Halo is a beloved video game saga that spans generations, so it’s understandable that fans were apprehensive when it was announced that Halo was getting a live adaptation on Paramount Plus. After all, video games provide stories with the ability to delve deeper into subject matter and develop character arcs in ways that need to be streamlined for live-action adaptations.
However, it also allows Halo capitalize on the success of live-action adaptations, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or more recently, the success of sonic the hedgehog. Like the previous two examples, Halo fans are eager to spot the easter eggs and similarities/differences between the live-action adaptation and the video game(s). However, even the most ardent Halo fans did not expect the following creative changes adopted by the live-action adaptation.
The “silver” timeline
The biggest change from games is, ironically, the most obvious. In order to have creative freedom, the showrunners decided to place the Paramount Plus adaptation in the “Silver” timeline, which is a different universe from video games and comic book stories.
As such, it allows for different interpretations of iconic characters and adds unpredictability to the series (which is a daunting task, considering the amount of source material fans can draw inspiration from). However, officially tagging the show to a different universe, especially in current pop culture, has fans thinking about future possibilities. Could viewers see the video games’ Master Chief interact with the “Silver” timeline, similar to Marvel and DC’s multiversal stories?
Master Chief character development
Due to the move to television, Master Chief needed to be fleshed out; in video games, Master Chief served as an avatar for the player to discover the world of Halo, and as a result, didn’t have much characterization to begin with. However, having a protagonist playing the same role would be boring to the audience, and as a result, Master Chief is given a separate personality and story arc.
The show implies that Master Chief’s tragic past is similar to the games – but unlike the original games, which focused on the war between man and covenant, the show will focus on Master Chief’s struggle to save humanity while accepting being kidnapped and brainwashed. (for the survival of mankind) as a child. Wrestling with these moral dilemmas will characterize Master Chief as a conflicted soldier, as opposed to the stoic leader fans are used to seeing.
The Nefarious Motivations of the UNSC
The video games established that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) created the Spartans for the sole purpose of suppressing the insurgents – who then came to fight the Covenant. Paramount Plus focused on the initial backdrop of suffocating insurgents, albeit with darker depictions.
Spartans are characterized as dumb drones (except Master Chief) unscrupulous about violence. They are also characterized as individuals without compassion, causing the Master Chief to question the UNSC’s motives and purpose in them. While the origins of the Spartans have been hastily depicted in the video games, the series seems to delve into their origins and psychology.
Introducing Kwan Ha
Paramount Plus has introduced a brand new character to Kwan-Ha, played by Yerin Ha. After Kwan-Ha’s parents were murdered by Master Chief, Kwan-Ha harbored a deep resentment towards the Spartans, largely due in part to his insurgent affiliations.
As such, the show will focus heavily on the ethical ramifications of the SPARTAN program and its impact on insurgents, shifting focus from the source material (something new Halo viewers will need to know). Unlike the games, the series seems to focus on humanizing the insurgents and their motivations, rather than just portraying them as evil entities. Additionally, the introduction of Kwan-Ha will develop the character of Master Chief in a unique way, compared to video games.
The human ally of the Covenant
In the video games, the Covenant was portrayed as an exclusively alien armada and, therefore, had no humans in its ranks. This is not the case in the Paramount Plus show, as the Covenant seem to consult with a human named Makee.
Makee has the ability to locate Forerunner objects, making her a valuable asset to the Covenant. However, his motives for joining them are unknown until now. Additionally, with the show’s focus on the harmful actions of humanity during the Halo saga, audiences shouldn’t be surprised if it was the UNSC’s actions that drove Makee to the Covenant. Perhaps the humans, as opposed to the Covenant, are the evil forces of this new timeline?
The destruction of Reach launched the Halo saga, so it was surprising for fans to see Reach as an active and successful company in live-action adaptation. Additionally, protecting the planet from the Covenant further differentiates the Paramount Plus adaptation from the video games.
The initial survival of Reach, as opposed to the initial destruction in the video games, changes the whole nature of Human-Covenant warfare. Previously, the Covenant was responsible for the war – however, the depiction of the UNSC and other human characters in the series implies that the humans in the series will be responsible. Additionally, the initial animated nature of Reach implies that Reach’s destruction may be a key factor in the story, rather than being placed at the beginning of the story.
Cortana is Master Chief’s AI partner in the video games and she returns in the Paramount Plus adaptation, played by Jen Taylor. Jen has a history with the character, as she provided the voice of Cortana in the video games.
The biggest difference with Cortana is its redesign. Paramount Plus opted to give Cortana a more “human” look (removing her character’s blue tint) in favor of a holographic, realistic, human image. As of now, the characterization is similar to the video games, and it looks like Cortana will follow a similar character arc. It will be interesting to see how Cortana reacts to Master Chief’s actions in the live broadcast. Does she sell it to the UNSC?
The identity of the referee
The Paramount Plus adaptation showed the Arbiter, but the identity has yet to be shown. While Thel’Vadam is recognized as the referee, the show has yet to confirm his involvement.
This should confuse some fans, as Thel’Vadam’s characterization brings surprising compassion as a referee. An honorable warrior who emphasized negotiation over war, Thel’Vadam eventually teamed up with Master Chief, becoming a respected figure even among humanity. As such, Thel’Vadam’s Arbiter’s noncommittal involvement in the series is puzzling, but it could be due to spoilers. Or maybe they’re not using Thel’Vadam to just differentiate themselves.
Master Chief Unmasked
In the show, Master Chief is unmasked fairly immediately, introducing the audience to actor Pablo Schrieber. This change is quite shocking to fans – while the leader isn’t opposed to taking off his helmet, he never did. In video games, his helmet has always remained on, and seeing him suddenly come off is a shocking fit for many ardent Halo supporters.
However, the reason for the unmasking is due to the storytelling medium the Paramount Plus adaptation is in. As a video game, the character of Master Chief was just a tool for audiences to immerse themselves in the Halo universe – but as a TV show, the main character has to be distinct for the audience to sympathize with him. Additionally, it humanizes the character and creates a personality distinct from video games.
Next: 10 Key Elements Missing In The Halo TV Show
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