Halo (TV series)

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Halo
Halo2022TitleCard.jpg
Genre
Based onHalo
by Xbox Game Studios
Developed by
Starring
Music bySean Callery
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes9
Production
Executive producers
Producers
  • Sheila Hockin
  • Charlotte Keating
  • Michael Armbruster
Cinematography
Editors
  • Aaron Marshall
  • Dan Briceno
  • Geoff Ashenhurst
Running time40–59 minutes
Production companies
DistributorParamount Global Distribution Group
Budget$90–200 million[1][2]
Release
Original networkParamount+
Original releaseMarch 24, 2022 (2022-03-24) –
present (present)

Halo (also known as Halo: The Series) is an American military science fiction television series developed by Kyle Killen and Steven Kane for the streaming service Paramount+, based on the video game franchise of the same name. Produced by Showtime Networks, 343 Industries, Amblin Television, One Big Picture, and Chapter Eleven, the series follows a 26th-century war between the United Nations Space Command and the Covenant, a theocratic-military alliance of several advanced alien races determined to eradicate the human race.

Pablo Schreiber and Jen Taylor star as Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 and Cortana, with the latter reprising her role from the video game series, and are joined by Shabana Azmi, Natasha Culzac, Olive Gray, Yerin Ha, Bentley Kalu, Kate Kennedy, Charlie Murphy, Danny Sapani, Bokeem Woodbine, and Natascha McElhone. Development for a television series began in 2013.[3] Killen was hired in June 2018, and the series officially announced a nine-episode order for Paramount+. Filming began in Ontario, Canada in October 2019, although post-production for the first five episodes was affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Filming eventually resumed in Budapest, Hungary, in February 2021.

Halo premiered on March 24, 2022, on Paramount+,[4] with the series already renewed for a second season.[5] The first season was met with mixed reviews, with praise aimed towards its action scenes, cast, and visual effects but criticism for its derivative writing and alterations from the source material.[6]

Premise[edit]

Halo follows "an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant. Halo will weave deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure and a richly imagined vision of the future."[7]

Executive producer Kiki Wolfkill revealed that the series is a standalone story that takes place within its own "Silver Timeline" that is separate from and inspired by the core canon and lore of the transmedia franchise rather than a continuation, adaptation, prequel, or sequel, explaining that they wished to give the two Halo canons a chance to evolve individually to suit their media.[8] This decision has been compared to how Marvel Studios has adapted the Marvel Comics into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.[8]

Cast[edit]

Main[edit]

  • Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, a towering genetically engineered supersoldier known as "Spartan-117".[9]
    • Logan Shearer plays a teenage John-117
    • Casper Knopf plays a child John
  • Shabana Azmi as Admiral Margaret Parangosky, Director of ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence)
  • Natasha Culzac as Riz-028, a Spartan member of Silver Team
  • Olive Gray as Commander Miranda Keyes, a UNSC (United Nations Space Command) officer and scientist and the daughter of Jacob Keyes and Catherine Halsey
  • Yerin Ha as Kwan Ha, an Insurrectionist teenager from the outer colony planet of Madrigal
  • Bentley Kalu as Vannak-134, a Spartan member of Silver Team
  • Kate Kennedy as Kai-125, a Spartan member of Silver Team
  • Charlie Murphy as Makee (season 1), a misanthropic human member of the Covenant who was raised by the Hierarchs as a "Blessed One".
    • Zazie Hayhurst plays a young Makee
  • Danny Sapani as Captain Jacob Keyes, a seasoned UNSC officer
  • Jen Taylor as Cortana, an artificial intelligence (AI) construct modeled on the brain of Dr. Halsey and implanted in the brain of Master Chief as a means of influencing his decisions. Taylor reprises her voice role from the Halo video game series and provides motion capture for the character.[10][11][12]
  • Bokeem Woodbine as Soren-066, a Spartan deserter who later became an Insurrectionist leader on the Rubble
    • Jude Cudjoe plays a teenage Soren-066
  • Natascha McElhone as Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey, a scientist for the UNSC and creator of the Spartan-II Project
    • McElhone also portrays two flash clones of Halsey
  • Fiona O’Shaughnessy as Laera (season 2; guest season 1); Soren's wife[13]
  • Tylan Bailey as Kessler (season 2; guest season 1);[13] Soren's son
  • Joseph Morgan as James Ackerson (season 2),[13] a formidable intelligence operative who has spent his career climbing the ranks of the UNSC’s secretive Office of Naval Intelligence.
  • Cristina Rodlo as Talia Perez (season 2),[13] a corporal specializing in linguistics for a UNSC Marine Corp communications unit.

Recurring[edit]

  • Burn Gorman as Vinsher Grath, a politician and UNSC collaborator who suppresses the Insurrectionist movement on Madrigal
  • Ryan McParland as Dr. Adun Saly (season 1), Dr. Halsey's assistant
  • Sarah Ridgeway as John's Mother
  • Duncan Pow as John's Father
  • Julian Bleach as the voice of the Prophet of Mercy, one of the Hierarchs

Guest[edit]

  • Jamie Beamish as the motion capture model of the Kaidon, the Covenant Elite survivor of the Battle of Madrigal
  • Keir Dullea as Fleet Admiral Lord Terrence Hood, a high-ranking UNSC officer
  • Jeong-hwan Kong as Jin Ha, Kwan's father and an Insurrectionist leader on Madrigal

Episodes[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date [14]
1"Contact"Otto BathurstKyle Killen and Steven KaneMarch 24, 2022 (2022-03-24)
In 2552, the Covenant attack an Insurrectionist outpost on the planet Madrigal, massacring everyone except for teenager Kwan Ha before the Spartan unit Silver Team intervenes. In a nearby cave system, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 discovers and retrieves a Forerunner keystone that reacts to his touch, displaying mysterious symbols and unlocking some of his sealed childhood memories. A surviving Covenant Elite witnesses and reports this to the Prophet of Mercy at the Covenant capital, High Charity. On Reach, Dr. Catherine Halsey clashes with Admiral Parangosky over their methods and Halsey's work on a new type of AI based on her own brain patterns. After Kwan refuses to cooperate with the UNSC, the Master Chief is ordered to execute her. He defies the order and rebels, earning Kwan's trust by taking off his armored helmet when she threatens him with his rifle. UNSC Captain Jacob Keyes orders the Master Chief to be taken into custody; the Master Chief touches the keystone again, which disables power in the base while restoring power to his ship, allowing him and Kwan to escape. In the process, the Master Chief discovers that he had drawn the keystone as a child, suggesting that he has a past connection to it.
2"Unbound"Otto BathurstKyle Killen and Steven KaneMarch 31, 2022 (2022-03-31)
In a flashback, a young John catches Soren, a fellow Spartan, fleeing and allows him to escape. On the run from the UNSC, John takes Kwan and the keystone to Rubble, a secret Insurrectionist base carved out of a series of broken asteroids. There they reunite with Soren who is now an Insurrectionist leader. On Reach, Halsey faces intensive scrutiny over John's actions but promises a solution to his and any future problems of this nature. Captain Keyes dispatches Silver Team to find John and bring him back along with the keystone and Kwan. On High Charity, the surviving Elite from Madrigal reveals to the Prophets and their ward Makee that John activated the relic; despite hesitance from the Prophet of Mercy, Makee insists that she can recover the keystone herself. Back on the Rubble, Soren introduces John to Reth, a deranged hermit who was once held captive by the Covenant. Reth forces John to reveal his ability to activate the keystone and hints that it leads to an alien superweapon of unparalleled destructive power. Shaken by the experience, John leaves Kwan with Soren and surrenders to Silver Team. He is consoled by Halsey, who promises a new beginning for him and awakens a flash clone of herself to create Cortana.
3"Emergence"Roel ReinéKyle Killen and Steven KaneApril 7, 2022 (2022-04-07)
In a flashback, a young Makee is discovered and inadvertently rescued from torture by the Covenant whose Forerunner device reacts to her. In the present, Makee leads a raid on a UNSC corvette in an attempt to find the location of the Madrigal keystone. With the ship's data erased, Makee travels to Madrigal where the keystone was originally discovered; she leaves transmissions of her orders behind. On the Rubble, Kwan convinces Soren to take her to Madrigal to reunite with Insurrectionists loyal to her father in exchange for a payment of deuterium. On Reach, Parangosky orders Miranda Keyes to study the keystone behind Halsey's back. Halsey completes the procedure of creating Cortana (killing her clone in the process), and places her in John's brain via a neural implant. Cortana, following Halsey's instructions, helps John remove a pellet that suppresses his emotions. After John explores some of the cityscape on Reach, he returns to base and touches the keystone again, where he has memories of his parents, home on Eridanus II, and drawings of the Madrigal keystone and a complementary keystone. Convinced that the second keystone is located on Eridanus II, John and Halsey travel to Eridanus II to investigate.
4"Homecoming"Roel ReinéJustine Juel Gillmer and Steven KaneApril 14, 2022 (2022-04-14)
On Reach, Kai-125 removes her emotional suppressor pellet and helps Miranda analyze the Madrigal keystone; Kai and Keyes discover that the keystone is related to a "Sacred Ring" that the Covenant call "Halo". On Madrigal, Kwan discovers her father's former allies refuse to help, fearing the Covenant and new UNSC-supported governor Vinsher Grath. Soren's ship is discovered and confiscated; Kwan goes to her aunt for help and learns of a mystical tribe that may have answers for her. Soren and Kwan escape Grath's troops and head for the spaceport to leave the planet. On Eridanus II, John, Halsey, and Cortana examine John's old home and find numerous drawings of the Forerunner keystones. After using Cortana to help recreate his home, John has memories of the location of the second keystone, but also his childhood and a visit from Halsey while his parents were alive.
5"Reckoning"Jonathan LiebesmanRichard E. Robbins and Steven KaneApril 21, 2022 (2022-04-21)
On Madrigal, Soren ties up Kwan while he goes to find a way off the planet, but Kwan frees herself and steals Soren's pistol and vehicle. On Eridanus II, the UNSC is preparing to secure the keystone and take it back to Reach. As the UNSC is testing the keystone, it releases energy that alerts Makee and the Covenant to its location. As John continues to question his past, he touches the keystone and has clear memories of Halsey and ONI troops kidnapping him as a child and replacing him with a flash clone of himself; in a rage, he attempts to kill Halsey before Cortana disables him using their mental link. As John awakens and contemplates his newfound knowledge, a Covenant corvette arrives and launches a surprise attack. Despite the efforts of Silver Team, the UNSC suffer heavy casualties, Kai is severely wounded, and the Covenant successfully retrieve the Eridanus II keystone and withdraw. As the Covenant corvette escapes the planet, a drop pod containing Makee is left behind.
6"Solace"Jonathan LiebesmanSilka Luisa and Steven KaneApril 28, 2022 (2022-04-28)
The surviving UNSC forces of the Eridanus II mission return to Reach. The UNSC takes Makee into their custody; although she claims to have been a prisoner of the Covenant, the UNSC does not trust her, considering that the Covenant are not known to take human prisoners. When John interrogates Makee, she reveals that they are both "blessed" with the ability to activate Forerunner technology. Makee says the likely location of the second keystone is a Covenant holy planet in the Aspero star system. Due to John and Kai's behavior following their removal of their emotional suppressors, Parangosky replaces Halsey as leader of all ongoing ONI projects with Miranda. John, upset at Halsey about lying to him about his past, confronts her and learns the true origins of the Spartan program: kidnapping and conscripting children to serve as supersoldiers, replacing them with terminally ill flash clones to alleviate suspicions, and subjecting them to augmentations with risk of deformation or death; John shares this with a recovering Kai. When John tests the Madrigal keystone once more, despite warnings of the possible ill effects it has on his health, he and Makee simultaneously have arrhythmias and seizures, while also sharing a vision of being on a Halo ringworld together.
7"Inheritance"Jessica LowreySteven KaneMay 5, 2022 (2022-05-05)
While Soren, having returned to the Rubble, engages in space piracy against the UNSC, Kwan ventures into the deserts of Madrigal to track down a reclusive tribe of mystic nomads, hoping for answers about her family's true purpose. The mystics reveal that when Kwan's ancestors settled on Madrigal, they were charged by a Forerunner AI with protecting a Forerunner portal that resides somewhere on the planet. Kwan is rejoined by Soren, who came back in order to fulfill his promise to John to look over her, just before the outpost is surrounded by Vinsher Grath and his troops, looking to kill Kwan for the threat that she poses to his power. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Kwan insists upon fighting back. While Soren holds off Grath's forces, Kwan detonates the outpost's power supply. The explosion kills Grath and his men; Kwan then pays Soren with money recovered from the outpost's supplies to honor their original deal. The two part on amicable terms, with Kwan determined to continue her mission and find the portal and take her position as its protector.
8"Allegiance"Jonathan LiebesmanJustine Juel Gillmer and Steven KaneMay 12, 2022 (2022-05-12)
John begins to view Makee as a potential ally following their shared visions of the Halo, despite the continued doubts of the UNSC as to her loyalty. John learns the Covenant seek the Halo rings to begin their transcendent "Great Journey". John is able to convince the UNSC to let Makee test the keystone under Miranda's supervision. John and Makee have sex; noting John's kindness and similarity to her, Makee begins to reconsider her loyalties. Halsey initiates remote protocols that disable all comms within the UNSC base and places Spartans Riz and Vannak under her direct control, ordering them to capture John, Makee, and the keystone; Cortana chooses at the last second to warn John instead. Riz and Vannak restrain Kai and attempt to fight John, and Miranda uncovers transmissions of Makee leading the attack on the UNSC corvette. After UNSC troopers restrain and taser her (bringing back memories of her youth), she reaffirms her loyalty to the Covenant, frees herself, and touches the keystone, sending shockwaves throughout the UNSC base, before saying her goodbyes to John via another shared vision.
9"Transcendence"Jonathan LiebesmanSteven KaneMay 19, 2022 (2022-05-19)
While Makee escapes Reach, Silver Team enters into a standoff that is only defused when Captain Keyes arrives and reveals to the other Spartans the truth about Halsey's kidnapping. Kai helps to apprehend Halsey, but Miranda realizes that the "Halsey" that was captured was actually a flash clone of the real Halsey, who is shown secretly planning to escape from Reach on her own. Using information that Makee had given to him, John deduces the location of the Covenant planet with Cortana's help. John leads Silver Team in a mission to stop the Covenant and recover the Forerunner keystones. On the Covenant planet, Raas Kkhotskha, Silver Team engages Covenant forces. When John is overwhelmed, Makee activates the combined keystones in order to generate a blast to save John, generating a star map leading to Halo, and inadvertently locking John into stasis. When John tries and fails to talk Makee down using another shared vision, Kai frees John from his trance by shooting Makee, shutting down the keystone before it can show Halo's location. John orders Cortana to take control of his body so he can simultaneously save his team and retrieve the keystones without activating them, despite her warnings that doing so could erase his mind permanently; after John takes a fatal hit, Cortana assumes control of John, rescues Silver Team, and escapes with them and both of the keystones. As they depart, Kai asks John if it is really him behind the helmet, but he only glances at her, wordlessly.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

The television series had gone through development hell with a planned release in 2015 that later changed to a 2019 release with Rupert Wyatt as director and executive producer,[15][16] then a 2020 release;[17] ultimately releasing in 2022 with Otto Bathurst replacing Wyatt in both roles.[18]

On May 21, 2013, Steven Spielberg was attached in executive producing a television series based on the video game franchise Halo, distributed by Xbox Entertainment Studios, with Spielberg's company Amblin Television involved.[3] As of August 2015, the series had still been in active development.[19]

On June 28, 2018, Showtime was given a 10-episode series order. Kyle Killen was set to be showrunner, writer and executive producer, while Rupert Wyatt was attached as director and executive producer.[20] On August 12, it was announced that Master Chief would be the main lead of the series and that the series would tell a new story from the video games while respecting their canon at the same time.[17] On December 3, Wyatt stepped down as director and EP due to scheduling conflicts. He was replaced by Otto Bathurst in February 2019, when it was reported that Bathurst would be directing the pilot along with several other episodes.[21] It was also revealed that the episode count had decreased from 10 episodes to 9.[22][23] In March 2019, Steven Kane was added as co-showrunner alongside Killen.[24] On February 24, 2021, the series was moved from Showtime to Paramount+.[18] Showtime president Gary Levine said that the show was an outlier for the company's brand, and as a "big broad tentpole show" it was a better fit on Paramount's service.[25] On June 25, 2021, it was reported that both Kane and Killen would be exiting as show runners following the completion of season one. Killen had left prior to the start of production, due to him feeling like he wasn't able to fulfill the duties of showrunner, with Kane taking the reins as lead show-runner until post production work had been completed. However, should the show get picked up for a second season, Kane would not return.[24] In January 2022, it was revealed by executive producer Justin Falvey that the show has potential to last multiple seasons and that David Wiener was being eyed as the showrunner for a potential season two, with Kane staying on board as a consultant.[26] On February 15, 2022, ahead of its premiere, Paramount+ renewed the series for a second season, with Wiener set as showrunner and executive producer.[5]

Casting[edit]

From April–August 2019, the cast for the series was announced, with Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief.[27] He was joined by Yerin Ha, Natascha McElhone, Bokeem Woodbine, Shabana Azmi, Bentley Kalu, Natasha Culzac and Kate Kennedy.[28] In November 2020, Jen Taylor replaced McElhone as Cortana.[29] In September 2022, Joseph Morgan and Cristina Rodlo joined the cast, while Fiona O’Shaughnessy and Tylan Bailey were promoted to series regulars for the second season.[30]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography commenced in October 2019.[31] In 2019, the series spent over $40 million on production costs. The five filmed episodes were re-edited under the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, with production on the sixth episode and reshoots being planned in Ontario, Canada. Filming eventually resumed fully in Budapest, Hungary in February 2021.[32] The total production of the series including the post-production is estimated to cost between $90–200 million for the first season.[1][2][33] Filming for the second season began on September 15, 2022 in Iceland, with the additional country Hungary (Budapest) to be occurred filming later in that year.[34]

Music[edit]

On February 14, 2022, it was announced that Sean Callery would compose the score for the series.[35]

Release[edit]

Marketing[edit]

The first trailer for the series debuted online during the 2022 AFC Championship Game, while also revealing the March release date.[36] Tie-in content themed around the series was released for Halo Infinite on May 10, 2022 in the form of in-game cosmetics for the game's multiplayer component.[37]

Broadcast[edit]

The first two episodes premiered ahead of release on March 14 at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. The series then debuted on Paramount+ on March 24, 2022.[18][4] The first episode set a record as Paramount+'s most-watched series premiere globally in its first 24 hours, though no exact viewership numbers were revealed.[38] The first season overall was the second-most watched original series for Paramount+ as of June, 2022.[39]

In the United Kingdom, the first episode of the series premiered on Channel 5 on June 22, 2022 to promote the launch of the Paramount+ streaming service in that country.[40]

Home media[edit]

The first season of Halo was released digitally on November 7, 2022, and on 4K UHD Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray, and DVD on November 15, 2022.[41]

Reception[edit]

The first season currently holds an approval rating of 70% based on 70 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.7/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Halo is too derivative of better science-fiction series to emerge a fully-formed elite, but glimmers of promise and faithfulness to the source material signal it's not out of the fight just yet."[42] On Metacritic, the show has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100 based on 20 critic reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[43]

Jesse Schedeen of IGN, rated the first season a 7/10, saying, "[it] is by no means a perfect adaptation of the beloved source material." However he later backed it up with, "This is an adaptation willing to take some risks, and those risks tend to pay off."[44] Gene Park from The Washington Post criticized the writing behind Kwan Ha and described the sex scene between the Master Chief and Makee in the penultimate episode of the first season as "rushed." He stated that the series "has its greatest successes in vignettes of exciting tense and well-acted, well-directed drama, but rarely ever earning those best moments within the context of all it’s trying to juggle."[45] Todd Martens from The Los Angeles Times criticized the script for shifting from a character-driven narrative to a plot-driven one. Martens also felt that the series sacrificed some of the "silliness" from the games.[46]

Master Chief has been described as acting out of character compared to his core canon counterpart,[46] and Kwan Ha, an original character created for the Silver Timeline canon, has received negative reception due to her story being perceived as too "disjointed" and "divorced" from the main plotline of the series and the Halo universe.[47][48][49]

The sex scene between the Master Chief/John and Makee, another original character created for the Silver Timeline canon, in the eighth episode of the first season has received a polarized reaction from audiences and critics; discussions included whether the scene was "contrived and forced",[50] whether the Master Chief had committed a war crime by having sex with a prisoner of war who was unable to properly provide her consent, and whether this was considered as atypical behaviour of the Master Chief in comparison to the core canon (this was the first time John has had sex in either the Halo core or Silver canons).[51] Kiki Wolfkill, the studio head of transmedia at 343 Industries and an executive producer of the show, defended the addition of the scene, stating that while the creative team had "a lot of conversation leading up to whether to do that or not and...there’s a lot of different opinions and voices", that the scene was necessary in order to humanize John by providing him with "a human connection with someone" in order to end the season with him as "a fully defined character".[52]

Marcus Lehto, one of the co-creators of the first Halo game, stated that the show is "not the Halo I made", but later stated that he "never said [he] didn't like it".[53][54][55]

References[edit]

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