Halo season 2, episode 7 review: "Slow and plodding before the last few minutes set up a formidable finale"

A review and recap of Halo season 2, episode 7 'Thermopylae'

(Image: © Paramount)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Master Chief is back – but even he can’t save Halo from itself in an episode that starts slow and never really clicks into place. Still, all the pieces are there for what could prove to be a pulsating finale

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The review contains spoilers for Halo season 2, episode 7.

The battle for the Halo, the universe-rupturing ring structure first glimpsed in the season one finale, is on in ‘Thermopylae.’ 

Unfortunately for those watching, Halo sure takes its time getting there – progressing a handful of storylines before the main event in a slow, plodding affair that wouldn’t look out of place in the divisive first season. That’s not a compliment.

Makee and John’s episode-opening conversation on a heavily green-screened Halo planet is the first in the firing line. When you think of Halo – even on this mish-mash of a Silver Timeline – you’d be hard pressed to come up with any benefit for an image like that. Worse still, it can’t even dip into the pair’s previously smoldering dynamic anymore, a seeming by-product of behind-the-scenes conflict.

Master Chief actor Pablo Schreiber has been vocal about his issues with the John/Makee relationship in the first season, calling it a "huge mistake." This scene feels like leftover remnants of that partnership brought kicking and screaming into the second season, but pulled back just enough to placate its lead. The result? A bizarre, stilted interaction that carries no real emotional weight and only serves as a reminder of the show’s past sins.

At least John powers his way through the rest of the episode, acting as an emotional wrecking ball and deciding to step back into his iconic armor to disrupt the best-laid plans of Ackerson and Admiral Parangosky.

Speaking of the UNSC/ONI coalition, ‘Thermopylae’ uncovers some horrible truths about Parangosky, namely that she is content with sending SPARTAN-IIIs as lambs to the slaughter against the Covenant fleet, all in aid of tricking her soldiers into causing an explosion a "million miles" wide.

To achieve her goals, Ackerson – complicit, but never truly in control – becomes the fall guy. It’s a nice rug pull, also acting as a neat commentary on the processes of power and who is really pulling the strings. 

Ackerson actor Joseph Morgan sells the shock well, resembling a shivering, scalded dog throughout the episode, but the entire character is a missed opportunity after such a promising beginning. There’s still plenty to mine between Ackerson and Chief – as evidenced by the former bumping into John later in the episode – but this could very well be it for a villain who, perplexingly, hasn’t had all that much to do recently.

Put a ring on it


(Image credit: Paramount)

Unlike last week, Halsey and Soren’s side stories get a little more attention. Halsey, Kwan Ha, and Miranda Keyes eventually uncover a star ‘map’ ("It’s not a map, it’s a clock," Kwan Ha notes) which unlocks a door. It’s not only interesting to Halsey and Keyes, it's exciting for Halo fans too: this sure looks like a Forerunner facility. So far, so very promising.

The fleshing out of Forerunner DNA – only really ever additive material in Bungie’s original game trilogy, so perfect for an expansion here – and the teasing of the Flood feel like glimpses of seasons to come. Ordinarily, that would be all fine and dandy but, in an episode that flags as this one does, you can’t help but hope the parasitic lifeforms shake things up sooner rather than later.

Soren gets to partially tie up his loose plot thread, too. After weeks of going around in circles, he eventually catches up to his son and brutally retaliates against the same program that once turned him into a Spartan. It doesn’t end there, however, as Kessler backs away from his father and into the loving arms of his mother – the pair getting lost in the smoke and confusion. File this one, frustratingly, under ‘unresolved.’ Maybe next week we'll get some answers?


(Image credit: Paramount)

Despite its faults, ‘Thermopylae’ ends strongly. Master Chief, once again back in his armor, strides through the corridors and into his next mission to stop the Covenant. Just for a moment, all of Halo’s issues melt away. Everything is reduced to its simplest, basest form: the hero fighting against evil. In this case, it’s a gaming icon we’ve been wanting to see do his thing for some time. 

If nothing else, the last few minutes here sets up what should be a formidable finale – mostly because the show is, at the very least, intent on putting all of its focus on the titular Halo ring.

Halo always works best when it’s a little more streamlined. With Halsey and Soren’s plots close to wrapping up (for the most part, anyway), it’s time to eagerly await Master Chief once again pulling off the impossible and saving the universe. It’s been that way for over 20 years. It’s a mystery why it’s taken so long for Halo to figure out that’s the best way forward here.

Halo season 2 is streaming on Paramount Plus, with new episodes available weekly.

For what else is on the way, check out all of the upcoming video game adaptations to look forward to.

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Platform"Xbox 360","PC","Xbox"
Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.