Halo Season 1 Episode 1 - 'Contact' Spoiler Review

One of the most popular video game franchises has made its debut on streaming; Halo the long in production project has finally arrived. The first episode of Halo was a bit of a letdown; it was not bad, just disappointing considering how long we have waited for it. The action was good and reminded of the video game, but beyond the opening there was little action to be found for the remaining episode. I feel that it might have benefitted from dropping two episodes together; the first episode suffered from an action heavy opening and the rest of the episode slowed down to a grinding halt. The very end of the episode featured a building tension that was resolved without conflict which felt like a let down. This version of Halo seems to be altering the mythology to reflect the Spartans as not being in control of their actions. A big deal is made out of the fact that Master Chief (played by Pablo Schreiber) is not following the orders issued to him by the United Nations Space Command (UNSC). That appears to be a change from the game where it is never implied that Master Chief does not follow orders blindly. The series is set before the events of the first Halo game, I get the feeling the first season will culminate with the fall of Reach. The fall of Reach essentially kicks off the Halo saga, there is a book I read titled Halo: The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund which follows the story of the creation of the Spartans. Halo has skipped over the creation, but I get the feeling the show will go back in time to show how the Spartans came to be.

The first episode (titled Contact) was not as bad as I made it seem, it was not boring even though it was slow. I am not sure I fully understand the world they are building, but I do find it interesting as they are setting up the UNSC as not as benevolent as they want everyone to believe. We got to see how awesome the Spartans are in combat; not only are the Spartans dangerous, but the Covenant soldiers are merciless to a scary level. I am not sure why they attacked the town given that the object they wanted was in the cave near their ship, but we do know the Covenant attacked settlements so it could be just to wipe out the occupants of the planet. The episode was brutal in the way it depicted violence, there was no beauty to it; watching the villagers attempt to fend off the Covenant looked like an exercise in futility. The Halo franchise been attempting to make a live-action project for a long time, since 2005 (the game came out in 2001) there has been an effort to make a Halo film. Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) and Neill Blomkamp (District 9) were slated to produce and direct a script written by Alex Garland (Ex Machina). The film went through many starts and stops, but the financial risks associated with the need for a high budget made studios nervous. Turning Halo into a series became a possibility in 2013 when Steven Spielberg was brought on as a producer; but it took another 6 years to gain momentum. The first season has now started airing, and it seems the second season will begin filming this summer.


The series starts with us following the goings on in a small community on the planet of Madrigal, we hear the residents talk in awe and fear of the UNSC and the Spartans. A leader of the community arrives and asks for the location of his daughter, he is told that she and her pals had left the compound. We see the daughter named Quan Ah (played by Yerin Ha) and her pals eating a mysterious looking plant. Quan hears a noise in the distance, and she goes to investigate finding a Covenant ship and a hole in the side of the mountain. Quan runs back to her friends, and she watches as they are all killed by the Covenant; Quan then runs back to the compound. Quan just makes it back inside the gates of the fortress when the Covenant attack; Quan is told by her father to hide with the other children. The fortress is easily overrun, but a team of Spartans led by Master Chief drop from a ship and start fighting the Covenant. The Spartans are able to go toe-to-toe with the Covenant soldiers, something that the ordinary humans of the village could not do. The Spartans kill the Covenant grunts, but not until the villagers are all but wiped out. The Spartans leave the village to go in search of the area to locate the ship of the Covenant grunts.

Quan was left behind by the Spartans, but with nobody in the village left alive she decides to follow the Spartans. The Spartans locate the ship and the mysterious hole in the side of the mountain, Master Chief goes inside the newly formed cave to inspect. The cave has engravings inside and looks to be man-made; Master Chief notes that the Covenant was excavating the cave looking for an object. Master Chiefs finds an artifact, and when he touches it, the cave comes alive, and Master Chief has a vision of his unremembered past. An elite Covenant soldier was inside the cave and witnessed what happened when Master Chief touched the artifact, he escapes and leaves the planet. Master Chief tells the other Spartans to take the Covenant ship back to base and he will take their ship by himself. At UNSC headquarters on the planet Reach we see Dr. Halsey (played Natasha McElhone) watching the footage of Master Chief touching the Artifact. Admiral Parangosky (played by Shabana Azmi) enters Dr. Halsey's lab looking for an update, Halsey tells the admiral about the artifact. On High Charity a Covenant base we meet Makee (played by Charlie Murphy) who is a human who is part of the Covenant. Makee learns of the artifact and what happened when Master Chief touched it, she wishes to speak with the soldier who witnessed it.

Quan wakes up on Master Chief's ship, she is interviewed by Miranda Keyes (played by Olive Gray) who is also on Reach. Keyes is looking for help from Quan to share what happened on Madrigal with other rebel colonies. Quan who has been raised to hate the UNSC turns down the request unless UNSC gives Madrigal independence. Halsey questions Master Chief who shares with her his vision of his earlier life which he does not remember. Halsey is unnerved by the fact that Master Chief had a memory of his past, she asks that as soon as he gets to Reach be brought to her. Miranda Keyes is joined by her father Captain Jacob Keyes (played by Danny Sapani), they talk about Dr. Halsey (who is revealed to be Miranda's mother) and what will happen to Quan. Jacob reveals to Miranda that Quan suffered severe injuries during the attack on Madrigal and she will not survive. When Master Chief fails to kill Quan, the Admiral takes control of the ship and turns off the life support. Master Chief fights and manages to turn back on life support, the Admiral not liking that Master Chief is disobeying orders so she orders full military readiness. Halsey gets Master Chief fellow Spartans to protect Master Chief when he lands on the base, the Spartans comply with Halsey's orders. Quan not trusting Master Chief holds him at gunpoint, Master Chief removes his helmet to get Quan to put down the gun. 

Master Chief is trying to restore control of the ship before it touches down on the base, the ship starts to land when they regain control of the ship. Before Master Chief can fly away, they shoot the ship down using a pulse canon. The admiral orders Jacob to kill the girl and also kill Master Chief if he tries to stop them. Master Chief touches the artifact which repowers the ship while also causing the base to lose power. Master Chief flies away in his ship as the episode comes to a close. 


I am trying to be patient with the show; the source material for the show is very interesting, and I know there can be a good series based around that material. The first episode was not as good as I had expected it to be my main struggle is that I am not liking the choices being made in regards to the Spartans. Master Chief and the Spartans are why we are talking about the show, if those characters are not handled in a way fans like it will be hard for fans to connect with the choice. Making the UNSC feel like a villain is fine but making the Spartans out to be mind controlled/not being able to think for themselves. There was good action that felt reminiscent of the games, but it would have been better if the action was spaced out more. The end of the episode did feature an intense few minutes as the UNSC attempted to disable Master Chief so they can kill Quan. I am not sure they properly justified why the UNSC needs to kill Quan; having Mast Chief be at odds with the UNSC is something that maybe should have happened in a future episode. The show might be able to rebound from their poor choice but robbing the Spartans of their humanity makes them less interesting to me. I am not saying that Master Chief had a particularly interesting personality in the games, but that doesn't mean the show can give him a distinct personality. 

We got to see a short glimpse of the Covenant, and I am left with more questions than answers right now. We meet Makee (played by Charlie Murphy), a human living with the Covenant, she appears to be someone of reverence to the Covenant, but she is not one of them. Master Chief had a connection to the Forerunner artifact that he touched; I think Makee will be revealed to also have a connection to Forerunner artifacts. The Forerunners are the architects of the Halo universe, they built the weapons that UNSC and the Covenant are after. There is so much lore in the Halo universe, I am excited by all of the things the show can explore but based on the first episode I am not as excited as I once was. I also am wondering how Quan will be incorporated into the show, she is neither as trained nor capable as the Spartans. I know they wanted a human character who would be like the audience (someone who knows nothing about what is going on) to have as a main character with Master Chief. The episode throws a lot at you, for Halo fans it is not too hard to keep up; but for those who are new to the Halo universe it must have been hard to absorb all of what was happening. The world was fleshed out in this episode, and hopefully the dense first episode will make the future episodes easier to follow. 

Even though I do not think the episode was good, I am still going to give it a 6/10 because I think there was promise for the show going forward. It is easy after watching something to pick it apart and feel that you would have done a better job at making the episode; but we have the benefit of seeing the episode and then judging it. The showrunner is starting from scratch, their only source of reference comes from the games and novels. I think they nailed the opening of the episode; I liked the action and the outsider perspective of the UNSC. Once the episode went to Master Chief and Quan on the shuttle, I felt the pace of the episode grinded to a halt. I hope that the show evolves in how it depicts the Spartans, a big part of who the Spartans are is what they have gone through to become the warriors they are. The Master Chief not knowing anything about his past was a choice that I will not agree with; the tension between him and the UNSC. The problem for me with the second half of the episode was that with no action I was struggling to find a character that I thought was interesting. I hope that Halo will be able to develop three dimensional characters that we care about and are interesting. I believe the show can turn things around, but I wouldn't be surprised if the show stays as just an okay if not disappointing adaptation of Halo. 

Thank you for reading; and please let me know what you thought of the first episode of Halo.

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