REVIEW: ‘Halo’ Episode 3 – “Emergence”

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Halo Episode 3 - But Why Tho

Paramount+’s Halo is getting mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. With bold choices and a slower story than I think audiences were expecting, the series adds a familiar(-ish) face in Halo Episode 3, titled “Emergence.” At the end of Episode 2, John (Pablo Schreiber) has turned himself over to the UNSC, entrusted Kwan (Yerin Ha) with his best friend Soren, and a Cortana-prototype has made an appearance.

In Halo Episode 3, John meets his new partner, a Cortana (Jen Taylor) closer to the one we know and love, and ends up discovering secrets inside his own memory. Additionally, Kwan wants to return to Madrigal to continue her people’s fight for independence, but Soren has other plans for her. And finally, closing out the series’ third story thread, Makee (Charlie Murphy), initiates her plan to retrieve the Madrigal object, with deadly consequences for the UNSC.

To be frank, there is a lot stuffed into Halo Episode 3. While this isn’t bad, it lacks the focus necessary to drive tension and detracts from more emotional elements the series is trying to have its audience latch on to. With three central elements, John, Kwan, and Makee the series tries to show emotional elements for each of them instead of focusing on one at a time. While this helps develop everyone at a similar pace, it causes the story to become too much and yet not enough.

For John, his discovery of his memories comes with a draw to feel things. He doesn’t know what things feel like, how they sound, how they smell, and his existence is changed by his inhibitor. When the artifact unlocks parts of him he hasn’t known, he begins to push to experience life in a new way, even if its as simple as hearing music without a chip trying to dampen who he is. This element pushes John’s humanity and pushes him farther away from the Master Chief we know. This isn’t bad, in fact, Pablo Schreiber’s John offers a look into Master Chief we haven’t seen before and his pain and emotion are plastered across his face in a way that hits. This character is more John than Chief, and that’s fine.

Throw in a bickering relationship with Cortana and you have a well-rounded character that is just trying to figure out what life is outside the UNSC control. In fact, his relationship with Cortana, while budding, is one of the best elements of Halo Episode 3. It’s funny and captures hints of the relationship we see in the games, obviously capable of growing. That said, while the dynamic between John and Cortana is the best part, there is still something to be desired. And that is Cortana’s design.

Her costume works, and while her facial features feel slightly too much like a caricature, it’s her hairstyle and hair animation that distracts everything obscuring her face at awkward moments. Plus, it looks like it’s stuck in the middle between realism and one solid piece. That said, Jen Taylor’s vocal performance is excellent as one would expect from the woman who has voiced the characters for over 25 years.

Had Halo Episode 3 been just about this dynamic and the balance between human and super-soldier, it could have been a success. But instead, there is more thrown in. While Kwan’s story and drive to save her planet is admirable, it doesn’t have enough time to flourish. And the same can be said for Makee’s story points as well.

Now, my issues with the choices around the characters and how much each of them is getting in about 45-minutes of runtime could be negated as we see the story develop. However, the weekly format means we can’t jump right into the next episode and see how things play out. Instead, Halo Episode 3 feels a bit half-baked. While it approaches good storytelling it comes up to the line and then pulls back to move to another plot point, breaking the immersion.

While I enjoyed the first two episodes of Halo, this third one has me questioning my decision to watch it one at a time and where the story is going in general. Not terrible, but definitely not good, this is one made best by Pablo Schreiber (both his emotions and his butt) but let down by its other parts.

Halo Episode 3 is streaming now, exclusively on Paramount+.


Halo Episode 3 - "Emergence"
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    Rating - 5/10
5/10

TL;DR

While I enjoyed the first two episodes of Halo, this third one has me questioning my decision to watch it one at a time and where the story is going in general. Not terrible, but definitely not good, this is one made best by Pablo Schreiber (both his emotions and his butt) but let down by its other parts.