With everyone hurting and just a little bit broken at the end of last episode’s devastating Covenant attack, it’s time to put the pieces back in interesting new configurations in episode six of the Halo TV series.
“Solace” is set squarely on the UNSC fortress-world of Reach as everyone deals with the fallout of last week’s Covenant attack and the loss of the second keystone. The Master Chief, furious that everything he’s ever known and believed about himself were carefully crafted lies, plays a dangerous game of chicken with Dr. Halsey. He threatens to kill the mother of the Spartan program in order to provoke Cortana and get the measure of how much control the AI failsafe has over him.
Meanwhile, Makee undergoes interrogation as the UNSC decides whether she’s a reliable source of information, or a planted double agent. It’s here that we finally get a face to face between the Master Chief, the Covenant’s own Demon, and Makee, the Covenant’s Blessed One. The Chief is understandably skeptical about Makee’s offer to locate the other artifact, but she presses the point, revealing that they share an affinity for Forerunner artifacts, a revelation that further unnerves the already rattled Chief.
On the political front, the UEG’s Security Committee is putting the screws on Admiral Parangosky for setbacks such as the loss of the Eridanus artifact to the Covenant and the Spartan program’s increasing unreliability. Threatened from above by bureaucrats and careerists and from below by a manipulative Dr. Halsey, Parangosky decides to hang the latter out to dry in order to placate the former, something that dovetails perfectly with Master Chief John-117’s desire to see justice done.
John barges into the middle of a criminal investigation on Dr. Halsey in order to demand explanations. Gambling on her ability to influence the Spartans, Halsey unloads the whole truth on John: that the Spartan candidates were unwilling children, kidnapped and replaced with flash-clones designed to die and leave no trace while Halsey experimented and augmented the children into perfect, indoctrinated supersoldiers, as well as the next step of planned human evolution.
Halsey’s web of emotional manipulation doesn’t take, with John abandoning her, and giving Admiral Parangosky everything she needs to arrest an incredulous Dr. Halsey and turn over control of the Spartan program to Miranda Keyes. John shares the news with Kai, recovering from her injuries. She’s just as devastated by the revelations surrounding Dr. Halsey, but she’s also incisive enough to ask a question that few dare ask: “John, are you okay?” John is most definitely not okay.
With his emotional anchor undone, saddled with an AI companion he doesn’t trust, disturbed by half-truths from Makee, and suffering mental and physical side effects from exposure to the Madrigal and Eridanus artifacts, John is primed to do something rash, and neither Cortana, Halsey, or anyone else in the UNSC has enough hold on the Chief to stop him.
Trapped in house arrest, Doctor Halsey still has a few cards to play. Engineering a meeting with her daughter Miranda, Halsey puts on a brave front while trying to spin a new web of manipulation. Miranda is having none of that, and leaves. Afterwards, we see that it’s layers of manipulation under manipulation, as it’s revealed that it was all an opportunity for Halsey and her assistant to steal Miranda’s biometrics.
The Chief and Makee meet again, and the Blessed One explains that she suffered the same debilitating physical side effects from exposure to the artifacts that the Chief is going through, until she gave in to the pull of the artifacts and learned to unlock them. She offers to do the same with the Madrigal keystone, offering an out to the suffering Chief. The manipulation is just a bit too obvious for John, who decides to access the artifact himself, with the clandestine help of Miranda Keyes.
With a little help from Cortana, Halsey’s quickly back inside the UNSC’s restricted networks, just in time to surreptitiously observe the test. John places his hands on the artifact, and in sync with Makee, suffers a seizure that almost kills him, but just before the breaking point, he achieves a breakthrough, syncing with the artifact and receiving visions: his childhood, dead Spartan candidates, and finally, at the same time as Makee, a pastoral glimpse of one of the Halo ringworlds. Six episodes in and we finally get a glimpse of the gargantuan megastructures that this franchise is named for.
It’s a pretty neat reveal, and exciting to see where we go with the remaining two episodes. Natascha McElhone’s Dr. Halsey has cemented herself as a personal fave in the series for her methodically amoral manipulativeness. It’s so slimy and I love it. Missing in Halo episode six is the entire Madrigal subplot with Kwan and Soren, and I’m interested in seeing what the supposed desert mystics of Madrigal might reveal as we get in touch with that side of the story.
A concern I’ve got running at the moment is the role that Cortana plays. At this point, any rapport that the AI has with the Chief is shattered, and Cortana is playing right into the hands of (and covertly assisting) Dr. Halsey’s manipulations. How we get to the iconic John-Cortana close-knit duo is still something of a mystery, though given the increasingly skeptical looks that Cortana is giving Dr. Halsey at the end of the episode, I’m thinking that she’s clueing in on the fact that her creator is a lot more shady than she lets out to be.
With the conclusion of episode six, we enter into the final third of the Paramount+ television adaptation of Halo and it’s looking like it’s building up. Catch you next week when episode seven drops, and if you’re interested, check out our other episode summaries and coverage of Halo Infinite.