I genuinely don’t think we’re prepared for what’s coming. If you thought the discourse was A Lot when he showed arse, brace yourself: In the latest episode of the Halo show, Master Chief had sex.
The Halo show, which premiered on Paramount+ back in March, and has since become the burgeoning streaming service’s biggest hit, started strong. Its pilot episode showed a willingness to deviate from long-established source material. The ensuing episodes, released weekly on Thursdays, have been hit or miss. Some have featured thrilling fight scenes and explored truly complex moral grey areas; others have dallied in plot lines that have no stakes, no payoff, and no interesting characterization.
If nothing else, this latest episode, “Allegiance,” is groundbreaking, and not just for its kick-arse combat scene. Like the whole “OMG it’s his butt” thing, I am pretty confident this is the first time Chief has had sex, at least in mainline, bloated-marketing-budget Halo canon.
[Spoiler territory from here on out.]
The scene isn’t weird because it happened so much as because of who’s also in it: Makee, a human who was kidnapped by the Covenant antagonists at a young age, quickly deemed their “chosen one,” and absorbed into their hierarchy as a high-level agent. To anyone with a semblance of intuition (something you’d figure Master Chief has in spades), it is crystal clear that she is a spy with ulterior motives.
And then there’s Cortana, Chief’s AI companion, who kinda just…stands there, watching on with a mixture of emotions that are entirely indiscernible due to the uncanny valley.
As far as sex scenes go, it’s incredibly tame too, relying more on implication than anything else. Chief and Makee kiss a bit. Smash cut, then they’re naked in a bed, appearing to have already done the deed. It’s about as steamy as the iconic Cold Storage multiplayer map. (Side note: 343, please port that one into Halo Infinite.)
By no means does a show need to go all in, of course, but it remains interesting to me how comfortable American filmmakers are with showing graphic violence while shying away from even moderately lurid sex. The Halo show really earns its TV-MA rating. Limbs get blown off. Heads are disintegrated. At one point, an alien soldier, everything below its belly torn to shreds, its torso immolated in plasma burns, spends its final moments trying to futilely crawl to safety. It is a nightmarish image. But nope, gotta tap the breaks at anything beyond a little kiss. I suppose the influence of Game of Thrones’ final season is grander than we imagined. (If you know, you know.)
It’s not just the timidity that deserves backlash. Fans are not pleased with Chief’s total abdication of duty here, with even the most stalwart show supporters criticising his behaviour. Viewers speculate this “allegiance” between Makee and Chief heralds the fall of Reach, which has yet to happen in the show’s timeline. (Reach, in Halo canon, is a key human planetary colony, its sacking the catalyst for the first Halo trilogy, and the setting for Bungie’s terrific 2010 swan song, Halo: Reach.)
The show has “crossed its final line,” wrote Forbes critic Paul Tassi. The Washington Post’s Gene Park, who’s largely been positive on the show thus far, said he’s “actually mad” and is reconsidering his “whole stance on the show.” Credit where it’s due, the headline on Decider’s writeup made me legitimately laugh out loud: “Master Chief Loses His Virginity While His Mum Watches.”
That the Halo show deviates from established lore isn’t what rubs fans the wrong way — in fact, that Halo the show is so willing to reexamine norms is without question its strongest selling point. Any push-and-pull here is attributable to Master Chief’s characterization. Just as Spider-Man must always lose Uncle Ben, there are a handful of immutable maxims for Chief. Key: Pretty much every decision he makes is about saving as many people as possible. Blindly ignoring that, and potentially putting billions of lives at risk in the process, for a brief romance is behaviour indicative of someone who might as well not even rock “117” on his armour.