Put minds inside machines, and troubling consequences become inevitable. And things take an even nastier turn in Paramount+’s series adaptation of the beloved video game franchise Halo, where humans, forcibly stripped of their humanity, become the puppets of an autocratic regime and eventually confront the truth in the most unexpected ways. Spartans were designed to be mindless, immoral killing machines, assigned to serve the interests of humankind’s interplanetary colonial regime of the UNSC with complete adherence, without questioning. Dr. Catherine Halsey had helped UNSC select the perfect candidates for the Spartan Super Soldier programme by abducting children and suppressing their memories of past to make them controllable and help them adapt to the training from an early age. To double down on the effort of controlling the minds of the Spartans, she had even designed the AI Cortana, going against the wishes of UNSC leads. Just as they found humanity lying dormant inside their psyche and the truth about their origins started to surface, things started getting convoluted. The legendary Spartan leader, John-117, aka Master Chief, suffers the most by getting caught up in conflicting emotions, psychological crises, and questions about his identity, which also remain the primary focus in the first two episodes of the newly released second season of Halo.
In the first season, the ever-growing conflict between the UNSC and the Forerunner-worshipping fanatic alien cult, the Covenant, held the plot threads together. The Forerunner relic known as the Keystone gets activated by the touch of select humans known as the blessed ones, and John and Covenant accomplice Makee turn out to be two of them as they share a vision of the Halo Ringworld after accessing the Keystone together. By the end of the first season, UNSC tries to make Dr. Halsey the scapegoat for their Spartan conspiracy, and she manages to flee. Makee gets shot to death by Spartan Kai as the silver team goes to retrieve the combined keystone from Covenant hold at High Charity. John gets fatally injured during the mission and relinquishes control over his body to Cortana, who saves the day at the end, but the concerns regarding Master Chief’s psyche loom larger.
What Did Master Chief Learn From The Covenant Attack At Sanctuary?
The beginning of the episode highlights the question series viewers were asking after the end of the first season: whether it is Master Chief John himself under the Mjolnir armor or whether his mind has been completely taken over by Cortana? It is shown that Cortana has been extracted from John’s mind, and he is presumably in a regular mental state as we find him leading his silver team in the UNSC colony Sanctuary, six months after the battle on High Charity. UNSC is anticipating a Covenant attack and is accordingly trying to safely evacuate the population from the planet. Assigning his team to keep overwatch, John goes to mediate an altercation between the local priestess and UNSC Marine captain, and the words of the priestess about Spartans lacking soul and belongingness add to the existential dread Master Chief is already facing.
Anyway, observing a scuffle atop the mountains—the patrol unit of which area suddenly goes out of communication—the Master Chief goes alone to assess the situation and finds a single unit to be surviving. A surprise attack by a small troop of Covenant Sangheili forces absolutely demolishes the unit, and the Chief manages to save the sole survivor of the unit, Corporal Talia Perez, by slaying the Covenant troop. However, right at the moment, he realizes that they are surrounded by at least thirty Sangheili warriors led by an elite, and just as it seems all but over for Chief, the Covenant forces inexplicably decide to leave. UNSC evacuates the populace as the Covenant fleet starts glassing the planet; to honor the homeland, the priestess sacrifices herself along with the cult, not before providing an ominous warning to John about his life and stating the importance of finding his faith.
Who Is Colonel James Ackerson?
As the Silver team returns to Reach, the acting capitol planet of the inner colonies of UNSC and the base of the Spartan program, Captain Keyes introduces them to Colonel James Ackerson, the current substitute for Dr. Halsey, who will take over control of the Spartan units. As the chief of Naval Intelligence, Ackerson turns out to be a shrewd diplomat as he actively tries to downplay the Covenant threat to maintain peace in inner colonies and bolster UNSC’s position in public perception by glorifying Spartans as heroes. Soon enough, viewers find Chief locking horns with him about the Covenant situation, as John becomes infuriated with the colonel for not informing the Spartan Cobalt team about the Sangheili attack while sending them off on a new mission. Ackerson downplays Chief’s concerns by stating that the past mental connection with Cortana has deteriorated John’s mental condition, and he is basically seeing things. To make matters worse, Perez, who was the only witness to the Sangheili attack, is suffering from survivor’s guilt after being awarded for her ‘bravery’ and does not corroborate John’s statements. Admiral Parangosky, another scapegoat of UNSC who has been axed from her position at the Fleetcom after the events of the last season, meets John in secret and promises to act if he can provide her with evidence about his Covenant concerns.
Where Are Dr. Halsey And Cortana?
Dr. Halsey had defected from UNSC by the first season finale, and although it was hinted that she had successfully managed to cover her tracks with a flash clone while escaping, the second season shows her being held captive in a seemingly unknown location. After her mysterious captor tries to provoke her a few times using a number of flash clones and knowledge of her past life, it turns out to be none other than Ackerson calling the shots behind the scene—holding the disgraced scientist as captive behind a cage of augmented reality. It is also revealed that Ackerson also got his hands on Cortana and is using her (it?) to run simulations for an unknown upcoming situation, the probability of which occurring is pretty high.
On the other hand, a refugee named Felix arrives at the Rubble to seek asylum in exchange for information about Dr. Halsey’s whereabouts. The dropout Spartan and current privateer of the Rubble, Soren, decides to follow him as his past wounds in Spartan life implore him to bring Halsey to justice. However, his crew betrays him, and Felix turns out to be a UNSC operative who takes Soren into custody for his past defection and treason. We also learn that Kwan Ha has returned to the Rubble and is trying to protect Soren’s son Kessler and his wife Laera, but her motivations remain unknown.
Who Led The Covenant Attack On Reach?
While John is suffering from mental agony from his recent experiences, his Spartan comrade Riz is having a hard time accepting the fact that physical ailments can be a thing for the Spartans since her emotion-suppressing pellet has been removed like the rest of the Silver team members. Despite knowing her condition, John decides to push his team hard into training anyway, as he believes the Covenant ambush at Sanctuary was the foundation of an impending, even bigger conflict, which can only be handled by the best Spartan unit in the UNSC, the Silver Team.
Later, John confides in Kai about seeing a vision of Makee during the Sangheili attack in Sanctuary, which should be impossible given the fact that Kai had to kill her during the battle on High Charity. This has led Chief to doubt his mental condition himself, as he believes his rejection of a life with the person he fell in love with will haunt him for days to come. Later, upon learning that the Cobalt team has gone missing in action, Chief decides to act against Ackerson’s commands and lead his Silver team to find them, as he suspects they have been caught in the Covenant ambush. As they depart, they learn that the Cobalt team was stationed on a mission in Reach, and we get a better view of the larger picture. The Covenant forces have attacked Reach, something that Ackerson had probably anticipated and was trying his best to keep under wraps for reasons yet unknown. The Sangheili warriors attacking the inner stations of Reach are seen to be assisted by Makee, which will surely surprise the viewers given she was presumed dead in the first season finale. As the second episode ends, Makee is seen to be touching the combined Keystone, and we can assume that the Covenant has used Forerunner technology to resurrect her, which makes sense as they need one of the blessed ones to access Forerunner tech. This also explains why Master Chief was spared by the Sangheili forces in Sanctuary, and his reunion with Makee in the future episodes will be something to look forward to. But then again, given how the Prophets betrayed her in the previous season, it will be a more logical choice for her to not assist the Covenant, which also hints at the possibility that she has been brainwashed as well.
As we glance over the first two episodes of the second season of Halo, it seems to be an improvement over the previous season, and the well-choreographed fight scene between Chief and plasma blade-wielding Sangheili in the foggy atmosphere of Sanctuary is definitely the highlight so far. Colonel Ackerson, played by Joseph Morgan, is definitely an intriguing character addition, whose role will be pivotal in the Covenant-UNSC conflict in upcoming episodes. Here’s wishing that the series tries to make way for established Covenant lore and larger cosmic world-building by minimizing human drama, and it will be able to reel back the seemingly disenchanted fanbase in no time.