Halo episode four sees heroes confront truth and trauma

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Episode four of the Halo TV series is titled “Homecoming,” and through its duration the memories of home conceal more sinister truths for many of the characters to come to grips with. The Halo series has been taking its time getting its plot moving, but honestly, I’m having so much fun with its characters that I don’t mind all the meandering and exploration of the universe and its people.

We kick off with a memory from the past of the Spartan program, as children are put through the paces of a route march in the morning fog. We get to see the younger incarnations of Silver Team, Soren, and John. We get to see child John in the brig, detained for trying to escape, and how Dr. Halsey spins a beautiful web of half-truths to make John feel special, wanted, and needed in her supersoldier program. It’s impressive, and also dangerously familiar in its motherly manipulativeness. Halsey can’t maintain it forever and cracks in the palace of lies are starting to show as she and John, now the Master Chief, return to the failed colony of Eridanus, chasing visions of the past.

On Madrigal, an exasperated Soren realizes he may be in over his head while Kwan Ha, fired up with idealism and vengeance, is unable to see how much things have changed on the ground in Governor Vincher’s police state. The memory of her father General Jin Ha and the Ha family wealth actually have far less pull than she had believed. As the tin-pot dictator Governor Vincher, Burn Gorman is really hamming it up as he gallivants around town, smarmily quoting Shakespeare, and contracting a disturbingly efficient assassin to deal with Kwan Ha.

Kwan is able to make contact with an aunt who urges her to forsake revenge, while revealing that General Jin Ha wasn’t just fighting for ideological reasons, but for mystical ones. That’s as far as the aunt can get before Vincher’s hired assassin shows up and kills her, and nearly takes out Kwan if not for a timely intervention from Soren.

Perhaps the most refreshing addition to the side plots is Spartan Kai-125, Silver Team’s sniper played by Kate Kennedy, and her unexpected journey of self-discovery and rebellion. My fear was that she’d simply be narc on the Master Chief when he removed his emotional inhibitor implant last episode, but I was surprised with the direction she takes: rebellion. Kai decides to surreptitiously remove her own emotional inhibitor, and she takes the time to reflect and look at herself and her place in the UNSC in a new light.

A far more animated, almost manically intense Kai shares moments of levity with the rest of Fireteam Silver as well as Miranda Keyes. Kai dares to broach a previously unspoken resentment to Miranda: the Spartans are sharp, clever, learned geniuses, but the UNSC treat them like tools or weapons rather than the emotionally stunted persons they are.

Halo episode four

It’s a jab that shakes Miranda’s core, but also leads to an unexpected bond of trauma between her and Kai. Both are in their own way wronged by an overbearing and controlling “mother,”Dr. Halsey. That bond grows as Miranda enlists Silver Team’s help in deciphering the Madrigal artifact and intercepted Covenant communications, and their banter is adorable.

On Eridanus II, the Master Chief continues to act increasingly off leash, bringing back memories of his childhood with the visualization aid of a mystified but increasingly involved Cortana, while Dr. Halsey and her skeevy assistant Saly look on with alarm at Chief’s newfound willfulness. The Chief relives suppressed memories of a mostly happy childhood, one that increasingly doesn’t match the narrative of plague and orphanage given to him by Doctor Halsey, and it’s a discrepancy that Halsey’s favored child can’t ignore any longer. In the end, he’s able to recall the location of the artifact, but also remembers enough to suspect that Dr. Halsey has been lying to him for some time now.

As Kai and Miranda trauma bond over their parallel experiences with Doctor Halsey, we get to see more parting shots. On Madrigal, Kwan Ha and Soren flee from Vincher’s assassin, into the desert and a new mystery. On Eridanus, an agitated Master Chief tracks down the second artifact in the ruins of the Eridanus colony. Dr. Halsey, worried, is beginning to realize that things have begun to spin out of her control and the beautiful palace of lies she’s built around John-117 is on the verge of collapse, even as they reclaim the second piece of the Keystone artifact.

Thematically, I loved this episode. There’s been a fair amount to chew on with regards to themes of memory and home, identity and family, and the continued slow unravelling of Dr. Halsey’s manipulative emotional grip on the Spartans. Kai and Miranda are, dare I say, adorable together, and it’s welcome seeing the rest of Silver Team’s Spartans, Vannak and Riz get fleshed out a bit more. The dynamic between the Chief and Cortana is likely to get more important as the series continues and Dr. Halsey realizes she may need to enable Cortana’s ability to override the Chief’s consciousness.

Halo episode four

After all, according to her daughter Miranda, Halsey doesn’t tolerate glitches. More of the Halsey and Miranda dynamic is implied in Miranda’s condemnation and grudging admiration for her mother’s amorally efficient genius. Kwan Ha and Soren are fleeing the capital of Madrigal towards the desert and its mysteries, Vincher’s assassin hot on their trail. Everyone has had a glimpse of home, literally and metaphorically, and found it perhaps weirder than they first understood or remembered. The one missing plotline absent this entire episode? Makee the Blessed One and her ghost ship of Covenant infiltrators, slowly making their way through human space in search of the Madrigal keystone.

With episode four, we’re just about midway through the Halo TV series’ first season, and while every new plot hook has been fascinating, I hope they’ll begin to tie everything together soon, or things could spiral out into a multi-threaded narrative mess. Join us again next week for our recap of the next episode of the Halo TV series, or perhaps check out our earlier coverage and episode summaries here.