Halo is pulse-pounding and intense. Pablo Schreiber is the perfect choice to lead the much anticipated and long-awaited series.
This review of the Paramount+ series Halo season 1 does not contain spoilers.
I won’t pretend to know the first thing about Halo, other than my college roommates used to play it endlessly when it first came out. The science-fiction military media franchise has been a behemoth in the video game industry. And knowing the difficulty in adapting video games to film and television and audience success, let alone critical, the odds are not on the studio’s side. Even hearing about Paramount+’s gigantic 200-million dollar budget and two-year commitment had me skeptical. This Halo series has been in development limbo since Steven Spielberg began to get the ball rolling in 2013. When they finally started shooting, the pandemic arrived, and production shut down after completing only five of the nine episodes. After watching the first two episodes, it’s a relief to say that Paramount+ may have the hit they need to establish a foothold in the market.
This is a spoiler-free review, but I will say you get your money’s worth with Halo season 1. The series starts with an intense and thrilling opener that lasts a nail-biting 18 minutes. Halo drops the viewer in the middle of a very public war between the UNSC (United Nations Space Command) and the resistance, including the residents of the planet of Madrigal. The opposition, including General Jin-Ha (Jeong-hwan Kong) and his daughter Kwan (Yerin Ha), have no issue fighting the UNSC’s Marines. It’s the Spartans, a manufactured super soldier equivalent to 100 marines.
The Spartan soldiers are created by Dr. Halsey (The Truman Show’s Natascha McElhone). The most visible Spartan is Master Chief John-177 (The Wire’s Pablo Schreiber). The UNSC are masters at shaping public opinion, and John-177 is the face of it all. However, they find themselves on the same side when a ferocious alien race arrives on Madrigal under mysterious circumstances. They storm the planet’s outpost, which pulls no punches. It’s bloody, violent, and takes no prisoners. That’s when the Master Chief arrives to aid in their defense.
The opening sequence sets the tone for the series that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat. A genuine armrest grabber, if you will, Roger Ebert would say. The viewer may not know what can come around the corner. Much of this can be attributed to the special effects, the stunning fight sequences, and an urgent performance by Yerin Ha. As the episode progresses, it’s Pablo Schreiber’s stoic and even all-consuming performance as Master Chief that allows the first two episodes to be more than your standard science-fiction action fare. Primarily during the second episode, where the action dies down, and the mystery of the discovery on Madrigal is carried on his own.
Paramount+’s Halo was developed by showrunners Kyle Killen (Awake) and Steven Kane (The Closer). Otto Bathurst, Emmy winner for directing multiple episodes of Peaky Blinders, led the first two episodes. However, Kane wrote the entire series and purposely made it a standalone. They aim at being non-canon (a story that is not officially part of the original work). The only “canons” from the series may be the two main characters, Master Chief and Cortana. They also fold in an aspect of a political chess match that is intriguing. Kane shapes this very similarly to Game of Thrones. We see the beginning as rival factions fight Halsey’s Spartan program and what she may be developing in the future.
Will this work against the series? Only time will tell. You have to wonder, though, the gamble they are taking, one where we begin to bite our nails and see how the core fanbase will respond. Will they show patience for a show that may be more interested in catering to non-fans instead of its base? Especially when you consider popular adaptations this year like Reacher and Archive 81.
Yet, that is all speculation. The first two episodes have enough pulse-pounding action to spare, and viewers respect when money is spent the right way. Halo is, forgive the pun, an out-of-this-world experience that shows great promise for the rest of the series.
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