Silver Debrief: Contact
The Halo television series has officially released on Paramount+! In fact, you might have heard that the debut of Halo set a viewership record as it was also the most watched original series on the streaming platform!
The first episode, “Contact,” is now available and will be followed up every Thursday over the next eight weeks with a new chapter in the Master Chief’s journey.
What this means for the Silver Debrief is that this blog series will become a weekly companion to the show, releasing every Monday. It’ll be a source to recap the story of each episode in detail, serve as a hub for additional show-related content, and provide some more detailed insights into certain things.
As a reminder, for a limited time you can grab a 30-day trial of Paramount+ as a perk through your subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Find the Halo, win the war. Subscribe to Game Pass, watch the show!
With all that said, let’s dive into episode one!
Be aware that these Silver Debriefs are full of SPOILERS, so if you haven’t watched the episode this is your time to jump ship.
Beginning on the Outer Colony world Madrigal, a group of insurrectionists listen to a news transmission about a man known as Vinsher Grath who is negotiating a cessation of hostilities with the United Nations Space Command. Talking amongst themselves, discussion turns to the nature of the SPARTAN-IIs—killing machines who are as much a boogeyman for these people as the Covenant is for the UNSC.
Some distance outside the outpost, Kwan Ha—the young daughter of the settlement’s leader, General Jin Ha—is with her young friends talking about her dreams of leaving Madrigal before she spots a peculiar glint through the trees. Heading towards it, she sees a dropship that clearly doesn’t belong to one of their own people, nor is it UNSC. Spotting activity in the cave below the dropship, Kwan suddenly finds herself and her young friends being fired upon, plasma weaponry cutting them down as she fires a flare and sprints back to the outpost.
Expecting an imminent UNSC attack, the outpost prepares for combat. As Kwan arrives to inform her father of what’s really coming, it’s too late. The enemy is already at the gates. A group of Sangheili (commonly known as Elites) slaughter their way through the outpost; the rebels attempt to hold their ground, but are ultimately overrun... until the SPARTAN-IIs arrive.
Silver Team (composed of Kai-125, Vannack-134, and Riz-028, who fight alongside John-117) deploys and manages to make short work of the invading Covenant force, but not before Kwan witnesses an Elite murder her father. Kwan is rescued from the same fate by Silver Team, but they quickly leave to investigate the Covenant’s activity in the cave outside the outpost (and yes, you heard right, Kai was channeling Cortana in Halo: Combat Evolved with her remark that this cave did not appear to be natural).
Inside, they find that the Covenant have been excavating some kind of alien artifact which reacts to the Master Chief’s touch, displaying mysterious glyphs and awakening strange, unfamiliar memories. This is witnessed by a lone Sangheili, who flees—knocking out Kwan on his way out, who followed Silver Team—and escapes in a Banshee. The Master Chief sends Silver Team ahead, ordering them to take the Phantom dropship for analysis, while the Chief stays behind to take the artifact (and Kwan) aboard a Condor.
At FLEETCOM’s headquarters on Reach, Dr. Halsey examines the Master Chief’s helmet camera feed, replaying the moment he activated the alien artifact, but is interrupted by Admiral Margaret Parangosky. She informs Halsey that the death of one hundred and fifty ‘civilians’ is not a good look for the UNSC or the SPARTAN-II program, and that the security committee is looking for an excuse to cut her funding.
A lifeline, however, presents itself in the form of a single survivor, a young girl named Kwan who could reveal the truth: that her people were not killed by a UNSC strike, but a Covenant invasion. Dr. Halsey’s daughter, Miranda Keyes, is assigned to be a friendly face to speak with Kwan as she’s brought in.
Halsey also informs Parangosky of the importance of the artifact the Master Chief has recovered. While Miranda’s team handles the study of recovered alien objects, Halsey manages to convince Parangosky that she should get a first look at it. Figuring out this new artifact could be the key to taking critical eyes off the Spartans.
Before Parangosky leaves, she spots a containment pod for a ‘side project’—one that has dangerous legal implications—and orders Dr. Halsey to shut it down...
On High Charity, the station that serves as the Covenant’s home, the Prophet of Mercy meets with Makee, a young human woman in the service of the alien coalition.
Mercy informs Makee that the artifact discovered on Madrigal was lost, taken by an armored human—known to the Covenant as ‘the Demon’—who could bring it to life the same way she can. And while the mission may not have been a success, they too have a sole survivor to speak with: the Sangheili who fled in a Banshee and brought this information to the Prophets’ attention.
As Makee demands to speak to the Sangheili, Mercy notices an old book in her possession, The Dawn of Angels. A connection, perhaps, to this woman’s past, or is it a means to understand her enemy?
Awakening aboard the Condor, Kwan is contacted by Miranda Keyes who implores her to take this opportunity to send a message of unity to the other rebel colonies, informing them of the Covenant attack and saying that the Spartans were there to help. In so doing, they might be able to put aside their differences and focus on the real war.
Kwan, however, refuses. Seeking to honor her father, who spent his life trying to free them from the UNSC, Kwan threatens to say that the UNSC sent the Spartans to murder civilians and children, inflaming colonial tensions unless the UNSC grants Madrigal independence to fulfill Jin Ha’s dream.
Meanwhile, Dr. Halsey and Adun, her scientific aide, examine the Master Chief’s biometrics when he touched the artifact, and contact him to ask about what he experienced. Describing the visions he saw of a young boy, he is left with a growing series of questions and scans himself aboard the Condor to check for any signs of abnormalities.
Back on Reach, Jacob Keyes enters Miranda’s lab where her team are examining alien bodies and other recovered items of interest.
Jacob informs his daughter that Kwan “succumbed to her injuries” from the alien attack, making it clear to Miranda that a kill order—an Article 72—has been placed on the young girl. Distraught, Miranda asks what point there is in saving humanity if it requires giving up their own.
Aboard the Condor, the Master Chief attempts to engage with Kwan, who says that she knows him, as he was responsible for the death of her mother. An anti-UNSC meeting she attended alongside unarmed civilians was attacked by a group of Spartans due to an alleged bomb threat, with the Chief retorting that those in command have the certainty of intelligence that he doesn’t have on the ground, and to go against that fact is to end up questioning everything.
At that moment, the Chief receives the Article 72 order. After confirming Kwan’s identity, he leaves the room and shuts off the Condor’s camera feed, leaving everybody at FLEETCOM confused and concerned.
Approaching Dr. Halsey, Admiral Parangosky says that not knowing why her indoctrinated killing machine is doing what it’s doing is an alarming issue. Halsey brings up her side project, the Cortana system, which will be able to rectify the situation. Parangosky, however, once again denies her, saying that there is no Cortana system.
Instead, oxygen is removed from the Condor as the autopilot brings the ship to FLEETCOM, where they intend to kill Kwan. Attempting to incapacitate the Chief by bringing the oxygen level in his own suit down, the Chief manages to open an access panel for atmosphere controls and restores oxygen to the craft, resulting in Soren Protocol being declared.
As UNSC troops mass in the hangar, Dr. Halsey intercepts Silver Team and supersedes Parangosky’s orders. She orders the Spartans to take out any hostiles who attempt to harm the Chief...
Kwan regains consciousness aboard the Condor and, at seeing his back turned, aims a battle rifle at the Master Chief.
The Chief says that he’s trying to help her, and in response to her threat to kill him he notes that the weapon won’t so much as dent the titanium plating of his Mjolnir armor. It is at this point that he removes his helmet, revealing the man beneath, looking into Kwan’s eyes and making himself vulnerable to show that he means what he’s saying—that she will be executed if they land. Upon asking why the Chief is choosing to help her instead of following orders, he finds that he doesn’t truly know the answer.
FLEETCOM reacts with increasing levels of concern as the Chief has not only removed his helmet, but thermal imaging shows him sliding the battle rifle back to Kwan after she lowers the weapon and attempts to give it to him.
Getting to work on disabling the autopilot failsafe to gain control of the Condor, an escort of Pelicans bring the ship to the hangar where hundreds of military personnel are gathered. An EMP disables the Condor and brings it crashing to the ground, the case containing the alien artifact opening as it falls to the floor. A group of marines begin to attempt entry, prompting Silver Team to raise their weapons—not at the Condor’s entry port, but at the marines preparing to breach it.
Compelled by the artifact, the Chief is drawn to place his hand on it again, seeing visions of a strangely familiar childhood... and a pencil drawing of the artifact itself. The energy discharge the artifact emits as a result momentarily drains all power from FLEETCOM and restores the Condor to operational status. Dr. Halsey watches in amazement as the Chief flees from Reach with Kwan, escaping to the stars...
Halo The Series Declassified is the official after-show hosted by Sydnee Goodman, exploring each episode of the series with interviews and all sorts of other behind the scenes goodies.
This week, Pablo Schreiber talks about putting on the iconic armor as Master Chief in episode 1 along with a BTS look at the series and an exclusive clip from next week's episode.
As part of the episode, a three-minute primer on the Halo universe from Cortana is included, which you can catch below! Get a quick look at the last twenty years of games, fiction, and community that has brought Halo to the silver screen at long last...
"I THINK HE JUST TOOK OFF HIS HELMET..."
Towards the end of this first episode, the Master Chief does something rather momentous: he not only disobeys orders, but he takes off the helmet and reveals the man beneath—and that man is the incredible Pablo Schreiber.
This was an interesting creative decision to grapple with for the Halo television series, as we look to the legacy of the Halo franchise and see thoughts scattered all over the map as to whether this is a thing that should even be done.
For fans of our expanded universe, who have read The Fall of Reach and other media centered around the Master Chief, taking the helmet off is something that they’re actually quite used to—our literature and comic formats have allowed for that kind of storytelling. Indeed, even Halo 4 pushed the games closer to this territory in its exploration and deconstruction of his character, beginning with a glimpse of John as a child and ending (if you finished the campaign on Legendary) with a nanosecond glimpse at his eyes after so many years of being under the suit and the countless losses that have weighed on him.
But the games themselves have predominantly been a space for player projection, where you step into the boots of humanity’s greatest hero while playing as him and see through his eyes. The needle has been moved at various points on the scale in terms of how close the player and protagonist are, as the Chief has never been a true silent protagonist—he is a fully-realized character who brings a great deal of sorrow and pathos along with his unbreakable will and strength. But he is also the vessel for your adventure, and so, naturally, there are many who are understandably completely against the idea of seeing his face at all.
That sense of ownership—or ‘shared authorship’—of the character really derives itself from the interactive framework that defines video games as a medium. The player is given agency to act upon the world given to them, that freedom gives a unique sense of ‘co-creating’ the story to some extent because you are a part of it. That is the heart of what gaming is, because if you ask a dozen people about how they handled a single encounter you’ll probably hear a dozen different stories.
Television, of course, is a totally different medium to video games. The participatory, interactive aspect that defines gaming is not there, which—much like the books, comics, and other media over the last twenty years—brings its own challenges and opportunities for telling a great Halo story and a great drama.
Revealing the Chief’s face was one of those things. A moment like this is not a plot point or even explicitly a ‘reveal’ of what he looks like, but a means to tell his story. It had to be a moment that was earned and meaningful. This is also part of why it happens in the first episode: it’s not a twist, it’s a mission statement.
With long-hidden memories awakening, glimpses of a lost childhood returning to the Master Chief after interacting with an alien artifact, as well as other experiences we will explore in the episodes to come, a burgeoning sense of independence is beginning to take hold within a man designed to be a weapon.
As Admiral Parangosky says: “Not knowing why your walking killing machine is doing what it’s doing is a risk that cannot be taken.” The UNSC has a certain view of Spartans (implicit in Parangosky referring to the Chief as “it”) that isn’t quite aligned with the ‘savior of humanity’ image they would go on to have, as those events have not yet transpired. Indeed, fans of core canon will recall similar attitudes towards SPARTAN-IIs in some of the novels, such as Halo: Ghosts of Onyx.
Spartans are, at this point, Halsey’s experiments and a deeply ethical issue that many are waiting with bated breath to go wrong, and at the end of this first episode that’s exactly what appears to happen. Trained and indoctrinated from childhood to become the ultimate weapon, given armor and augmentations to make one soldier worth more than a hundred, it is a matter of grave concern when one of them stops responding to orders and seemingly severs the leash the UNSC had on him.
When given the order to execute Kwan, a child, the Master Chief finds that he is unable to do so. When he needs to gain her trust as she holds a gun at him, the clock ticking before the UNSC captures them, he does the one thing he can: he makes himself vulnerable to show her that he is truly, irrevocably human, even if he doesn’t quite understand what that means yet.
This exciting moment sets the stage for a new Halo story that will be told over the next eight episodes about identity and self-discovery; about systems and morality, and to whom you are loyal (whether that be to yourself, your past, your colleagues, your beliefs); and about what—in the circumstances of the Silver Timeline—it truly means to be human.
END OF DEBRIEF
Contact has been made, hostiles have been identified, but the objective has not been secured and when a Spartan goes rogue who knows what’s going to happen next...
Thank you for tuning into our first of nine weekly episodic debriefs, Silver Team.
We’ll catch you next Monday!