Halo 1.2: “Unbound” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Halo” are present in this review



Halo made a big decision by having iconic protagonist, Master Chief remove his helmet at the end of its first episode, a massive departure from the source games that have consistently left Chief masked. This angle of a more humanized, relatable Master Chief also became the core focus in the series’ second episode, “Unbound”, which continues to develop the Spartans, the UNSC and the Covenant as they exist in this show’s universe, while also delving into a surprising connection from Chief’s past, and how it may come to his aid in the present.

That connection is another character that should be recognizable to anyone that’s dug into the Halo video game franchise’s extended lore, Soren-066, played by Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Bokeem Woodbine. Soren happened to flee the UNSC as an adolescent, attempting to take Chief with him, back when he was just John-117, though John ultimately refused to escape. This is in line with Chief as the loyal servant of Catherine Halsey and the UNSC, and this flashback feels well-timed, considering that Chief just enormously broke protocol by fleeing with Kwan in the present. That fleeing effort eventually takes both Chief and Kwan to a lawless outer colony called ‘The Rubble’, where Soren just so happens to have taken up residence with a wife and child.

Admittedly, Halo is still figuring itself out a bit here. Its pacing is still a little wonky, particularly with no action to speak of in this episode, and its dense lore still feels a little impenetrable at this point. That being said, “Unbound” does tighten the narrative a bit, particularly when it comes to better fleshing out Chief’s character in particular, one that’s effectively improved by the presence of Soren. Woodbine’s Soren is a very likable presence as well, being fulfilled, lively and not truly bitter about Chief refusing to aid his escape when they were children. The two do still have a bit of a tense rapport at times, but it’s easy to get the impression that Soren will nonetheless be a steadfast ally, something that’s more or less cemented after Chief leaves Kwan with Soren, so he can surrender to the UNSC.

Over on the UNSC end, the story doesn’t move forward nearly as much, but it does make some positive movement when it comes to Halsey’s place in the ensemble, as well as her imminent creation of Chief’s recognizable A.I. sidekick, Cortana. There’s some hullabaloo about Silver Team having to go off to recapture Chief, something that’s used to further hint the obvious, namely that Halsey is mentally conditioning the Spartans, and keeping them in the dark about it. This ends up being moot in the end though, because Chief surrenders voluntarily. Still, small developments like Halsey getting the green light to condition Chief with Cortana, and Miranda getting shut out of the UNSC’s efforts to study the mysterious artifact that reacts to Chief, are worthwhile enough to keep you engaged in the UNSC’s current stake in the war.

Oh, and speaking of that artifact, it finally revealed something that’s crucial to Halo lore, namely the foundation of the Covenant’s, “Great journey” to activate Halo, a Forerunner super-weapon that would destroy all life in the galaxy if it were ever used. The alien Forerunners aren’t mentioned at this point, but after coming into contact with a crazed prisoner that survived a Covenant kidnapping on The Rubble, Chief finally learns about what’s at stake in the Covenant war, at least, to some degree. Truth be told, it’s this episode’s Covenant side plot that provides a bit more clarity here, as Makee meets with the Prophets that lead the Covenant, seemingly implying that the Forerunner artifact also responds to her. I’m especially curious to see where this series plans to go with Makee’s character, because she’s an original personality that doesn’t exist in the mainline Halo game canon, making her an intriguing wild card regarding how the Covenant plan to locate and use Halo, and how Master Chief and the UNSC may struggle to spot a stop to that.

Finally, this episode reveals what exactly happened during the fallout of the Covenant attack on Madrigal. With the colony’s former leadership decimated, Madrigal has now fallen under the control of warlord, Vishner Grath, played by Burn Gorman. He was briefly glimpsed on a TV screen during the first episode, but now, Vishner is here in the flesh, executing rebels and hamming it up. This creates another interesting human threat to Kwan, Chief and the UNSC at large, I imagine. Much of Halo’s debut season will probably still be working through the ongoing human civil war from here, rather than properly pitting the UNSC full-scale against the Covenant, but Gorman’s reliable eccentricity helps to make his character distinct and threatening, even when he would appear to be fully removed from the Covenant threat at this point.

Halo may still be figuring out its identity, and how it wishes to coexist with the sprawling mythology of its source material, but the series did get a bit better during its second episode. “Unbound” does a good job of justifying an unmasked Chief, along with providing solid introductions to Soren and Vishner. Halsey being approved to use Cortana on Chief after his surrender is also exciting, as it will finally unite this pair of established leads from the Halo video games. The narrative is still a little messy in some places, and the clumsy pacing remains a problem for now, but what’s important is that Halo appears to be moving in a forward direction, even while making the bold decision to deviate heavily from how its iconic protagonist was formerly depicted.

Halo still struggles with a slightly messy narrative in its second episode, but its improved examination of Master Chief is nudging the series in a forward direction.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Soren and Vishner make a strong first impression
Does a good job of justifying an unmasked Master Chief
Halsey finally being approved to activate Cortana
Still hits audiences with too much dense plotting
Narrative pacing is still a bit wonky