Halo season 2, episode 4 review: "This is finally the Halo show fans have been crying out for"

A review and recap of Halo season 2, episode 4 'Reach'

Halo
(Image: © Paramount)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Halo upsets the discourse surrounding the show by finally delivering on its potential: the war on Reach bursts forth into a pulsating entry that resembles a great level from the original Bungie trilogy

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The review contains some spoilers for Halo season 2, episode 4.

It’s taken a few years, but this is finally the Halo show fans have been crying out for. ‘Reach’ sheds the skin of the frequently dreary political chessboard for a concussive blast of an episode that feels ripped right out of the games themselves. 

While likely only a one-off, it’s a devastating 45 minutes that not only acts as a goodwill offering to those who have grumbled ever since Master Chief first showed his face, but as a thrilling entry in its own right.

The fourth episode deals with the sudden Covenant invasion of Reach and Master Chief’s effort to save the day. Smartly, it sticks with John for most of the runtime, tracking his journey as he winds his way from the streets of the doomed planet through to FleetCom – with flourishes such as the shopkeeper’s “nothing matters” speech nicely punctuating the slightly creaky CGI battles that clearly push the limits of the Paramount Plus series’ budget.

It’s here at the crumbling shopkeeper’s residence where the walls of the show start breaking alongside the literal ones. The shape of this Halo is something different and altogether more interesting for a large chunk of its fanbase. To be completely reductive, it has the feel of a great Halo level: the intimacy of ODST clashing with Bungie’s blockbuster original trilogy and the tragedy of Halo: Reach. 

The Fall of Reach

Halo

(Image credit: Paramount)

As gripping as ‘Reach’ is, there are a few faults that stick out like a Needler in a Spartan’s body (too soon?): the season hasn’t been shy in suggesting Silver Team wants to find life outside of combat. However, they clearly excel in situations such as the horror-show on Reach. Unfortunately, it’s a needle the show can never quite thread. 

These characters contain multitudes but it’s not something Halo has come close to exploring with any great purpose. That’s hammered home further with Louis: how do you circle a quiet, affectionate soul wanting to go out in a blaze of glory? There are many ways to approach it – humans, after all, are complex creatures – but Halo leaves it behind in place of surface-level spectacle.

Another misstep is Halsey and Soren’s reunion. What could have been an explosive war of words is sidestepped entirely for a quick escape. Part of me wonders whether that’s because – perhaps a little unfairly – Natasha McElhone’s occasionally lightweight delivery wouldn’t rise to the occasion, but it still smacks of a missed opportunity. At least Bokeem Woodbine flexes his comedic muscles with several hilarious line deliveries, each bringing some much-needed levity to an emotionally heavy episode.

That slight disappointment is also offset by ‘Reach’ introducing a handful of delicious twists that are likely going to pay off big time in future weeks. The first of which is Makee taking Cortana, with John’s long overdue reunion with Halsey being another; Chief’s relationship with the women in his life demands to be mined in greater depth, and the shifting dynamic here gives ample ammo for Halo in the second half of its second season.

Halo

(Image credit: Paramount)

As Chief finally reaches command, ‘Reach’ turns into an all-out war movie – complete with a stirring speech from Admiral Keyes, whose actor Danny Sapani has maximized the (unfortunately) fleeting amount of minutes he’s been given this season. 

“Today, he needs no armor” – about John, the man rather than Master Chief, the icon – is lightning in a bottle, one that could be read as a defiant middle finger to the naysayers who want Master Chief to be armor-clad 24/7, but also one that’s surely going to stand out as a Halo high point when the series eventually comes to a close.

For all the cathartic, blood-pumping high of Keyes’ speech, however, it was always going to end with a thud. In this case, Chief fails in tackling the Covenant leader and sees his comrade Vannak killed in brutal fashion. On top of that, Keyes’ sacrifice is a narrative thud, an event that is a little quick and unearned – almost relying on the same event in the games doing much of the emotional legwork for the viewer.

Still, this is the Halo show at its very best. I wasn’t quite a champion of the first season, but I saw its merits. Here, Halo reaches new heights: everything is paid off in abundance, while taking the form of something instantly recognizable to long-term fans – a fantastic Halo mission – and newcomers – a quality episode – alike.

In short, this is a great piece of television – yet probably one that Halo can’t do again, such is its unique place in the story. But even if this is as good as it gets, we’ll always have ‘Reach.’


Halo season 2 is streaming on Paramount Plus, with new episodes available weekly.

For what else is on the way, check out all of the upcoming video game adaptations to look forward to.

More info

Platform"Xbox 360","PC","Xbox"
GenreSci-fi
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Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.