorts of shit. Let’s make it clear, The Covenant are killing everyone and everything, including a room full of innocent women and children.
Just when it looks like the Covenant are going to kill everyone, the Spartans arrive. Despite the humans on Madrigal not liking the UNSC, this arrival of Silver Team was the only chance they had at survival. The carnage is immense and the violence is incredibly fluid. In all honesty, the action is more fun than I expected. Seeing all the different types of guns, the Covenant’s swords and the familiar body movements that were made famous in the video game series brought to life in a truly violent way was wonderfully refreshing.
The Silver Team of Spartans are headed by Master Chief, who is played by Pablo Schreiber. He is large, looming and cool-as-shit in his classic green titanium armor. Master Chief is the head of a foursome that also includes Riz-028 (Natasha Culzac), Vannak-134 (Bentley Kalu), Kai-125 (Kate Kennedy). The four of them all kick-ass and seemingly have different areas of expertise, whether it be sniping, heavy weapons or dexterity.
Silver Team cleans water mining camp and there is one survivor, Kwan. She will be sticking around, but first the crew of warriors need to figure out why the Covenant is on Madrigal. It turns out that the Covenant were digging in a mine that was for sure man-made. Within that cavern was an artifact…one that will play a major part in the story going forward.
Master Chief touches this artifact and some things start happening…some dangerous things. A massive energy surge begins taking place and Master Chief begins to have flashbacks, which are obviously memories. The thing is…Spartans aren’t supposed to have any of that. They are supposed to be robotic. It would appear that Master Chief is going to be getting a dose of humanity.
Master Chiefs breaks out of his daze and just in time because there is a Covenant individual who is still alive and is in the cave. In an escape from the clutches of the Spartans, this Covenant warrior turns invisible, knocks out Kwan on his way out, and escapes into the atmosphere on Banshee. The secrets of the mine doesn’t die with the Spartans.
For the first time we step off of Madrigal and we go to Planet Reach, which is the head base for UNSC. We are introduced to Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone), the head of the Spartans. She is reviewing the logs of Master Chief and finds a lot of interest in this artifact that created large measurable changes to Master Chief’s vitals. At first she does not want to show her boss, Admiral Margaret Parangosky, her findings…but then she does? This was a bit of writing I did not fully understand. Sure Halsey is then portrayed as someone who should not be trusted…
I should also point out that this is the first mention we get of Cortana. She is a grown thing, and not a blue icon. What we do know is that Halsey wants this project to be green lit but Admiral Paragosky doesn’t want any further progress on it. This is something to monitor, for it will be important later. No doubt.
We get a another new planet now, and that is High Charity, the home of the Covenant.
We meet this Nute Gunray looking dude and he is delivering a message to his superior about the relic that was on Madrigal. I believe this leader on High Charity is called Makee and is played by Charlie Murphy. Here she learns that Master Chief brought life into the relic. She is immediately intrigued, but her curious mind is diverted off course when her minion notes that this human leader of the Covenant is reading a human book. He seems to poke fun at her, and tells her that she may not be trusted if the people of his race see this. It is a vague threat, and again a sewing of distrust.
We return to planet Reach and we get a lot information on the political landscape of this show.
Kwan is talking with UNSC scientific advisor Miranda Keyes (Olive Gray) via a hologram. Kwan is on Master Chief’s ship, and Miranda is trying to talk with her civilly. It doesn’t go great. Here is what we learn: there is a lot of political discourse. Humans are living under the UNSC thumb and many don’t like it and that is why some have disbanded and headed to the outer rim. The Covenant are attacking humans, but we don’t really know why? Spartans are saving humans and are human weapons, but those who don’t like the UNSC don’t love the idea of being saved.
As this is going on, Master Chief talks to Halsey and shares that he had some sort of picture flashes in his head…one could say memories. Halsey immediately has her ears perks up, and her assistant sees confused and worried.
Amongst all this chaos, we learn that Miranda is the daughter of Halsey and her father Captain Jacob Keyes (Danny Sapani) is a massive force in the UNSC. So Miranda comes from some big britches, but her relationship is a bit fraught with her parents.
The next big pin to drop is the Admiral dropping an Article 72 to Master Chief; AKA, kill Kwan and eliminate all evidence. Now here comes the quote that is a main theme for this first episode, and probably for the entire show.
“What’s the point of saving humanity if we’re going to give up our own?”Miranda Keyes
The Article 72 order gets to Master Chief in space, and in the middle of nowhere, Master Chief finds his humanity. Before the order came in, Kwan told her captor that she had met Master Chief before, and he killed her mom. GULP, NOT GREAT! This one story, combined with the flashbacks, triggered something in our hero…and he decides he does not want to kill a child. Good for him.
Master Chief kills the video feed to his ship, and that triggers all the warning symbols in Halsey and UNSC’s head. There is a reference that the Cortana system could solve this…problem. The problem is that Master Chief is starting to garner some sense of identity…which can never be allowed at all in the eyes of the Admiral.
They try and knock Kwan and Master Chief unconscious…but that doesn’t work. They try turning off all the power to their ship, and that doesn’t work at all either. Master Chief is just too strong to be knocked unconscious by a lack of air, and the lack of power to the ship is nothing for the magic ancient relic! Remember when it sent a power surge through the entire cave? Well, it can power a ship as well. Master Chief is not going to be entrapped by anyone!
Oh, and here is a thing. Master Chief removed his helmet…have you heard?
This was a major talking online and a lot of people were really angry. I for one, while I don’t fully get behind it, understand it within the context of this episode. They really, REALLY, tried to push the idea of humanity, independence of thought and self-worth throughout the hour. My take is that they rushed it. Why did they not try and get this to be a theme for the entire season to try and have a huge payoff closer to the end of the season? I understand wanting to make a splash, but again trying so-so hard and over-eagerness is not attractive.
The final moments of this episode see Master Chief get his ship in manual mode, and as the classic HALO music rings in our ears, where he drives off into space with Kwan by his side and his helmet off. We look down at planet Reach and Halsey is smirking proudly. Is she happy that her best soldier has some independence and saved the life of the child, or is she happy that she will get to use Cortana now in the way she wanted?
In quick summation, Halo‘s first episode “Contact” is perfectly fine. The action was great, but the writing and the characters, were not. They touched base on the childish nostalgia of the guns and movements, but the deeper ethos of the story seem to be a bit rushed. The pace of this pilot episode really humanized Master Chief at an accelerated rate. In fairness, let’s see how it plays out, but that scares me.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND / RANDOM THOUGHTS
- Vinisher Garth, who is played by Burn Gorman, appears as a talking-head politician type on television in the beginning of the episode preaching peace. He is not mentioned again during the pilot episode, but he will be back at some point.
- I did not really like the title sequence for the show. Strange nit-pick that really doesn’t matter, I know.
- I do not enjoy the family drama aspect between Halsey, Keyes and Miranda. Did we need that? No, I do not think so. Seems like it is a bit too much.
- The most “Halo” feeling part of Halo came when Master Chief came to the aid of one of his fellow Spartans. He takes shots from the Covenant forces, and just to where his shield is blinking dangerously. He then takes cover, spots a large turret gun, and obliterates three Covenant troops. This was video game made action TV show done right. The sound, the violence and the whole sequence hit my nostalgia buttons.
- We are in the era of heroes wearing helmets a lot of the time, specially in science fiction. We have The Mandalorian, The Book Of Boba Fett and now Halo. Tom Hardy must be smacking his lips with anticipation.
- The most distressing part about Halo‘s premiere (besides its rushed humanizing of John, but give that time to play out), were the amount of fade to blacks within the episode. There were at least three, and each one was an obvious charge or scenery. I know it may not be fair to call this as cheap editing, but it is often viewed as a shortcut when a strong segway is not written into the screenplay. And with the writing in the pilot episode, it is hard to lend it any credence.
- The budget of Halo is a bit strange to me? The action seems to be high quality and expensive, but the stage set pieces on High Charity and Planet Reach seemed a bit more plastic?
- The helmet of Master Chief runs everything for him, his diagnostic and his tech. Safe to say that this may be a bit of foreshadowing?
- When Admiral ordered that Master Chief be brought in at all costs, she explicitly told Halsey that she wanted him dead. Halsey was supposed to tell her Spartans that, but instead she says that they band together and protect their own and their job was to protect Master Chief. It would appear we have conflicting reports here don’t we! Again, sewing seeds of distrust in Halsey.
Alright, I am very late with The Bachelorette finale, but here we are. I just want to type of my really quick thoughts on the two night, five hour finale bonanza. “Stanko’s Stance” Podcast Feed (Apple)“Stanko’s Stance” Podcast Feed (Spotify) Stanko Excel Lists | Movies, Books, Podcasts. TV ShowsStanko Letterdbox Account
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