Paramount’s Halo TV series is really starting to go places. After making a grand, symbolic departure from the video game canon in the first episode, where protagonist Master Chief takes off his helmet and begins a journey to become more human, each episode since has taken step after step into carving out its own unique version of the Halo story. Episode 3 finally introduces Master Chief’s AI companion Cortana, sets up conflict for the future – and even gets viewers acquainted with Master Chief’s rear end. It truly is everything Halo fans have been waiting for.
If you’re not a Paramount+ subscriber, but remain curious about what the show is doing, that’s what our recaps are for! You can catch up with our last recaps, or dive into the new analysis below.
- Halo TV Series – Episode 1 Recap – ‘Contact’
- Halo TV Series – Episode 2 Recap – ‘Unbound’
- Halo TV Series – Episode 3 Recap – ‘Emergence’
- Halo TV Series – Episode 4 Recap – ‘Homecoming’
- Halo TV Series – Episode 5 Recap – ‘Reckoning’
- Halo TV Series – Episode 6 Recap – ‘Solace’
- Halo TV Series – Episode 7 Recap – ‘Inheritance’
- Halo TV Series – Episode 8 Recap – ‘Allegiance’
- Halo TV Series – Episode 9 Recap – ‘Transcendence’ – Season 1 Finale
[WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE HALO TV SERIES CONTINUE BELOW]
Halo TV Series – Episode 3 Recap – ‘Emergence’
Episode three opens on Planet Oban, a dark, industrial, planet that is quite literally a rubbish dump. Children are being made to salvage trash, while futuristic riot cops police them. The writer’s room could literally not have created a grimmer scenario.
A couple of kids are reading a paperback called ‘The Dawn of Angels’, and imagining the day they might be able to visit other planets that have things like trees, grass, and aren’t covered in rubbish. The girl is sceptical. The boy somehow goads the girl into kissing her, before the trash cops ruin their fun and chase after them, before one of them beats the boy to death – brutal. The girl takes the book.
Side note: ‘The Dawn of Angels’ by Issac Lux is not a real book, as far as we can tell.
Suddenly, two Covenant drop down from the sky and cause chaos, but not enough for the girl to get away. She gets floored and tasered. We learn that the two Covenant are searching for the ‘Luminary’. Conveniently, they arrive as the girl is getting tasered by the guard, and eliminate him. Surprise! The girl is exactly who they’re looking for. She grabs the book, stands up, looks at the Covenant and nods.
Cut to present day, and we discover that the same girl is the ‘Blessed One’, the woman who’s been hanging out with the Covenant High Council during Halo’s first couple of episodes. She puts away the book and prepares to go searching for the Relic on the Planet Madrigal.
When asked about what she’ll do when she meets the ‘Demon’ – Master Chief – another human who supposedly shares her abilities, whatever they are, no doubt something to do with the relic – she responds by saying she’ll bring back his head. Big words!
After the title sequence, we’re back at the UNSC base on Reach, where Miranda Keyes is analysing the relic. We learn it’s over 100,000 years old, predating humans, and possibly even the Covenant.
Keyes is being shown the artefact by Admiral Parangosky, who wants her to lead a cover team in analysing the artefact without the knowledge of Doctor Halsey. Parangosky wants the UNSC to be less reliant on Halsey in the future, which Miranda gets a kick out of.
A quick reminder: Miranda is Halsey’s daughter.
We now visit Halsey’s lab, where her assistant Adun is making some tweaks to Halsey’s younger clone, who I’ll refer to as Clone Halsey. Doctor Halsey walks in and has a very confronting conversation with her clone, who appears to share the same memories as her, though obviously the clone’s memories are from a snapshot at a certain point in Halsey’s life. They talk about harvesting their own organ samples, the clone being a byproduct, and the clone feeling like she’s more than just a product.
As the, quite frankly, creepy clone puts together a basic cognitive puzzle, the brain of Halsey that exists in the clone asks to be caught up on the Spartan program that was developed while she was out.
We learn that 35 of the children brought in for the role survived the human augmentation to be turned into Spartans, but that many more died in the process.
Afraid that she’s about to have her brain harvested for no good reason, the Clone Halsey is relieved to hear that’s not exactly the case — it’s to power the Cortana program, which she’s quite excited has become a viable thing.
With a child-like excitement, she correctly guesses that Master Chief – John-117, ‘the special one’ – is the candidate for the Cortana program – the weird relationship between Master Chief, Halsey, and what will eventually be Cortana continues to be picked apart.
Clone Halsey voices their past concerns about the whole procedure, including whether Halsey would be game enough to go through with the process, if faced with a younger version of herself. Progress has changed things, Doctor Halsey remarks.
In the next scene we see John-117 in a medical gown, and the TV series’ continual stripping down of the mythical Master Chief continues. First, the helmet. Then, the armour. Then, the clothes.
John has a whinge to Halsey about not needing a babysitter to return to the field, but Halsey tries to sell it as an upgrade that’ll help them analyse the artefact at a more rapid pace, and a move that will help get him back on the frontlines of combat.
We cut to a very nervous Clone Halsey on an operating table, and John in a similar position. Adun apologies that Clone Halsey needs to be awake for the procedure, which he assures her will hurt. With her body restrained, Adun, who now reveals himself to be an absolute creep, moves to kiss Clone Halsey before Doctor Halsey enters the room.
They begin the procedure with incredibly tense and cower-worthy action, where a little clamp holds Clone Halsey’s eyelids open, and a needle visibly punctures her eyeball, killing Clone Halsey but extracting cognitive functions into a little microchip, which is then implanted into John-117’s brain.
Meanwhile, Clone Halsey’s body bleeds out the ear and is disposed of in a vat of acid.
Halsey initiates Cortana (played by Jen Taylor, who also voices Cortana in the video game series), who comes out swinging with an ancient adage: ‘When the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box’. Will that be important later, or is that a weird computer thing? Who knows.
She sees John-117 then proceed to rattle off his military record, like a fangirl. Halsey briefs Cortana about the Covenant artefact, but before she can get into it, Cortana immediately recognises a problem.
She realises she should be able to take complete control of John, as she was designed to do, but she doesn’t have the option to do so. For the moment, her access is limited, Halsey says, because they want to see how it affects him.
We’re now back at Soren’s asteroid city, rejoining Kwan as she wanders through the palce alone, getting checked out by a few of the citizens. She catches glimpse of a news report about Governor Vinsher, who has now taken over Madrigal, forged peace with UNSC, and ceased any plans for the planet’s independence, much to Kwan’s anger.
Soren takes a huge delivery of chickens from Earth, and offers a crate each to his lackeys, but they’re unsatisfied. Will Soren’s lack of chicken generosity come back to bite him in the arse? We will see.
Kwan confronts Soren and demands to return to Madrigal, in order to join the resistance she thinks still exists, and fight Governor Vinsher. Her people have been on Madrigal before it was even colonised, she says.
After Soren refuses to budge, she lashes out and calls him an asshole, to which he takes great offence. He ominously says he’s not going to crush her skull as a courtesy to John – which is an extreme bit of tough love from a seven-foot Spartan soldier to a teenage girl.
Soren smiles and says he’ll see her at dinner – he’s Kwan’s ward, after all. They’re going to have chicken.
Back at the UNSC, Halsey is introducing Cortana to a very reluctant John. He doesn’t even want to meet her, and he’s incredibly skeptical and dismissive.
We quickly change gears once more to visit a UNSC patrol ship, which encounters a Covenant ship floating, unpowered, in space.
The ship is transmitting a mayday signal and upon making contact, they’re linked up with a female voice, who identifies herself as being a sole survivor from the Planet Circumstance, taken prisoner by the Covenant. Surprise! It’s the Blessed One, with a soldier comprised entirely of lethal worms in tow.
We turn back to John, who’s checking out the Covenant Relic under a controlled lab, with the supervision of Halsey.
He touches the relic, it responds, and he gets another sepia-tinged flashback of his family and his dog, but also a visit to a cave where young John takes notice of something.
Halsey and Cortana put John into stasis in order to try and get exclusive access to the rellic, but find that if John’s own mind isn’t present, the relic doesn’t respond. A pushy Cortana insists on taking full control of John to get better readings, but Halsey shuts that idea down.
Back at the patrol ship, the pod carrying the supposed sole survivor docks, and is met by a full squad of armed soldiers. The Blessed One is searched, and as the captain of the ship extends a warm welcome, a mess of tentacles – no, worms – swarms the ship, like an ungodly pile of monstrous leeches.
Everyone panics and dies, and no-one thinks to just shoot the Blessed One and be done with it.
She attempts to interrogate the captain, and upon failing to do so, her secret weapon is revealed: a teeny tiny energy blade that retracts from her index fingernail, which she uses to stab the captain in the eyeball.
We’re back with an unarmored John at the UNSC base, as he watches a bunch of marines play an incredibly exciting game of… throwing metal balls into a table filled with sand. Space bocce? They all stop to say hi to John – ‘Hi Master Chief!!’ – but he’s too gruff to respond.
We cut to the rest of the Spartan Silver Team, who are having a bit of rest and relaxation. Well, kind of. Kai is testing her wits with an intense game of recall, and the other two are playing four seperate games of space chess simultaneously (or does Space Chess use four boards? Will we ever find out?)
John is clearly worried about what they think about all the goings on, but they respond with a cold kindness. They’ve all been fighting together since they were kids, says Kai, and they trust him wholesale.
As John turns to leave, Cortana bursts out of him unexpectedly to introduce herself, which he is incredibly ruffled by. As they bicker, it’s established that Cortana isn’t just an AI that he can instantly turn off – she acts on her own terms, like any sentient being would.
When Cortana finally leaves, John assures the team the AI is temporary. Vannak and Riz return to their Space Chess game, but Kai stays on to give yet another concerned and ominous stare – her first for this episode!
Back at Asteroid City, Kwan is hanging out with Soren’s son Kessler as he flexes his knowledge of planets. Soren’s 1930s glam wife returns, and tries to comfort a distressed Kwan by telling her that she deals with the destruction of her planet by living in the present and holding onto her spirit.
Kwan voices her opposition to a lazy, luxurious lifestyle, to which Soren’s wife takes some offence, but reasons that a quick death ain’t so hot either: ‘The universe will be diminished without you in it.’
We return to John as he’s attempting to Google something on a terminal, which causes Cortana to perk up, because she can do it way faster. He rudely dismisses her, to which she passively aggressively dunks on his bad search queries.
John finally relents, explaining that he’s trying to find out more about the flashbacks he’s been having. She instantly narrows down the planets John could have been from, and as he glosses over one, Mamore, he recalls the time a fellow Spartan was killed, and laments his lack of emotion over it.
John explains that when he has the flashbacks, he doesn’t just see the memories, but he feels the emotions associated with them, too.
Suddenly, John is naked. I repeat – MASTER CHIEF IS NAKED – and attempting to cut out the emotional suppression pellet at the base of his spine, something which Soren recommended he do in the previous episode.
Cortana attempts to tattle to Halsey, but surprisingly, Halsey encourages it. She recommends that Cortana actually assist John in order for her to appear as an accomplice rather than a spy, which Cortana is not happy about.
But, she appears behind the naked John and helps him get the pellet out quick smart. ‘Like I’ve been trying to tell you Master Chief, I’m here for you,’ she says in a soothing voice.
Unfortunately, Kai has been watching the whole process, and gives yet another very concerned look into the distance.
Now that the emotional suppression pellet is out, John goes walkabout on the base, and marvels at the wonders of being in space like it’s the first time he’s seen it. He boards a passenger train, and just observes people – young couples in love, parents greeting their children, and plenty of stylish folks with cool future fashion sense.
He stumbles upon an outdoor concert and we see a very different expression on Jon’s face now – his mouth slightly agape, with more naturalistic breathing, kind of in a constant dumbfounded daze. A dog enters the outdoor auditorium – either a labrador or a golden retriever, I’m not sure – and John gets startled and immediately rushes back to base.
He approaches a locked door which he cannot open, and angrily orders Cortana to open it. Halsey, who’s been observing John, encourages her to do so. It’s the artefact room. John rushes in and grabs the item once more, to return to the flashback, which is clearer than ever now.
In it, Young John is drawing something, and quickly hides it from his father, who demands to know what it is. We see Young John enter a cave, and then watch as his father is burying… something. We get a look at his drawing – it’s the relic itself, and the rock it came from.
John comes out of his flashback, and announces there’s a second Covenant artefact – the one his young self drew over and over again. He suspects that’s what his father was burying.
John is acting incredibly frantic at this revelation, and Cortana urges him to rest and return to the barracks. John recalls that his home planet had rings of ice around it, and Cortana narrows it down: Eridanus Two.
We learn that the planet is currently uninhabited, but was previously a site for the ‘Reach for Life’ project, where UNSC scientists built a self-sustaining ecosystem to learn how to seed life on barren planets and extend the reach of UNSC colonisation.
However, we learn that the program was abruptly terminated when a plague was brought to the planet on an unauthorised ship, and killed off the population. John and other survivors were evacuated, and he was eventually adopted. However, when John asks specifically about the fate of his parents, Cortana can only tell him the planet was sealed off.
John explains the whole situation to Halsey, and announces that he’s heading there to check it out. Halsey offers to accompany him.
Back at the Asteroid City, Kwan is attempting to jump-start a ship to get away, but is caught by Soren, who threatens to kill her, again. What a guy.
Kwan persuades Soren to help her get to Madrigal by promising great wealth – her family is rich because of the resources they mine there, she says. Soren, a sucker for wealth, seems to accept the offer.
Back on the UNSC Patrol ship, the Blessed One is also doing a spot of hacking after failing to find the location of the relic, but has no luck. She tells her Covenant allies that she’s going to head to the source of the artefact on Madrigal, to see if she can find out more.
Looks like Madrigal’s going to be the place to be in episode four.
Back at base Miranda Keyes is chatting to her father as they try to decrypt the message the Blessed One broadcast. But she’s informed that Halsey is leaving the base and the artefact behind, creating an opening for Miranda to get in and do her own research.
The episode ends as Chief and Halsey leave for Eridanus, and Kwan and Soren leave for Madrigal, much to the distress of his wife and child. The Blessed One, too, is on her way.
Adun asks if they’re all going on a wild goose chase, to which Halsey replies that seeing something for yourself is necessary if you want to seperate the imagined from the real. But Adun further warns that going to Eridanus might spark other memories for John, which could ‘bring us all down’.
‘That is what Cortana is for,’ Halsey says ominously.
Like episode two, episode three of Halo spent a lot of time establishing new rules for the Halo universe, and putting things in motion for what will likely be a series of conflicts. We have Kwan and Soren unwittingly heading out to clash with the Covenant, and Master Chief also unwittingly heading out to clash with the shocking truth about his existence.
Those who have some idea about the Halo video game lore will likely be excited to see this play out, but largely because we’ve already seen the show take some major departures from the existing canon. Appearances from characters like Cortana have been interesting tweaks so far, and there’s likely meatiers twists to come in future.
‘Emergence’ feels like a slow point for the Halo series as a result. Being an action show primarily (at least, we still think so), these chess-move episodes are a necessity to stop it from devolving into nonsense, but I don’t think there’s quite enough complex character work here yet to make these quiet periods interesting for long.
Most of what little character work there is goes to Master Chief, of course. The show is working hard to establish him as a human character – the gradual undressing of this gruff and stoic video game avatar has been amusing to see. He’s very slowly taking grasp of his humanity, and honestly, that’s likely to be a more exciting and mysterious prospect than whatever the Covenant Artefact ends up being.
‘Emergence’ dips a little into the David Cronenberg book of body horror to spruce things up this go around – the visceral focus on eyeball stabbing and the introduction of the lethal worms is at least enough to make this episode memorable. There’s also the naked Master Chief thing, I suppose.
Here’s hoping the buildup over the last three episode pays off in episode four – I don’t know how many more concerned, ominous looks from Kai I can handle.
- There are just too many tense needle scenes in this episode. Just… way too many. Eyeballs too – two eyeball stabbings! Who needs that many?
- It makes a lot of sense, but it was interesting to see the show decide to model Cortana as a computer generated character. It’s also nice to hear the voice of Jen Taylor, even though it somewhat breaks the illusion of Cortana being an exact replica of Halsey.
- So continues the down-dressing of Master Chief by the Halo TV series. In this episode, we see John-117 in a hospital gown, a casual t-shirt, sweatpants, a trainers combo, and in a hilarious puffy space jumper.
- Those space marines sure do love Space Bocce.
- No new space drugs were introduced in this episode unfortunately, but at least we saw Master Chief’s butt from multiple angles.
See you next week!