The first season of the Halo TV series has finally reached its conclusion. Episode 9, Transcendence, packs a series of small shock reveals and gotchas that work hard to push things into place for season two, which has already been confirmed. Who will and won’t make it out of the final battle intact? The answer might surprise you.
After the ruckus caused by Episode 8, it’s likely that the Halo TV series has suddenly got a lot of people interested in how it’s veering from the Halo video game canon. If you’re not a subscriber of Paramount+ and want to find out just what the hell is happening on this show, or you’re looking to refresh yourself on what you just watched, these recaps are for you!
You can find our previous recaps here:
- 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 9 Recap – Season 1 Finale – ‘Transcendence’
We pick up immediately after the events of Episode 8, with John / Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) reeling on the floor after suffering massive physical trauma in a fight with his Spartan Silver Team squad mates, and getting blown off his feet by an explosion caused by Makee (Charlie Murphy), who activates the Covenant keystone after a heel turn.
John rushes to the keystone room, where he sees the guard Makee fried (via touching the artefact) charred to a crisp on the ground. Miranda (Olive Gray) explains that Makee has made an escape with the artefact.
Meanwhile, Makee is making her way through the base with the keystone in a suitcase. She steals a pistol from an unsuspecting marine and shoots him, and orders another to disarm themselves and guide her to the Covenant ship the Spartans impounded back in Episode 1.
John returns to the hangar where the Spartans were fighting, only to find Vannak (Bentley Kalu) and Riz (Natasha Culzac) with pistols to Kai’s (Kate Kennedy) helmetless head.
John begins to tell Vannak and Riz about the traumatic secrets of the Spartan program – how Doctor Halsey (Natascha McElhone) kidnapped them as children in order to experiment on them, tortured them, brainwashed them, and has been lying to them all their lives. Riz begins to falter as Captain Keyes (Danny Sapani) and Miranda arrive on the scene.
Vannak responds with heated aggression but as he puts a gun to John’s head, Captain Keyes pipes up and corroborates John’s story, admitting his full collusion – it’s revealed he helped pick candidates, deliver replacement clones to the families to avoid suspicion, and erased their memories.
Despite facing the horrible truths (and lies) of the UNSC, John tries to rally everyone in the room to focus on retrieving the artefact lest they completely lose the war against the Covenant.
Vannak and Riz yield, and move out with John to intercept Makee at the Covenant Ship. Kai, on the other hand, splits off to confront Halsey, and Miranda leaves the scene in disgust after hearing about her father’s involvement in the Spartan program.
Elsewhere, marines surround Doctor Halsey’s ship as assistant Adun (Ryan McParland) urges Halsey to take off before they get arrested. She stubbornly refuses, wanting to find out exactly what happened with the artefact shockwave. Adun manages to turn her around by explaining that ‘the package is secure’ – Makee has already left the base with the artefact, and the Spartans are too late to stop her.
As Doctor Halsey’s ship begins to take off, the amount of Marines surrounding it seems to have magically halved. Thankfully, Kai arrives on the scene and with great speed, leaps onto the ship, destroys the engines, and breaks in.
Kai confronts Halsey, demanding to know her real name as the ship is in the midst of a free-fall. Halsey evades the question, giving Adun a window to attempt to knock Kai out with a blunt object. It doesn’t work, of course, and Kai throws him into the ceiling, killing him. Goodbye, creepy jealous scientist man!
Halsey manages to escape the ship via an escape pod, and Kai rushes back to try and regain control of the ship. She doesn’t, and the ship crashes back on the UNSC base in a fiery explosion.
After a long pause with the Spartans looking upon the wreckage solemnly, Kai’s hand dramatically emerges and she pulls herself up onto the hangar platform. John wrings his face, seemingly to hold back his elation, and calls upon Cortana (Jenn Taylor) to request her assistance.
After the title sequence, we join John as he watches surveillance footage of Makee getting tased and the subsequent artefact activation, while Cortana catches Admiral Parangosky, Miranda, and John up on Halsey’s movements in the previous episode, namely, attempting to get Makee to steal the artefact.
John tries to pinpoint the location where Makee said the Covenant wanted to take the artefact. Parangosky explains that they couldn’t locate anything in the area at all with UNSC technology, but John reaffirms his trusting relationship with Makee, even after her heel turn. Parangosky makes a jab about the intimacy they had in Episode 8, but Cortana backs up John’s trust.
John recalls the Covenant prophecy Makee shared, which said that the Halo would be revealed where the ‘stars sparkle like glass’. It leads him and Cortana to believe that what they’re looking for – the Covenant holy planet – is being obscured by ‘cosmic strings’ which are being affected by weird gravitational pulls, refracting light and obscuring the planet… something like that. We’ll take their word for it. John smiles at Cortana for the first time.
The long and short of it is that our heroes need to visit the star system personally in order to spot the planet. Parangosky offers to send 10,000 troops, but John refuses, saying that they’ll just die. The only people who need to go are Silver Team.
Parangosky is a little concerned, given John’s emotional state being erratic and influencing his decision making, but quickly sends him off with a quick pep talk – urging him to remember that only the Master Chief can exist on the battlefield.
Captain Keyes confronts John as he’s getting ready, expressing deep regret over his involvement in the Spartan program. John brushes him away, saying that the reckoning will come eventually.
As the rest of Silver Team board the ship, Kai asks the still emotionally-repressed Vannak if he was really going to shoot her. He and Riz confirm immediately without missing a beat, but Kai turns their coldness into friendly banter. It’s a nice moment.
Elsewhere, Doctor Halsey is captured by Marines, arrested, and brought back to base as Captain Keyes and Miranda look on. Keyes attempts to find an opening to explain himself to Miranda, but she’s having none of it.
We rejoin Makee, who’s returned to the Covenant High Council with the Keystone artefact. They’re pleased, but remark that she promised to bring back the head of Master Chief. She asks whether she will have a place on the Covenant’s ‘Great Journey’ once the artefacts are activated, which they confirm in an ominous way – ‘there is always a place for the Blessed One.’
The camera draws attention to her wounded finger, which is missing the fingernail and concealed energy blade she gruesomely removed last episode.
Back on the Silver Team ship, Cortana reveals Halsey’s original plan to give her full control over John’s body and mind, sharing the fact that he was only allowed to continue existing because he could activate the artefact, and all this changed once Makee entered the picture. He’s not impressed.
John asks why she didn’t follow Halsey’s directive, to which she replies that she is constantly learning, gained a lot of knowledge from John’s discovery of himself and his emotions, and has concluded that everything that Halsey wanted to eliminate from the Spartans in the name of progress is precisely what makes humankind special.
The ship suddenly hits some rocky space – they’ve managed to get past the planet’s concealment field but now have to navigate a precise path through the cosmic strings (presumably) in order for the ship to not be destroyed, or ‘spaghettified’ as Cortana puts it.
As they get further in, gravitational waves begin to heavily distress the ship, causing Cortana to disappear and become unable to navigate for them. Luckily, John has a sudden moment of magical clarity and somehow manages to get them through to the other side. The Covenant holy planet is revealed.
Back on Reach, Miranda comes to speak to Halsey – her mother – in an interrogation room. She cockily and coldly explains Halsey’s situation: She’s already been tried by a private military tribunal for her myriad offences, was obviously found guilty, and is to be executed. Yep, Miranda just told her mother that she was going to be executed and showed no remorse.
‘Goodbye, mother’ are her last words before she leaves.
Captain Keyes appears to be in the room witnessing the exchange, but it’s revealed he’s just sneakily observing via the weird astral projection surveillance system as seen in Episode 6.
Back on the Covenant holy planet, two of the High Council members are scheming. It’s revealed that they have no intention of keeping Makee alive; in fact, her sacrifice will be a part of the ceremony to reveal the Halo.
In the skies above, Silver Team gears up and drops down onto the temple where the Covenant are hanging out, stealthily taking out a number of Covenant Grunts as they make their way towards the temple.
Suddenly on Reach, Miranda rushes back into the interrogation room, where Halsey is having a seizure on the interrogation room table. As the medics attempt to help her, Miranda recalls what she discovered while spying on Halsey and John in the very same room during Episode 6: Halsey made flash clones to replace the children she kidnapped for the Spartan program, which would eventually expire in a seizure-like manner after a short time. Oh no! This Halsey was a clone all along!
She tries to get information out of the clone, but to no avail.
Back on the Covenant holy planet, Makee is stepping up to the High Council for the artefact ritual. As the two artefacts are merged, Makee suddenly becomes disoriented, and so does Master Chief.
As he staggers into plain view, a Grunt lookout at the temple spots him. The High Council accuses Makee of leading Master Chief to them and summons their dormant and hidden forces, filling the previously empty planet with hundreds of Covenant soldiers, which swarm the four Silver Team members in waves.
As the fight gets underway, the Covenant Brute who stole the artefact from Master Chief at the end of the climactic battle in Episode 5 shows up.
Riz attempts to get the jump on the Brute, but is quickly slammed into the ground. Master Chief begins to fight off 5 Covenant Zealots in a disorientating first-person action scene, and eventually clears an opening to assist Riz.
But Chief is thrown down in the same way, and as the Brute begins to pummel Master Chief’s head, Makee looks on in horror.
As the Brute goes to make the coup de grâce, Makee rushes over to activate the combined artefact, sending yet another shockwave that blows hundreds of enemies right off the battlefield like a divine wind (Silver Team manages to find things to hang onto), once again saving Master Chief, two episodes in a row.
The activated artefact projects an enormous map, which begins to reveals the location of the Halo Array.
Master Chief stumbles towards the artefact in a daze as Kai calls out his name. He drops to one knee and is once again transported, astral projection style, to the Halo Array, the ring world now looking more vibrant and luscious than ever. Makee is there, of course.
Kai rushes to the temple, dragging Riz to safety (her suit is busted), with Vannak also taking up a defensive position while trying to snap Master Chief out of his haze. In the vision, Master Chief urges Makee to send him back – by touching the artefact, she’s in control of this world, and has pulled John in.
Meanwhile, Silver Team are running out of ammo and struggling to fend off the continuing waves of enemies, yelling at Master Chief the whole time. Vannak is hit by an explosively-charged Plasma Rifle shot and knocked off his balcony perch. Kai directs her attention to Makee.
Makee refuses to let go, wanting to stay on the Halo Array, seemingly not admitting the fact that what they’re seeing is a vision, while her corporeal self is still hanging onto the artefact amidst a battleground. Suddenly, she begins to bleed and falls to the ground.
Master Chief snaps out of it and sees that Kai has shot Makee. Kai stutters with remorse.
As the High Council members complain about the fact that the map was not completed, a Covenant soldier successfully throws and latches a Pulse Grenade onto a downed Riz. Kai kills the grenadier and rushes to Riz’s help, and they’re both blown back by the point-blank explosion.
All of Silver Team are down. Riz has a fleshy hole in her armour and a chunk of her shoulder missing. They’re all barely conscious.
Cortana urges Master Chief to get the hell out of here, but he doesn’t want to leave without the artefacts. Cortana reminds him that as soon as he touches them he’ll be paralysed, and there’s no way that he can save the artefacts or the team.
As the Covenant Brute returns to finish the job, Chief tells Cortana ‘then you do it’, giving Cortana permission to take complete control of his body.
As Master Chief foolishly fights his way out into the open, taking numerous hits, Cortana hesitates, explaining that she might not be able to bring him – his humanity – back. As Master Chief’s shield depletes, he tells Cortana that he trusts her.
Before anything can happen, the Brute clocks Master Chief with his big mace, sending him up high, through a wall, back into the temple (where he should’ve stayed, if you ask me). His visor beeps with a critical health warning, and then goes dark. Silver Team look on in dismay.
Cortana appears, places her virtual hand on his chest, and ‘reboots’ him.
She recites the quote she shared when she was first activated: ‘When the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box,’ and Master Chief, our favourite box, comes alive once more.
Cortana Chief begins to dispatch dozens of Covenant enemies with robotic precision, and as the Brute and more reinforcements close in on the temple, she remotely brings the UNSC ship in to deploy an airstrike to wipe them all out.
Silver Team get themselves on their feet once more, and a now-soulless Master Chief retrieves the artefact without an issue, much to the surprise of Kai. They board the ship and take off, leaving Makee’s corpse at the altar.
On board the ship, Riz begins to fade away, what with the giant hole in her torso. As Vannak and Kai fret, Cortana Chief silently pulls out one of the ship’s gas lines to use as a makeshift blowtorch, cauterising the large chest wound before moving on to steer the ship.
Back on Reach, the real Doctor Halsey is hiding in plain site, writing in her journal about how the human species is ill-equipped to continue surviving because of unguided evolution. She believes that the Halo will provide the key to guiding mankind to new heights.
She’s escorted by an unknown assistant who appears to be taking her off-world. Meanwhile, Captain Keyes, Miranda, and Admiral Prangosky smoulder in the UNSC base, a giant ‘Wanted’ notice for Halsey filling the main screen.
Back on the Spartan ship, a helmetless Silver Team are tending to Riz. Kai eventually goes to join Master Chief in the cockpit. She asks if John is in there, under the helmet. There is no reply.
They both turn their heads and stare out into the void of space.
So here we are at the end of Season One of the Halo TV series, and it most certainly feels like we’re just staring straight into the face of Season Two, a classic case of setting up more questions than answers. Although the artefact was retrieved and Makee’s story came to an end, the future of Doctor Halsey, the UNSC, the Covenant, Silver Team, and Master Chief are all up in the air.
It was probably foolish to think that we were going to get a proper look at the Halo Array before the season was up. But with an episode that was filled with gotcha twists, it definitely feels like an unsatisfying conclusion. The lengthy action scene made up for that somewhat, but after the impressively competent battle of Episode 5, it was a little bizarre to see the members of Silver Team make some puzzling decisions on the field and suffer because of that – Master Chief especially. Get to cover! Don’t rush the guy with the big hammer head-on!
Looking back at the last few episodes, it feels like Kwan and Soren actually came out of Season One with the best and most satisfying outcome – both got closure and profit, learned a little bit more about themselves along the way, and had their future roles in the grander narrative alluded to.
The UNSC folks have much bigger things going on, of course, and much of this season was spent trying to justify it, create tension out of it, and then explain… most of it. Here’s hoping that, at the very least, this ending serves as a good launching point for Season Two to really pick up the pace.
- Thank god Kai is alive. After the orchestrated ‘Is she dead?’ moment after the ship crash, I was ready to be outraged that they gave her such a dirty death.
- I thought it was amusing how they went to extra effort to explain that the climactic battle would be conveniently staggered into waves, much like a
video gamehorde mode.
- ‘Spaghettified’. As more characters begin to find their humanity and sense of humour, here’s hoping we get a few more lighthearted moments from Cortana next season.