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Silver Debrief: Aleria

Debrief 019
Natasha Culzac as Riz in Halo episode 5, Season 2, Streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+
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  -  4 months ago

Reach has fallen, Cortana has been taken by the Covenant, and a slew of characters met their fateful end in the effort to evacuate people from the planet at the end of the previous episode. Now comes the aftermath of these momentous events, setting the stage for the battles to come…

Welcome back to the Silver Debrief. Beware, reader, for here there be spoilers!


EPISODE SUMMARY: ALERIA

In the aftermath of Vannak-134’s death, the fight continues against the Covenant at FLEETCOM. Soren helps carry the injured Master Chief—who previously took a direct hit from a plasma pistol—and the Kig-Yar are beaten back, but a colossal Jiralhanae bursts through the ceiling wielding a gravity hammer. As small-arms fire proves ineffective against its armor, a gunship arrives and takes the hulking behemoth down, and the group discovers that Laera has saved their lives—piloting Soren’s ship.

More Kig-Yar arrive as the ship’s rear ramp descends and Kwan provides covering fire for the others to get aboard. Before they depart, Riz pulls out a pair of pistols to retrieve Vannak’s body, carrying him back to the ship, but she is shot in the back just as she makes it.

Departing, the Chief sees the city is getting hit by the Covenant’s glassing beams. The battle is over. Reach has fallen.

L-R Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief, Bokeem Woodbine as Soren and Natasha Culzac as Riz in Halo episode 5, Season 2, Streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

THE GREAT JOURNEY

Makee sheds a tear as she watches Reach burning from orbit, but tells Arbiter Var ‘Gatanai that he honors their people with this great victory. The Arbiter says that this was no victory, as they have only secured one of the keystones, and that the death of the Demon—the Master Chief—is to be his redemption, yet Makee protected him.

Examining Cortana’s data chip, the Arbiter asks what the value of it is. Makee explains that it is a vessel that contains human knowledge, but the Arbiter is concerned only with whether it can say where the other keystone has been taken.

Makee speaks with Cortana and asks what she is to the Master Chief. Cortana tells Makee that the Chief remembers her, and Makee demands to be shown what the Chief remembers of the ring. Cortana says that the memory doesn’t belong to Makee—and neither does she.

Later, Makee discovers that the Arbiter has brought the ship back to High Charity, as their fleet has been recalled and they have failed the mission. Makee says that the hierarchs are liars and have no intention of beginning the Great Journey, as they are not Chosen. She says that the Arbiter will be the one to guide them to the sacred ring and as he prepares to strike Makee for her blasphemy, Cortana then projects an image of Halo.

The Arbiter is in awe of the holographic memory brought to life, and Makee says that this is his destiny, he just needs to believe in her as the Blessed One. The Arbiter says that the hierarchs will send the entire fleet to hunt them down, but Makee resolves that the hierarchs will fail. Cortana appears and nods to Makee as the Arbiter changes course.

WOUNDED IN ACTION

Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief in Halo episode 5, season 2, streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

Dr. Halsey tends to the Chief’s wounds as he experiences vivid flashbacks of the last time he was critically injured and had Cortana removed from him. Returning to that moment, Cortana asks Margaret Parangosky if she will help, to which Parangosky says that depends on what Cortana is prepared to do for her.

Two days later, Halsey comes over and the Chief asks if Riz—who is in the medical bed next to him—is going to live, to which Halsey says that she needs surgery but doesn’t have the tools here. The Chief recognizes that Riz felt she had something to prove, which he used to push her, concluding that she went back to save Vannak because of him. Halsey says that Riz went back because Spartans don’t leave each other behind—Riz evaluated the conditions and made a decision. The Chief believes that Spartans weren’t made to make decisions, they follow orders like machines, and implores Halsey to look at Riz and answer if she sees a woman or a weapon—if there’s a person in there, or a piece of equipment you leave on the battlefield.

The Chief awakens once again later, finding Kwan and Soren with him, who tell him that they’re heading to Aleria and that Kessler is there. Kwan shows Vannak’s body to the Chief, concealed under a white sheet, but he heads off to see Halsey.

Touching down on Aleria, Riz is rushed into hospital. Soren, Laera, and Kwan head off to find Kessler, but the Chief stays behind, looking up to see a bird circling in the overcast skies above.

FINDING KESSLER

L-R Fiona O’Shaughnessy as Laera and Bokeem Woodbine as Soren in Halo episode 5, season 2, streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

Soren pays for access to the log book for ships that have recently come to Aleria and find the one Kessler was on.

Soren and Laera arrive at a massive warehouse, finding a small hut in a cylindrical building with two women who refuse to hand Kessler over. Soren heads back in to negotiate. Laera explores and sees a young boy running around, and after removing his helmet discovers that it’s not Kessler. He says that a boy gave the helmet to him on the transport for protection, but Kessler was taken away.

Laera returns to the man who gave her and Soren the information on Kessler’s whereabouts and begins tying barbed wire around a bludgeon. After Laera leaves the room, Soren asks if he talked and who took Kessler, to which Laera reveals it was the UNSC.

A SPARTAN’S GOODBYE

Kwan brings the Chief a coat and tells him it’s time to bury Vannak, which the Chief denies, saying that you don’t bury a Spartan. In his world, there are no burials or funerals, which Kwan rejects given what she would give to have had the opportunity to bury her own family. Kwan heads off to bury Vannak herself, saying that you put the dead in the ground and leave them there—or they follow you.

Riz awakens to find Halsey tending to her, saying that this is exactly how Halsey looked when Riz was fourteen and had undergone the augmentation process. Halsey tells her that she’s done all she can, but the damage was extensive and Riz won’t be the soldier she once was.

The Chief laments that none of them are what they once were—and now they’re considered expendable. Halsey explains that what happened on Reach wasn’t personal or strategic, but political—about who dictates how the war is fought. The Chief believes that Parangosky has won that particular fight.

Kwan drags Vannak’s body up a hill in the snow at night and considers that you can’t grieve an entire planet, the human brain just cannot comprehend the scale of so many lives lost, and says that she has never buried anyone before—not her people or her family. Kwan asks Vannak to represent everyone that’s gone, but she is then approached by a group of people in red robes carrying torches.

The Chief tells Halsey that Parangosky is the one who took Cortana out of him and tries to remember what Cortana said before she was pulled from him: “How did you choose me?” He asks Halsey to give him an honest answer, but is interrupted by a commotion outside.

DELIVERANCE

Yerin Ha as Kwan Ha in Halo episode 5, Season 2, Streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

The people who have gathered around Kwan tell her that Vannak cannot be put in the ground and his body must be burned. During a scuffle, the sheet comes off and the Chief looks upon Vannak’s corpse. Kwan says that this isn’t simply death, what the Chief is experiencing is loss, and there is a difference.

A funeral pyre is put together for Vannak and Riz approaches as Halsey gives a speech about what Reach represented as a monument to the human spirit and mourns the sacrifice that Jacob Keyes made. Halsey eulogizes that Vannak Amadi came from a large family on Tribute and they would be proud of him, but the Chief steps in and says that Vannak’s family buried him when he was six years old, they never knew him—but the Chief did.

The Chief honors Vannak-134 as a Spartan and a brother, the only family that he ever knew. He determines that he will find the ones that caused his death and end them, before setting the funeral pyre ablaze.

Halsey tells the Chief that she didn’t choose him, she found him—whatever built Halo and left the artifacts behind also left something in the Chief which he can’t run from, as it’s been calling to him his whole life. Halsey implores him to take them to the Halo as the survival of humanity depends on what it can teach them, and all of that is put at risk if he goes after ONI by himself because they won’t let him live. The Chief simply responds that he’s already dead.

At the pyre, Kwan sees the Mother, who seemingly died on Sanctuary, saying that she speaks for all the planets. Kwan turns to leave but finds the area around the pyre empty, and the Mother says that she speaks for Madrigal and identifies Kwan as the last of the Ha family. The Mother tells her that the monster is close now, and says: “Help me. Find me. Save me. Deliver me. Do not deny your purpose, do not forsake your name. Protector.”

Kwan recalls the images in the cavern on the Rubble of a great ringed maw, and then finds herself back amongst the others around the pyre.

RIZ RETIRES

L-R Natasha Culzac as Riz, Natascha McElhone as Dr. Halsey and Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief in Halo episode 5, season 2, streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

In the infirmary, Riz sees Soren and Laera return, and then a young girl waves at her from outside.

The Chief informs Riz that they’re moving out in ten minutes and tells her to get her things, but Riz says that she’s not going to make it and intends to stay behind—her fight is over. The Chief declares that it’s over when they win. After losing Reach and Vannak, Riz desires to live and make peace with her pain rather than let it crush her. The Chief says that Riz is all he has left and the two embrace.

Halsey approaches and tells Riz that she is no one now, to which Riz simply smiles and departs, the young girl she saw earlier helping her down the steps.

Far away in the Zeta Doradus system on a world known as Onyx, at Camp Currahee, Kai-125 meets with James Ackerson. Stepping outside, she sees hundreds of SPARTAN-III super-soldiers standing to attention.


CORE CONNECTIONS

The core setting for this episode is a colony known as Aleria, which has actually featured in Halo’s core canon across multiple pieces of media!

Halo: Nightfall Second Story image of Aleria

Aleria first appeared in Halo: Nightfall, the live-action web-series that released in 2014 to introduce Mike Colter as Jameson Locke. In Nightfall and its peripheral “Second Stories” (additional scenes that provide further insight into the characters and events of this story), we learned that Aleria was once a thriving Outer Colony, but has recently become an inhospitable wasteland—dry and desolate, ruled by smugglers and pirates after its government and economy collapsed.

The instability of Elduros—Aleria’s sun—has caused a planet-wide drought known as the Devil’s Kiss, and rain has not fallen on the planet for a hundred years.

Aleria subsequently featured in several of Kelly Gay’s novels centered around Rion Forge and her crew aboard the Ace of Spades. Two of Rion’s crewmates, Niko and Lessa, are siblings who were orphaned on Aleria and originally attempted to con Rion, but instead of turning them over to the local authorities she offered them positions aboard her ship—Niko as a navigation officer and tech expert, and Lessa as the pilot.

To further explore Aleria as a setting, check out:


DECLASSIFIED

Title card for Season Two of Halo The Series Declassified

Sydnee Goodman brings us a new episode of Declassified, giving us a look behind the scenes at how this episode came together.

In this week's episode, Sydnee reflects on the fall of Reach and speaks with Natasha Culzac and Bokeem Woodbine to explore the journeys that Riz and Soren have been on throughout Season Two thus far.

(NOTE: Some regions may not be able to view this episode.)


In the wake of such an action-packed episode with the fall of Reach, this week’s story took a moment to hit the brakes and breathe, spending time with the ensemble that has been brought together.

Those of you familiar with some of Halo’s extended fiction might just have a few ideas about where we’re going in next week’s episode, as we discover what Ackerson has been up to since departing Reach…