The Halo Series Never Cared About Aliens, And So It Was Never Weird


[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for the final episode of Halo season 1.]

“We lose the artifact, we lose the war,” a bloodied John, born Master Chief, tells his comrades. “No matter what [the UNSC] made us, we are all we have now. It’s supposed to be a big moment for him – not a “just had sex” kind of big moment, but rather rallying his fellow kidnapped survivors-turned-supersoldiers to fight their true enemy.

But after nine frustrating episodes, we understand so little about the Covenant that there’s not much left to look forward to in this Paramount Plus show. In its season finale, Halo strove to explore the repercussions of John finally attempting to be human. But what they should have done now is show us the depth of being an alien.

There are the obvious reasons: aliens are known to be sick as hell. A collective like the Covenant, the direct, hyper-religious adversaries of the Halo games, held promise even in such a bewildering spectacle as Halo was in its first episodes. With Halo restructuring the game’s lore, the opportunity seemed ripe to re-evaluate the antagonist and play with all aspects of their weirdness.

But no! The show instead chose to focus (primarily) on Master Chief’s trauma. But since everyone who supported the corrupt UNSC regime that depressingly made his life possible justified their actions by pointing to the threat of the Covenant, the series repeatedly fell into the void of its own making.

Photo: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount Plus

Perhaps no one epitomizes this better than Makee (Charlie Murphy), the woman raised by Covenant aliens who saw her potential as “Blessed” in their doctrine. His arc had the promise of being deeply, truly daring: a human raised by aliens to hate humans could certainly express his hatred of humanity on his own body. If not by real body horror (as we saw in episode 8, when she took out her nail sword and cuticle with it) and then at least through costumes, makeup – anything to indicate she didn’t want anything to do, physically or spiritually, with its own gender. Makee could have fucked weird. Instead, she’s a conventionally attractive woman for Master Chief to love and lose.

Makee’s story, like so many others Halo, looks like the most boring version of what it could be. If you were to take the very building blocks of lore that make up the Halo universe and play with them, what might be on the table? Definitely something more than what’s left for Makee and the rest of the cast. Like his exposure to a Halo ring and John make her more sympathetic to humanity, her double cross – and, later, her triple cross on the Alliance side – means little since we only have a small idea of ​​what actually obligates the Alliance .

This means that the show’s so-called Big Bad, the threat the characters constantly feel about them, is virtually non-existent. For all its faults, The iron Throne feels instructive here: Moments like the Battle of Hardhome are powerful reminders of the enigmatic and existential terror the White Walkers actually pose, and the show is littered with characters struggling to fight and understand their motivation. Halo doesn’t have such a visceral sense of its nemesis, let alone consistency with its premise. It’s a major problem, and one that the show has made no attempt to solidify, despite the alien threat being 90% of the motivation for characters like Halsey, Keyes, and Admiral Parangosky.

John

Photo: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount Plus

Ultimately, HaloThe alien problem feels like a symptom of the show’s biggest problem. As each character cites the threat of the Covenant as the reason for their actions, it becomes clear just how much Makee and the aliens weigh on the narrative. The life-defining ideas of these characters are so deeply incurious that they become practically meaningless. Thus, the danger of the Spartans as brainwashed supersoldiers becomes easily castrated with a rallying speech from the leader, and Miranda is both curious and slow to act until she hears a recording. Even John himself – having spent most of the season defying and struggling to understand the depth of the wickedness in which he is complicit and controlled – valiantly returns to the fight.

The pep talk the Admiral gives him about leaving “John” behind to be “Master Chief” should be shocking, but Halo didn’t quite find this gear. Otherwise, he would know that the Covenant deserved to be more than a faceless horde. It deserved to be explored as a force in itself, questioned as to whether it really was the worse of two evils enough to justify ruining Master Chief’s shot at a normal life. At the very least, we deserved aliens that were fucking weird. Instead, as always, Halo was infuriating more of the same.

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