Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is a live action prequel to Halo 4, canon to the Halo universe, that tells the origin of Commander Thomas Lasky, the executive officer of the UNSC Infinity which discovers Master Chief John-117 on the remains of the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn. Taking place thirty one years prior to Halo 4 in the year 2526, Lasky is a freshman cadet in Hastati Squad at the Corbulo Academy of Military Science on Circinius IV. He is struggling to live up to the reputations of his mother and brother, while having no particular love for the way the United Nations Space Command is handling the Insurrection. Most of his fellow cadets look down upon him due to his sympathetic views to the Insurrection, although he finds friendship with fellow cadet Chyler Silva.When the Covenant attack Corbulo Academy, Lasky is thrust into a new war and works with his fellow cadets and military instructors to survive against their unknown enemy, and meets the Master Chief during the battle, an event that changes his life forever.The series was released on YouTube in five separate parts starting on October 5th, 2012. Six short promotional pieces that expanded on the background of the characters and universe were released in the weeks leading up to the premier. An extended cut was included with the Limited Edition of Halo 4, which was later released on DVD and Blu-ray.
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn features examples of:
Action Girl: Some of the cadets and officers both in the academy and mentioned as being elsewhere are women. Chyler and Orenski are the only two cadets who manage to kill Covenant.
There's also Kelly-087, though we only see her after the fighting has stopped.
Aliens Are Bastards: The Covenant. Big time.In particular, the Zealot that was stalking Hastati squad throughout Episode 4 was pretty clearly enjoying himself, given the laughter. Also the fact that the Zealot uses a cloaking device while hunting some unarmed cadets. There's absolutely no reason for this, except to terrorize its helpless victims.
Anyone Can Die: Lasky and the Spartans are the only people we know survived. Anyone else is fair game. By the end, only 3 members of Hastati squad survive.
Try three members of the entire planet's population.
Berserk Button: From Episode 2: After hearing a fellow cadet snidely remark "Must be tough on your mom, knowing her real son's never coming home", Lasky's response starts with an elbow to the face.
Doubles as Fridge Brilliance since sharp-eyed viewers will notice that Lasky is going through videos he's already seen before. His brother was KIA sometime before the series takes place. All the more reason for him to go ballistic at Vickers' remark.
Big Damn Hero: Unarmed and trapped by a murderous stealth Elite (a Zealot), it seems Lasky and his friends can do little but hide and wait for death. Then Master Chief assassinates the laughing alien with his combat knife. Cue the applause of every Halo fan ever.
The trope is made literal- The Chief is huge. He is literally a BIG damn hero.
Break the Cutie: Sullivan is easily the friendliest and most laid-back of Hastati Squad. As of Part 4, he's seen the Covenant massacre the rest of the academy, his roommate has been killed, and he's been nailed in the leg with a needle round.
Broad Strokes: See Continuity Snarl. The timeline of when the public knew of the Covenant attacks along with the first appearances of various types of equipment has always been treated fairly fluidly in the franchise anyways.
And apparently, he still has it even 30+ years later. It's a testament to his Character Development that he has become strong enough to endure it time and time again.
Well, he DID switch from ground pounder to Navy (ship's XO as of Halo 4), which would make the allergy easier to contend with; less strenuous physical activity to worry about.
Chekhov's Classroom: In Episode 2, the teacher is explaining the Battle of Cannae. She recounts how Hannibal defeated the numerically-superior Roman Legions by leading them into a trap and surrounding them with cavalry, which they couldn't reorganize fast enough to counter, resulting in a swift defeat. Lasky uses similar tactics in a training exercise, setting a trap and successfully ambushing the enemy, then capitalizing on the ensuring chaos. In the last episode, when the only weapon they have left is a grenade, he uses himself as a decoy to lure the Hunter to where the Chief can use it.
Child Soldiers: Applicable to some degree to the Corbulo Cadets thrust into a war for their survival. Definitely applies to Master Chief. He's only fifteen years old in 2526. This is of course, promptly lampshaded in the last episode.
Some files that "Sully" looks at are classified, and he's trying to break the encryption on them. In Part 3, it turns out the files are a SPARTAN-eye-view of UNSC Marines, SPARTANs, and Insurrectionists fighting the Covenant. At the time ONI was still keeping the Covenant's existence largely a secret, and the SPARTANs wouldn't be made public knowledge for years. In other words, veryClassified Information.
Also the SPARTAN's response to being asked their age: "It's classified."
Colonel Badass: Lasky's mother, and Colonel Mehaffy, who served under her.
Colossus Climb: In Part 5, John-117 does a small scale one of these to a Hunter, ending with putting a grenade in its approximation of a gut.
Colonel Mehaffy quotes, "At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box," to Lasky as she gives him his medical discharge papers. This is a translation of the Italian phrase Cortana says when she is first activated.
Doubling as foreshadowing and a freeze-frame bonus, there's graffiti on the architecture of Corbulo Academy that states "Forward Unto Death", written in a very similar style to the graffiti scattered around New Mombasa in Halo 3: ODST
While the Mark VI armor appears to be worn 26 years too early, its distinct shoulder pads show that it's actually the Mark IV variant depicted in The Package, which have blunter should pads than the Mark VI.
Continuity Snarl: Some weapons, equipment and SPARTAN armor from the Halo 3 era show up here, 26 years early. The Doylist explanation is that the production re-used costuming assets from the "Deliver Hope" trailer made for Halo: Reach.
The Watsonian explanation is that they're prototypes of later armor permutations.
Not addressed: John-117 was only a Chief Petty Officer in 2526, not Master Chief. Presumably, they didn't want to confuse any watchers who were unfamiliar with Halo's Expanded Universe.
Halo 4-era armor designs are used for the Covenant, because, well, the series is basically advertising for Halo 4. In-universe, 343 has justified it by noting that the Halo 4 Covenant are using a lot of equipment that are actually older models than the ones in the chronologically earlier Bungie games, since newer gear has become somewhat scarce after the Great Schism, particularly for splinter groups like 4's Covies.
Cool Car: The production team only had one drivable Warthog, but it shows up in many different shots, most visibly in the climax.
Cool Helmet: Several iconic ones from the Halo franchise: Spartan and ODST helmets, as well as UNSC marine headgear.
Creator Cameo: Frank O'Conner (aka Frankie), the Franchise Development Director for the Halo series, makes an appearance in episode 2 as a janitor at the Military Academy.
Cryonics Failure: A minor example: being flash unfrozen is part of the cadets training, and Lasky suffers some pretty bad cryo burns on his hands and back. This is actually an in-universe danger of entering cryosleep while clothed. Lasky's particular example is due to a serious allergy to cytoprethaline, a drug used in cryosleep.
Curse Cut Short: In Episode 3, as the ODST's rain down around the Academy, Vickers utters the line "What the..." before trailing off. His mouth, however, quite clearly forms the next word.
Danger Room Cold Open: Of a sort in Episode 1, which, when the flashback starts, begins in a combat exam at Corbulo Academy, but is only revealed as such when Orenski walks up to Lasky after shooting him from a longer range with a TTR round.
Darker and Edgier: The series from Part 3 onward gives us a taste of what it's like to be on the recieving end of a Covenant assault and not be an augmented Super Soldier.
Deflector Shields: Averted. The Spartan's are canonically supposed to be wearing MJOLNIR Mk.IV armor as of the series, which doesn't possess shields. This is demonstrated in the lack of golden shield-crackle when taking damage, but interestingly, even the unshielded armor seems to be capable of shattering Needler rounds on impact.
The Dreaded: Hunters. Other Covenant species retreat when they show up (in the first book, it's shown that Hunters will literally squash lesser Covenant into a pancake if they don't get out of the way in time), and the Chief's only advice for the cadets is to run as fast as they can and stop for nothing. When they see the first one dwarfing the Chief, they take his advice.
Enemy Mine: In Part 3, the classified combat footage Sullivan cracks is shown to be Spartans, ODST's, and Innies all fighting together against something (clearly the Covenant). Silva later wonders what could possibly make the UNSC fight alongside the Insurrectionists.
Everybody's Dead, Dave: As of Part 4: Lasky, Chyler, April and Sullivan are the only surviving humans on the entire planet other than the Spartans. Silva bites it by the end.
Evil Laugh: In Part 4, an Elite Zealot gives one as he approaches the surviving members of Hastati Squad, going in for the kill. Cue a combat knife In the Back.
The Faceless: John-117. At the end, when the other Fred and Kelly remove their helmets in front of the survivors, they look at the Chief, whose only response is to adjust his grip on his rifle and stare out the back of the Pelican.
In Episode 1, Sullivan is seen watching classified combat footage ONI is trying to cover up, General Black is seen nervously scanning the sky while ordering his troops around, and, toward the end while everyone sleeps, a computer screen glitches, showing strange triangular figures for an instant, while outside an object is seen falling from the sky.
In Episode 2, the "rebels" the ODSTs are fighting are firing weapons with an odd green glow.
At points, the coms systems can be overheard saying that there is a curfew in place, and that the communications are down due to damage- both of which are elements of the "Winter Contingency," in Halo Reach, which is only activated if the Covenant show up.
When the monitor flickers at the end of Episode 1, you can catch a split-second glimpse of Covenant symbols flashing across the screen.
In-universe, Sullivan pauses a frame that gives us a glimpse of a soldier wearing unfamiliar armor. None of the cadets have any idea who it is, but the armor and 104 on his chest gives us viewers a pretty good idea.
Double whammy: that same cadet pauses that same frame to catch the distinct visual of a sword-wielding Elite in said armored soldier's visor. This time nobody in-verse has any idea what they're looking at, and most, if not all, of the viewers do.
Friendly Sniper: Silva is one of the friendliest cadets, and said to be an excellent shot. She later proves this with a Carbine.
From Bad to Worse / Yank the Dog's Chain: In Part 3 Lasky finds out that he has a cryo allergy that may get him drummed out of the academy just when he was starting to earn some respect. And then the Covenant invades.
Gory Discretion Shot: At the Beginning of Part 4, we see the Colonel get hit by Needler shards, she then falls out of view. As soon as she does, there's an explosion from where she fell. Chances are the results would not have been pretty if it happened onscreen.
Heroic Sacrifice: When the rest of Hastati squad is about to be found by an elite, Vickers pops out of cover, distracting it momentarily.
Senseless Sacrifice : Which was rendered moot by the hiding Cadets noisily crying out his name. Also, since the Master Chief showed up seconds later, it's possible Vickers would still be alive if he had just kept quiet.
Holographic Terminal: All of the terminals at Corbulo Academy seem to be of this type, as per much of UNSC equipment.
Improbable Age: Shown after a Reveal in the finale, when the Spartans take off their helmets and show that they are not any older than the academy cadets. Their training since childhood and augmentations make them far more deadly than could be expected of someone so young.
Improbable Aiming Skills: In Part 4 John-117 kills three sniper Jackals with one bullet each from his classic M-6 pistol while at a dead sprint.
Insert Grenade Here: While Lasky acts as a decoy, Master Chief uses this to solve the problem of the second Hunter.
In the Back: How John-117 saves the surviving members of Hastati Squad from an Elite in Part 4.
Infant Immortality: Averted in Part 3 when the space elevator's tether is destroyed by the Covenant. Said tether was transporting cadets (which are for the most part teenagers) up into space to evacuate. It's then made worse when the tether collapses onto the building that the rest of the cadets were waiting in, undoubtedly killing more. Then there's four scenes in Part 4, once where a cadet is graphically impaled on an Elite's energy sword, when J.J. and Vickers are killed by the same Elite, and when the remnants of Hastati follow the Chief outside there are dozens of bodies laying around, many of them in cadet uniforms.
Worse, almost a full minute later, screaming cadets begin raining from the sky. The Corvette's shot hadn't killed them: it just knocked them out of the elevator, perhaps miles up.
Instant Death Needle: Played straight with Vickers. Subverted with Mehaffy. The needle itself may not have been instantly fatal, it exploding sure as hell was.
As stated above, Cadmon Lasky was an ODST. In Part 3, it starts raining men onscreen when the Covenant attack begins as ODSTs evacuate the orbital facilities/deploy to fight the Covenant on the ground. They do not succeed.
In the same episode, played much more morbidly when people start falling from the destroyed space tether. Worse in that it takes about a minute between the elevator getting hit and them actually hitting the ground; they were falling for quite a while.
The Leader: Senior Cadet April Orenski is the squad leader of Hastati Squad, with Walter Vickers serving as team leader during exercises. In Part 2, Lasky takes over the position of team leader.
Leeroy Jenkins: Lasky in Part 1, which pisses off his squadmates as it brings down all of their combat scores. It even got him demoted from team leader.
Lightning Bruiser: The Spartans. Master Chief is shown to be inhumanly strong, stealthy and fast in combat: he's able to tear open a secure weapons locker with ease, kill an invisible Sangheili commando without being detected, and disappear in the blink of an eye. He also managed to run back a good twenty feet to protect Sully from taking another needler. He's also shown to take repeated hits from Covenant weapons without injury.
Justified since the Mark-IV armor is shown in the EU to be pretty resilient even without shields.
Lower Deck Episode: The focus of the story is always on Lasky and the other cadets,, which once the fighting starts they only catch glimpses of the heroics Master Chief gets involved in.
Justified since that grenade went off VERY close to the Fuel Rod Gun.
More justified because it went off inside the Hunter.
Meaningful Name: Hastati Squad. In the days of the Roman Republic, the Hastati were the young, less-experienced troops that went into battle first.
Military Academy: The Corbulo Academy of Military Science, which is for the children of the elite of UNSC society.
Military Brat: Many of the cadets, including Lasky, Silva, and Dimah.
In Part 3, Dimah uses her mothers rank to get on the Space Elevator and even threatens a Marine's career if she isn't allowed passage. She gets killed when the Covenant Corvettes fire on the Space Elevator.
Moment Killer: In Part 3, Lasky and Silva get their first kiss in, but an air-raid alarm and evacuation and Covenant attack made it hard to get anything more done.
Multinational Team: Due to the nature of the UNSC, most of Hastati Squad hail from different planets.
No Name Given: In the credits, Fred-104 is listed merely as "SPARTAN," despite the producers of the series having clearly gone out of their way to sneak him in.
Offhand Backhand: The second Hunter manages to knock the Master Chief away, the first time the Chief tried to sneak up on it, with one of these - staying true to the formidable in-game melee strength demonstrated by the species.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: We tend to only see the tail end of Master Chief's more impressive moments, with the exception of taking out the second hunter.
A few in Part 3. First, Sully has one when his Holographic Terminal shuts down, thinking his snooping was found out about by ONI. Hastati as a whole gets a moment of this when ODSTs start dropping onto academy grounds. Promptly trumped by a bigger Oh Crap when three Covenant Corvettes appear overhead and cut the tether with plasma fire, killing Dimah.
In Part 4, Hastati is hiding in Lasky's domicile when they hear a scream. Lasky looks outside and sees an Elite yanking his sword out of a dead cadet. It sees him looking at it and promptly vanishes.
Lasky: It's invisible.
Vickers: What the hell is invisible?!
Lasky: One of those things is inside and it's invisible.
J.J. has enough time for an extended moment of this before being impaled on another Elite's energy sword.
Even the Chief gets one when he sees the first hunter. Cue all of the surviving cadets getting one as well when they see it TOWERING over him. Then they find out that there's a SECOND one, and the Chief used up all his ammo to deal with the first one.
And then it turns out that in Forward Unto Dawn, this is an equal-opportunity trope. Specifically, the last grunt from that second Hunter after Chief stuffs a grenade into its gut sounds an awful lot like Covenant for "Oh Crap."
The Plan: Lasky comes up with one in the final training exercise in Part 2. It went perfectly, despite Lasky passing out suddenly.
Playful Hacker: In several parts of the series, Michael "Sully" Sullivan is seen looking through classified files, though he doesn't exactly seem to be up to no good in terms of trying to hurt someone.
The Cracker: Dips into this when the file begins to come together in Part 2, and it's shown to be a video from Section II of ONI that has been restored to its original form, pre-propaganda. Sully tells Dimah not to tell her parents about it.
Sanity Slippage: In the intro to Part 3, Cortana rapidly vacillates between displaying her usual concern for the Chief and resenting him, literally arguing with herself over him as both a kind and a merciless voice. Her ongoing rampancy will be a plot point in Halo 4.
Cortana:I need to think. Cortana:Thinking is what's killing you.
Tragic Keepsake: In the final episode, Lasky is shown to have kept Silva's tags after her death.
Stock Scream: Listen closely during the classified video Hastati Squad watches; you can hear the Wilhelm Scream. It happens as a trooper is thrown by an explosion.
The Stoic: Master Chief, unsurprisingly, but it's worth noting the effect that it has here. Sully's attempt at banter is met with dead silence. In an After Dawn interview the actor portraying the Chief highlights this as part of the character: John-117, at that point in his life, is nigh incapable of anything that doesn't get the job done in the most efficient way possible. It drives home that the Chief isn't just different physically, he is extremely different mentally.
Super Soldier: John-117 and his fellow Spartan-IIs, Kelly-087 and Fred-104.
Taking the Needle: Towards the end of Episode 4, Sully's hit in the leg by a Needle Rifle round. We see a Jackal sniper fire another round, and the Chief manages to move in front of Sully before the round strikes; being a Super Soldier, he doesn't sustain an injury from this.
Tracking Device: All UNSC helmets have this as an IFF feature, including the students at Corbulo Academy, where students on combat exercises are monitored through their use. In Part 2, Lasky leads his team to victory in an exercise by taking advantage of this.
Trailers Always Spoil: the fact that John-117 shows up in this series was not precisely a secret. That's why his presence isn't hidden behind spoilers. (His actions are—we know he's going to kick ass, but the how is the fun part.)
Too Dumb to Live: If there's a massive space armada beating the snot out of your ships and defense stations, the LAST thing you do is get into the biggest, juiciest target... a SPACE ELEVATOR. That thing is just a "Shoot Me" sign a hundred miles high.
The Unmasking: In the Pelican Drop Ship at the end, Kelly and Fred remove their helmets, revealing youthful faces, covered in small scars. They are about the same age as the cadets, though their scars demonstrate the amount of action they have seen.
Unspoken Plan Guarantee: In Part 2, Lasky's plan to win the final training exercise, unknown to everyone but him. Wait until the enemies grow impatient and start searching for them, then remove their helmets. Once the enemy finds their discarded helmets, Hastati squad opens fire on the confused men. Now that the opposition is disorganized and routed, it's an easy shot to secure the flag. At least until Lasky suddenly passes out.
Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The cadets, upon exiting cryosleep in Part 1. According to Halo canon, vomiting is a result of the "food" supplement that soldiers have to ingest prior to entering cryo.
Somewhat of a Running Gag: no character as of yet has actually swallowed it upon waking like they're supposed to.
Watching Troy Burn: When the surviving members of Hastati Squad are moving toward the evacuation point, they pass many dead soldiers, giving this impression.
We Wait: In the final combat exercise in Part 2, Lasky has his squad wait (for quite a bit, as they're seen idly picking at plants and checking their weapons). Turns out it's all part of the plan.
Yank the Dog's Chain: Episode 2. After failing many combat exercises in a row, a clever trap planned by the squad's resident unfavorite cadet Lasky is on the verge of scoring them a success. And then Lasky suddenly falls unconscious mid-run.
However, they still win the exercise, but almost lose Lasky when he finds the reason for passing out is almost career-ending.