Half way there, folks!
For anybody familiar with the Halo universe, you’ll probably know that there are very few ‘happy’ moments in it. This is a series that focuses on themes like genocide, genetic experimentation, child torture, indoctrination, galactic horrors, the loss of identity, betrayal, the disintegration of family, paranoia, xenophobia and a whole range of other things which contribute to a pretty dark, depressing atmosphere throughout most of the games. However, we are allowed the occasional moment of respite, the minor interval where you might even say that things are looking up and you can be happy.The scene that I have in mind here is one with a sense of ambiguity to it, but a certain uplifting feeling as well.
I refer to the memorial service that marked the end of the Human-Covenant war.
After almost 30 years of living in fear of extinction as the Covenant war machine ploughed through whole worlds with their glassing beams that left human colonies standing as nothing more than cinders in space, the main conflict is over as the Sangheili and humanity faced their common enemy and won.
The Arbiter stands among the humans he once thought of as his enemies and shakes hands with Lord Hood, and while Hood cannot forgive the Sangheili for their part in humanity’s near-total destruction, he thanks him for standing by John until the end. But the Arbiter does not believe that John is dead as he looks up into the sky, that is, for once, clear with no invasion fleet bearing down upon it, and says his iconic line: “Were it so easy…”
Upon returning to the Shadow of Intent, Rtas ‘Vadum gives Thel, no longer his rival but now his brother, command of the ship and they acknowledge how they see the world with new eyes now that the Prophets can no longer cloud their vision with their false religion. They decide to go home to know that their own world is safe, and as the choir reaches its denouement, we see the camera close in on the memorial with the numbers ‘117’ scratched into the side.
I always liked to think that it was the Arbiter who did this to honour his unlikely friend, since it’s never actually said who scratched John’s number into the memorial it’s totally up for you to decide.
As much as I disliked (and still dislike) much of the story of Halo 3, the memorial scene stands out as being done perfectly in just about every respect. So I guess I’ll close this post with Lord Hood’s final speech.
“For us, the storm has passed. The war is over. But let us never forget those who journeyed into the howling dark and did not return, for their decision required courage beyond measure, sacrifice, and unshakable conviction that their fight… our fight was elsewhere. As we start to rebuild, this hillside will remain barren – a memorial to heroes fallen. They ennobled all of us, and they shall not be forgotten.”