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New Halo TV series trailer: The good, the bad, and the Cortana


Master Chief leads Silver Team through the series' new "Silver" timeline.
Enlarge / Master Chief leads Silver Team through the series’ new “Silver” timeline.

Paramount+

After years of teases, announcements, and false starts, a Halo TV series starring Master Chief is finally on the verge of existing—and its first substantial, dialogue-filled trailer landed on Sunday with equal parts clarification and confusion.

The flashy, two-minute trailer arrived days after a major announcement last week from Halo‘s narrative handlers at 343 Industries: this new TV series, exclusive to Paramount+, will not be part of the game series’ official canon. That might have been good information to flash on the trailer itself, as fans otherwise may have missed the memo and wondered why this trailer rewrites a couple of plot cornerstones.

This clearly looks like an authentic <em>Halo</em> battle sequence, right down to the details on the sniper rifle. But many, many plot elements will be shuffled for the sake of translating the game to a TV series.
Enlarge / This clearly looks like an authentic Halo battle sequence, right down to the details on the sniper rifle. But many, many plot elements will be shuffled for the sake of translating the game to a TV series.

Paramount+

Longtime series scribe Frank O’Connor described the creative decision behind moving the TV series forward with a mix of familiar and brand-new plot elements. “We want to use the existing Halo lore, history, canon, and characters wherever they make sense for a linear narrative but also separate the two distinctly so that we don’t invalidate the core canon or do unnatural things to force a first-person video game into an ensemble TV show,” he wrote. O’Connor clarified that all things Halo up until this point, including games, comics, novels, and online errata, count as “core canon” for the series, while the TV show will exist as a “parallel, similar, but separate timeline,” officially dubbed the “Silver timeline.”

Timeline shmimeline: it's still <em>Halo</em> enough to have a Warthog driving through a massive landscape.
Enlarge / Timeline shmimeline: it’s still Halo enough to have a Warthog driving through a massive landscape.

Paramount+

Hence, the trailer is full of familiar Halo elements, not only with the seemingly endless humans-versus-aliens battle of the UNSC and the Covenant but also the recognizable weapons, vehicles, and otherworldly armor on each side of the conflict. Yet the trailer is steeped with more brand-new characters than existing ones, with Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber, American Gods) and Dr. Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone, Californication) surrounded primarily by a new “Silver Team” of Spartan super-soldiers: Kai-125, Soren-066, and Vannak-134. (They’re joined by John-117, better known to you and me as Master Chief.) Prepare yourself to hear Master Chief voiced by someone other than Steve Downes—though, to his credit, Schreiber does a fine job sounding gravelly and war-weary in this trailer.

The character Cortana's first appearance in a live-action TV series. That uncanny valley look to her face is just as apparent in video as it is in a still image.
Enlarge / The character Cortana’s first appearance in a live-action TV series. That uncanny valley look to her face is just as apparent in video as it is in a still image.

Paramount+

One other familiar Halo face shows up briefly: Cortana, Master Chief’s longtime digital assistant. But while the TV version of Cortana is voiced and visually modeled after the character’s in-game voice actor, Jen Taylor, her TV series introduction as a CGI character suffers from awkward, uncanny-valley presentation, with none of the character’s typical blue coloration or see-through, hologram-like effects. Perhaps Paramount+ is saving some trippy Cortana effects for the series’ March 24 debut.

Master Chief's mysterious underground discovery sets the plot of the <em>Halo</em> TV series into motion.
Enlarge / Master Chief’s mysterious underground discovery sets the plot of the Halo TV series into motion.

Paramount+

As far as wide-ranging Halo lore is concerned, this trailer makes a few massive changes that befit a new, parallel timeline. The biggest comes in the form of Master Chief apparently discovering a Halo Array by touching and interfacing with an underground artifact at a Covenant excavation site, as opposed to the simpler “crashed on a Halo” angle of the series’ first video game. Speaking of origins: the trailer also hints at a deeper, darker look at the Spartan super-soldier project, which has always been a remarkably dark “train children at a young age” plot wrinkle that the games shrug off. (O’Connor suggests that the TV series will reveal this “dark” content “through the eyes of the kids who experienced it” and “the adults tasked with making it happen.”)

For Dr. Halsey, the UNSC pressure is on.
Enlarge / For Dr. Halsey, the UNSC pressure is on.

Paramount+

The trailer also fast-forwards to a version of Halo 5‘s central conflict: that the UNSC powers-that-be become concerned about Master Chief going “rogue” and having to take “control” over him. Perhaps his discovery of the Halo Array doesn’t align with human military forces’ concept of a “need-to-know” basis—but at the very least, the trailer’s brief hint to this tension suggests a larger role for the character of Dr. Halsey. Thus, we hope both the script and McElhone’s performance elevate a character who has generally been stuck on the sidelines in the game series.



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