Review: ‘Halo’ Season 2

Season 2 Is Darker, Grittier…And Master Chief Still Takes His Helmet Off

As a PlayStation user during the Xbox/PlayStation Console Wars, I never got into Halo nor got to chance to play the game. So when the first season of Halo came out, I wasn’t one of those fans who were pissed that John-117/Master Chief took his helmet off. The first season of Halo managed to introduce the uninitiated to the world of Halo and the war against The Covenant, and (for the most part) was entertaining for its freshman season. So how would the second season of Halo go? Would the show as Master Chief himself Pablo Schreiber said, the second season would be “better and darker?”

I gotta be honest, a resounding “Hell Yeah” is in order. At least for the first four episodes given to critics, the second season of Halo has found its footing and now that it got most of the world-building and character introductions out of the way, it gives itself time to breathe and continue each of the journeys for many of the characters we met last season.

After having the emotion suppressor and the “Cortona” AI removed from his mind, Master Chief is having some challenges. He knows that The Covenant is continuing their crusade for the artifacts, finding the “halo” artifact, and wiping out humanity. Because his superiors are unsure about the ramifications of having an AI embedded in the universe’s most beloved soldier, the powers that be at the United Nations Space Command are sidelining John’s Silver Team from participating in dangerous missions and have them relegated to escort and support missions.

That all changes when during one of those support missions to remove people from a colony that The Covenant is primed to attack and “glass the planet” and The Covenant pulls a sneak attack. Unfortunately, the only two people who even know that The Covenant was on the planet before bombing it are Master Chief and ambush survivor Talia Perez (Cristina Rodlo), and John isn’t believed and Talia is too afraid to publicly say what happened. As a result, John’s new (and incredibly ambitious) new boss James Ackerson ((Joseph Morgan) who is replacing Halsey (Natascha McElhone) after her nefarious plans were revealed and she disappeared) swept it under the run for the sake of “stability.” This leads Master Chief to have to go outside the chain of command to investigate, drawing the irk of his new boss Ackserson.

At the same time, John’s former buddy who escaped the Spartan Program, Soren-066 (Bokeem Woodbine), and has been living a life on the outer reaches of the galaxy as a pirate. In the first season of Halo, he helped John in his time of need. This time, however, it’s he who will need help. He’s losing the support of his crew (who want more of their fair share of their bounties), and is also obsessed with trying to track down Halsey for what she did to him as a child. Unfortunately, a life of piracy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and his chickens have come home to roost as he is betrayed. Soren and John’s story doesn’t connect until later on, but when it does the boys are back together like they never left.

This season of Halo also gives the audience time to hang out with the other members of John’s Spartan Silver Team. Last season Kai-125 (Kate Kennedy) removed her emotion-inhibiting chip and explored her humanity. Now, the whole team has removed their chips and is exploring their humanity in different ways. Vannak-134 (Bentley Kalu) was always more rigid than even John was, but now he likes watching nature documentaries and befriending birds near his apartment. But the most interesting character development was with Riz-028 (Natasha Culzac) who is coming to terms with her injury and aging out of combat. As a genetically engineered Spartan soldier, they are all bread for combat and pretty much nothing else. So what can Riz do when she sees her injuries are preventing her from being her best and the psychological damage that comes with, she seeks counsel with former Spartan Louis-036 (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III) who after going blind from the Spartan Programs genetic engineering had to get adjusted to civilian life and helps coach her through the process.

Unfortunately, Halo Season 1 big baddie Makee (Charlie Murphy), the human member of The Covenant (who also hates humans) and had a connection to both John and the artifacts is mostly MIA for the first 4 episodes of the second season of the show with maybe 2-3 scenes. So, for the Covenant side of things, we are treated to just the reptilian foot soldiers for the good guys to fight. Instead, the true foil of the second season of the show is the new guy Ackerson, who is determined to be a thorn in John’s side. Ackerson is more concerned with advancing his career and maintaining the status quo. His belief in institutions blinds him and the higher-ups to the dangerousness of The Covenant. While he tries to present himself as not as psychopathic as Halsey was last season, he’s just as bad.

As stated, the second season of Halo is darker and grittier than the first season. While we got to see The Covenant slaughter humans last season, this time they up the ante a thousand times over with their master plan. If what happened in the first 4 episodes was just a teaser, I’d hate to see what their endgame is!

Now, the second season of Halo isn’t perfect. The biggest grips would probably be the inconsistent CGI. There are certain scenes where the reptilian shock troops of The Covenant look great, it’s usually a night or fog shoot. When Master Chief has his “hero moment shots” while fighting them, it’s not the most believable special effects and often looks “rubbery” and reminiscent of the CGI chaos of the Transformers movies. The show also tries to use the “one shot” take for a few key battle scenes, but with so many of the reptilians not looking believable, it looks even worse when tried as a tracking shot.

That said, Halo Season 2 is a step in the right direction. Not only does the show continue the world-building established in the first season, but it allows all the primary characters to continue to evolve and grow, not just Master Chief. And yes, he takes his helmet off a lot. Sorry purists, but that’s what’s gonna happen going forward, and honestly, it makes the show better!

Halo Season 2 is currently available on Paramount Plus.