Many people questioned if Master Chief’s decision to remove his helmet in the upcoming Paramount+ TV series adaptation of the long-running “Halo” video game franchise was a good one. After all, we’ve never seen Master Chief’s face in the two decades of “Halo” fiction. Those days are over, and it’s a crucial move forward, according to Chief (Pablo Schreiber) and the show’s executive producers.
“We set out to tell a story about Master Chief–and specifically to tell a story about John,” executive producer Kiki Wilfkill, who has been working on the Halo franchise since 2008, told GameSpot. “John is someone that we explore in the books, not the side of him that we tend to explore in the games. And so that was a decision that the story really made. And it just became so clear, as we were getting into what that journey would look like, and what it means for John to discover his humanity and his place in the world and his place in the UNSC that you had to be able to see him outside of the armor and without the helmet.”
While Showtime executives may have been cautious about whether or not Chief would reveal his identity when the show was still vying for a slot on the cable network, it was always a possibility given the story’s character. And the creative team hopes they’ve portrayed the seriousness of such an iconic moment when it happens on the show.
“We knew full well that we were going to be treating this moment with the respect it deserved,” executive producer Steven Kane said. “In fact, we kind of leaned into it and really made the entire season about that moment, even though there are eight more episodes because the show really is about getting into the helmet, getting behind the visor, and seeing John. And then to make that even more integral we made this season really about John figuring out who John is. And so John’s on the journey with us.”
And, given how crucial that journey is to “Halo”, Schreiber believes there’s no way it could be completed without seeing John process everything.
“For long-form television storytelling format, it’s just essential that you have access to the face so [that] you have access to the character’s interior life,” he explained. “So [that] an audience can go along with the character for the long haul of a journey. You really need to know your character in order to kind of break down the barrier between them.
“Master Chief, the character was created for a first-person shooter video game where you’re asked to believe that you are the Chief. And so the character is created in a very vague and opaque way, a man of few words. He’s essentially a symbol for all of us. He’s a symbol for bravery, for courage, for effectiveness under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. His dry sense of humor in tough times. So those elements, the symbolic elements of the character, were sacred and had to be there. And everything else in the video game, you’re meant to fill in with your own personality, so that you can feel like you’re him going through the game.”
And, as important as being able to imbue your own personality on your game character is, this is a completely different Master Chief. The “Halo” series takes place in a parallel universe to the rest of the franchise. Above all, this implies that the occurrences will not break any existing continuity. That also means that this Chief, Schreiber’s Chief, can have a face without compromising the Chief we’ve all come to know and love from the games.
Beyond that, being able to shed some light on the man behind the mask, John-117, could lead to a deeper knowledge of Master Chief as the franchise progresses.
“Halo” premieres on Paramount+ on Thursday. Chris E. Hayner notes in his Halo review, “Halo is a show that shouldn’t work, in the grand scheme of things. After over seven years of development–including showrunner, director, and network changes–it’s actually surprising that it exists at all. Thankfully, it does, though. What the team behind the show has created is an interesting new way of exploring the Halo franchise. It stands on its own, away from the games, but it’s only stronger for it.”