Halo’s final episode showed us just how good a Spartan can be

When Halo Season 2 was ultimately about the fall of the planet Reach – a foundational, emotional moment Halo Lore – I thought I’d write a few words of praise about it. But then I saw the episode after it, “Aleria,” and that episode, not “Reach,” is the one that really Halo experience worthy of the games and yet so wonderfully different.

Spoilers ahead Halo season 2 follows

One of the elements that are missing Halo season 1 was the camaraderie between Spartans. The first half of Halo‘s second season better developed and defined the relationships of Silver Team (Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, Riz-028, Kai-125, and Vannak-134); in particular Riz-028 (Natasha Culzac) and Vannak-134 (Bentley Kalu), who were virtually neglected in season 1, really got their moments to shine in season 2. After suffering a debilitating injury, Riz struggles to keeping track of the physical and emotional demands of being a Spartan. Meanwhile, Vannak, having removed his emotion regulator chip, cultivates a peaceful life for himself outside his Mjolnir armor.

It was touching and funny to see Vannak show off as an animal-fact guy who likes to feed the local pigeons, while Riz is a little embarrassed when she realizes that the man she has fallen in love with is in a committed relationship. But Halo is also a war story. And when it comes to the planet Reach, Riz, Vannak and the rest of Team Silver are called into action in the form of a devastating surprise attack – and some of them don’t make it.

I expected the deaths of notable characters in the episode “Reach.” It hurt me a little to see Vannak leave because the viewers got so little time with him. The death of Captain Keyes (Danny Sapani) also surprised me, as that character dies elsewhere in the games, and I didn’t think the show would kill him off so quickly. Ultimately, ‘Reach’ was a decent episode with bits of really good action, but lacked the emotional weight of an episode based on one of the moments inside Halo tradition should have.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Image: Adrienn Szabo / Paramount Plus

The next episode, ‘Aleria’, picks up where ‘Reach’ left off, with the remaining Spartans and Dr. Halsey being surrounded by Covenant soldiers with no chance of escape. But then, as often happens in this series, Halo given hope.

As everyone boarded the ship, the Covenant grew closer. Riz, although wounded and without armor (no one has any armor due to a plot), jumped off the ship with nothing but pistols, ostensibly to keep the Covenant at bay and give the ship time to take off safely.

I started screaming, outraged that the show was about to kill off yet another character I had come to care for.

Riz returned with Vannak’s body, and my agonized screams turned into equally loud sobs. That was not her noble act of suicide. She just went back for her friend, her comrade, her brother.

At the time, Riz-028 delivered the best portrayal of a Spartan seen outside of the series’ many games, while the show itself subverted my expectations.

I was willing to reluctantly accept Riz’s death, just as I had accepted Vannak’s and Keyes’. After all, she is a black character, just like Vannak and Keyes, while a previous heroic death in the episode “Reach” featured another black character. In a media climate where characters of color are often sacrificed as a way to raise the stakes or heighten emotion without threatening a show’s more “valuable” white stars, Riz’s death would have fit right in with that. Plus, Riz is a Spartan – as long as she’s not John-117, she’s expendable.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Image: Adrienn Szabo / Paramount Plus

Afterwards, while everyone regroups and recovers on the planet Aleria, Riz decides to stay behind while John swears revenge on the military leaders responsible for abandoning Reach to its fate. John strongly opposes this and tries to guilt her by asking what she plans to do about their lost planet and comrades.

“I’m going to live,” she says.

For Halothat’s profound.

Spartans are always fighting. Always. There is an in-universe military directive that states that Spartans should never be declared “KIA” but “missing in action”, not only to reinforce their mythos as the invincible soldier, but also an everlasting one – one who is always out there and still fighting.

If they cannot fight, like the Spartans who survived the expansion with permanent disabilities, they still serve in the military in some capacity. Even when there are no more battles to fight, Master Chief himself never puts down his weapon, as he said to Cortana at the end of the film: Halo 3 to wake him up when he is needed again. And when we see Spartans die, it’s always in service of the mission.

But television Halo, dares to imagine something different for a Spartan for the first time in the series: to live, one that goes beyond fighting, serving, or death. And it was beautiful to see.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *