Episode five of the Halo TV series blows everything wide open

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Last week, we saw cracks forming in Dr. Halsey’s palace of lies, but episode five of the Halo TV series tears the gates wide open and sets the whole edifice on fire, with a little help from the Eridanus artifact. Bonds between fireteam and family are tested, bent, and in some cases outright broken. About the only thing that keeps everything from blowing up in Halsey’s face is a vicious Covenant strike that wraps up the episode. Strap in for this week’s recap of the Halo TV series, marines, this episode’s a banger.

Episode 5, “Reckoning”, starts off with another flashback to the Eridanus colony, where Dr. Halsey and Captain Keyes pose as potential colonists for the Reach for Life project, while scouting out child candidates for the Spartan project, putting the lie to Halsey’s story of willingly recruiting young John and the other children who would become her Spartans. In the present, Captain Jacob Keyes brings in his daughter Miranda to the Eridanus dig site – the hope is that Miranda can finally show Dr. Halsey, her mother, what she can do as a researcher. Halsey, on the other hand, continues to give her daughter the cold shoulder, and I really wonder what the hell is going on between the two.

On another front, Spartan Kai-152 continues to broaden her horizons, pestering her comrade Vannak-134 with questions about what the Covenant really want out of the war. Vannak doesn’t really wonder about these things. An inquisitive Kai asks her fellow Spartan if “you ever wonder why you don’t wonder why?” Vannak, ever the steady machine, retorts “I wonder if all that gun grease in your hair didn’t seep down into your brain, asking me dumbass questions like that.” It’s indicative of a rift forming between Kai and the dour, quietly efficient Vannak and Riz.

Halo episode five

The Master Chief isn’t blind to the changes in Kai. He confronts her, berating her for removing her emotional regulator and removing her from combat duty, accusing her of being distracted and emotional. It’s a pretty hypocritical take from the Chief, and Kai knows it. While Silver Team’s sniper complies, she also calls bullshit on the Chief. As she storms off, Cortana chimes in: “She’s right…I’m proud of Kai for standing up for herself. Studies show a little pushback is healthy in a relationship.” The Chief is not in the mood. “Stop talking. I can’t hear myself think.” “Well I can,” Cortana retorts, “and you’re not missing much.” A wider emotional range evidently doesn’t come with a broader sense of self-awareness for the agitated Master Chief.

On Madrigal, Soren has just about had it with Kwan Ha’s revolutionary pipe dream. The renegade Spartan handcuffs Kwan to his broken dirtbike while he goes off to find a different way offworld. Kwan, furious, does her best to break free. More on that, later.

Distracted and anxious, the Master Chief turns to the only other authority figure he trusts completely: Captain Jacob Keyes, sharing his recovered memories with his Captain, and how he’s sure that Dr. Halsey is lying to him and the other Spartans about their origins. Keyes puts on a concerned face, and then tells the Chief that he’s personally going to confront Dr. Halsey about this. What the Chief doesn’t know is that Captain Keyes is complicit with Dr. Halsey in the dirty history of the Spartan program.

A three way conference begins between a worried Keyes, a seething Admiral Parangosky, and Dr. Halsey doing everything in her power to feign control of the situation. John’s incomplete memories threaten to expose the dirty side of Spartan history. Again, Parangosky threatens to pull the plug on Halsey, and again, Halsey threatens to blackmail the Admiral, leaving the three in a tenuous balance of power and complicity. Keyes wants Miranda taken off the artifact project in order to keep her hands clean, a surprising about-face, and perhaps a sign that the roadblocks Miranda has faced may have less to do with Dr. Halsey, and more about her father Captain Keyes wanting to keep his daughter away from the UNSC’s dirty work.

Halo episode five

UNSC testing on the Eridanus artifact activates the dormant relic, sending an energy pulse that stuns many of the researchers on-site, while also alerting Makee and her Covenant force of its location from lightyears away, setting up a climactic battle for the end of today’s ep, but we’ve got a few more emotional confrontations rolling in before all that.

At the research station, Miranda Keyes is elated to be working on site with the artifact, and is busy analyzing the data pulse the relic sent out, only to be brought short by her father and told that she’s being pulled from the project. The pieces start to fall into place for Miranda as she realizes her father is possibly more responsible for the bureaucratic limbo she’s in than Halsey. Embittered, she asks Captain Keyes what’s really up and what hold Halsey has over him.

At the dig site, an increasingly erratic Master Chief decides to take matters into his own hand. Frustrated by the lack of information about his childhood and now openly suspicious of Halsey’s motherly manipulations, he takes the risk of using the artifact for one more glimpse of his past. What it shows brings Chief’s relationship with Halsey to the breaking point: a vision of the young John being kidnapped by the doctor and a squad of UNSC goons. Dr. Halsey tries to calm down the Chief with another web of reassurances, but the enraged Spartan isn’t having any of it. He’s within moments of striking Halsey down before Cortana pulls the plug on the Chief’s neural link, knocking him out.

On Madrigal, Soren returns to pick up Kwan and the ruined motorbike, only to find her missing. As Soren tries to figure out what’s going on, Kwan leaps out from ambush and manages to strike Soren down with a stun baton. We’re left with a shot of a shaking Kwan leveling Soren’s gold-plated revolver at the unconscious Spartan.

Halo episode five

The Chief wakes up to the beginnings of a Covenant attack, and the Halo live action series gets to flex its CGI muscles again with an explosive battle scene that could easily have been lifted from the games. As Covenant Banshee fighters seize air superiority, the Chief rallies Silver Team to protect the artifact and bring it to safety. We get our first looks at some of the other Covenant species, such as the waddling Grunts (Unggoy) and the agile and spindly Kig-Yar, who swarm over the UNSC defenses. It’s a pretty rousing action sequence, truth be told, with a lot of fun moments that would be right at home in the games, from Kai sniping away at Banshee fighters, the dreaded pink mist of the Covenant needler, and some fierce melee combat.

The battle also reveals how removing the emotional dampener has affected Kai and the Chief. As the battle rages, the full spectrum of sensation and emotion washes over Silver Team’s sniper, triggering a combat stress reaction as she becomes overwhelmed. There’s a slightly distasteful implication of feminine hysteria in how it’s portrayed in Kai’s case, but it’s uncertain to say for sure. It doesn’t quite sit right, even though the narrative point was there to be made.

Meanwile, the Chief doesn’t seem as fazed (designated main character mental plot armor!) he’s also a lot more intense in the flow of combat, and loses sight of the bigger battle as he unleashes his wrath on the Elite pummeling Kai. That moment of distraction gives a towering Brute chieftain the chance to knock the Chief aside, seize the artifact and escape on a Spirit dropship as Halsey and Miranda look on in defeat. As the battered UNSC troops pick up the pieces from the drubbing they just received, they get a parting gift from the Covenant: Makee, the Blessed One, who spirits away in a Covenant escape pod to try to look like an escaped prisoner.

There’s a lot going in this week’s episode, but now it actually feels like the plot and characters are moving, rather than just adding new complexities. The Master Chief’s trust in Dr. Halsey has hit a breaking point, Miranda Keyes is waking up to her father’s BS, and Makee is making her play to infiltrate the UNSC by posing as an escaped Covenant prisoner. How deep does the rabbit hole go with the Silver Timeline‘s version of the origins of the Spartans, and how will events on Madrigal turn out now that Kwan has turned on Soren? And will John-117 and Cortana ever get along? I’m hooked, and I’m chuffed that the next installment is a week away.