We know from the start that Halo the series would break away from the established tradition of Microsoft’s beloved gaming franchise to offer its own version of the familiar beats and ideas that have been touched on in more than 20 years of related games, books and comics, and more. But one of its most fascinating differences so far are how it gives us a rather literal look at the humanity of its main hero.
Much of the execution of “Contact”, the first episode of the Halo television series, tells how the Master Chief, played by Pablo Schreiber, comes to terms with the idea that not only is the UNSC – the organization he was forged to fight for, no matter the cost – morally suspect, but that he is indeed able to rebel against years of training, motivation, and a fair amount of mental programming to challenge his relationship with her. The climax of the episode saw two unprecedented things happen: the first was that the Master Chief chose to defy a direct order from the UNSC, after ONI leader Admiral Parangosky (Shabana Azmi), ordered him to execute young Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha), the sole survivor of an insurgent colony outpost slaughtered by the alien Covenant. It’s not anything particularly new for fans of the games or Halothis is the greatest tie-in fiction; later entries in the series as Halo 5: Guardians explored the idea that the leader is “temporarily going rogue” and the murky ethical view of the UNSC as factual point of view for Haloworld building beyond games has been questioned practically since the very first transmedia Halo fiction.
The second thing was perhaps the most shocking and certainly the most controversial for Halo fans: Master Chief has proven his willingness to protect Kwan and turn on the UNSC by removing his helmet. Although by necessity in the broad sense Halo tradition there have been times when the chef-alias John-117 – was disarmed or unmasked, games in particular still feverishly avoided showing his face. Seeing Pablo Schreiber’s clean-shaven, scarred, rugged yet serious face staring intently at the camera — and then continuing not to wear his helmet — is a surprisingly significant moment for the franchise. But it’s also about an attempt to do something with Master Chief that the Halo games have long struggled to do: make him feel more human than his larger-than-life status as this muscular, one-handed armor-clad savior of humanity.
There have been times in games to explore this of course, especially in Chief’s relationship with his AI companion Cortana – but from her first-person perspective to her relentless desire to always keep the human face hidden behind Master Chief’s green and orange helmeted face, the Halo the games have has long made John a shell for gamers, more than a deeply studied individual character. That’s what the games’ power fantasy is all about: you step into the Master Chief’s armor, being the hero, rather than necessarily exploring John’s journey. Halo the seriesThe immediate decision to remove this layer of armor from Master Chief and show him in a moment of deep vulnerability by going against this “unspoken rule” of the games is an immediate and effective way to show fans the different path. but familiar with the show wants to descend in its exploration of the franchise’s larger history.
It is managed in a fascinating way beyond the simple shock of Schreiber’s face being clear to all. The few most “gamified” moments of the first episode come in its action sequences during the Covenant’s opening attack, where the leader and his team of Spartan warriors fend off the alien invaders, briefly throwing us in The Master Chief’s point of view. We see the HUD inside his helmet, hear the flickering of shields recharging, and hold his assault rifle to him to blast an Elite Imaging immediately, recognizeskillfully, Halo, because that’s what we see in games. When John unmasks himself to Kwan at the episode’s climax, the reaction of the UNSC officers watching him from their base is shocking, as they can no longer see themselves through his visor, no longer follow directly. what John does and what he says and sees. . Control of his armor, a tool of the technological and propagandistic power of the UNSC, is cut in the singular act of allowing us to see Master Chief as a human being, literally and metaphorically.
The second episode of Halo“Unbound”, in which John and Kwan meet with a former Spartan and now fellow thug, Soren of Bokeem Woodbine, to discuss why they felt the need to flee the UNSC, explores this newfound interest in the connection between Master Chief’s armor and his vulnerability as a person. Is Nnow framed, unlike Soren’s scamfiercely hardened stance against the UNSC, with John’s protected naivety having been forced to grow up knowing only his new life as a weapon of what is now Soren’s enemy. Once again, Chief’s helmet becomes an important mask for him, one he lowers when in Kwan and Soren’s presence, but puts it back on when he first enters the hideout. of the latter’s asteroids, a shield to keep the eyes away from Kwan and firmly on him.
As the episode goes on and Chief talks to Soren more about the life he leadsd after escaping the Spartan program, Chief begins to withdraw more and more of his armor beyond the helmet, to the point where he literally walks around in his underwear, virtually naked without the layers of bulky green plating that had him transformed into a walking pool. It’s supposed to be an unsettling sight for Halo fans to see John in this moment of personal crisis, unsure of his path and what he believes in. fits the almost foreign idea of being asked to examine one’s physique in this way – broad, bulky and muscular, but shaped like a the person, not a Spartan. The iconic imagery of Halo the franchise is taken from him, piece by piece, until John is most spiritually and literally exposed.
Alas, it’s not really to last – “Unbound” feels a bit like a regression from the promise of the first episode, so much so that with little rhyme or reason, Master Chief decides to leave Kwan in care. of Soren and return to the fold of the UNSC, his former defiance and disbelief in his moral integrity remained untouched by his end. But even then, we can still glimpse here and there those moments of Master Chief’s humanity – the unknown sight of his face, his body, his literative presence as a person. Everywhere that Halo goes from here in his exploration and alternate rotation franchise history will arguably remain one of its most daringly controversial and interesting milestones, far from what fans expected from the series.
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