After almost a decade of delays, Halo is here. With the first episode now out on Paramount+, here’s what you need to know about this sleek take on one of modern gaming’s most beloved series.
Ever since the original Halo was released in 2001 for the Xbox, fans have begged for a full-fledged, live-action adaptation. To get any novices up to speed, the first-person sci-fi shooter’s original trilogy is set in the 26th century, in a time when humans live across the galaxy after the Milky Way was decimated by parasitic aliens known as the Flood.
In Halo, you play as genetically engineered human-soldier Master Chief John-117 in a war led by the UNSC (United Nations Space Command) against an alliance of aliens called the Covenant, who have mistaken ancient superweapons known as Halo Array as religious artefacts — they two sides fight for control. That’s prime TV show material, right?
The game franchise — there are now six main Halos, and 16 games when including spin-offs and remasters — have become Microsoft’s flagship series, both critically-acclaimed and one of the best-selling game series of all time. While there have been books, web series and animated shorts, the Halo show is a huge step up for the series, with a $200 million budget allowing them to go all-in to create the cinematic, fully-developed action show we’ve all been waiting for.
What’s the plot, and how does it connect to Halo?
Rather than go for a direct adaptation of any one game’s plot, the Halo TV show exists in its own “silver timeline”, AKA a fairly similar but not technically canon version of events. Basically, the show is in the same world and features the same characters, but won’t have to worry about sticking to the precise plots or lore of previous Halo titles, which is for the best – strict adaptations tend to get a little messy, and this lets newbies enter the world without needing to study up.
We don’t know too much of the plot just yet, but from the first two episodes that reviewers have seen, we know that Master Chief finds a glowing artefact on a decimated pioneer world that he accidentally activates, and finds himself flooded with visions of his past life before being genetically modified. He rescues the seemingly lone survivor on the planet, a 17-year-old girl named Kwan Ha Boo, and the two set off running given that the Covenant want that artefact — thankfully, they have the UNSC to help fight them off.
Probably the biggest difference, though, is that Master Chief takes his helmet off a fair amount – the show is going to get up close with the soldier behind the armour.
Who’s behind the show? What about the actors?
Ever heard of Steven Spielberg? He’s one of the show’s executive producers and has reportedly been hands-on as a kind of ‘godfather’ throughout the process, from writing to choosing the showrunners, writers and cast. He’s helped collate a very respectable team, led by showrunner duo Steven Kane and Kyle Killen, who have writer and producer credits across shows like The Closer, Lone Star and Awake. The show’s directed predominantly by Otto Bathurst, best known for the iconic first-ever ep of Black Mirror about a kidnapped Royal family member (yeah, that one).
In front of the camera, we have lots of familiar faces. Stepping into Master Chief’s suit is Pablo Schreiber AKA Pornstache from Orange Is The New Black and Nick Sobota on The Wire. Californication and The Truman Show star Natascha McElhone stars as UNSC Dr Catherine Halsey and AI Cortana (in a cute nod, the games series’ voice actor Jen Taylor still voices Cortana).
Rounding out the cast is Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo, Shocker in Spider-Man: Homecoming), Danny Sapani (M’Kathu in Black Panther), Charlie Murphy (Peaky Blinders) and relative newcomers Olivia Grant and Aussie actress Yerin Ha, who also stars in hyped upcoming horror Sissy. Essentially, expect lots of “oh, that actor! I love them”.
How many episodes?
Season one has nine episodes, released each Friday — the first is out now on Paramount+. Clearly, the streamer believes in the show, as they signed off on a second season before the first even came out.
Ready to dive in? Halo is now streaming on Paramount+.Image: Paramount+