- Season 2 of Halo doubles down on its exploration of Master Chief as a human being as the battle for Reach commences.
- The action in season 2 is a noticeable improvement over season 1, with combat scenes feeling more grounded and gritty.
- Some supporting characters are under-utilized during early episodes, but John-117’s story remains compelling.
After a divisive debut outing, the world of Bungie and 343’s hit video game franchise returns to Paramount+ with Halo season 2. The new season follows Master Chief and Silver Team as they continue the fight against the alien Covenant, this time over the future of humanity’s greatest stronghold: Reach. Under new showrunner David Wiener, Halo season 2 embraces a darker and more gritty tone while doubling down on its exploration of John-177, which makes the show’s sophomore outing a clear improvement, though one that still has some of the same problems as season 1.
A live-action adaptation of the video game franchise of the same name, Halo follows Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 (Pablo Schrieber) as he fights his part in a war between humanity’s United Nations Space Command (UNSC) and the Covenant, an alliance of multiple hostile races of aliens intent on destroying the human race. The Master Chief is supported by Cortana (Jen Taylor) – an AI construct based on the personality of Dr. Catherine Halsey, who created the Spartan supersoldier program – implanted in his brain.
- The series nicely explores Master Chief
- The action in season 2 is excellent
- Halo season 2 lacks focus on supporting characters
- The first few episodes can drag a bit
John’s Humanity Continues To Be A Core Focus In Halo Season 2
The new season continues the controversial decision to feature Pablo Schreiber’s Master Chief without his helmet for large portions of its runtime, but it does so again in service of exploring the man beneath the Mjölnir. The character is still haunted by the events of the Halo season 1 finale and Schreiber effectively balances John’s interior struggles with the character’s commanding presence as a super soldier. In addition to hordes of aliens and his own psyche, John must now also contend with prickly ONI bureaucrat James Ackerton (James Morgan), who makes for an interesting new wrinkle in his larger journey.
Master Chief brawling with Elites feels less like watching a video game cutscene this time around, and the camera work has a handheld feel that keeps things more grounded.
While John’s psychological struggles are a key focus, it’s Natasha Culzac’s Riz-028 that gets some of Halo season 2’s most moving character moments. As she reckons with her own limitations during a period of physical recovery, she arguably becomes the show’s most effective exploration of what it means to be a sharpened instrument of war with newfound humanity. Unfortunately, not all of Silver Team is given this much attention. Kai-125 (Kate Kennedy) feels somewhat underused, while Vannack-134 (Bentley Kalu) never evolves beyond his snarky quips. It doesn’t help that the team’s cliché banter does little to reinforce their bond.
Halo Season 2’s Action Is A Step Up
It wouldn’t be Halo without epic moments of combat between humans and aliens, and, in the four episodes provided for review, the action is a noticeable step up from season 1. Master Chief brawling with Elites feels less like watching a video game cutscene this time around, and the camera work has a handheld feel that keeps things more grounded. Although Master Chief cuts through plenty of Elites on his own, the series avoids having the CGI aliens feel like mere cannon fodder by showing on numerous occasions just how formidable they are against non-Spartan soldiers.
Select action scenes still suffer from the CGI floatiness that plagued certain sequences in season 1, but season 2’s action is darker, literally, which helps to hide some of the budgetary constraints that come with telling an epic sci-fi story on the small screen. This could easily have made for a frustrating watch in less capable hands (see Game of Thrones’ “The Long Night”), but it actually works in Halo’s favor here, turning a cloaked Elite into a sinister, horror-movie-like specter.
Halo Season 2 Struggles With Some Supporting Characters
Unfortunately, Halo season 2 struggles when it comes to exactly what to do with characters outside of Master Chief’s direct orbit. This includes Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) and Kwan (Yerin Ha), and Natascha McElhone’s Dr. Halsey is also kept in a frustrating holding pattern. Some of this is seemingly a holdover from how their stories unfolded in season 1, and early episodes of season 2 drag whenever we leave Reach and go to the Rubble. Thankfully, the latter half of season 2 does seem poised to address this as different storylines converge.
Halo season 2’s first episodes raise a number of questions and set up big events to come, and bringing the series’ diverging subplots together into a cohesive whole will be crucial to successfully tackling the monumental Reach storyline from the games. While the series can’t quite find its footing with select characters and sometimes veers into predictability with its dialogue, the exploration of John, the man underneath the armored Master Chief, continues to be compelling, and the action is better than ever.
The first two episodes of Halo season 2 premiere on Paramount Plus on Thursday, February 8, with the remaining six episodes releasing weekly.
- Release Date
- March 24, 2022
- Jen Taylor , Bokeem Woodbine , Charlie Murphy , Shabana Azmi , Kate Kennedy , Natascha McElhone , Yerin Ha , Bentley Kalu , Pablo Schreiber , Danny Sapani , Olive Gray , Natasha Culzac
- Kyle Killen , Steven Kane
- Kyle Killen , Silka Luisa , Richard Robbins , Steven Kane , Justine Juel Gillmer
- Otto Bathurst , Jonathan Liebesman , Roel Reiné , Dennie Gordon , Debs Paterson , Craig Zisk , Jessica Lowrey
- Kyle Killen