After our episode long, momentum destroying jaunt to Madrigal in order to round off the arcs of two supporting characters, we’re back to the main thread just in time for the last two episodes of the season.
With all the main threads buzzing about, including Master Chief’s tumultuous emotions, the question of Makee’s allegiance, the continuous scheming of Halsey or the continuous inability of UNSC command to actually make a smart decision, it was only a matter of time before it started raining payoff despite the show trailing off to deal with Kwan and Soren. However, episode 8 ends up being something of a case of being careful what you wish for as all the tension that’s been building finally snaps – but ends up doing so in a way that feels so rushed and unearned, it makes you hate the previous episode even more.
After the Keystone has allowed them to communicate with their minds, Spartan legend John – 117 (aka. Master Chief) and Covenant agent Makee are bonding fast and even seal their brief relationship with a quick bit of sex, but as he continues his interrogation of his fellow “Blessed One” in the form of a courtship straight out of a romantic movie, his superiors are worried that their hulking killing machine has lost his edge and treat Makee with high levels of distrust. However, it seems that Makee genuinely has renounced the Covenant in favour of John and even goes as far as painfully removing the energy blade she has hidden in a fake fingernail.
However, while John believes Makee can be a valuable ally and wants her to aid him in finding the Halo to destroy the murderous aliens once and for all, forces within the UNSC are moving against her. Not only has Miranda Keyes discovered from an audio recording that it was Makee who led the earlier assault on a UNSC craft, but Halsey, still confined to quarters, manages to hack into the Spartan’s coms and convince Riz, Vannak and Kai that Master Chief has been compromised by his starry-eyed paramour, ordering them to take out their boss with maximum force and kill Makee.
Questioning Halsey’s orders, Kai is forcibly restrained by her comrades who then lay in wait to spring their trap, but Cortana finally chooses between her creator, Halsey, and John by warning him about the approaching tornado of fists and feet heading his way.
In the ensuing carnage, some plans finally come to fruition while other alliances are shattered that sets the stage for all the players to air their personal shit on a galactic stage.
Well, episode 8 brings us something of a good news/bad news scenario as while we finally get back on track with the main thread of the show (which, in case we forget, is supposed to be a frickkin’ space war), Allegiance boasts some distractingly shoddy writing in order to galvanise the various storylines into action. Remember the complaints people had with the Games Of Thrones finale and how it seems that an extra season would have been necessary for a lot of the character twists to feel earned and natural – it’s the same here, as an extra episode detailing exactly why some of the characters (primarily Halsey) feel the need to pull the trigger on their nefarious plans seemingly at random. As a result, Natascha McElhone’s slow burning turn from obsessed futurist to ruthless mad scientist suddenly gets fast tracked into Bond villain territory as she suddenly goes from subtly tugging on strings to yanking on them with the force of a jacked up bell ringer. As she goes full Frankenstein, even her creepy-ass assistant decides to go full Igor as he shrilly freaks out at Cortana’s betrayal or just generally continues being vaguely annoying.
Also suddenly going by bewilderingly fast is Makee’s story and the episode sees her going from Master Chief’s friend, to soul mate, to lover and then flips the script and has the UNSC try to kill her. As a result she switches from turning her back on the Covenant and siding with the humans to the extent that she self mutilates herself, to going right back to despising humans after the UNSC treat her with their usual heavy hand in the space of a single episode. Both characters twists happen so fast they seem less like a natural progression and more like the writers desperately trying to fast track everything to get their affairs in order in time for the finale.
It works, just, but it’s also as elegant as a ballet dancing elephant with an inner ear problem and it sacrifices a whole bunch of nuance in order to get to the rough stuff. The result ends up being something of a double-edged energy blade as anyone getting irritated with all the slow paced plotting will be relieved to be getting to a point where everything is finally in motion without the aid of yet another shock Covenant attack, but it does so at the expense of any common sense. Why would any of the people involved metaphorically flip the table at random after showing so much patience up until now and in such a messy way?
However, while a few characters suffer from the episode’s drop in IQ, one group that oddly benefits is the Spartans. Transformed from loyal partners to hulking henchmen by the simple fact that they simply don’t question orders, both Vannak and Riz finally have a role to play and the two-on-one smackdown they inflict on Master Chief not only is satisfyingly brutal, but it perfectly encapsulates the entire storyline concerning the Spartans and their lack of free will as their effortlessly turned on their own. Also coming through in a pinch is Kai, using her lack of emotion suppressors to question her orders and even defend Master Chief with a last second save that proves to be immensely satisfying.
However, possibly benefiting from the episode the most is Cortana, who, despite spending most of the episode simply observing with enigmatic looks on her face (even, disturbingly, while John and Makee are getting it on), finally works out her shit with Master Chief and actually sees her working with the big guy as a team, remotely driving a Warthog jeep directly into Vannak and alerting her partner when danger is near.
Whether this messy bout of character shuffling will pay off and lead into a satisfactory final episode is anyone’s guess, but despite seeming lazy at this juncture, another quick push on the Covenant button would probably seem to be the way to go after such an uneven series of events.
In some ways, it almost makes me long to go back to Madrigal… almost.