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Silver Debrief: Reach

Debrief 018
Halo The Series image of Riz-028 leaping from an exploding building during the Battle for Reach
Photo of Alex
  -  2 months ago

From the very beginning, even before the release of Halo: Combat Evolved, there was the story of Reach.

First experienced in Eric Nylund’s 2001 novel that laid the foundations of the Halo universe beyond the games, then in Halo: Reach as Bungie bid farewell to the series in 2010… and now, we come back to this event that defines the very nature of humanity’s conflict with the Covenant.

The time has come for Reach to fall.



Vannak-134 brings food for the birds that have settled high up on the roof of the FLEETCOM headquarters, but they fly away in distress as explosions suddenly erupt across the city.

The Master Chief and Corporal Perez hurry through the streets as panic begins to set in. Perez breaks off to get her family, but the Chief holds her back as peoples’ homes are destroyed—her family seemingly dead from the blasts. As Perez breaks down over the loss of her family and friends, the Chief says that he needs to get back to FLEETCOM to get his gear, and while working their way through Reach’s undercity markets the civilians are attacked by cloaked Sangheili forces.

Taking cover in a shop, Perez is stunned by the Chief’s reaction to the events unfolding. The Chief tells Perez about a woman he met when he was a child—she flipped a coin, which he called eleven times. Every time he goes into battle, he knows that he might lose somebody, but it’s not going to be him.

As they head into the next room, a woman fires a shotgun that narrowly misses the Chief. She tells him to be careful with the axe he has picked up, as it’s over six-hundred years old, along with an assortment of other historic items in the shop. They try to convince the shopkeeper to come with them to FLEETCOM, but she resolves to stay and look after her artifacts (some of which, like a certain box, may look familiar).

L-R Natascha McElhone as Dr. Halsey and Bokeem Woodbine as Soren in Halo episode 4, season 2, streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

Meanwhile, Soren sits with Dr. Halsey in her cell, noticing that the tea on the table is shaking from the distant explosions, surmising that something is going on. Halsey says that it’s good to see him and know that he is still alive, to which Soren says that he has played the moment of seeing her again in his mind a thousand times—what to say and how to say it, and what he would do if they were ever in the same room. They are interrupted, however, by the holographic projection of the house being disabled, revealing the cell’s exit.

Halsey tells Soren that she knows the way out and asks him to trust her, which he denies. She then asks about how Kessler is, wondering how much of Soren there is in his son, and says that she remembers Soren as the most driven of the Spartans—the others had to be “recruited,” but he wanted to be one from the very beginning, which made it difficult to let him go. Perplexed by this phrasing, Soren insists that he escaped and made a life for himself in spite of Halsey, which she dismisses to be as good a story as any before finding dead FLEETCOM personnel in an adjacent room. Handing Soren a pistol, Halsey asks him not to shoot her in the back.

Upon entering the chamber that previously held the Forerunner artifact (Halsey taking notice that it is missing), Cortana appears and tells her to run. Arbiter Var ‘Gatanai then appear, forcing Halsey and Soren to retreat as Makee takes Cortana and a grenade goes off, knocking Halsey out.


L-R Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief and Cristina Rodlo as Corporal Perez in Halo episode 4, season 2, streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

The Master Chief and Corporal Perez run through an active battlefield in the streets, finding Riz-028 on a turret with Louis and his husband Danilo. Alongside a group of Marines, the group pushes forward to reach FLEETCOM, fighting an onslaught of Covenant forces through a series of damaged buildings where Danilo is killed.

After learning of his husband’s fate from Riz, Louis saves the group from being pinned down by sacrificing himself to destroy a Wraith with his grenade belt, allowing the others—now down to just the Chief, Riz, and Perez—to escape.

Arriving at the FLEETCOM barracks, the Chief orders Riz—who is momentarily stunned by the suffering around her—to get suited up. Parting ways with Perez, the Chief tosses her a coin for luck. Vannak arrives and informs them that he’s been clearing out the lower levels of cloaked Sangheili that snuck in. Riz asks Vannak where Kai is, to which Vannak says that he was about to ask the same thing, and reveals that their Mjolnir armor is gone, along with high-ranking personnel—including Ackerson.

Finding Admiral Keyes, who is leading the defence of FLEETCOM, he admits that the Chief was right all along, and that Cobalt Team were KIA at Visegrad, having been taken by surprise and thus creating a blind spot for the Covenant to slip in. For now, it’s a ground game as the Covenant target power stations, and if those go down then so do Reach’s orbital defences, which will allow the alien fleet to move into range and start glassing the planet.

Keyes resolves to make the Covenant pay for every inch of Reach they intend to claim and calls the Marines to attention, rallying them with an inspiring speech as they see to evacuation efforts.


L-R Natascha McElhone as Dr. Halsey and Bokeem Woodbine as Soren in Halo episode 4, season 2, streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

Halsey regains consciousness and Soren asks her what she meant by saying that she “let him go.” Halsey recalls how all the Spartans—including the Master Chief—looked to Soren. But after Soren’s augmentations failed, Halsey says that she needed the Chief to look to himself for inspiration, and so she ensured that the shipyard that Soren was planning to use to escape Reach was left unguarded.

Halsey and Soren then meet with Keyes who escorts them to a civilian transport in the upper hangar. While in an elevator, Keyes tells Halsey that their daughter Miranda is not here, and Halsey informs him that the Covenant has taken Cortana. On the landing platform, Soren notices cables at the edge of the hangar that are climbed by a group of Kig-Yar, starting a firefight as Perez attempts to get civilians aboard the transport ship.

The Spartans take up position on the FLEETCOM bridge with Marines and a Scorpion tank, which fires a round that reveals a legion of camouflaged Sangheili already well across the bridge, but Keyes radios in to inform the Chief that the civilian transport is under attack and the Spartans head off to assist.

Aboard the transport, Perez informs Keyes that the civilians are all aboard, but as Keyes prepares to ignite the engines to take off an error message says that fuel lines are still connected. Keyes heads out to detach the fuel lines but finds himself surrounded by Kig-Yar and orders Perez to take off, pulling out a pipe as he embraces a noble end. Soren drags Halsey away from the scene as she desperately wants to help Keyes, but is distracted by seeing the Chief, but they are all blasted back as Perez successfully takes off and causes a subsequent explosion in the hangar.

Natascha McElhone as Dr. Halsey in Halo episode 4, Season 2, Streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

More Kig-Yar and Sangheili arrive, with the Spartans, Soren, and Marines holding the line while Halsey takes cover. The Arbiter arrives, taking the Chief in a one-on-one fight amidst the chaos and slicing his assault rifle apart. The Chief picks up an energy sword but gets hit by a plasma pistol from another Sangheili, prompting the Arbiter to slice its head off for denying him a fair and honorable fight. The Arbiter prepares to deal the killing blow against the Chief but is prevented by Makee’s intervention.

Vannak charges in, taking down a Kig-Yar and firing on the Arbiter with a Needler, who wrenches the crystals out of his own armor and stabs Vannak with them, detonating in his chest and instantly killing him.

In a hole blasted through the ceiling, a bird circles in flight as the night passes.


Through this episode, there are several references made to the very first time that John-117 met Dr. Halsey through the fateful coin toss that would set him on the path to become a Spartan.

This is a scene that we first saw play out in Chapter Two of Eric Nylund’s Halo: The Fall of Reach, all the way back in 2001. It was also visually adapted in the 2015 animated feature Halo: Fall of Reach that was included with limited edition copies of Halo 5: Guardians.

Let’s revisit that scene…

Image from the Halo: Fall of Reach animated series showing Dr. Halsey tossing a coin for a 6 year old John

“What’s the game?”

“It’s very simple. I toss the coin like this.” She flicked her wrist, snapped her thumb, and the coin arced, spinning into the air, and landed in the sand. “Next time, though, before it lands, I want you to tell me if it will fall with the face of the man showing or with the eagle holding the arrows.”

“I got it.” John tensed, bent his knees, and then his eyes seemed to lose their focus on her and the coin.

Dr. Halsey picked up the quarter. “Ready?”

John gave a slight nod.

She tossed it, making sure there was plenty of spin.

John’s eyes watched it with that strange distant gaze. He tracked it as it went up, and then down toward the ground— his hand snapped out and snatched the quarter out of the air.

He held up his closed hand. “Eagle!” he shouted.

She tentatively reached for his hand and peeled open the tiny fist.

The quarter lay in his palm: the eagle shining in the orange sun.

Was it possible that he saw which side was up when he grabbed it . . . or more improbably, could have picked which side he wanted? She hoped the Lieutenant had recorded that. She should have told him to keep the data pad trained on her.

John retracted his hand. “I get to keep it, right? That’s what you said.”

“Yes, you can keep it, John.” She smiled at him— then stopped.

She shouldn’t have used his name. That was a bad sign. She couldn’t afford the luxury of liking her test subjects. She mentally stepped away from her feelings. She had to maintain a professional distance. She had to . . . because in a few months Number 117 might not be alive.

Halo: Combat Evolved screenshot of Captain Keyes holding his grandfather's pipe

Another reference made to The Fall of Reach in this episode is the final moment Jacob Keyes has after he successfully detaches the fuel lines from the evacuation transport. As he is surrounded by Kig-Yar and embraces his fate, Keyes pulls out a pipe and asks “You got a light?”

In the novel, we learn in the first chapter that Keyes keeps his grandfather’s pipe in his pocket. While it is against UNSC regulation to ignite a combustible object (particularly on a starship), Keyes developed a habit of chewing on the tip of this inherited keepsake—something we also see him do in Halo: Combat Evolved, as pictured above.


Title card for Season Two of Halo The Series Declassified

Sydnee Goodman returns with a new episode of Halo The Series: Declassified to break down the climactic events of the mid-point of Season Two.

This week, Sydnee speaks with Danny Sapani (Admiral Jacob Keyes) and Bentley Kalu (Vannak-134) about the fates of their respective characters, and of course that epic rallying speech that Keyes gave to the brave Marines who made their final stand in this episode to help evacuate as many people as they could. We also get a behind the scenes look at how the epic fall of Reach was put together, and much more!

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


We may have said farewell to Vannak-134 in this episode of the show, but you can carry on the legacy of this beloved Spartan super-soldier in Halo Infinite.

Complete all your Challenges in Halo Infinite this week and you’ll unlock the ultimate reward: Vannak-134’s helmet. Additionally, you’ll unlock Vannak’s visor for free simply for logging in this week.

Halo Infinite image of Vannak-134's helmet

That closes us out for this titanic episode which saw many characters—old and new—perish in defence of Reach. And we’re only at the half-way point, there are questions to be answered and plenty of action still to come.

We’ll see you next week!