Warning: spoilers for Halo episode 6 ahead. Turn back now if you haven’t seen the new episode of the Paramount Plus series.
It all comes down to this. While there are still three more episodes to go, ‘Solace’ feels like a finale, and that’s to its credit. In a breathless episode, hard truths come spilling out, Master Chief goes too far, and Halo – in increasingly confident fashion – delivers its best hour of television to date.
Halo’s previous opening scenes have been meandering, gap-filling affairs. Instead of stretching out more of Chief’s backstory, ‘Solace’ is far more immediate. John is seen wrestling with his clear disdain for Halsey after the slow discovery of her betrayal over recent weeks. Instead of waiting until the closing moments of ‘Solace’ for the fireworks to go off, the episode hits top gear straight away and never lets up.
Chief locks Halsey in her own lab and sets off a countdown for her nasty, liquefied, and radiation-filled death. It’s a moment that’s as shocking as it is satisfying. Pablo Schreiber has been masterful up until now, keeping John-117’s emotions bubbling under the surface. The moment where he finally explodes, then, is not only well-earned, but incredibly well-executed. His intensity spills out over every angry, violent line – and even Cortana seemingly can’t walk him off this increasingly precarious ledge.
Natascha McElhone – whose cold, glassy delivery has led to her scenes lacking energy so far in the series – also excels. Her frenzied screaming, coupled with the decision for Chief to lead her to safety just a beat too long, underpins an excellent scene. It’s the show’s best moment to date, a sleight of hand that almost tricks the viewer into thinking Chief is about to splatter Halsey’s brains all over her scientific instruments. Once you’ve collected yourself, you’ll be wondering how Halo can possibly top that moment.
Master Chief and Makee finally meet
While the episode doesn’t quite reach those heights, it makes a good stab at it. That’s largely due to the wise decision to place several significant scenes in the episode. Everything here really matters and it’s worlds away from the inefficient flab with Vishner on Madrigal or the UNSC all sitting round a table looking suitably stern. Alongside Chief’s torment of Halsey comes the Spartan’s long-anticipated face-to-face meeting with Makee, the human spy working for the Covenant.
If there is a failing in this episode, it’s that Charlie Taylor’s Covenant agent plays things a little too close to the chest. Acting is a tough skill to master. Acting just subtly enough to let the audience know you’re lying, all while still playing it straight to the actor across from you, is even tougher – and isn’t quite achieved here.
That’s a minor quibble, though. The scene itself (and Taylor, who finally gets a chance to perform alongside a human actor) is outstanding. The contrast between the stillness of this moment and the high intensity of the one prior is a well-placed yin and yang. Even before the revelation of the pair being Blessed Ones, you can almost feel the rhythmic unity between Makee and Master Chief. It’s short and sharp, holding just enough back that it allows the episode to open up and plumbs its emotional depths once more in Chief’s second showdown with Halsey – all without feeling too overwhelming.
After Makee tells Chief the location of the second artifact – which turns out to be a ruse, naturally – the Spartan again confronts Halsey. It’s here where Chief gets his answers.
Halsey reveals that “mutant” children replaced those which she stole from their parents, only to have them die so they could mourn their ‘loss.’ It’s as needlessly cruel as anything on the show so far, and further cements Halsey’s place as Halo’s overarching villain. The knife is twisted further as Halsey – now put on ice by UNSC brass and asked to leave Reach – meets up with her daughter Miranda, who is now leading the operation.
Halo hasn’t really broached their relationship, so when a tearful Halsey finally speaks to her daughter with something approaching empathy, it’s a shock to the system. But the moment is fleeting. Halsey’s true intentions are revealed – the mother-and-daughter heart-to-heart only serves as a way to get Miranda’s iris recognition and Halsey back online in the UNSC system. It’s only thanks to the show’s restraint with their relationship that this gut punch hits as hard as it does.
The episode, as is befitting such a fast-paced entry filled with revelations and multiple plot twists galore, has one more trick up its sleeve. Master Chief, who is seemingly slowly dying thanks to his interactions with the artifact, touches the keystone one last time. It unleashes a wave of energy, then Chief and Makee find themselves on an idyllic, blue-skied planet, with a halo-shaped object seen in the sky.
The arrival of what could be Installation 04 is something fans have been waiting for but, as has been the theme with the series, it doesn’t go down as you’d expect from the source material. Ropey green screen aside, it’s a moment of genuine warmth and beauty. These two people – who have been fighting their whole life for the purposes of others – are joined as one. Master Chief may have begun ‘Solace’ with murderous intent but, in a whirlwind episode, he’s finally found some inner peace in this sprawling universe.
New episodes of Halo stream weekly every Thursday on Paramount Plus.
4.5 out of 5
A stellar episode packed with tense confrontations and pitch-perfect performances from the cast