The first thing I noticed when booting up Reckoning is that it only runs 39:31, more than 10 minutes shorter than most of Halo’s first four episodes. My assumption was that this shortened runtime meant the episode’s budget would be eaten up by a large-scale action sequence or CGI showcase. I was correct. For the last 10 minutes or so, Reckoning manages to accidentally fall ass-first into what a Halo show should actually be — large-scale graphic violence with a variety of alien species and cool sci-fi weaponry. It doesn’t do so without a fight, though; the writers behind the show fill the whole sequence with self-referential humor, as if they can’t believe they’re really giving into what fans of the franchise are looking for amid their meandering, meaningless dramatic B-plots. Still, good on them for actually making the show interesting, if only for a fraction of the fifth episode.
Most of this chapter, though, is filled with the same stilted dialogue and boring characters as the previous four. Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) spends most of it with his helmet off, becoming increasingly suspicious of Dr. Halsey (Natascha McElhone) and her role in his parents’ death. Captain Keyes (Danny Sapani) gets a little more to do here as he tries to protect his daughter, Miranda (Olive Gray), from becoming too close to the mysterious Forerunner artifacts the UNSC and Covenant are racing to obtain. Kai (Kate Kennedy) is still showing too many signs of emotion after removing her butt-hormones in the previous episode.
Oh, and that stupid arc on Madrigal about Kwan (Yerin Ha) asking her rich aunt for money to lead a rebellion nobody wants to follow continues to irritate. Whatever.
I’ve mostly complained about the way Halo completely misses the mark week in and week out. I thought I’d stop watching the show, but I’ve invested enough time and energy into it that I guess I’ll see it through — especially if the series holds more surprises like Reckoning, which ended up being extremely enjoyable in the most basic fanboy way. We finally see a lot of hallmarks of the game series: the Grunts, Jackals and Brutes who make up the Covenant Army all get cool action moments, including vehicle hijackings, Needler super-combines and Gravity Hammer beat-downs. The action beats are well-choreographed and quite a lot of fun to watch. It’s definitely the sort of sequence begging for a fan to edit into a concise YouTube video for anyone not interested in the wasteful storytelling that surrounds it. I highly recommend finding that YouTube video when someone makes it.
As for the show? I’m not that hopeful, given that the episode’s cliffhanger is another head-scratching instance of the show not really understanding what story it wants to tell. We’re no closer to actually discovering a Halo. We’re no closer to a real war between humans and the Covenant. Perhaps worst of all, we’re now at the point where Master Chief and Makee (Charlie Murphy) are going to meet. The most annoying part of this show is that it has wholly wasted the Covenant as a villain, and a big part of that is the inclusion of Makee as their lone human. It doesn’t work. It feels cheap. We’ll see how it goes next week.
If I had to guess, Reckoning is probably the high point of the season. The first episode had an extended action sequence, with three low-key episodes following it. It seems likely that the next three episodes will follow the same pattern so the last episode will have a big finale. I hope I’m wrong. At least this episode made me happy.