I have been hearing a lot about how Halo season 2 is going to be a dramatic improvement from season 1. New writers, new showrunner, even the actors seem more enthused this time around, with star Pablo Schreiber giving interviews where he talked about how he fought against the much-ridiculed sex scene in the show, and that season 2 would be different as a sort of reboot of the series, more faithful to the games.
So, now that the first two episodes of Halo season 2 are out today, is it different? Yes. Is it good? Um, maybe. Sort of. I don’t know. It’s not great.
It starts strong. There is a fully helmeted mission where Master Chief’s team is tasked with evacuating civilians and he has to go save a stranded Marine team. This results in a fight against a number of Covenant Elites that is very cool, though you saw good chunks of it in the trailer for this season.
After that? It’s more about what isn’t there. There’s nothing outright bad here. There’s nothing much to make fun of or hate watch like we saw last season. Master Chief takes a shower and they resist showing his butt. No sex, no one is behaving particularly out of character, it’s all just…fine. Mild spoilers follow.
They do essentially erase the ending of season 1, the one where Master Chief’s corpse is essentially being piloted by Cortana as a last resort. But that’s done, they hurriedly explain that she’s been extracted and is…somewhere, and Chief is back to being John again. I don’t know how much I can keep going over the helmet thing, but yes it’s still off 95% of the time. With the way they’ve set this show up, it doesn’t especially make sense he’d be stomping around in full power armor all the time, but that doesn’t make it any less strange.
The new, non-Covenant villain is the new head of the Spartan program who is insistent on covering up what Chief believes is a pending Covenant invasion of Reach where I mean, of course he’s right. The show did not ditch season 1 characters like Kwan or Soren, though I have not yet been convinced they have concocted relevant storylines for either of them yet, as after two episodes, they remain wholly disconnected from Chief the same way they were last season.
While he’s not named, as previously hinted at, it does appear that we are getting the Arbiter this season, but this show always struggles with budget, and try as it might, fully animating the Covenant and even the Spartans in the way they need to does not always look great. After the first ten minutes, we don’t get another action sequence of any consequence after that, as again, they clearly have to use those sparingly.
The biggest point of confusion I have is about Cortana, who does show up, briefly, but I genuinely cannot tell if they recast the actress, OG Cortana from the games Jen Taylor, or if her looking different is somehow core to the story if this is the “wrong” version of her. But I have no idea. My money is on “real” Cortana being out there somewhere else, but this is confusing.
I think Halo season 2 avoids being bad in these first two episodes. I don’t think that actually makes it good. The tone is shifted, the outright goofy choices are seemingly gone. But I’m not sure I’m finding it all that terribly compelling either. But I’ll keep watching.
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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.