‘Halo’ series a dull, poorly-paced soap opera in space
The new “Halo” TV series opens with a pretty awesome battle sequence filled with action that feels straight out of the games that the show is based upon. You better savor every last second of this firefight because it’s the last such scene you’re getting, at least through the first three episodes.
“Halo” centers on Master Chief John-117 (Pablo Schreiber), an armored warrior with enhanced physical and mental capabilities. After coming in contact with a mysterious artifact found in a cave after a mission, Master Chief begins to experience memories and behave erratically, including rescuing young Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha) and disobeying orders.
Meanwhile, Makee (Charlie Murphy), a human member of the alien Covenant alliance bent on eradicating the human race, sets off on a search for the artifact found by Master Chief. There are also the machinations of Dr. Halsey (Natasha McElhone), who created Spartans like Master Chief and is finishing work on something much more profound and dangerous.
The series feels like it got the usual Hollywood treatment of well-loved intellectual properties. The characters’ names are the same. The spaceships and weapons look the same and make the same sounds. That’s all well and good but the showrunners have taken that stuff, thrown out the underlying substance from the games and tried to shape it into what they think it ought to be.
Unfortunately, what the creators of the “Halo” series think it ought to be is a dull, slow, badly-paced science-fiction soap opera.
The majority of the first three episodes is world-building, which it would seem the showrunners take to mean people standing in rooms talking about the plot. After the opening firefight, the only other scene in the show that’s even slightly exciting is a scene where John and Kwan (hey, that rhymes!) navigate an asteroid field. And that’s something “The Empire Strikes Back” did way better back in 1980.
Visually, “Halo” definitely has its moments. From the kinetic chaos of the action scenes to a gorgeous vista of a city built into an asteroid, the show does have some very pretty images it wants to show us.
The acting is solid, too. Schreiber plays the blank-slate-having-an-awakening character arc pretty well and Ha’s performance as Kwan gives the show what little heart and soul it has. McElhone is icy and effective as a work-obsessed scientist who only cares about her next big invention.
I’m certain that “Halo” will pick up the pace and have more action as it draws closer to the end of the season. But it burns up so much excitement and goodwill by taking too long to get rolling. Except for Kwan, we don’t get to know the characters all that much through three episodes. While that’s by design with John-117, the danger is that by going this route with your protagonist, you risk not giving viewers enough to hook them, so they don’t care about your character when the stuff hits the fan.
I’m not much of a gamer, but “Halo” is one game that I actually have put a significant amount of time into playing. To see such a cool game reduced to what is basically a boring soap opera in space is pretty disappointing.
”Halo” is available to stream on Paramount+. New episodes drop every Thursday.