After Halo’s previous episode, which finally gave us a chance to see the show seriously play with some of the awsome toys the video game franchise has at its disposal, there was only two ways episode 6 could go. One: follow up and double down on the carnage, going all-in on the war brewing against the UNSC and the Covenant or two: yank back hard on the brake lever and spend an entire episode burrowing ever further into backstories that should have been fleshed out weeks ago. Unsurprisingly, we’re going to have to choke down option two, but despite the understandably budget friendly choice to once again slow everybody’s roll, at least we’ll get a chance to wade through all that character drama that’s built up, right?
After all, not only has Master Chief finally unravelled all the heinous shit Halsey has done in order to get the Spartan programme to be as successful as it is, but Makee, the human agent for the Covenant has decided to finally enter the game fully and make her presence felt. However, while answer are found and reasons are given, episode 6 doesn’t really capitalize on the drama that the aftermath of a vicious ground battle should have given us.
In the bloody aftermath of the Covenant’s ambush on Eridanus II, the UNSC licks its wounds after having the second Forunner artifact swiped from under their very noses. Master Chief now knows his origin – stolen by Halsey from his parents at six years old and replaced with a defective flash clone in order to become the ultimate soldier – and understandably is pretty pissed about it. In fact he’s so pissed, he embarks on a series of interrogations in an attempt to crystallize where exactly he should be placing his trust and even placing Halsey’s life in mortal danger in order to see exactly where AI Cortana’s loyalties truly lie. However, while his raging emotions manage get him some results, important facts still manage to slip between the gaps, such as UNSC higher ups Captain Jacob Keys and Admiral Margaret Parangosky being in on the nastier details of the Spartan programme; on the other hand, his choice to interrogate Makee yields a different kind of result. It seems that she also has the ability to commune with the Keystones and because of this they not only share a unique bond, but his repeated, handsy treatment of the alien artifact has given them a psychic bond, something the Covenant agent immediately starts to take advantage of.
But while Makee is using her huge eyes and her Miley Cyrus hairdo to convince to utilize the Keystone to go further into his memory than ever before, Keys and Parangosky busy themselves making Halsey the scapegoat for the misadventure on Eridanus II and have her confined to quarters. But Halsey is not one to take these sort of things lying down and strives to keep pushing the scientific envelope until she understands everything there is to know about the mysterious Halo.
So it’s with a heavy sigh that we begrudgingly return to the usual grind that Halo viewers have become accustomed to after the action packed, Halo-geek heaven we thrilled to in the previous episode and it’s a frustrating feeling to announce that we’re back to the same old shit. Even the fact that there’s not even the slightest sniff of any of the subplot on Madrigal (something I’d thought would be a mercy), ends up still being a bit iffy as it only reinforces the fact that the rambling adventures of Kwan and Soren are as ineffectual as I’d suspected. What’s worse, there’s no hint of the Covenant either, despite their recent victory that came across as the equivalent of an underdog Superbowl win of deep space conflict which immediately nullifies the threat the notion of a human hating alien race claiming “finders keepers” on something that can lead them to an installation that can obliterate all human life as we know it.
Instead, we’re back to mostly covering old ground concerning Halsey’s questionable tactics involving – well, everything, her daughter’s constant disappointed from being unable to get out from under her mother’s sociopathic shadow, more shadowy shenanigans involving scandal within the UNSC and the increasingly lazy plot trope of having Master Chief obtain further plot point by feeling up that bloody Keystone over and over again.
Yes, the episode takes the opportunity to work on its characterizations, but the real frustrating thing about Solace is that it cuts off all the momentum the action packed previous episode achieved and yet never really advances the plot that much – content to have all of its players run in place like hamsters on an interstellar wheel. While Halsey seems to be paying for her casual crimes against humanity by being under a form of house arrest (with a future lab attached and the world’s most advanced AI in her pocket – surely nothing untoward will happen there), but if it doesn’t actually slow her role much at all as she invites her daughter, Miranda Keyes to visit and uses the time to not only lecture her about how she’s bound to fuck things up (man, helicopter parenting in the 26th century is harsh) but records her voice patterns to be able to earwig in on UNSC’s various projects. We also touch on Jacob Keyes fretting about how deep into viciously nasty human experiments and fascistic notions the governing body has gotten and get a smidge more concerning Kai’s recent emotional freak out in the midst of battle – but what could have been a episode that uses its time out as an opportunity to seriously further such underutilised groups as the other Spartans (how is Master Chief’s backup still mostly ‘roided up cardboard cutouts), wastes it by only moving its pieces around slightly.
So if this episode does so little with so much, why did I grant it as much as three stars? Well primarily because the arrival of Makee not only gives Pablo Schreiber’s Master Chief someone to play off and channel all those emerging emotions until his relationship with Cortana is better defined, but it gives us our first look of the titular Halo. Frankly, its glorious, with the upward pan to reveal its scope mirroring the moment you did the exact same thing with the motion buttons when playing the original game – fuck, it even has the iconic, gregorian chant-style theme tune play only performed with electric guitars! Halo dolly!
While this isn’t enough to make an OK episode anything more than just filler, it’s still these franchise teasing moments that still give me hope that Halo gets to work merging the action and drama more smoothly than simply going round in circles.