Halo is a live action sci-fi TV show based on the long-running video game franchise of the same name, produced by 343 Industries, Amblin Television, Showtime Networks, and Paramount Television Studios. It premiered on March 24th, 2022 as a Paramount+ exclusive. The show takes place in an Alternate Continuity from the rest of the franchise, adopting much of the premise and lore but creating a new narrative. This alternate continuity has been officially referred to as the "Silver Timeline."
In the year 2552 humanity is at war with an alien menace known as the Covenant. While outmatched in technology, their best defense is the deployment of the SPARTAN-II's: coldblooded, enigmatic and efficient Super Soldiers who are enhanced chemically, surgically and with Powered Armor. But the Spartans were initially created to suppress Insurrectionists in open revolt against the Unified Earth Government, and attempts by the United Nations Space Command to spread knowledge of the Covenant and the Spartan exploits are dismissed as propaganda in the outer colonies.
On the planet Madrigal a Covenant attack is thwarted by the Spartan Silver Team, lead by the decorated Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 (Pablo Schreiber). Only one local survives the assault, Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha), the daughter of a Insurrectionist cell leader. Silver Team discovers the Covenant had located a mysterious alien artifact on the planet, one that has special significance to their highly dogmatic religion. The artifact is connected to an extremely powerful weapon, one that will upset the balance of the war. John-117 questions what the artifact can do and how far the Covenant will go, and Dr. Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone) develops an advanced artificial intelligence called Cortana (Jen Taylor) to increase the capabilities of the Spartans even further.
The cast also includes Danny Sapani as Captain Jacob Keyes, Olive Grey as Commander Miranda Keyes, Charlie Murphy as Makee, Bokeem Woodbine as Soren-066 and many more.
On February 15, 2022, it was officially confirmed — ahead of the series premiere — that the show would be getting a second season.
Previews: Official Trailer 1, Official Trailer 2.
Halo contains examples of:
- Adaptational Diversity: While the expanded universe media has become increasingly diverse as time went on, the games themselves tend to have a limited supporting cast that generally leans towards Caucasian characters with a few POC characters like Sergeant Johnson and Jameson Locke. Here, several canon characters are given a Race Lift like Jacob and Miranda Keyes, while there are several Canon Foreigners like Kwan and the other members of Silver Team who are Asian and black.
- Adaptational Personality Change: Halsey and Parangosky have their personalities switched. Canon has Halsey be one of the most moral members of the Office of Naval Intelligence, while Parangosky is the head of said organization and one of its vilest members. Here, Halsey is portrayed as a Control Freak Evilutionary Biologist while Parangosky comes off as a Reasonable Authority Figure.
- Age Lift: Due to compressing the timeline of the lore Dr. Halsey is depicted as younger than she was during the same time period of the games. She was an elderly woman in her sixties with white hair as she had created the Spartan program over 30 years prior. This also reflects her slowly losing her influence to the newer generation of leadership looking to push her aside. The show reimagines her about 15 years younger, still with blonde hair and maintaining her position within the UNSC.
- Alien Autopsy: The UNSC is actively researching and trying to understand the Covenant's technology and member species, to the point where it seems to be standard practice after a battle to collect Covenant gear and bodies to be dissected and studied whenever possible.
- All There in the Manual: Almost literally in this case: series newcomers Vannak-134, Riz-028 and Kai-125 were developed by Bungie with intention to introduce them where possible. No opportunity arose before they appeared in the show. (This is only so much consolation to fans who were hoping to see Blue Team, who would have served a similar purpose and have the advantage of being a pre-existing part of canon.)
- Alternate Continuity: As discussed on the official Halo website, the series does not take place in the same canon as the games and other Halo media, instead opting to use the original lore as a base on which to build a new narrative and universe, referred to officially as the "Silver Timeline". This is highlighted with Chief leading the eponymous Silver Team, an original Spartan team whose members don't exist in canonical Halo lore, rather than the canonical Blue Team. More broadly, the show has an original core narrative that condenses about twenty-five in-universe years worth of lore into happening at the same time. note
- Art Evolution:
- Cortana is portrayed as having fairly realistic human hair and skin tone with a blue tint and subtle sparkles of light, more like a real person being projected from another location rather than a clear hologram made of blue/purple light and data code running over her body like in the games.
- The Covenant design aesthetic is very close to the games, with a handful of minor alterations to fit a bit more into a live action setting. The way the infantry armor looks, Elites and Brutes especially, eschews the high-tech alien Powered Armor look (while still obviously being advanced) and instead appears almost medieval in the way the layers fold and intersect with each other.
- Compared to their previous depictions, Elites are taller, stand up straighternote , and are far more muscular, making them more closely resemble Brutes in their silhouette. Their head design is also modified from the games, with their lower mandibles curled more under the head for a more plausible closed-mouth position (previous elites would have their mandibles flared out to the side, making them look like their mouth is always open and snarling) which makes their head more snake-like.
- Brutes are accordingly larger to make them stand out against Elites, while basing their design from the more contemporary Halo Wars 2 and Halo Infinite.
- Prophets have slightly more human-like features, taking some cues from the Halo 2 Anniversary redesign but with more expressive and less squid-like eyes. They also have much less ornate headgear, limited to tiara-like jewelry, while retaining the chairs that resembled the crowns already.
- Background Halo: Multiple shots throughout the series pose characters with light sources or rings behind their heads, presumably as foreshadowing of the Halo that the plot will eventually revolve around.
- Big Brother Is Watching: While it is their ship, it is shown that the UNSC extensively monitors every function of Silver Team's Condor dropship. There are cameras in every single room, every single panel has triggers and access alarm, and the ship's flight controls are locked to an AI autopilot that is directed from Reach. Even their armor sends extensive real time data on both the mission and their biometrics back to Halsey for analysis, and its functions can be overridden from base at will.
- Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to the games, the show has much more graphic deaths. The first episode alone shows plasma weaponry exploding humans into Ludicrous Gibs and Elites getting their heads blown off.
- Canon Foreigner: Kwan and Makee (the Blessed One) are original to the series and don't have any canonical counterpart. The non-Chief members of Silver Team (Vannak-134, Riz-028 and Kai-125) are apparently taken from story bible and lore books made by 343 Industries, but hadn't made any appearance in the main canon.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: As in the games, rank among the Covenant forces is indicated by the color of their armor. During the attack on Madrigal, the commander of the Elite squad wears red armor to designate his higher rank compared to the rest of the squad in blue armor.
- Costume Porn: The Mjolnir Powered Armor is quite detailed and complex, with the undersuit being a fully realized outfit of its own as the Spartans are often seen wearing it in casual activities. Beyond that, the uniforms of the UNSC and civilians are exceptionally well realized, with numerous crowds showing a wide variety of futuristic styles and selections.
- Darker and Edgier: While the games and books would have varying tone, they tended towards heroic military sci-fi with a healthy amount of humor and over-the-top action. The show reimagines a number of things from the story and lore to be more dramatic, violent and morally questionable than it was before. Plasma weapons don't just burn targets, it causes them to explode. Spartans were conditioned to be loyal through hormonal suppression implants and erasing memories, rather than just through training and education. Cortana's creation was through creating a self-aware flash clone of Halsey and then dissolving its brain as part of a neural mapping process while it was conscious, instead of removing the brain from a catatonic flash clone and scanning it separately.
- Dark Messiah: The Blessed One, a human leader among the Prophets, whom even the Prophet of Mercy speaks to with a certain degree of respect.
- Daylight Horror: Most of the action sequences take place during the mid-day. The first episode in particular depicts the Elites descending upon a human outpost like they are unflinching hellspawn.
- Death of a Child: Played for Horror as the first casualties of the Covenant raid on Madrigal are Kwan's friends, who are blown apart by Elite plasma rifles. As the raid continues, the Covenant also massacre all of the children hiding together in an improvised shelter.
- Deceased Parents Are the Best: Kwan's father, Jin Ha, gets stabbed by an Elite when he tries to protect her. Her mother was also killed by Chief during a conference of several high-ranking Insurrectionists.
- The Dreaded: Spartans are feared by both the Insurrectionists and Covenant alike; some of the old Insurrectionist veterans claim they can't be killed, and even the Covenant's Elites mutter "demon..." when seeing them approach.
- Establishing Character Moment: The Elites and the Covenant as a whole are set up and established as ferocious and monstrous fighters when they massacre nearly all of the Madrigal Insurrectionists, starting with Kwan's friends. Silver Team is similarly established when they easily defeat the Elites.
- Establishing Series Moment: The Covenant attack on the Madrigal Insurrectionists that opens the show has rather shocking combat violence that was never realized in such a way in the games or other media (besides the books), with energy weapons blowing off limbs and cutting people in half directly on camera; not even children are spared from the violence. Additionally, the Spartans themselves fight their hardest to save the Insurrectionists, only to casually walk away from the only survivor the moment they have a new objective. As such, the scene demonstrates both War Is Hell by not sanitizing the violence and Greying Morality in how the Spartans are rather distant from the very humanity they're trying to protect.
- First-Person Perspective: Several shots are seen through the view of the Spartans' HUDs in a manner similar to their depiction in the FPS games.
- Four Lines, All Waiting: The show's first season has a number of ongoing plot lines: Makee leading the Covenant search for the Sacred Ring; Kwan attempting to return Madrigal to self-rule; the Master Chief as an Emergent Human discovering the secrets Halsey has kept from him; and General UNSC Shenanigans, typically following Halsey, Miranda Keyes, Jacob Keyes, Silver Team or some combination thereof.
- Good is Not Nice: Spartans may be ruthless and single-minded soldiers feared as bogeymen by the Insurrectionists, but they are still ultimately fighting to save all of humanity; in the opening battle in the first episode, Silver Team are actually attempting to protect the Insurrectionists from the Covenant. That said, afterwards they merely acknowledge Kwan as the Sole Survivor before immediately leaving to investigate what the Covenant were doing nearby, leaving Kwan entirely alone and forcing her to stumble after them.
- Hotter and Sexier: While not prevalent in every episode, the action-oriented nature of the games make the occasional romantic, nude and even sex scene in the show all the more notable.
- Human-Focused Adaptation: Alien characters from the Covenant, a religious conglomerate of extraterrestrials, are a core component of the games and the lore, being the dominant enemy force but given considerable development over time with numerous named characters and an Enemy Civil War story arc. But the limitations of a TV show restrict the ability to portray them easily (due to a lack of Rubber-Forehead Aliens) as well as their overwhelming resources and technology would break the budget. As such, focus of the show lies with political infighting within the UNSC, the civilian colony Insurrectionists who see the UNSC as The Empire and the Covenant as propaganda, the moral ambiguity in projects like the creation of Cortana and the origins of the Spartans, while Master Chief's Character Arc involves reconnecting with his humanity. That's not to say The Covenant are inconsequential as their own goals and politics are given some exploration but they are largely represented by Makee, a Canon Foreigner who is a human indoctrinated into their faith.
- Humanity Is Infectious: While Spartans are still technically human, a combination of their training, augmentation and hormonal suppression can make them seem very inhuman in behavior and temperament. After touching the artifact John becomes aware of memories that give him an emotional response, and that unfamiliar feeling is something he cannot fully comprehend. He takes the step to remove a pellet in his back that mutes his emotions and afterwards explore the culture of Reach, experiencing concepts of romance and music with new eyes. This behavior has an impact on the other members of Silver Team too.
- Immune to Bullets: Even without their personal shield, Elites appear to be fairly resilient to small arms fire. One is shown being peppered with bullet wounds while still trying to kill the shooter, his armor deflecting most of the bullets as he shields himself with his arm. This would explain why the Spartans always go for a headshot with their M6 Magnum to make sure they stay down.
- Internal Reveal: Chief realizes that the visions he's been having are in actuality memories and tells Halsey about them. Something she's known since he started having them.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Dr. Halsey is in charge of the Spartans and has first dibs on any material recovered by them. While Admiral Parangosky is directly above her, Halsey's near untouchable job security has her freely sidestepping Paragonsky's directions on a regular basis. When Halsey goes above her in a meeting with UNSC upper command when it comes to the Cortana Project, an annoyed Parangosky immediately starts organizing a "parallel team" to undermine Halsey's unrestrained R&D projects. Given this other team is headed by Halsey's daughter Miranda, it's being taken personally.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: It's revealed that during his augmentation, Master Chief's memories of his past life had been "sealed". The artifact that he encounters and activates on Madrigal appears to have reawakened them.
- Last-Name Basis: Everyone refers to Dr. Catherine Halsey as Halsey, including her own daughter Miranda.
- Leitmotif: The show opts to use an original score than reuse the established music from the games, but those classic compositions can still be heard at key points. Especially the famous "Gregorian Chant" theme, which is used briefly in the opening sequence and at other points related to the Halo itself. The opening sequence itself largely uses a new theme, which is treated as the anthem for Master Chief himself.
- Les Collaborateurs: Vinsher and his men want to bring peace to Madrigal by working with the UNSC...and murdering the Insurrectionists on the planet, as well as establishing a pro-UNSC climate that will allow them to be left alone and do whatever they want. Vinsher himself acts as their public face.
- Movie Superheroes Wear Black: MJOLNIR Powered Armor in the games tends to be brightly colored, with Master Chief's iconic olive-drab green actually being one of the more low-key examples, considering some Spartans (both player-customized and otherwise) can wear colors as eye-catching as purple, orange, or white. In the show, Master Chief's armor is designed similarly to what he wears in Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo Infinite, but with a darker olive green color like his Halo 4 and 5 armor, while the other members of Silver Team have their armor in varying shades of dark navy blue, with subtle accent colors to help distinguish them.
- Mythology Gag: The game remixes a lot of material from the games and the expanded universe into its own story, enough that it has a separate page.
- Nothing Is Scarier: The Elites are introduced this way, murdering Kwan's friends from off-screen with brief glimpses of them obscured by the woods. When they approach the Madrigal outpost, they are fired upon by machine guns, which are soon blown up. The Elites then come out of the ash and smoke of the explosion.
- Not His Sled: The game canon established that only humans could activate Forerunner technology, and the Covenant would kidnap humans and force them to activate it for them. But, while any human could do it in the games, the ability in the show is extremely rare, the Master Chief and Makee currently being the only known humans capable of doing so. To that end, Covenant have not just kidnapped but assimilated Makee into their religion and call her "the Blessed One" because she has that trait.
- Race Lift: Several characters have had their ethnicities changed from the games:
- The previously Caucasian Jacob Keyes is of African descent, though Halsey remains Caucasian, and their daughter Miranda is visibly mixed-race.
- Admiral Parangosky was also previously Caucasian, but is of Indian descent in the series.
- Raised by Orcs: Makee is the Covenantís Token Human, taken in by them at a young age and taught to oppose her own species due to her ability to use Forerunner technology.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: The Insurrectionist movement against the UNSC is shown in a far more positive light than in the source material, who were generally characterized as dangerous political extremists responsible for the deaths of countless innocents who even allied themselves with the Covenant on several occasions. In the show, the Innies on Madrigal are shown to be largely blue-collar communities who were forced to take up arms after it became evident the UNSC was targeting their leadership for assassinations. This humanizes the cause and the people, but other cells are shown to be more brutal and at odds with each other's methods.
- Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Covenant, as per tradition. At the beginning of the series though, the UNSC still have no idea what they want.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The Master Chief refuses to kill Kwan as he was ordered to.
- Shout-Out: During Miranda Keyes' first scene, there's some background ADR calling Commander Shepard to the Skyllian Response Center. The "Skyllian Blitz" was a military operation in the which is central to the War Heronote and Ruthlessnote backstories for Shepard, which the player may choose from whilst crafting their Player Character.
- Shrouded in Myth: No one outside the military knows much about the Spartans except that they are somehow better in every way and impossible to kill.
- Technology Porn: Outer colonies are shown with an industrialized Used Future aesthetic, while UNSC ships and planets have sleek designs with holographic interfaces. The title sequence shows Master Chief's armor forming around him in a way that looks he is being covered in sand before it morphs and solidifies. UNSC military gear is rendered in loving detail, from the vehicles and weapons to the science labs with holographic projections and touch screen interfaces.
- Token Human: The Covenant has a human agent directing their actions, the Blessed One.
- Too Dumb to Live: Kwan not wanting to be the mouthpiece of the UNSC is certainly understandable, especially after just watching her father butchered. However, threatening to blame them for the massacre they rescued her from and further dividing humanity makes their decision to have her executed a lot more understandable.
- Trojan Horse: Following the Covenant's successful mission in retrieving the Eridanus II keystone, they send down Makee in a drop pod, and she allows herself to be found and captured by the Master Chief and the UNSC. While the audience may know better, the UNSC surely doesn't, and thus Makee finds herself as a mole behind enemy lines, to complete whatever objectives she and the Covenant have in mind.
- Used Future: The colonists on Madrigal are shown with pick-up trucks, vans and rifles that look near identical to modern vehicles and weapons. But this provides a significant contrast when Spartans arrive with Powered Armor and sleeker futuristic weapons, and especially the sanitized, holographic environments at a UNSC complex on Reach.
- Worldbuilding: While the story still surrounds the UNSC vs Covenant and finding Forerunner technology premise, the bulk of the show is about exploring the origins of the Spartans, seeing the culture of Reach and other human colonies and the internal politics of both the UNSC and the Covenant. Open combat is relatively rare (due to the limitations of a TV show) but when it does happen it gets violent.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In the season 1 finale, Mercy and Regret confirm that they're planning to kill Makee as soon as she has used the completed keystone to guide them to the Halo. Kai takes care of it for them.