Halo Season 2 Review: The Fall Of Reach Falls Flat

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Written By Sedoso Feb

There’s a lot to say about what “Halo” season 2 isn’t – and we’ll get to it, trust me — but what does this latest installment of the series actually have to offer? The early returns are quite promising, believe it or not.

After quickly backtracking on some of the stickier creative choices made in the season 1 finale (among them, Master Chief essentially dying and respawning under the control of artificial intelligence Cortana), we pick up six months later on the battlefield. Spartan 117 and his Silver Team, who enjoy a much more in-depth team dynamic between original characters Kai (Kate Kennedy), Vannak (Bentley Kalu), and Riz (Natasha Culzac), engage Covenant forces conquering the scattered Outer Colonies at an unprecedented rate. 

Weiner, his directing team (made up of Debs Paterson and Craig Zisk), and cinematographer Carl Sundberg instantly bring a much-improved sense of visual clarity and energy to the fights — accomplished, ironically enough, by muddying up the action and hiding the dodgier bits of VFX work behind tactile environmental effects like rain and fog, hard-hitting fight choreography, and kinetic camerawork along with appropriately moody lighting. (Those distracting in-helmet POV shots from season 1, meant to evoke first-person shooters, are thankfully discarded entirely.) All end up working in sync to help sell when punches land and bullets strike between Spartans and Covenant aliens.

Elsewhere, the main dramatic thrust of the season provides reason for optimism. Chief and his Spartans, still dealing with PTSD and debilitating scars from their previous battles, remain unhappy about receiving a steady stream of low-risk missions and “babysitting” duties that keep them away from the front lines. John in particular is singled out as unfit for duty due to his mental instability, while injured teammate Riz receives the meatiest subplot as she ponders life outside the strict, suffocating Spartan routine. The introduction of new characters, like the overly antagonistic intelligence officer James Ackerson (a capable, if one-note Joseph Morgan) and Marine Corporal Perez (Cristina Rodlo), brings up an interesting thread about how our heroes exist merely to feed the military’s propaganda machine.

Nestled amid all of this politicking resides the hint of a theme about how the Spartans’ specialized MJOLNIR armor isn’t what makes them who they are. “Everyone knows the Master Chief,” one character points out in the season premiere, “I wonder if anyone really knows John.” Instead, it’s the very real, very flawed human inside that matters most.


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