Halo Season 2 is good if you treat it like fan fiction

by | Feb 23, 2024 | Feature

Spoilers for episodes 1-4 of Halo Season 2

I complained for an entire article about why Master Chief needs to keep his helmet on. Despite that, I started watching Halo Season 2. Why? Because who cares? It’s all entertainment and truth be told, I enjoyed Season 1. I binged it all and after walking around my office loudly scolding the show for not being exactly what I know Halo to be, I walked away with a mild enjoyment of the whole thing.

Master Chief in Halo 4
Master Chief in Halo 4

Halo Season 2 has me locked in the same position. At the time of this writing, I am 4 episodes in and I must say, it’s still not the Halo I know. But it is a decent Halo fan fiction.

Master Chiefless

Halo's Master Chief without the iconic, brand defining helmet
Halo’s Master Chief without the iconic, brand defining helmet

I don’t think I’ve ever seen more of Pablo Schreiber than I have in Halo. The man is on-screen. Which was my main complaint with the entire series. While I stand by my complaining, I think I understand Pablo’s argument that the story they are trying to tell requires the Chief to be out of uniform. Boy howdy is that Spartan out of uniform.

The Halo show is devoid of Master Chief, but they have all the John 117 they can handle, and that is their story. It’s a big-budget fan fiction about John-117. This isn’t a Halo story for fans. It’s a Halo story for people who could give a shit about the games. That’s a wide market, and in that vein, it’s a mild success.

But why use Halo for this?

Master Chief. Oh, excuse me. John-117
Master Chief. Oh, excuse me. John-117

Because it’s there. The story of Halo was never a groundbreaking masterpiece. It was a rather by-the-numbers military sci-fi tale mixed with a savior story. The series’ gameplay was the core appeal for many Xbox fans. The setting and characters are perfect for “what if” storytelling and that is what Paramount’s Halo is.

If you are a fan of the original Halo franchise or even just a stickler for lore, look at this series like an out-of-canon extended universe thing. If you can’t get past it, I suggest watching Forward Unto Dawn or a cutscene compilation from the Master Chief Collection. The books are pretty great too. Your lore-specific story exists, as does your perfect example of Master Chief. It’s just not on Paramount.

Fun spoiler

There is a line in episode four that I believe encompasses the phrase “doubling down”. Reach is under attack by Covenant forces. The stalwart Admiral Keyes addresses a hanger full of Marines, including John-117 who has completely lost his Mark V1 Mjolnir armor. Like, it’s fucking gone, man. Off-planet. Can’t even see it. During Keye’s motivational, last-stand speech, he calls John up to stand beside him and says:

“It is my honor to introduce to you, John-117. You know him as Master Chief. Today, he needs no armor. Today, all he needs is the warrior inside of him.”

Admiral Jacob Keyes

If that’s not the most “suck it, crybabies.” line I have ever heard. Touché. I laughed out loud. They took all the Spartans out of their special armor and had them fight like regular tall-ass men and women. Where is the armor? In space, on a ship full of people who can’t wear it.

A Flood of inconsistencies

Nothing about that decision makes a lick of narrative sense. The powers that be took the armor for safekeeping as Reach gets glassed. But they took no Spartans (from what we can tell) and left their greatest Spartan, Big John Stud 117, on Reach, without his suit, which no one in any galaxy can wear besides him. You can argue they plan to make more Spartans or give the armor to existing Spartans who are off-world. But then why leave valuable soldiers like Vannak-134 and Riz-028 stranded? Aren’t all Spartans integral to the survival of humanity?

You see what I mean by fan fiction? No one thought through any of the decisions past “drama”. And to be fair, if you are a casual sci-fi fan and you are watching this show, none of that matters during the speech. It’s moving. It doesn’t matter during the bridge standoff. That’s tense. It certainly doesn’t matter when they kill Admiral Keyes or Vannack-134. That’s sad. Any Halo fan would be super confused why the UNSC or ONI would ever dare leave Master Chief on Reach, let alone without a suit. In the Halo: Reach game, your whole last mission is to make sure Master Chief is escorted off Reach so he can take the fight to the Covenant.


The longer their fantasy version of the Fall of Reach goes on, the more I see what they are trying to accomplish. It’s comfort food for sci-fi fans. You put it on and lull yourself into a comfortable, brainless 46 minutes. There are bits and pieces of actual Halo story used to tie together the fiction of this series, and I am sort of fine with that. I’ve disconnected enough to enjoy what they are serving while chuckling at the gross inconsistencies with the true Master Chief.

Should you watch it? Sure. Can’t hurt. Just don’t be upset when you have to watch John, not Master Chief, beat Covenant to death. It’s Jack Reacher in space, and that’s not the worst thing ever.

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