HALO Season 2 Review: Master Chief Returns Better Than Ever

The Illuminerdi's Danny Bojic breaks down HALO Season 2 and why he believes the live-action video game adaptation has finally found its stride.
Master Chief carrying soldier

Halo Season 2 has an uphill battle against it, which may prove even more daunting than the Covenant. It’s not news that Season 1 wasn’t the best. From its poor CGI to cheesy writing – let’s not even talk about that sex scene – the Spartans barely being in armor was just the cherry on top of a lackluster adaptation of the beloved video game series. However, I can’t say the same about Season 2, and I hope that sentiment finds its way to general audiences and fans alike.  

Growing up with the games, I expected a lot from this show, and after a disappointing first season, I wasn’t too excited to get back to it. But HALO Season 2 showed me how good this adaptation can be. No, it’s not perfect, but it feels different. It’s as if the production listened to fans’ complaints and tried to fix as much as they could, and in my opinion, they succeeded on almost all fronts. 

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It just feels right this time around. HALO Season 2 proved me wrong, and I can’t wait to watch the rest of the season. And don’t worry, this review is entirely spoiler-free, so with that out of the way, let’s get into it.

Halo Finally Finds Its Stride in Season 2

I watched the first four episodes, which is half of HALO Season 2, and immediately recognized how much better the show looks. I’m not sure if the production received a boost to the budget, but whatever they did works a lot better this time. The sets are noticeably bigger and look much more realistic. The costumes, particularly the Spartan armor, are incredible, and they noticeably get much more screen time, even if it’s still not enough (but more on that later). 

Master Chief and Kai in doorway
Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

The story is much more interesting in HALO Season 2. Instead of focusing on the MacGuffins that were Season 1’s keystones, Season 2 shifts the attention to the Master Chief, Silver Team, and the mystery surrounding the Covenant’s grand plan. Outside of one character’s return, I enjoyed the direction in which Season 2 goes. It’s how it should have been from the start, and it makes HALO Season 2 much more compelling than Season 1 ever was. 

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The Spartans are also much more interesting characters in Season 2, with John-117 and Riz-028 being the clear standouts. Master Chief is on this sort of lone-wolf journey that pits him against the UNSC, while Riz struggles with her identity outside of combat.

Both plots do a lot of the heavy lifting for HALO Season 2, and they’re compelling enough that I didn’t mind how much time the Spartans spent out of armor, at least for the most part. Riz’s story, in particular, raises many interesting questions about who Spartans are when they can no longer fight, and it’s a surprising thread that I’m interested in seeing how it plays out.

Master Chief looking angry
Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

The cast also feels much more comfortable in their characters in Season 2. Pablo Schreiber embodies Master Chief, reminding me a lot of Steve Downes’s iconic video-game performances, but he still manages to make the character his own. He’s almost a combination of Master Chief and Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard, which I enjoyed. Natascha McElhone continues her excellence as Dr. Halsey, while Bokeem Woodbine is as charismatic as ever as the Spartan-turned-pirate Soren-066. However, Joseph Morgan absolutely steals the show as James Ackerson, a mysterious operative who’s climbed the ranks of the UNSC and butts heads with Master Chief.

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There are some bad writing and acting moments, but that’s okay because it’s almost expected. A live-action HALO series is going to be cheesy, and I felt like Season 1 spent too much time fighting it. Season 2 seemed to embrace it and even lean into it at times, which added to the show’s overall improvements. 

Season 2 Still Plagued by Issue From Season 1

Now, don’t expect HALO to start bringing in multiple Emmys or Golden Globes during awards season. While Season 2 is a vast upgrade to Season 1, it isn’t without its flaws, and there are still some issues, especially for fans of the games, though they may not be as glaring as they once were.

Master Chief in forest
Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

Once again, Master Chief and the Spartans spend a lot of time out of armor. But, like I said earlier, the story was engaging enough to where I didn’t mind it. That is, until Episode 4. Unfortunately, I didn’t end my Halo Season 2 viewing experience on the highest note, as Episode 4 left me slightly worried about the latter half of the season.

Very minor spoilers, but Episode 4 is practically one massive fight against the Covenant. Sounds awesome, right? It certainly should have been a highlight of the first four episodes, but one thing ruined it: Chief and Silver Team spent the entire episode out of armor. The show even goes so far as to write into the plot why John, Vannak, and Riz can’t suit up, but without spoiling anything, when I tell you it makes zero sense, I mean it.

John looking at Ackerson
Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

There is no earthly reason why the Spartans shouldn’t be in armor during a major battle, and the decision to keep them in civilian uniforms echoes the problems of the show’s past. It isn’t enough to ruin HALO Season 2, but it’s undoubtedly the most disappointing moment from the first four episodes, and I only hope it doesn’t persist through the second half of the season.

The CGI also isn’t great, but HALO Season 2 finds an interesting way to get around it. Many of the early episodes’ action scenes happen in dark or heavily obscured environments. It’s not too dark to where you can’t see anything, but it’s just enough to hide some questionable visual effects. It’s a very clever use of lighting, but there are some moments where the CGI is noticeably bad, whether that’s because there wasn’t enough time or resources to finish them.

Master Chief on rocks with Silver Team
Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Halo Season 2. It’s not without flaws but vastly improves on almost every aspect of Season 1, and the good far outweighs the bad. Assuming it sticks its landing, HALO Season 2 will be a great example of how a video game adaptation can do the source material justice while still forging its own identity, and it’s a must-watch for all HALO fans.  

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Halo Season 2 hits Paramount+ with a two-episode premiere on Feb. 8, 2024.

About HALO Season 2

Halo Season 2 poster

Release Date: February 8, 2024
Showrunner: David Wiener
Executive Producers: David Wiener, Steven Spielberg, Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey, Kiki Wolfkill, Otto Bathurst, and Toby Leslie
Production: SHOWTIME, 343 Industries, and Amblin Television
Network: Paramount+
Cast: Pablo Schreiber, Natascha McElhone, Jen Taylor, Bokeem Woodbine, Shabana Azmi, Natasha Culzac, Olive Gray, Yerin Ha, Bentley Kalu, Kate Kennedy, Charlie Murphy, Danny Sapani, Cristina Rodlo, and Joseph Morgan

Synopsis: In season two, Master Chief John-117 leads his team of elite Spartans against the alien threat known as the Covenant. In the wake of a shocking event on a desolate planet, John cannot shake the feeling that his war is about to change and risks everything to prove what no one else will believe – that the Covenant are preparing to attack humanity’s greatest stronghold. With the galaxy on the brink, John embarks on a journey to find the key to humankind’s salvation, or its extinction — the Halo.

What do you think about Halo Season 2? Did you watch Season 1? Do you think the show lives up to the games? Let us know on social media, and keep following The Illuminerdi for content like this. We’re always watching.

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Danny Bojic

Danny Bojic

Danny Bojic is a writer located in Nashville, TN, who's had a lifelong obsession with video games, comics, movies, and other nerdy things. He's written thousands of articles on topics ranging from movies, TV, and comics to automotive, tech, and video games. With The Illuminerdi, he's attended countless press events, covered conventions, produced online content, and interviewed talent.