The second episode of the Halo TV series is here. Taking a break from the fast-paced action and gore of the pilot, this episode instead chooses to focus on worldbuilding and character dialogue, with some fairly mixed results. While this would be the perfect opportunity to let the stars of the show shine, the plot is trying to set up quite a bit, meaning many of the conversations don't flow like they should.
In being given time to breathe, there's some interesting character examinations, but it's brought down by the exposition-heavy focus of almost every conversation. Not every episode of a show can be a knockout, as even the best shows of all time need to take a moment here or there to set things up for the future. Hopefully, this proves to be the exception and not the rule moving forward.
Note: This review contains spoilers for Halo Season 1, Episode 2, "Unbound."
Bottom line: This dialogue-heavy episode trades action for exposition, and while it's not a completely boring slog, it leaves hoping for more in the next entry for this burgeoning sci-fi drama.
- Interesting worldbuilding
- Strong character moments
- Lack of action
- Clunky dialogue
If you haven't yet, be sure to take a look at our review of Halo Season 1, Episode 1, "Contact."
The episode opens with a flashback to 22 years earlier, as we see much younger John-117 follow his friend Soren (Jude Cudjoe) outside of the military base on Reach. Despite Soren's pleading, John isn't willing to follow him in abandoning the UNSC, and only reluctantly gives Soren a five-minute head start before sounding the alarm.
Back in the present day of 2552, Master Chief tries in vain to explain the science of Slipspace travel to Kwan. It's a nice scene and one of my favorites in the entire episode, as it's clear that Chief's awkward, stilted explanations are his attempt at forming a connection with the clearly overwhelmed and somewhat scared Kwan. Chief may not be in touch with his own humanity, but he's trying to reach out, and it's nice to see.
On the planet Reach, we're introduced to UNSC Fleet Admiral Lord Hood (Keir Dullea), who speaks with Halsey about how to handle Master Chief going AWOL. Halsey alludes to the idea that she has a solution in mind, which Hood indicates will have to be run by the rest of UNSC command. Meanwhile, Silver Team's members — Kai-125 (Kate Kennedy), Riz-028 (Nathasha Culzac), and Vannak-134 (Bentley Kalu) — also discuss the fallout of Master Chief going rogue.
Chief and Kwan arrive at the The Rubble, a libertarian dream of a pirate colony that's based in a cluster of asteroids, with no rules or regulations. After some easily defused tension, Chief reunites with a much older Soren (Bokeem Woodbine), taking the unlikely pair back to his home.
The scope of The Rubble is deceiving, with masses of buildings and homes piled on top of one another, making it clear this is not just some dingy corner for criminals but the place of residence for a dense population. The rail system that goes between asteroids is inventive and overall, the idea of this lawless hub away from the UNSC's prying eyes is interesting, but we don't get to see too much, something I hope will be remedied over the rest of the season.
On High Charity, we see the human traitor and a council of Covenant Prophets discussing things with the lone Elite survivor of the raid on Madrigal, in the previous episode. What would otherwise be a fascinating moment — an extended look at Covenant discussions is appreciated and the CGI used on the aliens is very well done — is undercut by how almost every line is reaffirming what should be in-universe established knowledge. Explaining things to the audience is fine, but the majority of this episode suffers from "As you know ..." and this scene is one of the worst offenders.
Despite hesitations from the Prophet of Mercy, this human ally of the Covenant is finally granted permission to head out and track down the relic taken by Master Chief.
At a UNSC strategy meeting, the repercussions of a new allegiance with the leadership of Madrigal are weighed by Captain Keyes, while Halsey carefully maneuvers her earlier discussions with Lord Hood to finally greenlight the Cortana program, outplaying Admiral Parangosky. Halsey explains that Cortana is meant to be a fully functional artificial intelligence, allowing for complete control of the Spartans and avoiding future situations like with Master Chief. Halsey noticeably brushes off questions about flash cloning, however.
We get a very quick look at Vinsher (Burn Gorman), the new leader of Madrigal, who callously executes several people before taking out a drone recording his actions.
At The Rubble, we get some interesting conversations between Master Chief and Soren, as the latter points to how much better life has been since removing some of his Spartan augmentations, being able to relax more and enjoy the taste of food. Chief's struggle to understand what it even means to be human is again on display here, a consistent throughline that's appreciated.
Soren also takes Chief to a survivor of Covenant interment, a twitchy man who clearly isn't okay but also understands Covenant technology and culture when lucid. The man isn't much help, but does allude to a mysterious ring, one more powerful than anything currently at the Covenant's disposal. This revelation is enough to shock Master Chief back into duty-first mode, and he leaves the station to be picked up by Silver Team, but not before making Soren promise to take care of Kwan.
As the episode closes, we see Halsey talking to a strange human being in a pod.
All things considered, this episode was definitely a step down over the solid premiere, though some slowdown was only natural. Nobody is expecting the rapid firefights of one of the mainline games such as Halo Infinite, but fingers crossed we get a bit more action in the next episode.
Halo Season 1, Episode 2 is available now, exclusively on Paramount+. For a better experience, watch it on one of the best 4K TVs available.
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Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.