Windows Central Verdict
Sword is a solid episode, if sometimes slow. While the action takes a back seat, we take something of a wellness check with a number of characters, and their struggles to heal are worth the attention they're given.
Great emotional beats
Side plots continue distracting
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“It doesn’t get easier, it just gets further away.”
That line from Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) encapsulates the point of Sword, the second episode of Halo The Series' second season. Multiple characters need to heal from the events of the past season, some in more grueling manners than others. Some are missing loved ones. Others took grievous injuries that are slowing them down. Still some others aren't sure what they're missing or how they're supposed to move on, only that they have to.
Examining that process of healing and what that means on an individual level makes for an interesting episode, one with surprises in both what it reveals and also in the characters it's focused on. The lack of big battles may annoy some, but the slightly shorter runtime means that even if it's slower than its predecessor, it doesn't overstay its welcome. Here's my review.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by advance screeners provided by Paramount. The company did not see the contents of this review before publishing.
Halo TV Series Season 2, Episode 2: Sword
If you haven't yet, be sure to read my review of Halo Season 2, Episode 1: Sanctuary.
Sword establishes that it's been six months since the events of the first season, but a lot of wounds aren't healed. In particular focus for this episode is Riz-028 (Natasha Culzac), who took some nasty injuries in a prior fight with the Covenant. As Riz works with a blind physical trainer (Marvin Jones III) to get better while training with the rest of her team, we get a look at how even these superhuman warriors struggle time and time again. They're not great at expressing a need for help, but the Spartan teams care for each other, and that protocol (or lack thereof) sometimes dictates action.
I recognize it's not the most "exciting" sequence of events, but it feels grounded and real, and watching Spartans like Riz find their humanity in the quiet moments provides some heartfelt moments. The same is true of Perez (Cristina Rodlo), the latter being the lone marine who made it through a Covenant attack in the prior episode, and her scenes give us some of the best emotional beats in the series so far.
We also get to see Madrigal survivor Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha) again, who is struggling in her own way, trying to find a place on The Rubble amid the lowlifes and ne'er-do-wells, all while forging an odd friendship. Nothing about her scenes are bad, but they do feel distinctly out-of-focus compared to the other events here, and I hope there's more intriguing things to come for her in the remaining 75% of the season.
The return of Doctor Halsey (Natascha McElhone) is more subdued than expected, and while the former head of the Spartan program still has a bag full of tricks, she's clearly off her game a bit. This is the first time we've truly seen her reacting instead of acting, while is compelling, if surprising. While he's not quite as present in this episode, the James Ackerson (Joseph Morgan) continues to impress, and the question of just what he's trying to accomplish jumps to the forefront of my mind every time he's on-screen or even mentioned.
Halo TV Series Season 2, Episode 2: Verdict
Sword is a solid second drive for this season of Halo, and paired with the first episode, it's a good opening act. The slow pace is undoubtedly noticeable, but I appreciate the cast taking time to take stock of what they're doing and why they're doing it. With six episodes to go, I expect the action to ramp up significantly, but that's not so much an option as it is a necessity.
Still, taking a moment for the characters to breathe is good, especially in light of the increasingly-short lengths of TV seasons. I understand budgets are a thing, and there's no question here the general trend has helped improve season-wide pacing, but watching big series go from a dozen to ten to just eight episodes has been lamentation-worthy.
An important note: I've got an interview coming up in the next few days, talking about the first two episodes of Halo's second season with actors Bokeem Woodbine and Joseph Morgan, as well as showrunner David Wiener and Microsoft transmedia head Kiki Wolfkill. Due to some spoilers discussed in the interview, you can look for this interview to be published after these episodes are available for everyone to watch.
Halo The Series Season 2, Episode 2, Sword, is set to premiere on Feb. 8, 2024, exclusively on Paramount+.
Interested in more Halo? Halo Infinite and Halo: The Master Chief Collection are currently available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Windows PC. Both are included in Xbox Game Pass. With continued support, both are some of the best Xbox games available.