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'Halo' straps on the power armor for new live-action series on Paramount Plus

Following an endless wait for Microsoft/Bungie's "Halo" video game franchise to create a live-action TV show or feature film based on the mega-popular first-person shooter, Paramount Plus will finally debut their ambitious new "Halo" series today. 

"Halo" was first introduced to Microsoft's Xbox gaming platform way back in 2001, offering a captivating storyline of  Master Chief and his unit of jacked-up Spartan super-soldiers clashing with an alien cabal called  The Covenant for domination over a network of ancient ringworld weapons built by the Forerunners.

This $5 billion sci-fi property has sold over 81 million copies of Halo games in the course of two decades involving 15 different sequels and spinoffs. Here are all the details on what we can expect when the bullets and particle beams start flying for the premiere season of "Halo."

Halo

Master Chief is ready for his close up in Halo on Paramount Plus. (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Master Chief lands on Paramount Plus

First, some basics. "Halo" hits TV screens today, Thursday, March 24, on Paramount Plus in the United States and Canada, with new episodes appearing each week at midnight Pacific, or 3 a.m. Eastern. If you're not in the U.S. or Canada, check out our Halo TV series streaming guide to see where you can watch Master Chief's new adventure online.

Season 1 will air a total of nine weekly episodes. This is one of the most expensive TV series filmed since HBO's "Game of Thrones," with each installment costing roughly $10 million each.

Don't expect a by-the-book adaptation of the video games here as the show's executive producers have drifted into their own interpretation of  "Halo" and even created a brand-new, non-canon pocket universe to exist within. The nuts-and-bolts of the narrative include a 26th-century ongoing interstellar war between humans and a hostile alien alliance known as The Covenant. 

The live-action Halo series on Paramount Plus will span 9 episodes starting March 24. (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Officially dubbed the "Silver Timeline," (as opposed to the Halo timeline of the games) this Halo TV series unfolds just outside the games’ established continuity and was inspired by the bounty of material discovered inside years of “Halo” comic books and novels. It instead targets interpersonal relationships between characters that might be unfamiliar to fans. Master Chief and his Fireteam Silver do most of the plot’s heavy lifting, but now the mysterious Spartan warrior will be saddled with an orphaned teenage companion named Kwan (Yerin Ha), whose parents were killed by The Covenant.

"The intent of the Silver Timeline is to allow [our show] to be founded in canon," producer Kiki Wolfkill told Inverse. "The things you see and hear are all familiar and grounded in the spirit of the core themes of “Halo” — hope, heroism, humanity, wonder — while giving space for the story to develop in a way it needs to for the medium."

Master Chief and his crew will face off against the Covenant in the live-action series, but don't expect a direct adaptation of the video game franchise. (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

"Halo" was written and created by Steven Kane ("The Last Ship," "The Closer") and Kyle Killen ("The Beaver"), with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment along for the ride as an executive producer. The series was directed by Otto Bathurst ("Peaky Blinders").

Paramount Plus unleashed the final trailer for "Halo" on March 14 and it's a blistering bonanza of epic sci-fi action and jaw-dropping alien vistas that fans of the game should respond to positively. Much is focused on the side characters in this preview, which has some acolytes worried that it will stray too far from the core arc of the gaming franchise. 

Pablo Schreiber scored the main role of the genetically-enhanced super soldier mainly identified as Master Chief (AKA John-117). Schreiber is best known for co-starring roles in "Orange is the New Black" and "American Gods." As previously announced, and much to the chagrin of hardcore "Halo" gamers, Master Chief will be taking his helmet off for the first time in franchise history and thus shattering any remaining mystery the character has forged over 20 years. 

"When you play a first-person shooter, the way that a character is developed is very different than what's necessary when you're making long-form television," Schreiber attempted to explain to TechRadar. "To go on this journey with your protagonist, you're not going to be able to bring an audience along in a long-form story without having access to a character's face, which tells you what they're feeling, how they think about everything. That access to a character's emotional life, over the course of time, is what makes you empathize and connect with a character.

"I'm sorry, but it's the only choice for long-form storytelling in television. What I would say to anybody who disagrees with that, I totally respect that opinion. But it's a pretty basic place to start when you're talking about making a television show of quality."

Filling out the cast are: Natascha McElhone ("Californication"), Bokeem Woodbine ("Fargo"), Shabana Azmi (“Fire”), Natasha Culzac ("The Witche"), Olive Gray ("Half Moon Investigations"), Yerin Ha ("Reef Break"), Bentley Kalu ("Avengers: Age of Ultron"), Kate Kennedy ("Catastrophe"), Charlie Murphy ("Peaky Blinders", and Danny Sapani ("Penny Dreadful").

Jen Taylor will return to voice Cortana, the hologram AI that guides Master Chief on his quests, but her depiction is much more realistic than observed in the gaming world, which is something else that avid gamers are apparently ruffled up about.

The "new" Cortana in Paramount Plus' Halo TV series. (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Will "Halo" get a season 2?

You bet your Mjolnir Mark VI power armor! Paramount Plus has already pulled the trigger even before the premiere episode airs and has given the thumbs-up for another season. When we'll see "Halo" S2 has not yet been revealed as Paramount Plus hasn't officially provided those details, but it should land sometime in 2023.

"Halo" is set to strike on March 24 on Paramount Plus.

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Jeff Spry
Jeff Spry

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.