By David Baldwin
After spending years in development hell, Microsoft X-Box fans can rejoice – the long-awaited HALO series is finally here. It tells the story of Master Chief (Pablo Schrieber), a genetically modified “Spartan” super soldier from the year 2552. When he discovers a mysterious object after a firefight with the villainous alien Covenant group threatening humanity’s very existence, Master Chief’s worldview is irrevocably changed.
As my experience with HALO-lore is minimal at best (I tended to get my ass handed to me every time I picked-up a controller), I cannot speak to the attention to detail that fans are sure to equally enjoy and pick apart with a fine-toothed comb. Speaking as a non-fan however, the look and feel of the first two episodes I was able to screen is nothing short of astounding. The battle scene in Episode 1 is epic and appropriately violent for a series based on an M-rated Video Game franchise, the special effects are terrific and the booming score is exactly as great as I hoped it would be. There is one controversial decision that is certain to annoy some die-hard fans, though I hope they can look past it and appreciate just how much effort was put into getting these worlds, creatures, armour, backdrops and spaceships to look as great as they do. This is easily one of the most expensive TV Shows ever made, and no expense appears to have been spared (and it looks a whole lot more real and polished than another popular space-set series that has been streaming for a few years now).
The acting is strong thus far, with Schrieber (best known for his work as Pornstache on Orange is the New Black )really embodying the stoic, emotionless demeanour of Master Chief. I was also a fan of Natasha McElhone as Dr. Catherine Halsey and Yerin Ha (also at SXSW with SISSY) as Quan Ha. Their work is compelling and does a great job lifting up the story coming together under a plethora of exposition. My main concern so far – which may be alleviated with future episodes – is that the Series does not seem to have any sense of personality. Some may decry the lack of humour as the reason (though they will likely gravitate towards the scene-stealing turn from Character Actor Bokeem Woodbine as Master Chief’s old friend Soren), yet I think it is more complicated than that. The Creators spent so much time trying to get the look and feel of the Video Game franchise just right (up to and including the HUD fans should know all too well) that they did not stop and think about how to keep the non-fans invested, and how to differentiate the story for a new medium. Much of this should be ironed out in future episodes, but I sincerely hope the series does not sink under mountains of story exposition or wait until the already greenlit Season 2 to adjust.
The first episode of HALO premieres on Thursday, March 24, 2022 on Paramount+ with new episodes every following Thursday.
Be sure to read more here about what we learned from the Cast at this year’s Television Critics Week.
HALO screens at SXSW ’22 as follows:
Monday, March 14 at 5:00pm EST – Paramount Theatre