Review by Sean Boelman
Halo is one of the most popular, enduring video game franchises of all time, so the small-screen adaptation was always going to be met with derision by fans after changing several important elements of the game’s lore. Season two of the Paramount+ show backtracks on some of those elements, resulting in a new season that’s even more of a mixed bag than its predecessor.
This season of Halo follows Master Chief and his team of Spartans as their war against the alien race, the Covenant, escalates to new levels. Season two is much more combat-focused now that the premise and world were set up by the first season, but one has to wonder if this is too little too late to salvage an IP that should have been absolute gold for blockbuster television.
Relatively speaking, Halo has managed to be much more exciting with this batch of episodes than the last. The production value has always been high, of course, but it didn’t amount to much in the first season. The second season feels far more cinematic, even if it is cinematic in a generic sci-fi epic sort of way.
Yet despite the increased focus on action, the action sequences aren’t all that impressive. One 15-minute sequence in the first episode sets the stage for a more exciting season but feels derivative of any number of other foggy/smoky action sequences we have seen in sci-fi movies in the past.
However, much like the first season struggled to juggle all the different storylines, so does this new entry. This season verges on incoherence because of how needlessly complicated its different entangled threads become. At least it all made sense with season one — even if it was incredibly dull. Season two manages to somehow feel both chaotic and uninteresting.
Pablo Schreiber’s performance this season is rather disappointing, considering what the role calls for in this batch of episodes. Viewers will remember that, at the end of last season, Cortana had taken over Chief’s body. Schreiber sadly does not do much with this duality in his performance.
It is nice to see more of Bokeem Woodbine, though, as his character gets a more prominent arc as a bounty hunter tracking down the location of the now-fugitive Dr. Halsey (Natascha McElhone). Woodbine’s wise-cracking offers a welcome reprieve from some of the overly straight-laced drama of the rest of the series.
If people thought The Rise of Skywalker was bad for buckling to the demands of crybabies on the internet, wait until they see season two of Paramount+’s Halo. In some ways, the improvements are welcome — particularly this season’s greater focus on action. However, the entire affair feels somewhat spineless, like it’s desperately struggling to strike the line between what fans want and doing something new. For the most part, it fails.
Halo streams on Paramount+ with two episodes on February 8, with new episodes streaming on subsequent Thursdays. Four out of eight episodes reviewed.