It’s a known fact there’s a HALO TV series on the way, but updates on the status of the series were scarce until recently when I saw an article claiming the series will be as epic in scope and scale as Game Of Thrones. My knee jerk response to this headline was twofold; a little amused that GOT has, as part of its legacy to reset the bar, and get crowned the new standard by which all future genre series will be judged, along with outright skepticism regarding the veracity of that statement.
A collaboration between Showtime, Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, and 343 Industries — the Microsoft Studios subsidiary in charge of the Halo franchise — the new “Halo” series is going to be on the scope and scale of “Game of Thrones,” according to 343 Industries head Kiki Wolfkill.
Since 2013, Spielberg’s Amblin Television has been involved in developing the current iteration of the Halo TV project. At that time, he was said to be on board as an executive producer, but it seems he will not take on any direct creative duties.
The author of that GOT statement went on to explain, “It’s hard to find an analog. We talk about Game of Thrones a lot in terms of scope and scale and complexity of relationships,” A lot of the background of Halo is this sort of political drama. It’s something that [is mentioned] really lightly in the games… Some of that [Game of Thrones] complexity is interesting.” Let’s hope that doesn’t translate into endless melodrama for this series.
As most fans already know, the game the series got based on takes place during “an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant,” weaving “deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure and a richly imagined vision of the future,” according to a statement by the network.
This isn’t the first time Halo has been up for the live-action treatment, either. You may also recall that Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp also tried to get a Halo movie off the ground, but a creative war between several studios ended the project before it could truly begin. Elements of Blomkamp’s Halo project can get seen in several of his movies, such as the African setting in District 9 and the ring-shaped space station in Elysium.
Here’s what we know.
The 9-episode series will star Pablo Schreiber (“American Gods,” “Orange Is the New Black”) in the role of Master Chief, and will take place in the same universe that launched in 2001 and dramatize a 26th-century battle royal between humanity and the Covenant.
Joining Master Chief on this television journey will be Yerin Ha as Quan Ah, a new character devised specifically for the series. First announced in April alongside Schreiber, the character is described as a “shrewd, audacious 16-year-old from the Outer Colonies who meets Master Chief at a fateful time for them both.” The series will also feature Californication’s Natascha McElhone, Fargo’s Bokeem Woodbine, Shabana Azmi, Bentley Kalu, Natasha Culzac, and Kate Kennedy.
McElhone will play Dr. Catherine Halsey, inventor of the Spartan super-soldiers, as well as Cortana, the advance AI who is the key to humanity’s survival and a constant element in Master Chief’s adventures. Cortana is also the name of Microsoft’s AI assistant on its platforms; the name was, in fact, derived from Halo. McElhone will lend her voice to the television version of Cortana, replacing Jen Taylor of the video game series.
Woodbine will take on the role of Soren-066, another established Halo character. He is an old friend of Master Chief’s and a privateer in conflict with the military — which means he may come into direct conflict with Azmi’s character, Admiral Margaret Parangosky, the head of Naval Intelligence and another character from the games who seemingly places the Halo TV series in a specific part of the franchise’s history. But, as Levine said, “you’re going to get new information in our series, but we are not going to violate any of the things in the canon.”
Kalu, Culzac, and Kennedy all play new characters to the Halo universe with familiar affiliations. Kalu is Spartan Vannak-134, Master Chief’s de facto deputy. Culzac is Spartan Riz-028, a “cybernetically enhanced killing machine,” and Kennedy is Spartan Kai-125, another Spartan super-soldier tasked to the mission.
Showtime’s initial order consisted of 10 hour-long episodes, a standard season length for big-budget prestige TV series these days. That order has since gotten dropped to nine episodes. Showtime hopes Halo’s influential lineage will deliver the network’s “most ambitious series ever.”
Kyle Killen is the head writer and showrunner. Killen’s most recent work, the widely panned Mind Games, failed to anchor an audience past its first and only season. His earlier and more fruitful endeavors included Fox’s Lone Star and NBC’s Awake, both sharing the same fate and lasting only one season.
Originally director Rupert Wyatt was going to be part of the project, but he exited the show in December. Now the series has a new lead director and executive producer in Otto Bathurst, who most recently directed the 2018 Robin Hood and the first episode of Black Mirror.
Personally, the idea of an anthology series revolving around the common theme of HALO like the animated film Halo Legends sounds quite appealing to me. Let’s hope this new series turns out as well as that did. The series is currently under production and is expected to arrive on screens in early 2021.