Halo season 1 review: Shabana Azmi is criminally underused in sci-fi show with Mandalorian hangover

Halo, the TV series, is developed by Kyle Killen and Steven Kane, and is based on the venerable science-fiction gaming franchise of the same name. The story is basic sci-fi and speculative fiction stuff, though the show operates in its own continuity.

Set in the 26th century, it revolves around a conflict between humans and the Covenant, which is an alliance of disparate alien races. The Covenant and wants to obliterate humanity, believing it to be heretical against the Forerunners, beings who the Covenant worships as gods and believes to be creators of all life.

The heroes of the story are ‘Spartans’, advanced, armoured super-soldiers who were trained from their childhood in combat, and their leader, the Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber). The show begins with the Covenant attacking an outpost populated by rebels against UNSC (United Nations Space Command) on a planet called Madrigal. The Spartans intervene, but are late and only one teenage girl called Kwan Ha Boo (Yerin Ha) survives. She and Master Chief form an unexpected bond, much to the chagrin of UNS high command.

Halo is not bad, let me declare this upfront. There are things to like, and the story, despite overabundance of sci-fi tropes and hackneyed elements, has meat. But the show has a strong Mandalorian hangover (broody man-of-few-words protecting small person), without the good stuff. I am no fan of The Mandalorian, mind you, but it has its moments. The plot of Halo feels simultaneously thin and overwritten. We are bombarded with characters and plotlines and the writing does not seem to care whether any of that matters to the viewer.

The visuals are also hopelessly uninspired and carry a look that is straight out of a video-game. Some of it must be deliberate, as for instance Master Chief’s helmet HUD feels like the the interface of a first-person-shooter video game. But it doesn’t work at all in the television medium. The show looks cheap.

The acting, beyond a few exceptions, is also fairly mediocre. Schreiber makes Master Chief work and his relationship with Kwan Ha is rather sweet and well done. If only that were true for the other characters. Veteran Indian actor Shabana Azmi is saddled with a one-note character called Admiral Margaret Parangosky, whose sole job is to glower at her subordinates and put them in their place.

Halo is a disappointment. The generic sci-fi story and world-building, cut-rate visual quality, and mostly bad acting would undo any TV show, but it is particularly depressing in this case as the show had to struggle for years before it made it to the screen. You’d be better off playing Halo: Infinite again.

Halo is streaming on Voot Select in India.

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