The Halo season 1 finale leaves [Spoiler] in a questionable state with Cortana potentially still in control, but it’s left ambiguous at the end.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Halo Season 1 finale
The Halo season 1 finale saw Master Chief relinquish control over his consciousness to Cortana in order to defeat The Covenent, but it’s unclear if he’s gone or not by the end. After a battle between Master Chief and his fellow Spartans ensues, Makee takes the opportunity to steal the keystones and escapes back to The Covenant, who plan to take them to an ancient temple on the planet Aspero. There, Makee would use the Forerunner technology within the keystones to generate a star-map to show the way to the Halo. However, Master Chief and his Silver Team of Spartans track them down, attacking the site just as the activation is started.
In the Halo season 1 finale, Master Chief is sucked into yet another vision with Makee when she touches the keystones, prompting Kai to kill her to set him free and get back in the fight. Once freed, Master Chief finds that he’s unable to take on The Covenant’s forces alone, needing additional help. He turns to Cortana, who is implanted in his brain, asking her to take over his consciousness, as Halsey had desired from the beginning, which would have AI controlling the super soldiers, thereby making them the ultimate fighting machine, unaffected by conscious thought. Cortana, however, is an AI that’s programmed to learn and grow is reluctant to take over, saying she may not be able to bring Master Chief back. He says, “I trust you” before passing out, leaving Cortana to harness his body to help defeat The Covenant’s troops and make their escape (with the keystones in tow).
As the ship takes off from Aspero in the Halo season 1 finale’s final moments, Kai turns to Master Chief, addressing him as “John” and asks, “Is that you?”. Master Chief turns to look at her briefly, then looks ahead again, never answering the question or uttering a word, suggesting that Cortana is likely still in control. It’s also worth noting that he’s wearing his helmet, something he does less and less of throughout Halo season 1. However, what that means is still unclear, as it’s a new development in the show that’s different from the game series, which has Cortana implanted into Master Chief’s armor, not his brain. With Cortana still presumably in full control of Master Chief’s consciousness, he may or may not be “dead”, but almost certainly compromised in some way that will inhibit a swift return.
In the games, Master Chief and Cortana share a strong bond that’s a bit less invasive, as Cortana exists on a chip in his suit and is able to help him access other technologies, including Forerunner technology, rather than acting as an AI implant that can control his very actions. This new development gives the showrunners all the creative opportunities they need in order to prolong Cortana’s takeover of Master Chief or to simply explain it away within the first few minutes of Halo season 2. Because of the nature of this new predicament, all options are on the table, so it’s near impossible to predict how it will play out.
One of the biggest complaints of Halo season 1 has been how much time Master Chief spends out of his armor (and helmet), exploring his unmasked side for much of the show. It’s also the most Master Chief has spoken in any incarnation, which was meant to flesh out his character for live-action, but has turned off some fans of the games as the Halo TV series been more talk than action. It’s possible that Cortana taking over could help right that ship to a point, having Master Chief function more as a Spartan supersoldier than a man having an existential crisis, but it would also be odd to not pull those threads now that they’ve been exposed. Whatever the case, Schreiber’s Master Chief will be back for Halo season 2 and will surely regain control of his body sooner or later, although the effects of Cortana’s takeover are yet to be revealed.
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