Showtime’s Halo TV series has finally gotten underway after being in development at the network for several years, but in addition to starting production, it has already drawn significant backlash and spawned controversy. Long-time fans of the Halo video game series – created by Bungie and now helmed by 343 Industries – have been waiting for new details on Showtime’s TV series since it was announced way back in 2013. That came some months ago when it was confirmed 10 episodes had been ordered.
Over the last few months, various actors and actresses have been cast in series regular roles, the biggest of which is easily Pablo Schrieber as Master Chief. Joining him are Natasha McElhone as Cortana, Bokeem Woodbine as Soren-066, and Yerin Ha as Quan Ah (a new character created for the series), among others, with Otto Bathurst directing and Kyle Killen and Steve Kane heading production as co-showrunners. Of course, what everyone wanted to know is when the Halo TV series would release.
The Halo TV series has begun production and will release on Showtime at some point in 2021. But while the first details to release – including the cast members, characters included, and the story reveals – have been well-received, things have taken a turn for the worse as the latest casting and story announcements – Danny Sapani as Captain Jacob Keyes, Olive Gray as Dr. Miranda Keyes, and Charlie Murphy as Makee – have been overwhelmingly controversial among game fans due to race-swapping and ignoring the franchise’s lore.
Right off the bat, many Halo fans were irked when it was revealed that Captain Jacob Keyes – an iconic character in the Halo franchise who played a prominent role in the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved, was race-swapped; same with his daughter, Dr. Miranda Keyes. Both characters were Caucasian in the video game series, so casting Sapani and Gray as Jacob and Miranda, respectively, seemed unnecessary. Some people on social media have called it a “slap in the face” to franchise fans who’ve waited years to see this story adapted into live-action. Whether or not Sapani and Gray can properly bring these characters to life in a believable way remains to be seen. So at the moment, the controversy and casting backlash is race-related.
Story-wise, however, Murphy’s casting as Makee is strange. According to the press release, Makee is an orphan who was taken in and raised by the Covenant; she has grown to share their “contempt for humanity.” While the inclusion of the Keyes family is at least taken directly from the games, having a human raised by the Covenant – arguably in a similar fashion to Tarzan – has very much annoyed fans since it’s a major departure from the source material. Humans and the Covenant have been at war with each other and the only relationship between the two happens in Halo 2 with Master Chief and the Arbiter. Needless to say, it’s a rather strenuous relationship.
Having a human raised by the Covenant as one of the main characters means the story must be drastically different from the games, at least on a fundamental level. For comparison, it would be like a normal human – and main – character in Game of Thrones being raised by the White Walkers. While it’s clear that Showtime’s Halo TV series isn’t the one-to-one adaptation people might have been hoping for, that doesn’t mean it will be bad. It has only recently begun filming and it’s a ways off from airing, so the jury is out on whether or not it will be good. But right now, long-time Halo fans have taken issue with the latest casting and story details to release.