“I? I am a monument to all your sins…”
The meeting with the Gravemind was such an amazing, unexpected moment because throughout the last few levels leading up to this part in the story there was a sense of mystery that something more elaborate was going on behind the scenes. This was the convergence point for the narrative where the interlinked stories of Master Chief and the Arbiter finally connected, both of our protagonists were squarely in the hands (er… tentacles) of the Flood’s hive mind and that was a terrifying thing for me as a first-time player because until this point the Flood appeared to just be this ruthless, feral race of space zombies.
But it turns out that they’re far more terrible creatures than that.
“If you will not hear the truth then I will show it to you…”
Another thing that makes this not only my favourite scene in Halo 2, but one of my favourite scenes in the series, is what this did for the Arbiter’s character arc. Over the course of the narrative, his faith in the Covenant’s religion is tested and we gradually see him begin to falter, but this is where he sees the lies his race has lived by for thousands of years for what they really are. John, Gravemind and Penitent Tangent are all telling him in one way or another that he’s fighting for a madman who seeks to exterminate all life in the galaxy, that the Halos are not divine constructs that will allow the souls of the worthy to ascend to follow the Forerunners on the Great Journey. Juxtaposing this is the Prophet of Regret, one of the three religious leaders of the Covenant, who is shown to the Arbiter as an ignorant, vainglorious wretch and denies all evidence presented against his religion.
“Fate had us meet as foes, but this Ring will make us brothers.”
At the climax of this scene, all seems lost. The Prophet of Truth has the Activation Index and Tartarus has both Miranda and Johnson who can be used to light the Halo, but the Gravemind tells our two protagonists that “there is still time to stop the key from turning” and sends them to different places through which they must work to prevent Truth’s plan from succeeding. John is sent right into the heart of the Covenant, aboard their holy city High Charity, while the Arbiter is sent to Installation 05’s control room where he rallies his forces against the Jiralhanae and forms an alliance with humanity.
It’s a truly fantastic scene, one that was written perfectly and showed how well Bungie was able to up the stakes by throwing you into an all-out war on two fronts to prevent the annihilation of every sentient being in the galaxy. It also showed us how much of a master manipulator the Gravemind is and added a whole new dimension to the Flood as an antagonistic force which has since been expanded on beautifully by Greg Bear’s Forerunner Saga which I keep mentioning in pretty much every post because they’re amazing books and you should read them…