It would have been a brave move if Master Chief of Paramount Plus’ new glory the series never removed his helmet and we were left to wonder what kind of person the great Spartan in his signature Mjolnir armor really is, as is the case in glory computer games. Repeatedly exposing the Master Chief and highlighting the difficulties he has in dealing with basic emotions is one of the most important ways glory trying to humanize him as he embarks on an adventure across a universe that is familiar but slightly different in terms of continuity. But instead of using the Master Chief as a lens to see its war-torn worlds, glory instead, try to mythologize him with a story that makes him your standard version Featured one who does not know he is special.
Although Paramount Plus’ glory not immediately trying to throw you over with dense world-building information dumps, it’s clear from the few episodes delivered to the press that co-creators Kyle Killen and Steven Kane both have a deep respect for the source material. With a civil war raging between the United Nations Space Command and groups of rebels from Earth’s off-planet colonies, humanity’s future was already uncertain before the events of gloryfirst season. But things became so much more complicated when alien beings known as the Covenant first appeared unexpectedly and established themselves as a powerful, deadly force from beyond the stars.
While the UNSC’s Spartan supersoldiers as Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 (Pablo Schreiber) were created by Dr. Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone) for dealing with the rebels, their improved physical abilities and combat training make them one of humanity’s most effective means of fighting back the pact – a race of two-legged giants armed with weapons and energy swords.
glory opens amid a spartan-led attack on a group of rebels going left, as the Covenant suddenly appears in a sequence illustrating how strained the balance of power of the galaxy has become in our day. Master Chief and the rest of his Silver Team of Spartans already have marching orders when we are first introduced to them on the planet Madrigal, where they have been sent to kill freedom fighters like Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha). But when the Pact arrives in a barrage of shots, Master Chief, Kai-125 (Kate Kennedy), Riz-028 (Natasha Culzac) and Vannak-134 (Bentley Kalu) take it upon themselves to push the attackers back in a fight sequence, that determines how cruel gloryis willing to get.
People are not just shot in glory their bodies are crushed of bursts of bullets that the camera makes sure you never lose sight of in the chaos of battle. Carefully placed sprays of blood all work to remind you how vulnerable glory‘s baseline people are against their well-armed enemies, and the brutality with which the Spartans and the Covenant fight each other is the series’ way of reminding you how both groups can be seen as monstrous, depending on your perspective.
It only becomes clear later, but the road glory glamorizes and heroically frames its Spartans in the heat of battle, is actually one of the more effective ways it telegraphs its larger goal, and makes the audience consider what it really means to mess around or want to be a character like Master Chief. glory want you to see the Spartans as cool, and the show often shifts to a first-person perspective that evokes moods of the games in an attempt to make it feel like you’re part of the fight.
But glory will also have you understanding how Halsey’s spartan program has robbed the Master Chief of vital aspects of his identity to shape him into an emotionless killer who is unable to truly live for or understand himself. What he does understand, however, is that he is quite adept at killing terribly rendered CGI creatures, and that he has some sort of connection to a powerful MacGuffin-shaped Covenant relic that is going to be bigger in glorys history as the season progresses.
Master Chief is at first only so aware of the depth of UNSC’s betrayal and Halsey’s will to break the law in the pursuit of illegal science, but glory shows a significant amount of it, again, to show you how the story being told is not quite as simple as good vs. bad. evil. Although Halsey and John’s disturbing mother-son dynamics are a core part of their nuanced relationship in glory game, here it plays much more two-dimensionally, in part because of how zoomed in on the pair glory often is. Because we are only told so much about the story of glory‘s world, it’s hard to get a sense of how much debate there is about the ethics of Halsey’s work and the influence she has over the Spartans. This is part of the reason why the introduction of Cortana (also McElhone) ends up feeling less like glory to translate one of the franchise’s most iconic characters across media and more as if it’s trying to make the character work for television by depriving her of an important video game context.
As Master Chief, a character known for his stoicism and general silence, Schreiber is useful – good even – in moments where he is meant to just stand there and radiate frightening energy. But in more emotional moments, gloryJohn’s suffers from being portrayed as inert and somewhat flat in ways that have little to do with his canonical conditioning. This Master Chief is presented as a brainwashed man who begins to remember the life he led before the UNSC kidnapped him and the other future Spartans like Soren-066 (Bokeem Woodbine) as children. Seeing someone figure out who they are or used to be can be interesting when that person is more than just a summarized cipher, but that’s just what it is. glory‘s Master Chief often feels like: an ubercipher whose relatability depends on one’s ability to see oneself in hypermasculine space marines that shoot first and mostly do not question.
Though glory working hard to put the Master Chief on a pedestal, a series of narrative decisions such as introducing the foil character Makee (Charlie Murphy), a human being kidnapped and radicalized by the Covenant, has a way of making it feel like Paramount Plus was not quite sold on him as a concept. That in itself would not be so much of a problem if it were not for how glory tends to feel like just another episodic epic about humans battling aliens, rather than a strong, vision-focused adaptation of one of the most beloved Xbox franchises ever.
glory premieres at Paramount Plus on March 24th.