Saving the Halo TV Series
Remember the Halo TV show that Microsoft proudly touted, but eventually killed? Well, it looks like the series isn't actually dead--it's just been put into cryo-sleep. Here's what I think Microsoft should do with the Halo TV series.
I love Halo. I've always loved Halo ever since I played the first game. I've read all the books--well, the early meaningful ones written by Eric Nylund, and Halo Evolutions--and I was one of the many people who fell in love with Halo Legends and Neil Blomkamp's scrapped Halo Landfall. So when Xbox division head Phil Spencer recently said that the Halo TV series isn't actually dead, I felt a flicker of excitement. Then I realized 343 Industries is still responsible for Halo, and that excitement waned pretty fast.
So now I decided I'd write an open letter to Microsoft and plea to make the Halo TV series what it should be: absolutely amazing. 343 Industries and Microsoft Studios seem to have tunnel vision when it comes to this property, especially with recent video series, so I felt the need to share what I think should be done. But before I jump into my ideas for the show, let's go on a brief history lesson on the Halo video content, and its steady decline.
It's almost enough to know that Microsoft hasn't given up on the Halo TV series, that there's still hope, but 343 Industries is doing some really weird things with the Halo IP. Halo 5 was bungled on so many levels: lore, story, campaign, all were just convoluted and awkward. The Halo Nightfall series was a joke, and the Fall of Reach miniseries was neat, but still stale and not quite right. Forward Unto Dawn was decent, but it still lacked in many areas. Halo Legends, on the other hand, was incredible. It was like the Animatrix of Halo, only thousands of times better.
And then there was Landfall.
Landfall changed everything. It showed us that Halo could translate to the real-world; it wasn't just bound to a video game, it could be represented before our eyes with practical effects and real, visceral content. The brutal Human-Covenant war was recreated before our eyes.
During the time before Halo 3 came out, the series was magical. It was safely ensconced in Bungie's hands. Neil Blomkamp was going to make a Halo movie and put out a short called Halo Landfall to tide us over. This seven-minute short solidified my love for Halo, but it ultimately died out.
Then they did Halo Legends, which took off and exploded. It was amazing on every level; it showed there was so much more to the Halo universe than Master Chief. Of course, my favorite short was called The Package, and featured and incredibly well-done CGI short with Blue Team on a mission--Master Chief, Fred, and Kelly.
The Package showed Spartans as they should be represented: as incredibly acrobatic badasses. We've never seen Spartans represented like this in any game; that what's so magical about Legends and what it represented, because it wasn't constrained to a video game. It had no limits.
Then Halo Reach had an amazing live-action short called Deliver Hope, which pulled at the heartstrings and showed the plight of war. The true cost of war. Hell, the entire game of Halo Reach showed the cost of war, the sacrifice. It's amazing, and it makes us feel.
That's the kind of spirit Microsoft and 343 Industries need to embrace with the new Halo TV show. You can't mess this up; it's too important. It carries the weight of the Halo franchise. It needs to be good, and not just safe good--the kind of lukewarm "hey, it's okay" that Microsoft likes to deliver--but the kind of good where you experiment, take a chance, and do something new good.
Here are some ideas:
An anthology TV show
There's no reason your TV show has to focus on a single story. Anthology TV shows are amazing, and can be done very, very well. A fresh change of pace would do wonders, and you could mirror the awesomeness that was Halo Legends with small chunks of stories. You could even adapt Halo Evolutions short stories, or make up your own.
The problem with Halo Nightfall was that it felt so drawn out. With an anthology show, you could represent fresh, new segments every week or so. There's so much to discover in the Halo universe, and we want to see it represented on the small screen. We want unique stories told from unique perspectives, and this would fit the bill nicely.
Mix things up: CGI, animation, live-action
Mix things up! Show some episodes as animated features, a few as CGI features like The Package, and some as live-action sequences. That way you aren't bogged down to one medium, and can enjoy the flexibility that CGI or animation has over real-life. We know the Halo TV show won't have an insane budget, so you could incorporate different mediums for different stories.
There's nothing more terrifying than The Flood. You can't reason with it; you can't talk to it; it just kills, and then converts your dead comrades and whole civilizations into horrible undead weapons. And it just keeps spreading; it never stops.
Why not do a horror motif with The Flood? It'd be perfect, and we could see how a brace of ODSTs or maybe even normal grizzled Marines deal with The Flood like in the Mona Lisa short story from Halo Evolutions? Give us something chilling. It'll go a long way.
Innies vs UNSC
Before the Human-Covenant war, man did what it does best: kill itself. The UNSC was fighting a vicious war with the Insurrectionists, who were basically like Rebels that saw the UNSC (formally the United Earth Government) as the Galactic Empire, imposing its will and harsh treatment on its peoples.
In fact, the Spartan-II's (which is what Master Chief and Blue Team are) were created to fight the Innies. Think about that for a bit; the UNSC made super-human mutants to slaughter rebels. That's a pretty harsh reality right there, and it needs to be represented. It needs to be told.
Steer clear of the Forerunners
I'm sorry, 343i, but you've ruined the Forerunners for me. I liked Halo 4, and the whole thing about the Prometheans, but you just spent way too much time on the Forerunners. You've sucked out the mystery, the mystique, the enchantment of that long-dead race of incredible aliens.
You need to move away from them. No more Prometheans, no more open secrets. You need to represent the Forerunners as they were in Halo Combat Evolved: infinitely shrouded in mystery, with enigmatic superhuman tools, perplexingly powerful technology, and leaving us with more questions that'll probably never get answered.
Represent the Covenant, and the plight of its subjects
The Covenant is horrible for its subjects. The Unggoy (grunts) were forced to join, so were the Kigg-yar (Jackals). Microsoft, please represent what it's like for these species to be ruled under the harsh reign of the Covenant. Show the Unggoy rebellion, the horrible slaughter of their homeworld, and how cruel the Covenant really is.
Humanity suffered during the war, but so did the races of the Covenant. Many were enslaved and forced to fight, treated like meat for the grinder. If they didn't fight, they were killed outright. We need to be shown WHY the Covenant fought, and how the Elites and the San Shyuum converted the other races to believing in the Great Journey.
Spin those tales. Tell those yarns. We want to see it; we want to see what its like to see through the eyes of the Covenant. Show how the alien troops mythologized Master Chief as "The Demon," maybe even show past Arbiters. We've seen a lot about the Elites, but what about the rest? There's so much to tell, so much to show.
The Brutes are awful, hideous creatures. And they're absolutely perfect for another horror angle. You could show a brace of Marines that's been captured by the Brutes and are treated as playthings for their amusement. This is basically an adaptation of Stomping on the Heels of a Fuss, and it really resonated strongly with me. You should show how the humans had to become brutes themselves to take down the Jirahanae monsters.
(Photo: Chief Assassin via Deviant Art)
What if there was a Spartan that was slowly corrupted, and turned against the UNSC? The UNSC is pretty evil, especially ONI. What if this Spartan cracked, and defected to the Innies, or maybe a new form of Insurrectionists that came together after the War, during the events of Halo 5?
This is a perfect opportunity to send in Locke to hunt this evil Spartan down. But make it psychological; have the "evil" Spartan explain his motives and actually start to convince Locke. Make him a great villain, one that blurs the edges between evil and good.
Or you could send in Blue Team to take on the Dark Spartan? The possibilities are endless.
Show the effect Spartans had on the troops
Spartans were venerated as mini-gods during the Human-Covenant war, and for good reason: humanity needed heroes. Humanity was being wiped out and utterly annihilated by a foe that showed no signs of stopping. The UNSC Marines and ODSTs all but worshiped the Spartans, to the point where the government didn't even list Spartans as KIA--they were only MIA.
Show how this affected morale during the war. How it drove the Marines to do incredible things. Show the Spartans doing amazing things in battles, and saving people and other Marines. Show what it would be like for a savior to come on and inspire you to fight harder, to be more than you are.
That's what a Spartan is. We need to see it.
ONI should be represented, and we should see some neat top secret tech, weapons, and maybe a highly-elite Spartan force that's beyond anything we've ever seen. These "Ghosts" could be deployed for the top-priority missions that need to be handled with as little amount of messy explosions and death as possible.
The ONI Ghosts could be like ninjas for all intents and purposes. Maybe the evil Spartan I mentioned above is an ONI Ghost, and Master Chief or Locke has to travel across the stars to stop him. Or try to.
Show Spartan teams on random missions. Blue Team, Green Team, Red Team--whoever. Spartan IIs, Spartan IIIs, Spartan IVs, hell, even show Spartan Is being prototyped. Spin unique missions that might lay the foundations for more adventures, branching into a unique story arc, or one-episode stories that flesh out the Halo universe.
Spartans need to be badasses again. Halo 5 reminded me that Spartans aren't invincible; you need to rectify that. Spartans aren't immortal, but they are incredible, and they're capable of so many amazing things.
Spartans face impossible odds and come out alive. They can be given a magnum with three bullets and end up taking out an entire group of Covies. We need to see this, to understand it, and we need to be excited about it again.
As you can see, I have quite a few ideas about what the Halo TV show should be. I would absolutely love an anthology series that took on a new focus every episode, exploring the huge universe that Bungie created way back when. There's so much more to Halo than Master Chief and Cortana; there's the Marines, there's the Unggoy and the Flood and every single ODST, the intricate relationships of ONI's horribly lonely secret life, or what it's like to command a UNSC ship during the Human-Covenant War.
We need this, Microsoft. Halo needs to be revived to its roots. Its new direction is stale, and you can't keep fusing the series with microtransactions and cheap tricks. It won't work, and you've fractured your userbase. You can repair this, and it's going to take work, but you're the only one who can do it.
The most important piece of advice I could give you, Microsoft, is to listen to your community. Engage with them. Don't kowtow to all of their demands, or feel pressured to add in everything we ask for, but don't be afraid to ask us either. There are some incredibly dedicated Halo fans out there that could help you make an amazing Halo TV series, and you shouldn't miss that opportunity.
Also 343 Industries: I don't have any ill will towards you guys. I know you're passionate, and I know you work hard--the immense work you've done in Halo 5 proves this. But I think you're going in the wrong direction with Halo. That's just my opinion, and I think this path will end up destroying Halo. Not evolving it, but outright destroying its core principles. You did Halo 4, which was excellent, so I know you understand what Halo is. Dig deeper into the soul of Halo; leave the Forerunners behind, jump ship from the Prometheans, and look at the UNSC. Look at the Spartans. Look at the Covenant. Shift perspectives a bit. You're spending too much time in one spot, and it's not good for the series.
I know you guys can do amazing things. You have another chance with Halo 6, and please take it. Gamers need something more, something thought-provoking and fresh. If you can't do it, I believe Halo is doomed to fall into the stale mediocrity of Call of Duty, and that'd be a shame.
Make us believe again. Make us wonder again. It's all up to you. Like the original Noble Six, we're delivering hope onto you.
Please make the best of it.
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