The first episode of “Halo” Season 1 did everything from establishing the politics between the rebels at Madrigal, the United Nations Space Command (UNSC), and the Covenant, to introducing the show’s protagonists, Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) and Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha), and piquing interest in the McGuffin, an EMP generating device that’s powered by Master Chief’s touch.
Episode 1, “Contact,” concluded with the UNSC ordering Master Chief to kill Kwan Ha because she is living proof of the UNSC’s failure to save the rebel colony and Madrigal. And because she is threatening to frame the UNSC for the massacre because of how the UNSC has harassed rebel colonies all over the galaxy. Despite being programmed to always follow orders, Master Chief decides to not only betray the UNSC but also take off his helmet to win Kwan Ha’s trust and then take them out of the UNSC’s reach, temporarily. Tangentially, it’s revealed that the Covenant has become interested in Master Chief because of his ability to use the artifact excavated from Madrigal. “Halo” Episode 2, “Unbound,” is directed by Otto Bathurst and written by Kyle Killen and Steven Kane, and it begins right where “Contact” left off, with Master Chief and Kwan Ha using a form of lightspeed travel to get to someone who can help them with the artifact.
Spoiler warning: This article contains major spoilers for “Halo” Episode 2.
Has Master Chief Always Broken Protocol?
Before catching up with Master Chief and Kwan Ha, we do get a little flashback with teen John (Logan Shearer), which is Master Chief’s actual name, and teen Soren (Jude Cudjoe). Here we get further information that those images that Master Chief sees when he touches the artifact are, in fact, memories. First of all, the Spartans weren’t born that way. They are made, as proven by the scarring on John’s back. Secondly, Soren practically says that their dreams aren’t dreams, but memories of a life that Halsey (Natascha McElhone) has stolen from them. And thirdly, memories are what make us more human instead of robots, and that’s why John is able to look beyond his programming and allow Soren to escape. Yes, he isn’t able to escape along with Soren. But I think he makes up for that by presently betraying the UNSC to save Kwan Ha and going to none other than Soren (Bokeem Woodbine), who is a family man now.
We briefly get to see Halsey and Fleet Admiral Hood (Keir Dullea) talking about why Master Chief failed to follow orders. Halsey is clearly unable to understand the concept of free will in someone like Master Chief and attributes it all to the artifact. That’s why her solution to the whole fiasco is the prototype Cortana, which will help her brainwash her Spartans more easily. But to do so, she has to actually get Master Chief to the UNSC. Hence, she sends Kai-125 (Kate Kennedy), Vannak-134 (Bentley Kalu), and Riz-028 (Natasha Culzac) to go after Master Chief, even if they’re skeptical about the mission. Then the focus shifts back to Master Chief and Kwan Ha, who aren’t welcomed warmly, largely because of Master Chief and what he represents. However, Soren shows up to cool things down and then reveals that Vinsher (Burn Gorman), who was sent to Madrigal by the UNSC to negotiate with the rebels, has taken over Madrigal and put a bounty on Kwan’s head.
Since the wrath of Vinsher is in the distance, Master Chief and Kwan get to breathe a little. And while Kwan feels at home because the Rubble low-key represents Madrigal’s rebellious and free-spirited nature, it seems like a revelation to Master Chief. Because he is experiencing what true freedom tastes like for the first time and is also seeing how his small acts of humanity and mercy have changed the trajectory of Soren’s life.
What Is The Covenant And The UNSC’s Plan For Master Chief and The Artifact?
In the last episode, we see Mercy (Julian Bleach) calling a meeting with the other two San’Shyuums, Makee (Charlie Murphy), and the Sangheili soldier who witnessed Master Chief use the artifact. They display a sense of urgency to get to it because they are the ones who were after the artifact in the first place. Makee offers a solution to let her infiltrate the UNSC to get the artifact (also called the keystone) as an ordinary human being, because no one will suspect her of being a part of the Covenant. Mercy and the rest of the San’Shyuums protest this decision, thereby indicating that she’s integral to the Covenant. But Makee persuades them and gets their approval.
Meanwhile, the UNSC’s Captain Jacob Keyes (Danny Sapani) plans to not only capture Master Chief, but punish him as well. However, Hood protests that by saying that punishment will not only put him out of commission but also degrade everyone’s morale. That’s when Halsey suggests the solution: Cortana.
Okay, so what exactly is Cortana? Well, according to Halsey, Spartans have been physically enhanced to the limits of the technology available to 26th-century humans. So, Cortana will do something similar for their minds. It will basically overwrite Spartan consciousness and replace it with an artificial general intelligence. Cortana is apparently the next stage in human evolution. She represents the sum total of every available data point and the intelligence of the entire galaxy, in essence. Halsey thinks that (and this is all theory) with Cortana, they’ll be able to make the Spartans more lethal and their judgment error-free. Which pretty much means that whatever autonomy a Spartan has over their body and mind, it will be removed, and they’ll be fully controlled by the UNSC. Jacob and one other member of the committee point out the illegality of it. However, when Hood pushes for it, Admiral Margaret Parangosky (Shabana Azmi), who is in charge of the Spartans too, is forced to okay the Cortana program for a limited trial period.
So, what allows Spartans, and in this case, Master Chief, to have any sense of autonomy without giving away complete control to the UNSC? According to a conversation with Soren, the Spartans have pellets installed in their bodies that enhance their battle focus. Simultaneously, it dulls every other sensation and emotion so that following orders and waging war on the UNSC’s behalf is the only thing that they know. Soren has removed his pellets, and that’s why he can enjoy the simple pleasures of life, something that evidently perplexes Master Chief. In addition to that, it looks like Vinsher (who is working on the UNSC’s behalf) is continuing his wrath on Madrigal to bring Kwan Ha out of hiding. And since Master Chief is with her, he’ll expose himself too.
‘Halo’ Episode 2: Ending Explained – The Secret Behind The Covenant Artifact, Revealed
It’s confirmed that Master Chief is a “chosen one” character because while examining the keystone or artifact, Soren touches it, and it does nothing. No holographic symbols, No EMP surge. Nothing. So, to better understand it, they go to a Covenant abduction survivor named Reth (Johann Myers), who is housed in a location on the Rubble specially designed for people who are sensitive or those who have probably suffered through enough. The place is locked from the outside. But Soren says that it is not a jail but a refuge for Reth and others like him. And here’s an important piece of information: All of them are kind of addicted to churros (which can be described as fried dough coated with sugar or savory items). Yes, churros exist in the 26th century. Jokes apart, they do meet up with Reth, and he is incredibly, for lack of a better word, jumpy.
Before getting to the artifact in question, Reth explains that the Covenant’s whole religion is based on things like this, which are from another time and have been left behind. He says that the Covenant roams the galaxy looking for “pieces” and “clues.” Reth was abducted by the Covenant in the hopes that he would know how to work the items they scavenged. But due to Reth’s sensitivity, he failed. After touching the artifact, he says that it can only be activated by the Blessed One (a moniker that’s used to refer to Makee as well). When asked what a “blessed one” is, Reth says that they have to be human with a moral imperative. As he starts to ramble, Master Chief asks what the artifact exactly does. Reth asks him back if he wants the Covenant to destroy humans, thereby implying that the artifact is a weapon of sorts. When Master Chief says no, Reth tries to destroy it. However, Master Chief catches it, thus activating it and triggering his memories again.
After Master Chief regains control, he asks Reth again what the artifact exactly is. That’s when Reth says that there are two of these keystones (or maybe more than two, I don’t know yet). So, it’s probable that Makee is the one who can operate that. And the Covenant needs more humans to activate the other keystones. When they’re activated, it’ll, in theory, open up a door that will end all of existence. The only way to stop it is by destroying the artifact and the one who can activate it, i.e., Master Chief. Assuming that either of these things won’t be possible without the help of the UNSC, Master Chief surrenders while leaving Kwan at the Rubble. After reaching Fleet Command, Master Chief is arrested and escorted away, and Halsey takes ownership of the artifact. In the episode’s final moments, we see Halsey awaken Cortana with the aim of probably using it on Master Chief now that she has won his trust.