Paramount+ 'Halo' Review: All eyes on Pablo Schreiber's Master Chief in entertaining series
This spoiler-free review is based on Episodes 1 and 2 issued to the press.
Right off the bat, 'Halo' is good with a capital G. After years of languishing in production turmoil, the series with Steven Spielberg as one of the executive producers delivers. Paramount+'s pick of one of the more successful games to be adapted to a TV show and also picking an own timeline to it makes the Pablo Schreiber-starrer an interesting watch. This series has its own story to tell, despite the familiar characters and the slick fight sequences. There's no connection to the games and it's a different version of Master Chief that battles the Covenant (who are equally different by the way)
The storyline is pretty simple. It's 2552 and humanity is on the brink of extinction with an alien race known as the Covenant set to wipe out humanity and the latter's only line of defense and hope for survival are the Spartans — genetically enhanced supersoldiers, a far cry from Jean Claude Van Damme's 'Universal Soldier'. They're big, fast, advanced, battle-ready, and most importantly, controllable. Or at least they thought these could be until Schreiber aka Master Chief decides to take matters into his own hands.
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While much of it does serve as a prequel story, the series, safe to say, can be looked like the events taking place before 'Halo: Reach' when the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) is just aware of what the Covenant can do and their supersoldiers are pretty much on guard to ensure various threats while also shutting down rebellions. There are familiar faces in Dr. Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone), Captain Jacob Keyes (Danny Sapani), Miranda Keyes (Olive Gray). Shabana Azmi plays dmiral Margaret Parangosky.
There are two new characters in Kwan Ha Boo (Yerin Ha), and Charlie Murphy ('Peaky Blinders') as Mafee, who just makes the plot that much deeper. John-117 as he is known realizes pretty quickly after an intense opening battle against the Covenant on the planet Madrigal, that his existence has more questions than answers. Beneath the visor, he's calm, composed, calculative, cold, and efficient, but in a very Mandalorian-esque way, his vulnerability comes to the fore when the helmet is off. Game ardents might question the move of unmasking Master Chief in the very first chapter, but the move is quickly justified.
'Halo's story may not be the rockstar, but the promising cast and the visual brilliance make it one-of-a-kind. The tone alternates from colors splashed around to almost sepia and that does work in the show's favor. Episodes 1 and 2, directed by Otto Bathurst, impresses. It feels easy to deduce where the series is heading as it tries to humanize John, and also build a storyline around him. The second episode is more a reunion between John and former Spartan program dropout, Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) who is now nestled in a settlement called The Rubble.
There's some ribbing and banter, with Woodbine doing much of the lifting. There's room for improvement, and 'Halo' will hopefully do their minor course-correction as far as pacing is concerned. Barring the odd slowing down of the breezy clip that it moves at, this show is neatly done.
'Halo' premieres March 24 on Paramount+.