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The Halo series takes a bold swing at Master Chief and the franchise mythos

Paramount+'s Halo series is a departure from what we're used to seeing in the games, for better or worse.


A proper live-action adaptation of the Halo franchise has long been dreamed of by fans of the sci-fi shooter. Now, that’s finally becoming a reality with the Halo series on Paramount+. Produced by 343 Industries in association with Kyle Killen and Steven Kane, I had the opportunity to check out the first two episodes ahead of their official release. While I was intrigued by new story directions, some decisions will surely leave fans divided.

The future of war

The Halo series stars Pablo Schreiber as the iconic Master Chief, though we don’t meet him until about halfway into the show’s first episode. Instead, we open with Kwan Ah, a new character created specifically for the show. Played by Yerin Ha, she’s a member of a human colony that’s attacked by Covenant forces. I love how early on the creators establish that the Covenant are a violent and ruthless group. Although the source material is mature, I was still taken aback by how violent the show got in its early episodes.

The first couple Halo episodes gave us plenty of action, and I thought it looked damn good. There’s some really fun callbacks to the games here as well. There’s a particular first-person POV shot that utilizes the in-game HUD. Weapons like the Energy Sword and the Battle Rifle look glorious in live-action.

Master Chief himself is also quite glorious in live-action. Although the suit seems a bit restrictive, Pablo Schreiber is able to pull off the physicality of the Chief. He’s just as badass in the show, and I think the script does a great job at building up the mythology surrounding his character.

Bold moves

Where the Halo series will really divide fans of the games is in its decision to remove Master Chief’s helmet. Something that the showrunners teased previously, there’s a feeling of demystification when that iconic Spartan helmet comes off. It’s no fault of Schreiber’s performance, it’s just that no face under that helmet would have lived up to what fans have been imagining for two decades.

However, the move to remove Master Chief’s helmet actually speaks to a bigger change of pace for the Halo show - digging into Master Chief’s back story. While the game’s have given us plenty of nuggets about the character’s past, the Paramount+ show takes an in-depth look at John-117’s upbringing, emotions, and motivations. Though I wasn’t entirely on board at first, I appreciated getting to see such an iconic character explored in a unique way. A 1:1 recreation of the Master Chief and narrative that we see in the games would have felt pointless.

Master Chief of course isn’t the only character from the games that appear in the show. Dr. Catherine Halsey and Miranda Keyes both appear early on in the show and feel true to their video game iterations, with a couple creative liberties taken here and there.

One issue that persisted for me throughout the first two Halo episodes was with the CGI. While there are a good deal of practical special effects that are beautifully executed, there are a good amount of green screens and CGI that feel rough, to put it lightly. Some of the alien weapons, creatures, and outer space settings come to mind. As a show being made for a streaming service, Halo obviously had a limited budget, and it’s apparent sometimes.

Space cowboy adventure

The Halo series is a brave adaptation of a beloved video game property, daring to take long-standing characters and ideas in a new direction. While it’s yet to be seen how some of these decisions will pay off, it’s a confident start for Halo on Paramount+.

These impressions are based on digital screeners for the first two episodes of Halo, provided by Paramount. Halo Season 1 starts streaming on March 24, 2022 on Paramount+.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

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