The guns go off for episode eight of the Halo TV series

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The Halo TV series has spent a lot of time laying out its Chekhovian guns, and many of them go off in episode eight, mostly to good effect. “Allegiance” is well titled, as scrambled loyalties, and new bonds are put to the test, and a satisfying Heel Face Turn finally happens.

The show has been building the connection between the Master Chief John-117 and Makee; both broken, unmoored from loyalties that once seemed solidly anchored, and bound by a shared sensitivity with Forerunner artifacts, to the point of having simultaneous mystic visions of the Halo. Episode eight of Halo begins with a walk in the park, John trying to show Makee a gentler side to humanity, a date that sends Admiral Parangosky seething. John trusts Makee enough to convince a skeptical but desperate UNSC to let her commune with the artifact on Reach in order to find the Halo. Makee, also against all duty to the Covenant, is falling for John.

On the eve of the test, the two have sex. And it’s played seriously but feels awkward and silly, leading to more than a few funny and baffled and eyerolling reactions online. But at the same time, feels perfectly in character, if a bit weird in the age gap.

John’s around 40 in the Silver Timeline of the show, but has never really had to learn to deal with raging hormones thanks to his (now removed) emotional suppression implant. Makee, kidnapped and indoctrinated by the Covenant, still fixates on a childhood romance novel as a relic of her human past, and is now learning that her species can be more than just violent monsters and brutalizers. Both have just gone through a hell of a mystic experience. I’m wishing for an alternate universe where this scene and the buildup to it could have been handled better. Still, a lovely bit right after as Makee makes her own choice, painfully ripping out the plasma blade hidden underneath her fingernail, a visceral indicator that she’s throwing her lot with humanity, something she may come to regret.

Halo episode eight

On the absolute opposite end of the spectrum is Dr. Catherine Halsey, ever the intelligent manipulator, using every connection and relationship to her advantage, to the point that her partner in crime, Jacob Keyes begins to balk, discovering conscience and culpability rather late. Halsey even tries to use Makee’s budding relationship with John in a wonderfully callous and manipulative conversation that highlights human venality, greed, and violence. Her emotional salvo against Makee perhaps also displays a bit of underlying jealousy that she, Halsey, is no longer the emotional center of her favored Spartan’s universe. Even that doesn’t take.

It seems like Halsey has no more cards to play, but on the eve of the artifact test, she makes her move. Using biometrics stolen from her daughter Miranda, Halsey slips into the UNSC’s networks, contacts the rest of Silver Team, and activates Plan Zed. Halsey tells her Spartans that the artifact has corrupted key members of UNSC command and the Chief, that only Dr. Halsey can be trusted, and that Silver Team is to steal the artifact, abduct the Chief and Makee, and then bring them to Halsey so they can escape Reach. Silver Team gets ready to pull off the plan, but Kai-125, emotional inhibitors off and aware of Halsey’s manipulations thanks to the Chief, balks. Vannak and Riz, unswervingly loyal to their “mother”, incapacitate Kai, and then get to work.

There’s one far bigger hurdle to Halsey’s coup, an ally she had taken for granted, Cortana. Halsey’s AI spends good chunks of this episode being witness to the depths of the doctor’s capacity for misinformation and manipulation. Halsey’s naked power grab is a step too far, and Cortana alerts the Chief and Makee to what’s coming, a heel to face turn that couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Chief has to fight off Vannak and Riz, both coming at him in fully augmented Mjolnir armor. It’s actually a pretty neat fight scene, with the Chief working off Cortana’s alerts and advice, improvising weapons and tools and putting the environment to good use in something that finally looks like the tight combat bond we’ve been waiting to see. Still, even Cortana’s combat guidance and last minute intervention from a furious Kai only barely bring the fight to a tense stalemate.

Halo episode eight

Makee makes it to the test site, calling for help, while Kai raises the alarm about Halsey’s escape plan. It’s right at this point that a furious Miranda Keyes drops the bombshell that Makee is a Covenant spy, and that Miranda has proof that Makee massacred a UNSC frigate crew (all the way back in episode 3). A zealous guard assaults Makee with a shock rod, triggering flashbacks to her past as a child laborer brutalized in just the same way. Admiral Parangosky vows vengeance for her murdered crew. Makee, her traumatic past made fresh again, responds in kind, reaching for the artifact, sending a wave of energy ripping through the UNSC headquarters in Reach, and ending with a cliffhanger, and Makee saying goodbye to John in a vision of the ringworld.

I’m of two minds with episode eight of Halo. The groundwork for the John-Makee romance plot was kinda laid out. It makes narrative sense, but the sexual culmination of that romance feels really awkward. It’s going to divide show and game fans not used to seeing the Chief in any relationship besides the platonic Cortana one from the games (and I’ve never been more glad for the strict split between the Silver Timeline and the game canon). But the tension ratcheting and thriller moments also felt really spot on. It’s mostly a hit for me, but with a lot of awkwardness along the way, and now we’ve got a hell of a cliffhanger set up ahead of this season’s finale.

Episode nine, “The Fall of Reach,” anyone?