The following contains spoilers from the first episode of Paramount+’s Halo, which the streamer said on Friday has set a record as its most-watched series premiere of all-time in the U.S. and internationally.
Fans of the Halo video games literally saw a new side of Master Chief if they tuned in for the premiere of Paramount+’s TV series of the same name — in that aka John-117 removed his armored helmet, at a pivotal moment.
The dramatic reveal came toward the end of the first episode, after Master Chief (played by Pablo Schreiber) decided to ignore an order from the UNSC to terminate Kwan Ha, the young survivor of the Madrigal massacre (played by Yerin Ha). Already bit loopy from the UNSC’s attempt to stymie their rogue Spartan by depleting his Condor transport ship’s oxygen, Kwan sneaked up on her “captor” while toting his rifle. The young woman demanded to know what he was up to and refused to believe that a Spartan of all things was looking out for her best interests.
Master Chief first scoffed at the thought that Kwan could make a dent in his Mjolnir Powered Assault Armor, but then drove home his declaration to protect her by removing his helmet, and inviting her to get off a kill shot at his exposed head. Moved by the gesture, Kwan ceded the weapon, only to have John-117 slide it back to her as they readied for the fight ahead. (Though as it turned out, Master Chief’s activation of the artifact found on Madrigal let loose an energy pulse that neutered the UNSC, allowing their Condor to escape into Slipspace.)
The significance of Master Chief, the face of the Halo franchise, doffing his helmet for the first time ever is no less than “huge,” says Pablo Schreiber, front man for the Paramount+ series.
“In the games, you’ve obviously never seen Chief with his helmet off, and the reason for that dynamic is because it’s a first-person shooter and you don’t want to blow the effect of the player feeling like they’re Chief,” the actor explains. “That’s sort of the conduit. That’s how you play the game through his eyes and in his shoes.”
But in adapting the character for an ongoing TV series, “It was necessary to basically ask the viewer to get rid of that dynamic,” says Schreiber. “You’re no longer a co-creator of this experience. You’re now being asked to put the controller down, sit down on the couch, and join Chief on a journey where he’s going to learn about his humanity in a way he hasn’t before. And through that process, we as an audience will learn things about him that we never knew before.”
Master Chief wasn’t the only rogue actor in the series premiere. For as the UNSC aimed to have Kwan murdered, and then readied an all-out offensive against one of their own after he disobeyed the kill order, Dr. Catherine Halsey (played by Natascha McElhone) — creator of the supersoldier program — privately pulled aside Spartans Vannak-134, Riz-028 and Kai-125 and tasked them with protecting their colleague against any and all threats, even from “friendlies.”
Halsey then observed with great interest (and a slight smile) as Master Chief proved steadfast in his own defiance, then as the other Spartans prepared to counter the UNSC’s assault on his Condor, and most of all when the mysterious artifact (with which John-117 has an unusual connection) proved to abet his escape from Reach.
Assessing Halsey’s bold move, McElhone told TVLine, “I think she’s always been manipulating the UNSC people who work around her, including [Admiral] Parangosky. And I think Parangosky knows that she’s being manipulated most of the time, but she just finds Halsey impossible to deal with, because at the same time she’s a genius and she’s delivering great resources that they need.
“There’s a Frankenstein element to Halsey, isn’t there?” mused her portrayer. “She has this hubris, and she creates her ‘monsters,’ if you like, or her creations. And even though she has honorable intent, there’s this constant interplay where it’s her ego versus something that’s for the universal social good.”