Halo Season 2 Episode 5 Recap and Review

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Season 2, Episode 5 of Paramount Plus’ Halo achieves a depth that the series has been unsuccessful at achieving so far. 

This is a recap and review of episode 5. Spoilers to follow!

Credit: Paramount Plus

Episode 5 starts where 4 left off, with the Fall of Reach still in the process. John, Soren, and Riz are the last Spartans standing, with Halsey along for the ride. Pinned at the edge of a building, a Brute breaks through the ceiling. Without armor, the Spartans don’t stand much of a chance until artillery fire from a ship saves them. It’s Laera and Kwan!

Despite having an escape, Riz runs back to get Vannek’s body. John is too injured to help, and we’re led to believe she’s dead, but she appears a moment later, firefighter-carrying Vannek. But then, she’s shot in the back. John’s emotions are having a roller coaster of a day, so much so that he experiences flashbacks to his implantation of Cortana before he passes out.

We finally get to see the apocalyptic scenario of Reach being glassed, although only briefly. Makee, watching, turns to the Arbiter and sarcastically calls it a victory, to which he replies that it wasn’t an honorable battle but simply a way to obtain the stolen Keystone. He claims that his ability to ascend in the Great Journey was thwarted yet again because he couldn’t kill John, the demon, and says Makee is protecting him. Makee doesn’t react to any of his veiled threats, then offers him a flash drive that might have the information he’s looking for.

John wakes in the ship and struggles through his pain to get to Riz, who is on the next cot. Halsey arrives and tells him that she doesn’t have the tools to perform surgery on Riz, which turns into him accusing her of controlling his life and decisions and seeing the Spartans as expendable. In this, we are shown that both John and the Arbiter are pawns to their respective higher powers (John, the UNSC and the Arbiter, his religion). 

We also learn that it’s been two days since Reach has been destroyed. John rambles about how Ackerson already knew about the attack, and Halsey confirms this.

Back on the Arbiter’s ship, Makee “opens” Cortana. She asks what the AI is to John, to which Cortana says they worked together. Makee demands Cortana share John’s memories of the Ring, to which she refuses.

John wakes again three days later, to find they are heading to Aleria to get Kessler. John visits Vannek’s body but won’t look at it. On Aleria, they bring Riz into the hospital, and Laera heads into a shop. They ask the shopkeeper, McCoy, about Kessler, who shows them a ship’s manifest. 

Outside, Kwan suggests to John that he bury Vannek, to which he replies that Spartans don’t get burials or funerals. She essentially tells him it’s for him to get closure.

On a tractor ride, Soren asks immigrants to the planet what the deal is, and they say that whatever land they buy might be poisoned but when they clean it up it’s theirs. Laera isn’t impressed with his cheery attitude, claiming he doesn’t care about Reach or Kessler, and that he always runs from trouble. Soren has trouble understanding her perspective, and then, I guess in a show of sadness, Laera removes her fancy wig and drops it off the tractor. I wonder what the others on the ride thought of their exchange and her actions. 


Riz wakes up. She recounts her memories of her augmentation, and Halsey then tells her that her strength and skills will be diminished due to her injuries.

Kwan drags Vannek out into the snow to dig him a grave. How she has the strength to dig in the frozen ground after lugging him for a mile is beyond me. She asks his dead body to stand in for the people she never got to bury. She turns to find torchbearers dressed in red approaching her.

John asks Halsey how he was chosen for the program but is interrupted by the sight outside. When he approaches the funeral, the torchbearers say Vannek’s body must be burnt, not buried. John permits this after looking at Vannek’s face. Halsey and Riz join, and when Halsey begins a speech about Reach, John cuts her off and gives a more emotional one. John also vows to kill those who caused Vannk’s death. 

Halsey approaches him and argues that what the forerunners imprinted in him is very important and that UNSC won’t let him live. John does not care.

Meanwhile, Kwan has a vision where she is approached by an older woman who claims to speak for all the planets and calls Kwan ”Protector.”  We saw this priestess before, in Episode 1, on Sanctuary, and this exchange also harkens back to Season 1.  

Laera and Soren arrive at a facility. Then enter a small trailer, where two women claim that Kessler is theirs. Soren tells Laera to wait outside. He offers compensation for Kessler. Meanwhile, Laera hears running and goes after it. She finds Kessler, still wearing the helmet … but it’s not Kessler. He says Kessler gave it to him and that “they” took him away.

The Arbiter’s ship arrives at High Charity. Makee argues with the Arbiter, telling him they can’t dock as they are on a mission. He says they failed it. She argues that the Hierarchs are liars and deceiving him, and that they don’t plan on going on their Great Journey at all. She claims that her visions show that the Arbiter is the one to lead them in the future and that the hierarchs are afraid of him. As the Arbiter goes to hit Makee for her blasphemy, Cortana displays an image of the Ring on their screen. Makee twists it to convince him to follow her.

The next day, Laera returns to McCoy, asking for gloves and barbed wire. She wraps a pipe in the wire, then drags it towards him, telling him an anecdote that, with her soft but intense voice, has the man crapping his pants. He spills the beans that the UNSC has taken Kessler. 

Riz wakes up to see the townspeople at some sort of barn raising. When John comes to tell her it’s time to leave, she says she’s staying on the moon. He orders her to stand up and asks her what she’s going to do about those they lost. She replies that she’s going to live with her pain and not deny it by trying to get revenge. They hug goodbye.

Halsey, of course, wants the last word. She accuses Riz of now being no one, to which Riz just smiles and turns away. Halsey pockets her dog tags.

The episode ends with Kai. She’s at Onyx base with Ackerson, and it’s clear she’s going to be leading the retaliation for Reach against the Covenant. 

Credit: Paramount Plus

Overall Thoughts

Despite this episode having next-to-no action, this episode moves at a fast pace and serves as a pivot for the season. Are we going to see John go 1990’s Mel Gibson revenge flick on Ackerson and Parangosky? Is Riz really out for good? Will Laera actually use her The Walking Dead-inspired bat? Is anyone else distracted by the little armor things on the Arbiter’s mandibles when he talks? 

For me, this was one of the better episodes of the show, as it took a less hyperdramatic approach to, well, everything. In saying less, John and Riz, and the final scene with Kai and Ackerson, were able to convey much more depth, and the menace under Laera’s soft-spoken words really shone this episode. The dialogue, which I always find runs a little too long in this series, was trimmed down, and the atmosphere of change or transition felt like a bit of a reset. Let’s hope the rest of the season follows suit … but also that John gets his damn suit back!

The next episode airs March 7 on Paramount Plus.    

    T. S. Beier is obsessed with science fiction, the ruins of industry, and Fallout. She is the author of What Branches Grow, a post-apocalyptic novel (which was a Top 5 Finalist in the 2020 Kindle Book Awards and a semi-finalist in the 2021 Self-Published Science Fiction Competition) and the Burnt Ship Trilogy (space opera). She is a book reviewer, editor, and freelance writer. She currently lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, two feral children, and a Shepherd-Mastiff.

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