Halo TV series Season 1, Episode 5 review: The action finally arrives

The conflicts hit a boiling point and we see full-scale war with the Covenant in action.

Halo Tv Show Episode 5 Chief
(Image: © Microsoft / Paramount+)

The fifth episode of the Halo TV series takes almost everything we've loved about the series so far — diving into who the Spartans really are, mounting tension between Master Chief and his handles, excellent action sequences — and brings it all together into what is the strongest episode of the show so far. Emotions flare to a breaking point across the main cast, while the show also delivers an incredible war sequence that doesn't shy away from the horrors of a Covenant attack.

It's a strong episode, only brought down by how it's cut much shorter than the others so far. We also get a Soren and Kwan update that ends up being fairly meaningless. Those two points aside, Halo is hitting its stride. Now, to see if the series can maintain it.

Note: This review contains spoilers for Halo Season 1, Episode 5, "Reckoning."

If you haven't checked it out yet, be sure to read our review of Halo Season 1, Episode 4.

The episode begins with a flashback on Eridanus-2, where a seemingly blissful Halsey and Jacob Keyes are touring, ostensibly for the purpose of settling down as colonists with the planet's small but growing community. The pair witness a young John-117 pull up another boy who nearly fell off a playset, with the two seeming to take note of the youngster's selfless determination.

Back in the present day, the UNSC has arrived in force on Eridanus-2, with Miranda Keyes and her father discussing Halsey's odd behavior as the troops begin working to try and excavate the alien artifact. Meanwhile, Halsey and Cortana discuss the artifact, while Master Chief seems oddly entranced and doesn't respond to their attempts to get his attention.

Source: Microsoft / Paramount+ (Image credit: Source: Microsoft / Paramount+)

On Madrigal, Kwan and Soren's bike fails in the middle of the desert, still a hundred miles away from the nearest transport. Finally fed up, Soren chains Kwan to the bike, marching off into the unknown to find a new ride. While it's completely understandable that Soren's patience has by this point worn thin, not being able to keep an eye on Kwan in such a harsh environment doesn't seem like the smartest idea, but more on that later.

As Silver Team hangs back on Eridanus-2 and allows the various UNSC forces to proceed, Kai and Vannak have an amusingly lopsided conversation, with the former pressing the latter for his thoughts on what the Covenant are really after and why they want to attack humanity. Vannak's increasingly brief responses betray irritation underneath his steely resolve, as he finally snaps, claiming the gun grease in Kai's hair must be damaging her brain.

It's oddly interesting scene, selling the idea Kai finds herself enthralled in her newfound senses more and more at the cost of alienating her from her comrades.

Source: Microsoft / Paramount+ (Image credit: Source: Microsoft / Paramount+)

A still-uneasy Master Chief notices how Kai is acting and quickly tells her she's not fit for combat duty. It's something of a hypocritical moment coming from Master Chief with how off-kilter he is and how he removed his hormonal pellet first, something that Cortana quickly and rightfully calls him out for.

Master Chief also tries discussing his hazy memories with Captain Keyes, who promises to look into Master Chief's concerns. This is quickly contrasted in a discussion with Halsey and Admiral Parangosky, the latter of whom is growing increasingly concerned with Halsey's repeated failed promises to bring Master Chief under control.

Watching this unfold, it's never been clearer that the UNSC is divided, with three very different leaders each having very different opinions on how to proceed. It's also one I can't see lasting throughout the season.

Source: Microsoft / Paramount+ (Image credit: Source: Microsoft / Paramount+)

As the UNSC finally begins the process of extracting the relic, Halsey's assistant Adun touches the relic and an ear-splitting signal activates, causing everyone in the camp to double over in pain except for Master Chief. As this is happening, over on Madrigal, where Makee and the Covenant forces found the smaller relic earlier in the episode, Makee picks up the signal, realizing where the second artifact is located and setting the stage for the carnage to come in the final act.

While the UNSC camp recovers and continues its preparations, Master Chief asks Cortana for information on the origins of the Spartan program. Growing fed up with her inability to find anything, Master Chief touches the relic again, receiving another flashback. This time, he remembers himself being taken away in the middle of the night by a group of people, including Halsey. When the vision ends, he leaps to attack Halsey, only narrowly being stopped by Cortana and then passing out.

Back on Madrigal, Soren returns to the bike to find it abandoned, as Kwan managed to free herself with a rock earlier in the episode. Frankly, it's a mostly pointless detour for an otherwise extremely tight episode, so I can't help but wonder if these handful of brief scenes were there solely so the episode could reach the already-shortened runtime of 40 minutes.

Source: Microsoft / Paramount+ (Image credit: Source: Microsoft / Paramount+)

A sore Master Chief wakes up irritable just as Covenant forces attack the camp. The remaining quarter of the episode is dedicated to an incredible war sequence. While the action in the very first episode was well done, it was just a handful of Elites and Spartans. Here, it's all-out warfare, with Banshee aircraft strafing the ground and bringing down a UNSC cruiser. Grunts and Jackals are seen for the first time in the show, including a Jackal variant using a kind of smaller energy sword, something I'd like to see make its way over into the games.

It's an incredible action scene that lasts almost 10 minutes, with Marines on the ground and in Warthogs squaring off against a full-on Covenant invasion. The action from the games has been translated near-perfectly here and there's a lot going on, to the point where you'll have to rewatch it at least once to catch every individual thing happening on screen.

While the Spartans nearly manage to secure the relic, Master Chief chooses to rescue an injured Kai, who becomes distracted and overwhelmed, clearly reeling from her first time in combat without her senses being supressed. We also get to see a towering Brute chieftan, who handily fends off Master Chief and secures the relic for the Covenant.

As the episode ends, Makee is sent to the ground in a Covenant pod, clearly attempting to play the part of a helpless captive.

We're now over the halfway point and it really feels like the show has hit its stride, in both story and the action. Hopefully the remaining episodes deliver, but I'm excited to see where we're headed next.

Halo Season 1, Episode 5 is available now, exclusively on Paramount+. For a better experience, watch it on one of the best 4K TVs available.

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

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.