Easter Eggs You May Have Missed In Halo Episode 1

After such a long and tortured path to making its way to a screen near you, you didn't think the creators behind "Halo" would neglect to include all sorts of Easter eggs and references — no matter how obvious or how niche — throughout the long-awaited premiere episode of the new Paramount+ series, did you? The first episode, directed by filmmaker Otto Bathurst and titled "Contact," is currently available to watch right this very second on the streaming platform.

It doesn't take very long to figure out that "Contact" takes a very different path than fans may have expected — it does take place in a completely separate timeline from the original games and novels, after all — but viewers would still be well-advised to stay on their toes and with their heads on a constant swivel for some very fun and oftentimes unexpected tributes to the source material that made this series possible in the first place. Gamers, readers, and casual fans alike, please gather 'round and join me on this trip down the "Halo" universe rabbit hole as we explore how the first episode of this new series comes fully loaded with all the nerdy details fans can't get enough of.

Spoilers for the first episode of "Halo," of course, will follow.

Get your deuterium here!

Let's take this in roughly chronological order. Merely seconds into the premiere episode of "Halo," we open on a desert planet (although, thankfully, one that doesn't resemble the sand dunes of Tatooine or Arrakis, for a change!) called Madrigal. The Outer Colony world appears to be run solely by Insurrectionist humans currently rebelling against the tyranny of the UNSC. But why would anyone choose to live on such a hostile and seemingly desolate planet? Well, that's where the deuterium comes in. 

Look, I never did well in chemistry class, so be aware that I'm hardly an expert in this specific area. Having said that, the real-world equivalent is known as "heavy hydrogen," a stable isotope of hydrogen that apparently exists in Earth's oceans. This roughly lines up with the on-screen description of Madrigal as a "heavy water extraction" world, whose chief resource is deuterium.

Why does any of that matter? Oh, only because this just so happens to serve as the main fuel source for Covenant starships in franchise lore. This is established in the Eric Nylund novel, "Halo: The Fall of Reach," which essentially tells the origin story of the Master Chief and his Spartans leading up to the opening moments of the original game, "Combat Evolved." In the episode, it's made (somewhat) clear that rebel-run refineries make the planet a valuable commodity for humanity ("Madrigal, the galaxy's highest concentration of heavy hydrogen," as Kwan Ha explains ... right before using some of it to get high) and, as we may learn in next week's episode, could very well lead to some political upheaval in the wake of the Covenant attack that kicks off the story. 

We don't appear to have seen the last of Madrigal just yet, or the exploitation of its natural resources. We can safely bet on this playing a larger role in the coming weeks.

Regenerating shields

Sadly, there's a noticeable lack of a cool-sounding voiceover guy who announces whenever the Spartans have chained together a killing spree (getting multiple kills in a row) or unlocked some other nifty gameplay medals. What the show does preserve from the video games, however, is that classic "beep" sound effect when Master Chief's fancy, futuristic shield tech takes a few hits too many and depletes entirely, warning him to take cover and wait a few seconds to regenerate. The constant zoom-ins and cuts to helmet cam perspectives during these early moments after the Spartans land on the battlefield is another fun shout-out to the first-person shooter vantage point we have in the games, though perhaps one that (unintentionally) highlights how what works in the games doesn't necessarily translate to a live-action narrative. 

It could've been worse, I suppose! It's not nearly as off-putting as a prolonged sequence in the 2005 "Doom" movie, at least.

Both of these are the smallest possible bone to throw at fans, but a nice one nonetheless to bring back memories of playing capture the flag on multiplayer in Blood Gulch in "Combat Evolved" or, once the rest of the world honed all their skills to absurd degrees, spawning on any given level in "Halo 3" and instantly getting sniped right in the head. Good times!

[Insert choir orchestra here]

That gorgeous Mjolnir armor. The classic creature designs of all the disparate Covenant races. And that instantly hummable earworm of a theme. Those are easily some of the most integral aspects that make the "Halo" franchise as recognizable as it is. So when it came time to watch the first major adaptation of the series, fans understandably remained on the lookout throughout the marketing campaign to make sure their favorite material would be translated as accurately and faithfully as possible. 

And for the most part, it has been!

But that one glaring little exception, the almost complete lack of any of the game's defining musical score, has certainly been noticeable. 

Aside from perhaps a slightly-too-generic hero theme, the composing work by Sean Callery has been quite solid ... but there's just no beating that original theme. Happily, it at least makes an appearance at the very beginning of the show's opening credits sequence and at one point at the very end of the episode, as all-too-brief as these may be. I won't spoil any specifics, but it once again recurs at a crucial moment in the second episode, as well. 

We may already have an answer as to why the series has been hesitant to fully embrace it, which stems from a lawsuit that the original composers are currently embroiled in, but here's hoping that this score becomes integrated a little more as the series progresses. And also that, you know, the original composers actually get paid what they're owed.


We're getting into heavy speculation and potential spoiler territory for future episodes here, so feel free to skip this section entirely if you want to preserve the experience.

If you're still here, then this sort of feels like a no-brainer, right? I touched on this a bit in my recap of episode 1, but the idea of Master Chief's mysterious status as a "Reclaimer" has driven much of the world-building and backstory of the "Halo" games and novels for years. For some reason initially unknown to us gamers in "Combat Evolved," the Master Chief seems to possess the ability to interact with and affect Covenant (and, more tellingly, ancient Forerunner) artifacts in a way that even other humans can't. On a practical level, it's merely another facet of the Chosen One arc. But in terms of franchise lore, this has roots that go back millennia. I won't go full-Halopedia on you right now, but despite the actual term not being uttered at all in this first episode, it seems likely that this is exactly where the show is going, as well.

The Master Chief experiencing flashbacks to a repressed childhood when he handles the mysterious Covenant artifact is a neatly added wrinkle, but the gist of this storyline feels familiar. And if it doesn't pan out, well, at least it also functions as a fun little Easter egg for those of us who think way too deeply about these sorts of meaningless things. 

Oh, and I should mention that I definitely assumed the Elite soldier watching the Master Chief with the object before making a beeline for the exit (with the use of active camo! Another neat bit of gameplay moved over into live-action!) had to be the Arbiter, the disgraced warrior voiced by the unparalleled Keith David in the games. I'm not too sure about that anymore, admittedly, but worth keeping an eye on if/when this particular Elite soldier reappears.

The Cortana Question

Another potential spoiler section for those eager to go into future episodes knowing as little as possible — though that sort of raises the question of why you'd be here in the first place, but you do you, people!

In a major divergence from the established franchise canon, the Master Chief in this new "Halo" series hasn't been augmented by the chirpy, sometimes overbearing, but always helpful artificial intelligence known as Cortana just yet. The Spartan super-soldier had already become used to her presence in his high-tech suit and her enhancement abilities for years by the time he encounters the Halo ring, but that seems to be a very different case here. Presuming the show doesn't also have years pass by before we actually arrive at Halo, of course.

So far, Cortana has only been spoken of in hushed whispers, a Halsey pet project apparently mothballed by Admiral Parangosky (another character who, like Dr. Catherine Halsey, Captain Jacob Keyes, and Miranda Keyes, is pulled straight from the lore). The implication is that the Halsey clone revealed to be in that pod will form the basis of Cortana's intelligence, but we'll have to wait to see how those specifics shake out. All the show is willing to tell us thus far is that Halsey's up to no good, which radically reframes our previous assumptions of the Master Chief/Cortana relationship. 

In any case, that pod in Halsey's office should've had any fan of the games doing the Leonardo DiCaprio pointing meme in vague recognition of everything that clone implies.

Dread not!

Speaking of that Leonardo DiCaprio meme, here's one instance that literally had me pointing at my screen. 

Admittedly, the line between Easter egg and "plot point that will be addressed later" is a thin one, so — as I've hopefully reiterated enough by now — don't yell at me if you consider this a spoiler. 

In our first introduction to the so-called "Blessed One," a human who has apparently joined forces with the Covenant and seems to hold some vague position of authority in their as-yet unexplored and unexplained religion, we also get this intriguing shot from within her quarters on High Charity (another element translated directly from the games and various expanded universe stories, though with a slightly more cinematic design). Overlooking a massive city within the structure, this triangular-shaped object looms over everything.

So what is it? 

Well, it appears to be a Dreadnought vessel. Incredibly powerful and far more advanced than anything the Covenant is capable of creating, this ancient ship was built by the mysterious race of Forerunners and frequently pops up in the "Halo" video games. For our purposes here, all we need to focus on is that, at this point in "Halo" history, the Dreadnought has traditionally resided as the centerpiece of High Charity, a symbol of the Covenant faith and a source of the installation's power. Whether this was meant as a mere throwaway reference or an implicit promise of storylines to come later this season (or possibly next), I can't say. But we'll find out!

'I'm the Master Chief and this is my favorite Easter egg in Halo'

For the record, I'd like to state that I picked up on this and included it at the tail-end of my episode recap before it was ever confirmed. At the same time, admittedly, this is a bit obvious to anyone who's ever played either popular sci-fi video game franchise. 

No, this doesn't mean that "Halo" and "Mass Effect" now reside in the same continuity or anything — the timelines don't even come close to matching, so please don't put yourself through any headache-inducing fan-theories to somehow make it work. But yes, despite the blatantly incorrect closed captioning, this is a little wink and a nod towards Commander Shepard, the protagonist of the "Mass Effect" trilogy. This was confirmed by producer Kiki Wolfkill earlier today, further tying together two (spiritually) linked series with similar approaches to incredible world-building, a galaxy-spanning conflict, and fearless heroes with the power to inspire those closest to them.

New episodes of "Halo" will release on Paramount+ every Thursday.