Halo episode 4 review: “Getting better and better with each passing week”

Warning: spoilers for Halo episode 4 ahead. Turn back now if you haven’t seen the new episode of the Paramount Plus series.

Master Chief is going home. The aptly-named ‘Homecoming’ sees John-117 return to the planet of Eridanus Two in a tense, emotionally rich episode that finally paints Doctor Halsey as the villain of the piece.

Flanked by Halsey and Adun, Chief works his way towards his childhood home after weeks of build-up and intermittent visions. Fittingly for such a climactic moment, the episode leaves large periods of silence for the Spartan to deal with the emotional weight of the occasion. A lesser show might have thrown in some quips or one-liners, but not here – though we are already missing the back-and-forth banter between Chief and Cortana, who is a little underused here.

Kwan Ha also has a homecoming-of-sorts, though her return to Madrigal City is far less sedate. Once again, Halo’s ability to create a living, breathing sense of place is on full display as Kwan and Soren sneak through the capital’s busy sandswept streets. The episode flitting back between Madrigal and Eridanus also means Kwan’s more hectic situation clashes well with Chief’s more introspective trek through the overgrown woodland outside his home.

At a memorial for Kwan’s father, Kwan learns that her allies are dead and the rebels have been crushed by the planet’s new ruler, Vinsher. After security forces descend onto the scene, Kwan finds herself face-to-face with her aunt, Soojin. The elder Ha tells the wannabe resistance leader of a family secret: Kwan’s father once travelled to the Madrigal desert to seek out the Mystics. He returned a changed man, telling his family they possessed some unknown “true purpose” to fulfil.

As a reveal, it comes out of nowhere and invites too many questions that break up the scene: who are the Mystics? Why should we care? It all feels a little rushed, a hurried plot device to give Kwan something to do before she seeks retribution for what comes next as Vinsher’s right hand, Franco, kills Soojin.

The doctor is in


(Image credit: Paramount)

Vinsher’s increased presence in the episode also highlights the stark contrast between the new Madrigal ruler and the far more complex figure of Halsey. 

Where the UNSC doctor’s more guarded demeanor has helped slowly tease out the show’s secrets, Burn Gorman’s turn as Vinsher is far too dramatic. It’s the sort of glowering OTT figure that is at odds with Halo’s more nuanced, shades of gray approach to the galaxy’s many conflicts so far. Yes, it’s still going to be a lot of fun to see Kwan Ha attempt to take him down as the season progresses, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that Vinsher is so far removed from everything else around him that he may as well be on another show entirely. 

As Chief and Kwan Ha confront some hard truths, so, too, do those on Reach. In the previous episode, Silver Team felt like NPCs, faceless figures lost in a world of more intense, interesting characters. Perhaps that was by design. One of the great triumphs of ‘Homecoming’ is transforming one of its Spartans, Kai, into a character you’ll be rooting for by the time the credits roll.

After removing her emotional repression pellet, Kai starts to exhibit streaks of individualism – quite literally in one case, as she dyes her hair red. Her silent amazement as feelings start to wash over her throughout the episode is also a nice touch, providing some much-needed moments of levity in an episode that deals with such heavy subject matter.


(Image credit: Paramount)

The scene Kai shares with Miranda Keyes, who has been underutilized up until this point, is the episode’s best. The warm sense of connection – perhaps something more, as the actors’ restrained performance keeps everyone guessing – as they bond over research is a welcome reminder that the show doesn’t need Chief, Kwan, or the Covenant (who are completely absent from this episode) to drive the plot forward.

Back on Eridanus Two, Master Chief uses his visions as a guide to piece together the story of his childhood. In flashbacks, an inquisitive young John stumbles upon another artifact and an even darker secret: Halsey met the boy in his own home, essentially grooming him for war while his parents were still alive.

Pablo Schreiber has excelled in the show’s quieter moments so far, and it’s the same again here. His immediate reaction of shock gives way to flashes of fury as he struggles to comprehend what he’s just seen. Chief, though, manages to hold his emotions in check for long enough to reach the artifact in the present day. It’s a wise move for the Spartan as well as the story – it tantalizingly leaves a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode in the UNSC’s face.

The episode ends with a voiceover from Keyes, an act which completes Halsey’s arc from misguided mentor to, arguably, the galaxy’s biggest monster. For so long, she has destroyed lives, ruined childhoods, and discarded those who didn’t fit into her vision for the future. As Keyes puts it, Halsey “just keeps pushing forward.” As that truth comes to light so, too, does Halo’s – this is a series that is getting better and better with each passing week.

New episodes of Halo stream weekly every Thursday on Paramount Plus.

The Verdict


4 out of 5


A series of homecomings and revelations puts Halo on track for a fantastic second half of the season

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