The first episode of the Halo TV show apparently did quite well, attracting more viewers than any other Paramount+ premiere. And while opinion on its quality has been divided, one thing nobody seems to be a fan of is how quickly it got around to showing Master Chief’s face. The Mandalorian waited eight episodes, but Halo hit that beat 50 minutes into episode one.
Alex Wakeford, community writer at 343 Industries, has written a recap of the Halo show’s debut for the official Halo Waypoint blog that goes into the thinking behind this decision, and does so at quite some length.
“For fans of our expanded universe,” it reads, “who have read The Fall of Reach and other media centered around the Master Chief, taking the helmet off is something that they’re actually quite used to—our literature and comic formats have allowed for that kind of storytelling. Indeed, even Halo 4 pushed the games closer to this territory in its exploration and deconstruction of his character, beginning with a glimpse of John as a child and ending (if you finished the campaign on Legendary) with a nanosecond glimpse at his eyes after so many years of being under the suit and the countless losses that have weighed on him.”
I enjoy the suggestion that if you’re surprised to see Master Chief’s face, it’s because you’re not a real Halo fan who has read all the books, sorry, “literature and comic formats”, and also finished Halo 4’s campaign on Legendary. The post goes on to point out that while “the games themselves have predominantly been a space for player projection, where you step into the boots of humanity’s greatest hero while playing as him and see through his eyes”, at the same time, “the Chief has never been a true silent protagonist—he is a fully-realized character who brings a great deal of sorrow and pathos along with his unbreakable will and strength.”
Some would argue with “fully-realized character”, but the point is that he has a personality under the motocross helmet. The Spartans may be dehumanized by their augmentation, training, and uniforms, but the moment he removes his helmet is the moment he rejects that. This is a spoiler of course, but Master Chief takes off the helmet to convince someone he’s been ordered to kill that he’s disobeying that order and she can trust him, “he does the one thing he can: he makes himself vulnerable to show her that he is truly, irrevocably human, even if he doesn’t quite understand what that means yet.”
It’s intended to set up “a new Halo story that will be told over the next eight episodes about identity and self-discovery; about systems and morality, and to whom you are loyal”. Maybe they’ll squeeze in some more videogame easter eggs along the way. They could do Metroid next.