Why Halo Is Removing Master Chief's Helmet For The First Time Ever

At long last, the world will see Master Chief's face on the Halo TV show--but there's some pretty sound reasoning behind it.

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When it was first announced that Master Chief would take off his helmet in the upcoming Paramount+ TV series adaptation of the long-running Halo video game franchise, many questioned if it was a wise decision. After all, in the two decades worth of Halo stories, we've never seen Master Chief's face. Those days are done, though, and according to Chief himself (Pablo Schreiber) and the show's executive producers, it's a necessary step forward.

"We set out to tell a story about Master Chief--and specifically to tell a story about John," executive producer Kiki Wolfkill, who has been working on the Halo franchise since 2008, told GameSpot. "John is someone that we explore in the books, not the side of him that we tend to explore in the games. And so that was a decision that the story really made. And it just became so clear, as we were getting into what that journey would look like, and what it means for John to discover his humanity and his place in the world and his place in the UNSC that you had to be able to see him outside of the armor and without the helmet."

So while Showtime executives may have played coy about whether or not Chief would unmask back when the series was still aiming to air on the cable network, it was always in the cards based on the very nature of its story. And when it happens on the show, the creative team is hoping they've captured the gravity of such an iconic moment.

"We knew full well that we were going to be treating this moment with the respect it deserved," executive producer Steven Kane said. "In fact, we kind of leaned into it and really made the entire season about that moment, even though there are eight more episodes because the show really is about getting into the helmet, getting behind the visor, and seeing John. And then to make that even more integral we made this season really about John figuring out who John is. And so John's on the journey with us."

And given how important that journey is to Halo, there's no way it could be done without getting to see John process it all, according to Schreiber.

"For long-form television storytelling format, it's just essential that you have access to the face so [that] you have access to the character's interior life," he explained. "So [that] an audience can go along with the character for the long haul of a journey. You really need to know your character in order to kind of break down the barrier between them.

"Master Chief, the character was created for a first-person shooter video game where you're asked to believe that you are the Chief. And so the character is created in a very vague and opaque way, a man of few words. He's essentially a symbol for all of us. He's a symbol for bravery, for courage, for effectiveness under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. His dry sense of humor in tough times. So those elements, the symbolic elements of the character, were sacred and had to be there. And everything else in the video game, you're meant to fill in with your own personality, so that you can feel like you're him going through the game."

And as important as being able to imprint a bit of your own personality is on the character in the games, this is an entirely different Master Chief. The Halo series is set in a different timeline than the rest of the franchise. Above all, that means the events won't contradict any existing continuity. However, that also means this Chief, Schreiber's Chief, can have a face without ruining the Chief we all know and love from the games.

Beyond that, though, being able to give some insight into the character under the helmet, John-117, may lead to an even better understanding of Master Chief as the franchise rolls forward.

Halo debuts Thursday on Paramount+. In his review of Halo, Chris E. Hayner writes, "Halo is a show that shouldn't work, in the grand scheme of things. After over seven years of development--including showrunner, director, and network changes--it's actually surprising that it exists at all. Thankfully, it does, though. What the team behind the show has created is an interesting new way of exploring the Halo franchise. It stands on its own, away from the games, but it's only stronger for it."

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