Fire in the hole

The trailer for the second season of Halo looks enticing enough to try it again

Fire in the hole
Image: Paramount

The next season of Halo is coming to Paramount+ in just a couple of weeks (it debuts on the streaming platform on February 8th), and to get everyone ready, the network has released a trailer for what to expect.

When Paramount debuted the show back in 2022, it made some ... choices with the original source material, and the show has largely been seen as underwhelming following its release.

Expectations for the show were sky-high: there have been a number of attempts to adapt the video game franchise for a film and then TV series, most of which never came to fruition or underwhelmed. Neill Blomkamp had been tapped to adapt the game for a film way back in 2005, and when that didn't work out, he went on to direct his debut film District 9. From there, Microsoft helmed a short series called Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn in 2012, a series of five, 15 minute episodes that were stitched together into a short film, then Halo: Nightfall in 2014, a five-episode series. In 2013, word broke that Stephen Spielberg was producing a live-action series, which lingered for a couple of years until Showtime picked it up.

Shortly before that first season aired, the network announced that it had renewed the show for a second season – notably with a new showrunner, David Weiner, who replaced Steven Kane (who had in turn replaced the original showrunner, Kyle Killen back in 2019.)

The result was something of a mess: the series felt like it was all over the place, and couldn't quite pin down what it was about. The horrors of what the UNSC did to children to turn them into super soldiers? A weird hunt for some ancient Forerunner artifacts? The dynamics between the UNSC and the colonies? All of the above? The series never felt like it had a concrete direction and as a result, never really gelled for me, turning from an entertaining story to being something of a slog to wade through. Not something you want for a big-budget IP for your streaming service, especially with a massive existing fan base!

I have a feeling that those problems in Season 1 came in part because of the long chain of people that have been attached to and then left the project. Everyone adds a bit to the pot, and by the time they're getting down to the wire to produce and film it, there's just too many competing visions and ideas in there. I'm hoping that with a change in showrunners for this season, we'll get a bit more focus for the season's overall story.

Watching this trailer, it looks like that might be the case. There's certainly a lot of action on display here as the Covenant hone in on a major human colony on the planet Reach and begin an invasion. There's a lot to play with there, especially given that fall of Reach is the subject of an entire game, Halo: Reach (one of my absolute favorite installments of the series.) I'm guessing that we won't see Noble Squad centered in it, but at the very least, it's a major event in the larger storyline that leads directly to the original video game, Halo. At the very least, this looks and feels more like what Halo should be: an action-packed military SF story.

That's a hard thing to do, jumping from video games to television! The games put you in the action, and as Master Chief (or The Rookie or Noble Six), you're constantly going from battle to battle. You can't really do that in a TV series, both for storytelling and budgetary reasons. For one, it would get super expensive quickly, and two, there's a lot of downtime between action that doesn't make for good gameplay. I think the first season did a decent job at that, trying to get into the mind and background of Master Chief (seeing him out of armor didn't bother me as much as it did other people), and taking those steps to build up his character makes for a better story, at least in theory.

It's always hard to tell from marketing material how these sorts of things will turn out, but if this trailer is any indication of how Season 2 will go, it's something that I'll take another crack at, and hope that I can chalk up the first season's missteps as growing pains.