It’s nearly impossible to consider Halo and not compare it to The Mandalorian. After all, they’re both live-action science-fiction shows based on massively popular geeky franchises. They were both created to help launch a new streaming service. And they both star a hero who never reveals his face.
Or at least, that was the original idea, but in Halo Episode 1 on Paramount+, the new series proves it failed to understand the most important thing about the Mandalorian’s helmet. Light spoilers ahead for Halo Episode 1.
Master Chief’s face, revealed
I want you to picture Master Chief, the faceless hero of the Halo franchise, in your mind. Now, while holding onto that image, look at this:
Nothing against Pablo Schreiber (who, in case you were wondering, is indeed related to Liev Schreiber, his paternal half-brother) but never in a million years is this what I imagined Masterchief looks like.
On the one hand, it kind of makes sense that the hero of Halo just looks like the random guy you see at the gym. On the other hand, this totally misses the point of Masterchief in the first place.
From the very beginning, Masterchief’s face has been shrouded in mystery. This was a choice made mostly by necessity. When the first Halo game was in development, its creators were under immense pressure to make an Xbox game for a console that didn’t even exist. Cutting out things like plot, three-dimensional characters, and even a face for their protagonist was a necessary evil.
But in the long term, it turned out to be a stroke of brilliance. Gamers could project themselves onto Masterchief’s unseen face. That’s why the games never broke that rule even as the plot became increasingly more complicated. Sure, various Halo books and other supplemental materials showed us what lurked behind the mask, but it’s possible to play through the entire mainline video game franchise and never have to find out what Masterchief actually looks like.
In just one episode, Halo on Paramount+ takes that experience away from us. Was there a better way to handle this reveal? To answer that question, we have to go back to the other major sci-fi show about a guy who hides his face behind a helmet.
Halo and The Mandalorian
We’ve already established the many similarities between these two shows, but here’s one more: both eventually reveal what their helmeted hero looks like. The only difference is, The Mandalorian made us wait until Season 2 to show us the famous face under the mask. Meanwhile, Halo gives up the goods in Episode 1.
As a result, Halo makes a major mistake. It deprives audiences of the chance to see themselves in Masterchief before revealing his true identity. It might be difficult to feel any attachment for a guy who never removes his mask. But the only thing worse is a guy who removes his mask once to reveal a face we have no attachment to.
Halo could have easily followed in Mando’s footsteps by building up its hero for at least a few episodes or longer. Instead, it missed the most important thing about The Mandalorian.
Well, that and Baby Yoda.
Halo is streaming now on Paramount+.