Halo the TV series is going full procedural drama mode as we head into the middle of the season. Existing plot lines continue to roll on with very gradual reveals, and new subplots are even introduced in Episode 4. We’re long overdue for a good action set piece, or even Master Chief actually firing a weapon, but there are at least some brief character studies in ‘Homecoming’.
And we get to see Master Chief crack a big smile, so maybe his happiness makes it all worth it in the end?
You can catch up with our previous recaps, or dive into the Episode 4 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]
We start the episode with every military narrative’s favourite plot point: Child soldiers! A whole troop of lil’ troopers is running through morning exercises wearing cute little beanies, yelling that they’re Spartans. Big Old Enough vibes.
The show focuses in on the younger versions of the Spartans we’ve seen on the show so far: Riz 028, Vannak 134, Kai 125, Soren 066, and John 117 – who, ironically, is the littlest of them all.
He’s so small that his feet dangle while sitting on a bench, as we find out when we cut to baby John locked up in a cell. John’s in trouble because he tried to run away from the program, and it’s not his first offence.
A young Dr. Halsey tries to talk some sense into him by convincing him that he came here of his own free will, that he was chosen because he was special, and says they have him pegged to be the leader of the Spartans. Some wild conditioning going on here, but it works. Baby John smiles, Halsey smiles. It’s all very nice, but you know there’s some sinister stuff going on.
We cut to the present day, where John is very much not smiling. He and Halsey are heading towards the planet Eridanus, John’s home planet, to see if they can locate the second part of the Covenant relic, which is the primary MacGuffin of this first season of the Halo TV series.
John’s just vibing out at the window of the ship, appreciating the vast reaches of space for the first time since he gouged out his emotional suppression pellet. Halsey’s assistant Adun remarks that he’s acting very un-Spartan like, theorising that the Covenant relic has something to do with it. Halsey goes further to suggest that the relic isn’t just a key to a weapon, but has some kind of intelligence behind it that reacts and responds to John’s needs.
We focus on John for a bit as he continues to marvel at everything, and Cortana pipes up to remark, with some alarm, that John appears to be feeling anxiety, apparently for the first time ever. He seems to be at peace with it all. Anxiety is a normal human trait, after all.
Elsewhere, Soren and Kwan come zooming onto Madrigal, and we get the impression from their banter that the two strong personalities have been butting heads with one another for the entire trip.
We get a bit of background about Soren: his memories were wiped when he escaped the Spartan program, and they only came back very gradually, bit by bit. It was only after escaping that he eventually remembered that his father died, and a year later, remembered that he was the one who killed him.
‘Memory’s what lets you know who you are, and reminds you what’s important to you,’ he laments. It’s a nice little quote that sets up what is sure to be a theme for Master Chief as he searches for his origins.
Back at the UNSC base on Reach, Kai from the Spartan Silver Team is undressed and cleaning a knife. Yes, that’s right – she’s just performed the same procedure she saw John do last episode – removing her emotional suppression pellet. This is hopefully the end of those long, distant stares.
John and Halsey finally land on Eridanus and go exploring the Reach for Life colony run by John’s parents. It’s a fertile forest, which was grown and maintained by colonists on what should have otherwise been an uninhabitable planet, Halsey explains. John quickly takes over leading the tour group with confidence, recalling his memories and guiding them to the spot where he was forced to bury something important as a child.
Adun flashes a nervous look in reaction.
Back on Madrigal, Soren and Kwan land on the outskirts of Madrigal City.
We get a glimpse of Governor Vinsher, who is wearing the tiniest sunglasses you could possibly imagine, and is flanked by a posse of futuristic SS cosplayers. Like we’ve been saying, this guy is probably evil?
We get a bit more of a look at the society of Madrigal, which seems to be very multicultural and features Middle Eastern-inspired architecture, street culture, and marketplaces. This is the Halo TV series version of Star Wars’ Tatooine, basically. Except it’s run by Nazis.
Kwan runs into a friend, Attu, and tries to get his help in locating her father’s militia buddies. He’s very hesitant to help, eventually asking Kwan to meet him at her father’s memorial, which is coincidentally happening that night. Soren points out a wanted poster, advertising a bounty on Kwan’s head.
We’re back with Kai on Reach now, as she maintains her sniper rifle in the barracks. As Kai handles a red gun lubricant of some kind, she’s suddenly struck to use it to put some cool red streaks in her blonde hair. She smiles. There are no stares.
Meanwhile, scientist Miranda Keyes is getting up close and personal with the Covenant relic before the rest of Silver Team barges in. It turns out that while Dr. Halsey is away, she’s planned some tests for Silver Team, and the relic, to find out what makes John so special. Vannak simply and amusingly replies, ‘He’s the Master Chief’. Kai shows a bit more curiosity than usual, which Keyes notices, and Riz volunteers to touch the relic first.
Back on Eridanus, John and Adun are digging up holes all over the joint while Halsey chills out. It’s John that strikes gold, however – of course. He’s the Master Chief, after all.
Pulling out the container, labelled ‘Plant Pots,’ its contents are revealed to be nothing more than John’s childhood drawings of the larger companion relic and other things. One drawing is simply of a circular ring – some kind of halo, perhaps?
Halsey tries to persuade the group to analyse the drawings back at the ship, but John makes a b-line for his childhood house.
We revisit Madrigal city, where a small memorial for Kwan’s father is being held, the size of which Kwan is offended by. Kwan spots Agatha, one of her father’s generals, who is relieved to see her.
Unfortunately, Agatha tells Kwan that most of the militia leaders were executed by Vinsher to set an example (wow, evil guy!) and that the Covenant attack on the outpost has scared the population into merely wanting protection from the UNSC, and nothing else. ‘The Revolution is over’, laments Agatha.
Kwan’s having absolutely none of that. She aggressively accuses Agatha of selling them out, reasoning that Agatha was her father’s most trusted general, and it doesn’t make sense that she’s the only leader Vinsher didn’t kill.
Vinsher’s goons roll up to break up the memorial, Kwan stares angrily at a taser as people are beaten around her, and Soren pulls her outta there.
Then we’re back on Reach, watching the Spartans take turns touching the Covenant artefact. Vannak’s up, but nothing happens – same as Riz, remarks Keyes.
Kai steps up for her turn, removes her helmet, and Keyes is taken back when she sees Kai’s newly streaked hair.
After sensing some bad vibes from Keyes (who, if you’ll recall, has a thing against the Spartan program, given the enormous degree of resources Halsey has received for them), Kai begins to try and humanise Silver Team, although it comes off as a bit robotic and boilerplate – Kai’s the military strategist, Riz is the comms and language expert, and Vannak has an eye for the nuances of the battlefield.
‘You see us as machines, but if you really want to understand how we work you’re going to have to dig a little deeper,’ she says before slamming her hand down on the relic, smugly frightening Keyes.
Nothing happens when Kai touches it.
Back at Eridanus, John has entered his former childhood home, which nature has taken over. He asks Cortana to recreate the way things were for him via his helmet visor. Halsey warns that not everything John recalls will be reflective of real life events – sneaky words from someone with a lot to hide.
As Cortana makes her best guess as to how things were, John alters and provides commentary about what he recalls. As he begins to make his way to his bedroom, Halsey fruitlessly tries to keep him away – and shares a distressed look with Adun. Cortana’s in on it too – she remarks that there’s not enough data to build a reconstruction.
After one more attempt from Halsey to get them out of there, John has a flashback – he recalls his dog and mother – and smiles, for the first time… ever? He recalls his father prompting a seedling to grow, and picking it up.
He recalls some more drawings of a circular object, and then recalls the time he left the boundaries of his family’s peaceful forest habitat and discovered what was just outside, in an underground cavern – something he activates, but something we don’t fully see.
Then, he recalls a visit from a young Halsey, something he becomes incredibly distressed by.
Back on the UNSC base on Reach, Keyes is wrapping up her experiment in some kind of alien autopsy lab. But while Vannak and Riz stand perfectly at attention, Kai is happily shuffling around, geeking out over all the cool alien stuff around her.
She picks up a Covenant Needler gun, much to the dismay of Keyes. In the process of geeking out over it, the Covenant word for the weapon is brought up – Qkhep’os, per the subtitles – which gives Keyes a brainwave. Her eyes light up, and she asks about all the other Covenant words the Spartans know.
Back on Madrigal, Soren and Kwan are scoping out Vinsher’s gang, who are looting their ship. Soren’s decided he’s going to head in blasting and then leave, giving Kwan the real talk on her search for the Resistance faction when she threatens to renege on their deal. ‘There are no more heroes,’ he says.
But Kwan convinces him that finding her Aunt, who controls the family money, would be a better idea. Besides, Soren doesn’t want to leave empty-handed. After a short tussle with her goons, the two find Kwan’s aunt, Soojin. Soren leaves Kwan with her aunt in order to retrieve his ship, after being assured of her safety.
Meanwhile, Governor Vinsher is taking it easy in a bathhouse and puffing on a cigar, speaking to a new character: Franco. After a bit of flavour banter about Franco’s child-minding troubles, Vinsher requests that Franco take care of Kwan discreetly, in order to not disturb any dormant rebellion running through the city.
Back on Reach, Keyes and Silver Team have made a breakthrough in terms of the Covenant language, and Keyes is embarrassed they didn’t collaborate sooner. She laments that her mother, Dr. Halsey, had a better familial relationship with Silver Team than her. Kai, who has now established herself as the coolest Spartan, empathises with her while the others continue to stand at attention, which takes Keyes aback once more.
Kai uses her newfound friendliness to relay a story about their time growing up as Spartans with Halsey: Each of the Spartans were given a pet for companionship – Kai got a puppy, Riz a cat, and Vannak a pig, hilariously. The story soon takes an amusing turn for the dark, however. Spartans would be pit against each other in a team-based survival competition, and the losing side would have to execute their own pets as a consequence. Vannak never lost, but Halsey still executed the pig, as apparently Spartans should only be bonded to one another and nothing else.
Nothing like a good, cheery story.
On Eridanus, John has just walked out in distress after seeing a flashback of himself as a boy with young Dr. Halsey. He expresses the outrage – up to this point, he’s been told he only met Halsey after he lost his parents and was sent to an orphanage.
Halsey tries to claim there’s a good reason that his memories have been muddled: trauma, and the fact that the two have been together ever since the tragedy. But John is not having any of it.
On Madrigal, Soren has just been informed by a messenger that his ship has been scrapped entirely. The informant offers to take Soren to a place where ships go off-world every night, but Soren decides to forcefully acquire his motorbike instead.
Meanwhile, Kwan is trying to convince her aunt to restart the revolution, but discovers that her father had already used up the family’s wealth trying to kickstart the previous attempt. But Kwan is living with the guilt that her father died to protect her from a Covenant attack, and desperately wants to pick up where he left off.
Hearing this, Soojin tells Kwan that her father was really fighting for a different ulterior motive. She tells her a story: Long ago, Kwan’s father went to visit some desert-dwelling mystics and came back a changed man, set on freeing Madrigal and ‘revealing their family’s true purpose.’ The scene is intercut with images of Kwan’s father cutting down a series of people.
Before the purpose can be revealed, Kwan and Soojin are interrupted by Vinsher’s friend Franco, who murders Soojin’s guards and Soojin herself, before Soren arrives and shoots her in the arm. Franco escapes through a window, and Soren pulls Kwan out of there with his new motorbike. A short bike chase through the streets of Madrigal City ensues, and at this point I’m amazed that Soren is getting by so well against an army of goons with just a six-shot revolver.
We head back to Eridanus, where John has gone walkabout and Adun shares some of Cortana’s findings with Halsey, revealing that John is reopening parts of his brain and accessing memories long since blocked. However, they can’t see what he’s remembering, which makes them nervous – his thoughts are his own.
John interrupts them and confirms that the second Covenant artefact is on the planet, and he knows exactly where it is.
Back on Reach, Kai and Keyes are pulling a late night to use their newfound language information to decode the Covenant transmission they intercepted in Episode 3. They discover what we already know – the relic is a keystone, used to activate a ‘sacred ring’ (a halo??).
This scene doubles as a touching moment of bonding between Kai and Keyes, between a laugh over Kai’s self-professed awful hair colour job, some meaningful glances, and a weird quip about them almost being like sisters because of the Halsey parental connection. It ends with Keyes feeling a bit odd about it all, as well as being worried about Kai’s newfound emotional behaviour.
Over shots of Halsey looking concerned at Master Chief and Soren escaping Madrigal with Kai, Keyes talks about how Halsey is a ruthless and data-driven person who is very specific with all her creations, and how any kind of unexpected deviation – anything human – makes her incredibly uncomfortable.
As Keyes monologues over Halsey’s nature and laments her own maternal relationship, Master Chief and Halsey find the cavern from John’s flashback and discover the second artefact. Halsey seems elated.
The episode ends with Keyes telling Kai: ‘Your act of rebellion could just be a glitch, but if I know Dr. Halsey, she doesn’t tolerate glitches.’
Halsey’s smile disappears, and the camera ominous zoom in on the back of Master Chief’s head.
Did I say this episode would culminate in a bunch of action during the last recap? I apologise – I was unfortunately and sadly mistaken. The Halo TV series is becoming much more a procedural drama than the action series I initially assumed it would be. There have been a lot of plates spinning over the last two episodes, but after ‘Homecoming’, I’ve come away with the feeling that perhaps we’ve watched these plates spinning for long enough.
This episode was filled with prolonged anticlimaxes – John and Halsey finally find the second artefact at the very end, but we leave any meaningful revelations about it for the future. Soren and Kwan’s tour of Madrigal is prolonged, achieving nothing. We begin a new thread with Kai, which is kind of the most exciting of the lot – real emotional tension and character drama! – but they merely discover what we already know, and it’s yet another storyline on top of everything else. Don’t forget there’s the whole subplot with the Covenant and the Blessed One, which we didn’t check in with this episode.
But the plotlines in Episode 4 are good fodder for enticing character work to happen – between Kwan and Soren, Kai and Keyes, and the continuing evolution of Master Chief. And at this point, I feel like the episodes would be stronger if we could back out from at least one of them and spend the extra time on further exploring these character pairings. It’s clear the Halo TV series really wants us to see Spartans as people, so they should really just go for it!
- ‘Don’t knock pirating!’ says Soren, defensively to a sassy Kwan. The Halo TV series could double down on the weird odd couple vibe from these two and I’d be all for it. Just no more threats of violence to the teenager, please.
- Master Chief wielding a treasure-digging shovel is yet another entry on the list of things I never expected to see from the Halo TV series. When is that action figure coming out?
- Adding to the list of things hardcore Halo devotees might get weirdly upset about: Master Chief smiling. With teeth.
- Vinsher puts his cigar out in his bath seconds after lighting it, and just leaves it floating there. Wow, that’s you know he’s evil.
- We’re also treated to another rear end shot in this episode: Vinsher’s. Well, maybe ‘treated’ was the wrong word. No-one likes an evil butt.
- Kai and Keyes? Yeah, I’d ship it.
See you next week!