Halo season 2, episode 6 review: "A backwards step"

A review and recap of Halo season 2, episode 6 'Onyx'

Halo season 2, episode 6 review
(Image: © Paramount)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

After the one-two gut punch of ‘Reach’ and ‘Aleria’, another change of scene in ‘Onyx’ doesn’t yield similar results. Master Chief is once again the highlight, but the Covenant’s big return – mixed with lacking B-plots – mean it’s back to a similar story for the much-maligned Halo.

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

The review contains spoilers for Halo season 2, episode 6.

Halo season 2 has taken us on a tour of the galaxy, from the glassed surface of Sanctuary to the shattered remains of Reach. Now, Master Chief and the show’s major players converge on Onyx. As Chief describes it, it’s a planet with "no maps, no records, no history. Just rumors and whispers."

The perfect place, then, to hit accelerate on a season that has largely impressed but is rapidly running out of runway in the home stretch. While there is a lot to like in ‘Onyx’, however, it’s a largely inconsistent affair that suggests we’re on course for a muddled final two episodes.

Right now, though, the mask is off. The UNSC and ONI are no longer doing bad things for the greater good. They’re just straight-up bad, training Perez and the rest of Javelin Team to become the "next generation of Spartans", endless ‘bees’ being directed by the hive. 

While Ackerson and Parangosky being outright painted at the season’s Big Bads throws up a few deep, cutting lines ("You drink the tea, but what you taste is the story" is a brilliant retort that writer Sarah McCarron must have been keeping in her back pocket), it all falls apart a little when taken alongside just how much the rest of the episode starts ramping up Master Chief’s long-awaited reunion with Makee and the Covenant. 

Halo can – and has – juggled multiple plots ably before, but the Covenant have been afterthoughts for most of the season and are now dragged in as the main focus so late in the day. It doesn’t help matters that each of Makee’s scenes leading to the Arbiter’s obvious ‘betrayal’ – complete with Charlie Murphy’s Irish accent slipping in – feel like the worst parts of the first season Frankensteined on to what has been, so far, a more robust season 2. 

Unfortunately, the path towards the Halo – mapped out here thanks to Cortana’s post-Chief reunion dialogue which may as well have been a video game objective flashing on the screen – also feels like it’s going to feature far more of an emphasis on the Covenant instead of picking at Chief’s war with his own brass a little more. That’s a real shame. After all, the TV show version of John has proven to be a more magnetic character when chasing the powers-that-be instead of being puppeteered by them in an endless war.

Spartans never die

Halo season 2, episode 6 review

(Image credit: Paramount)

Thankfully, other parts of ‘Onyx’ are more of a success. John, captured and in chains, features a little sprinkling of the more brutal side of Master Chief which, paradoxically, hits home a little harder when he’s out of his suit. 

It also leads to a compelling showdown with Kai, his former Silver Team sister-in-arms that at least makes up for Kate Kennedy’s Spartan being overtaken by both Kai and Vannak this year when she was secretly one of the best parts of Halo’s debut season

Elsewhere, your mileage may vary on the side plots that seem to ebb and flow like the tide, with not much attention paid to whether they will even get any meaningful progress from week to week. Case in point: Soren was a focal point last episode, but his hunt for his son Kessler goes practically nowhere in ‘Onyx.’ Kwan’s spiritual awakening, too, only seems to guide her to a Halsey B-plot that – admittedly – does lead to the return of Miranda Keyes and all the intrigue that comes with that.

As much as I’ve enjoyed Halo this year, ‘Onyx’ is a step backwards. Everything to do with Master Chief is still a highlight, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The Covenant have suddenly gone from non-factors to pressing concerns, but viewers can’t be expected to care as much when so much time has been devoted to building up Ackerson and breaking down Chief’s many UNSC relationships. 

At least Halo is (finally) introducing the titular ring that could wipe out billions – but, in doing so, the Paramount Plus show is in danger of moving away from the sort of surprisingly high quality that’s punctuated the season so far.

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"
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.