The ninth episode of the Halo TV series is here. With it, we get even more action as the UNSC sends in Silver Team in a desperate attempt to find Halo itself. Friendships are tested, blood is spilled, and Halsey is up to all her tricks.
It’s a good episode to have as a finale, even as the plot (and multiple characters) take turns I wasn’t expecting. Anyone who missed the combat scenes in the first and fifth episodes will be more than happy here, though there are some questions that remain.
With the arrival of this episode, the first season is concluded. Overall, it’s been a solid show so far, with some excellent action scenes and interesting ideas. It’s also been uneven however, with large ups and downs between different episodes.
Note: This review contains spoilers for Halo Season 1, Episode 9, “Transcendence.”
Episode 9: Transcendence
Halo’s debut season delivers an action-packed finale with some twists and turns. A few plot points are taking a long time however, and we’re left with the season ending on an uncertain note.
If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check out our review of Halo Season 1, Episode 8.
The episode opens with Master Chief slowly stumbling awake, as he and the rest of the base were rocked by the wave of energy set off by Makee touching the artifact in the prior episode. Tensions again flare as Vannak and Riz threaten John and Kai, with the situation only defused by the arrival of Captain Keyes.
Keyes confirms that John is in fact telling the truth: The Spartans were kidnapped as children, with both Keyes and Halsey playing a part in abducting the children while replacing them with flash clones. Despite the residual tension, the second half of Silver Team accepts the truth and stands down, while Kai runs off to keep Halsey from escaping.
While John isn’t able to stop Makee from stealing a Phantom and the artifact, Kai catches up with Halsey’s ship, brutally killing Adun when he tries to stop her. Halsey is able to get to an escape pod, while Kai narrowly survives the ship crash-landing back on Reach.
I love this entire sequence. While we’ve seen Kai in action since she removed her suppression pellet, she was distracted and overwhelmed by the carnage the Covenant wrought. Here, she’s emotional, but focused with rage and intent. The camera framing intensifies with just how angry and personal this is for her.
In the fallout of this chaos, the UNSC is trying fruitlessly to figure out where Makee fled to, having tried to track a signal or find something in the Aspero system for weeks without avail. Citing the Covenant prophecy Makee shared, John and Cortana are able to figure out the rough location of Covenant planet in Aspero system.
As Silver Team loads up for the mission, we get a good moment between John and Captain Keyes. The latter, clearly growing at least somewhat mournful of the role he played in the creation of the Spartans, tries to half-apologize, while John simply promises that there will be a “reckoning” in the future.
Another good moment is in the re-forging of Silver Team. They’ve worked together a couple of times since the start of the series, but it’s been fraught with betrayal, unease, confusion, and doubts of where loyalties truly lie. Vannak, Riz, and Kai all trade friendly barbs over their willingness to shoot one another, with Kai reluctantly admitting she’d have done it too, she’d have just felt bad. Things aren’t fully healed, but they’ve been set back into the right place, at least for now.
Back on Reach, Halsey is captured, found oddly wandering in the woods. Miranda — ignoring her father’s wish to talk — goes to confront her mother, telling her with a mixture of subdued anger and near-satisfaction that the UNSC has no choice left but to execute her after her latest stunt and attempted abduction of the artifact and Master Chief. It’s sealed with eight words.
“I wanted you to hear it from me.”
I’ve praised the acting of Olive Gray as Miranda before and I stand by it here. She carries the confidence yet lacks the experience of a talented junior officer, especially one with such complicated parents.
On a holy Covenant planet, we see Makee prepare for a ritual in which she’ll combine the two artifacts. Unknown to her, the Prophets are discussing her fate post-Great Journey, in which she’ll be discarded and cast aside like other humans. While it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Covenant is only using Makee because it needs her to interact with the artifacts, it’s still painful, especially given the hard rejection she received from humanity in Episode 8.
Out in space, Silver Team’s ship strains, pulled and pushed by powerful cosmic forces as they follow the path to the Covenant holy world. With Cortana’s help, the team is able to (barely) make it through, gazing in wonder at the alien planet.
On Reach, Halsey mysteriously seizes up from some kind of injury, going into convulsions. Miranda and the rest of the UNSC are baffled, until Miranda recalls her mother’s use of flash clones in fooling the parents of the abducted children into thinking their kids died of natural causes. Indeed, the real Halsey is already elsewhere, looking to make her way off-world. The depths of her conniving remain untapped, for now.
On the Covenant planet, the Spartans make a dynamic entry, jumping down onto the planet and quickly disposing of the Covenant guards. As they approach a rudimentary temple, Makee unites the two alien artifacts, beginning to chart a course to the Halo ring.
Silver Team is spotted however, and we get perhaps the most extended fight scene in the show so far, as four Spartans carve their way through a veritable horde of Covenant warriors. Special mention must be given to how Master Chief takes on multiple hammer-wielding Brutes, taking a fair few hits but cutting them down all the same. The CGI work here isn’t the best, but it sells the action at hand.
With the arrival of the Brute that previously trounced John, the tide turns. Things go from bad to worse as Riz is critically wounded by a plasma grenade, while Makee touches the artifact, stunning John as the two of them are again seeing each other in a vision of Halo.
Attempting without success to snap John out of his vision, Kai reluctantly shoots Makee. It’s something I have mixed feelings on.
While Makee’s death may end up serving as a strong motivation for John in the future, in the moment it feels like her story has been cut short. The connection the two of them shared doesn’t yet feel complete, and it’s hard for her story’s ending to not feel abrupt at this point.
Even with John aware again, Silver Team is brutally overrun. Out of options, John tells Cortana to take over his body. Despite the AI’s reluctance, he persists. It’s here we finally see the odd pair truly on the same side, the start of their story at least somewhat resembling that of the games.
“I may not be able to bring you back,” she says.
“I trust you,” John says.
As John’s eyes close, his body wordlessly snaps into action, obliterating Covenant troops with ruthless efficiency. His (her?) second wind is cut short by the arrival of a UNSC gunship. Riz is narrowly saved as Master Chief cauterizes her extensive wounds without a word.
With the season closing, we’re left with a few questions. Is John truly gone for good? Unlikely. Is he aware of what’s happening now? When will we actually get to Halo?
The series hasn’t been perfect so far, and there’s plenty of places it can improve. But I’m looking forward to getting some answers in Halo Season 2.
Halo Season 1, Episode 9 is available now, exclusively on Paramount+. For a better experience, watch it on one of the best 4K TVs available.