Halo TV Show Review: Episode 3 – Emergence | Cortana Delivers

After months of leaks, trailers, and discussions, the first episode of the Halo TV Show is here. How is it, though?
Halo tv show review
How is the Halo TV Show on Paramount+? | © Paramount

After months of leaks, announcements, and trailers, Halo's brand new TV Show has come to Paramount+ and is receiving rather mixed reviews. What did we think of the first episode, though, and what will we think of the rest of the series? Well, that's a question we're going to need to answer in parts. Why in parts? Well, because the Halo TV Show is being released in episodes, not all at once...

Over the last couple of weeks we have been getting drip-fed information. From Master Chief's face finally being revealed, to theories and leaks about the show's contents, to posters that showed off the show's Spartans in all of their glory, we were being inundated with information. It's always hard to properly establish whether something will be good before it launches, and that's why we're here today. How does it hold up?

Here's how this article is going to work: the Paramount+ TV Show is releasing in stages, so we will cover it as it gets drip-fed to us. That means a new review will be added to this article every time they release a new episode. Once the show is over, this will then be collated to form our overall opinion of the show. Let's stop wasting time, though, and jump right-on in.

Halo TV Show Review: Episode 3 – Emergence | Cortana Delivers

Episode 3 introduces us to one of the show's most important characters, who also brings some much-needed personality to the show: Cortana. In the show, Cortana is meant to be a little different from what we would otherwise have expected. She's not a naked and blue lady, instead, she is a character which has been given a very real personality. The dynamic between Chief and Cortana was the central emotional hub of the video games, and here it has been brought to the forefront.

This relationship is incredibly important, of course, and whilst Cortana does admittedly look kind-of weird in the show, you get used to it quickly, and she gets to work straight away. The amazing thing about the Halo TV Show's choice with Cortana is that she is actually being played by the same actress as whom plays her in the games. Yes, that's right, she is not just a blue version of Natascha McElhone, who plays Halsey. Of course, Cortana is based on Halsey, but she also forges her own path.

Cortana truly is the center of Halo's third episode, and exactly what the show needs. In the end, Episode 3 continues the show's trend of using character development and relationships to forge its own Halo narrative, and now... well... Master Chief has someone to talk to. Jen Taylor, as we just established, plays Cortana, and she delivers an outstanding performance here. It's no surprise, after all she has been playing the character for two decades and knows exactly what is needed. Their dynamic is often times hilarious and forever entertaining.

Whilst we have dedicated most of this review to Cortana, we also need to give Halsey a shout-out in this episode. She has become one of the most interesting characters in the show. As an almost mother to the Spartans that surround her, the struggle between what is considered morally righteous and Halsey's actions becomes an interesting point of tension in the show, with no one really being sure whether they can trust her. They also can't trust Makee, of course, who plays a great role in the show's third episode, but that dynamic between the Spartans, Cortana and Halsey really pull the show together for the better.

In the end, though, it's about how Episode 3 hangs together. So, does it hang together well? Absolutely it does! From the greatly improved dialogue, to the fantastic relationship developed between Master Chief and Cortana, to Dr. Halsey's menace, everything works really well here. The Halo TV Show is very well on the way to being a success.

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Release Date: April 7, 2022
  • Director: Roel Reiné
  • Genre: Game Adaptation / Sci-Fi Action
  • Running Time: Approx. 1 Hour

Halo TV Show Review: Episode 2 – Unbound | A Grand Deviation

The Paramount+ Halo Show's second Episode is here and, once again, is a triumph in its ability to insert character into a characterless franchise. The show flaunts its differences openly, with Episode 2 giving us more character development for Master Chief than has, really, ever been done before. Chief's face emerges from the helmet to reveal Pablo Schreiber, who also tends to wear a rubber jumpsuit for large portions of the episode. Mate, it ain't a good look.

Due to the fact that the lead character isn't shrouded in tonnes of heavy super-armor, it is not such a surprise that Schreiber's performance here is already a step up from the first episode. What Episode 2 also manages to do is present us with a villain, Makee, who manages to steal the show. After playing a lot of Halo Infinite, having a worthy opponent is something greatly appreciated, though the episode's random flashback scene is something certainly not to be appreciated.

The thing about Episode 2 is that there is nothing outright bad here. There is no abhorrently awful performances or writing, there is no awkward CGI fight scenes that make us long for the good old days of physical and practical effects, but there is also nothing particular inspired here. Take Bokeem Woodbine, for example, who is a former Spartan now living in the middle of nowhere. Think Yoda or Obi-Wan from the first or second Star Wars films (the actual first or second Star Wars films). He could be an interesting character, but he spends the Episode shouting. Like I literally mean "shouting", forking screaming at the camera. Why? Guys, seriously, why?

Makee's infiltration of the UNSC, though, is a highlight of the show through-and-through, it keeps us engaged even if other elements of the show make us role our eyes to the back of our head. The show also doesn't really progress anywhere in Unbound, either, which is an odd choice, but somewhat made up for by an incredible scene that takes place between Master Chief and Dr. Halsey (something we certainly won't spoil).

In the end, Episode 2 succeeds with more of the things that worked in Episode 1. It is, again, a departure from its origins, but that's what makes it work in the end. A show that was one-to-one with the games, didn't show Chief's face and was all about awkward alien-action? Yeah, that would work very well. It ain't perfect, but at least it ain't that.

  • Rating: 7/10
  • Release Date: March 31, 2022
  • Director: Otto Bathurst
  • Genre: Game Adaptation / Sci-Fi Action
  • Running Time: Approx. 1 Hour

Halo TV Show Review: Episode 1 – Contact | An Awkward Change of Direction

Kicking off the series with a bang, Contact is a pretty good way to start. The catch, though, is that fans of the game's and lore will immediately start to feel a little disjointed. You see, Paramount's new Halo TV Show starts a good deal before the fall of Reach, in a time when humanity was not entirely aware of – much less prepared for – the Covenant threat.

The first thing we need to preface is that, no, the show does not need to be canonical to be good. There are numerous creative liberties here, from the choice of characters early on, to the plot itself, that will throw long-term fans off, but that's okay. We're here for a good show, so does it deliver in that respect?

Well, yes and no. The first thing to say is that the premier episode starts off with more of a whimper than a bang, and its opening scenes do little to satisfy our itch for great Halo content. Why? Well, it's that CGI problem I talked about a few weeks ago. The action sequences instantly bring in iconic weapons, even using first-person shots to echo the games, but we have to be honest with you: the Covenant look insanely weird, the Spartans seem as light as a feather – despite being giant, heavy super-soldiers – and nothing seems to have any weight.

This issue is, however, mitigated in the Episode's second half, which is where the premier really shows what it could be if successful. The Halo TV Show attempts to humanize the Master Chief in a way that really hasn't ever been done in the games. Considering that he is weighed down by heavy-metal armor, it is surprising how strong Pablo Schreiber's performance is. The star of the show, though, is Natascha McElhone's Dr. Halsey, who manages to convey the ruthlessness and idealism of her character in startling detail.

Ultimately, this is where the show's strengths lie: in its attempts to humanize and tell a real and interesting story. It's a shame, then, that it is hampered by its efforts to follow the game's style of combat. It just doesn't work in a film or TV Show, and it comes across as an almost cartoon-y version of the games. Hopefully, as the show progresses, these issues will be mitigated by stronger storytelling and fewer clunky action set-pieces.

  • Rating: 6/10
  • Release Date: March 24, 2022
  • Director: Otto Bathurst
  • Genre: Game Adaptation / Sci-Fi Action
  • Running Time: Approx. 1 Hour