On Halo 4 and ‘The Chosen One’

One of the more divisive aspects of Halo 4’s story was a particular line spoken by the Librarian to John that has seen no end of discussion over the years.

“You are the culmination of a thousand lifetimes of planning.”

Many have taken this line as being indicative of 343 Industries taking a more Messianic turn with the character of the Master Chief, forcing the overused Chosen One cliche where it has no business being – and that’s a totally fair interpretation when the game’s description quite literally states “the Master Chief returns to confront his destiny” (though, we should always be wary of the ways in which generic marketing blurbs naturally tend towards simplification).

Halo 4 does indeed deal with ‘destiny’ and the trope of the Chosen One, but I’m going to argue that it’s not quite handled in the way many seem to think it is…hf535Before getting into all that, you may be scratching your head as to why I’m writing this rather than something about Halo Wars 2.

C’mon, Haruspis, we just got a brand new Halo game and you’re still talking about Halo 4? What’s wrong with you?”

I am saving my analysis and discussion on Halo Wars 2 for the level-by-level analysis that I’ll be writing later this year (probably over the summer). I’m intending to write that after all the major DLC has been released so I can ruminate on the story as a whole.

Additionally, it takes a rather long time for me to fully collect my thoughts and plan out each individual post in terms of how the overarching beats of the analysis will go – this was a nightmare with the Halo 5 one because there would be times where people would ask me “why didn’t you talk about X?” in a particular post and it’d be because I planned to save it for a future one, but I can’t really telegraph the timeline I outline for the tangled web of plot points, character beats, themes (etc) that fills each post, culminating in something that was literally the length of a novel.

There’s just a lot of time and planning that goes into the process of dissecting so much content and I want to make sure it’s the best I can make it. Believe me: I’d love to just start writing it now, but it’d be rubbish. Maybe it’ll even be rubbish when I write it according to my ideal circumstances, but it’ll be rubbish on my own terms, damn it!

In the meantime, I’ll be writing about other things. I’ve got a couple of narrative appraisals on my mind for the likes of Gears of War 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn, as well as some Doctor Who stuff since my favourite era of the show is drawing to a close. Not to mention the fact that Halo articles pop into my mind whenever they feel like it, so I’ve got to account for one-off analyses like this that might suddenly occur to me as well. It’s going to be another multi-novel length year for me…

Which brings us away from the preamble and onto today’s topic.

Let’s talk about this trope: ‘The Chosen One’.The Chosen One is a literary device applied to a character (usually the protagonist) which makes them unique in the setting in some way – whether it’s being gifted with certain talents, powers, or qualities that make them the only one who can do X. Writers will often double-down on this by connecting them to an ancient prophecy and these characters are almost always reluctantly thrown onto the path of their destinies having been discovered by accident (but at just the right time). As such, this structure of growth is typically applied to Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, otherwise known as The Hero’s Journey.

This particular trope has been prevalent in stories for about as long as humans have been storytellers. Understandably, many people are rather sick of it.

As I perceive it, there are three main reasons why the Chosen One trope earns the scorn it gets. The main grievance that I see is how it denies a tangible sense of achievement and drama if getting from Point A to B was predestined to happen the whole time – it can rob the character of agency as their decisions that diverge away from their destiny amounts to little more than a little detour that’s minor in its significance because the inevitability of the endgame is always going to be a foregone conclusion.

The second is a knock-on effect of that in how it inevitably ties in an ancient prophecy that says “the Chosen One will do X”, which they typically do as the culmination of the story with no meaningful or lasting consequences. And the third is that it’s a cheap way to make a character relevant because they don’t have to prove themselves and whatever struggle they go through is ultimately a temporary stumbling block on the way to their destiny.

At the same time, the Chosen One trope can lead to good drama if it’s done properly because the set-up of this particular device is to have the character doubt themselves in the face of adversity and come to terms with the immense responsibility they have.

It can work for certain kinds of character-driven narratives. By no means am I saying that works that use the Chosen One can’t be fun, interesting well-written, and so on – many are. Some of our most revered art and literature use it, and it’s not going anywhere any time soon – from Homer-to-Halo, and beyond, this is a trope that’s very much here to stay.It’s further worth noting that a trope/cliche is not inherently bad. Certain trends in all forms of artistic works naturally occur at times for various reasons. In video game storytelling, it’s often more of a functional thing for certain narratives to get going in a timely and easily gripping fashion while complimenting the overarching design of the game as you level up and become more powerful. I’m not saying that it’s necessarily good, but there’s a degree to which we can understand why a game that is more interested in delivering a particular type of experience not necessarily geared towards telling a great story would follow this kind of path.

Of course, as with design, there are trends and popular patterns that inevitably become stale due to how other creators see another product’s success and try to bullet point what those successes were in order to try to replicate them.

And therein lies the problem.

These bullet points are true, but the nature of them being bullet points means there’s no substance to why these things were successful.

We saw how this ‘bullet point problem’ ended up affecting the industry on a large scale when the FPS market went through its ‘Call of Duty phase’. Even with Halo, back in its earlier years, its competitors were marketed as being aspiring ‘Halo-killers’, which, of course, didn’t happen until Modern Warfare (I daresay Republic Commando was the only other console shooter that came close at the time). DOOM, Halo, GTA, COD, WOW, Dark Souls (sparking off the ‘Soulslike’/’Souls-lite’ sub-genres), MOBAs, etc. All these franchises (and more) have their imitators.

The first few games built off those bullet points might be okay, middling-quality, but still successful. But then you get a dozen games beyond that based on the bullet points of those five imitators and the genre inevitably becomes stale and bloated.

This comes across as something of a tangent, but the exact same principle applies to storytelling. Assembly line product-making and assembly line writing can often be found sleeping in the same bed. At the same time, it is well-worth keeping in mind that using cliches and tropes are just an inevitable part of storytelling, so I tend to approach a work with the mindset of it mattering more how one uses a cliche.As a recent example: I went to see Logan last weekend. It was an incredible film, but not at all unique in terms of its structure, plot, conceit, or how it was actually written – just mash together Children of Men, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Road with the tone of a Western and some people with superpowers. But the writers were clearly aware of that (and I am underselling how it does play around with some action movie tropes) because they constantly use that to accentuate the scaled-down character drama, which is what the film was about rather than its overarching plot.

There tends to be three options when confronted with using a trope/cliche: you can play it straight and just copy it, you can abandon it altogether and try something else, or you can try to deconstruct and add a unique twist to it.

Thinking about Halo in-particular, there have been times where the series has done all three of those things. From the inception of the series, Bungie’s developers were talking about how derivative they were being and the extent to which that mattered – your mileage will vary on how much you care about that, but the extent to which Halo has been ‘influenced’ by ideas and concepts from other religious, mythological, science fiction and fantasy media from day one is undeniably extensive.

Halo 4 is a story all about characters who have been ‘chosen’, but there’s not just a single Chosen One…

There’s five.

And if we choose to look beyond the definition of a Chosen One as being limited to the will of one of our two Forerunner characters, one might even debate that there’s actually seven (I refer here to Del Rio and Lasky and the UNSC/ONI politics regarding captaincy of the UNSC Infinity).

All of them fail.In this post, I’m not going to talk about and deconstruct all of these characters in-detail. I want to focus on a couple of them before diving more into the Master Chief’s role in all this, and I’ll be sidelining Cortana entirely, for which my reasons are twofold: Firstly, who even knows what on earth is going on with this aspect of the story? And secondly, I’ve discussed her and the direction taken with her to death, so I won’t go about saltily deconstructing the issue again.

To set up the eventual discussion of the Master Chief, let’s do some establishing work as to what the Librarian’s plan was and how it has failed. This part will mostly be going over what I’ve discussed over the last two years (most recently in my previous post on the Gravemind’s cut dialogue from Halo 3), so feel free to skip ahead if you know the subject well – but it’s one worth revisiting.

The Librarian’s endgame is for humanity to inherit the Mantle of Responsibility (and to seemingly prepare them for a future war with the Flood), which was to be achieved in some measure by getting humanity to the Lesser Ark – this was seeded as far back as Halo 3’s IRIS ARG with Mendicant Bias, and was explicitly confirmed in her inner monologue during her final moments on Earth before the Halos are fired:

Who will use this portal? Who will live to return here? And what will they think of this machine that I’ve buried? Those I have fought for, for so long. Those who, it is clear to me now, ultimately will and must inherit the Mantle.

I can only hope that they will survive and upon returning, that they will find this portal and use it to travel to the Ark – in order that they might discover their rightful place in this galaxy, and the great responsibility they have finally inherited.

They are the last of my children. They must reclaim their birthright. [Halo: Silentium]

But, of course, humanity would need a teacher to help them along the path towards reclaiming the Mantle – and that is where her plan falls apart.

The Librarian’s love for her husband, the Ur-Didact, had her shanghai him into her plans rather than outright killing him (which she very much wanted to do in the moment when he Composed the human populations she’d housed on Omega Halo). She and Endurance-of-Will instead sealed him within a Cryptum, hoping that a long sojourn within the Domain would heal his mind of the Gravemind’s malediction. She left behind an imprint of herself within Requiem that held the Janus Key, a galactic cartographer for every piece of Forerunner technology in the galaxy, that she would give to him upon his reawakening.

Thus, we have our first Chosen One: the Ur-Didact himself.

We also have our first failed Chosen One, as the Librarian essentially put all her eggs into this single basket. The Domain was burned by the Halos, a revelation that would not be learned until the rings had already been fired and the Librarian awaited their effects on Earth.

The Didact was left to stew in his Gravemind-induced madness for one hundred thousand years instead. Worse still, this meant that he emerged from the Cryptum still afflicted with the twisted philosophy that the Mantle was not to be inherited by the worthy, it was to be taken by the strong.

From this point, the Librarian’s plan is already in tatters and the mere memory of her has been trying to adapt this plan for the current circumstances of the galaxy, with net-negative results (for both in-character reasons and a dash of bad writing when it came to the Absolute Record arc in Escalation).So she turns to Catherine Halsey, our second Chosen One.

Halsey had already been instrumental in bringing about major milestone developments for humanity that the Librarian had seeded regarding AIs, the MJOLNIR combat skin, Cortana (the third Chosen One), and John-117 (the fourth Chosen One).

One might be tempted to say that this is an instance where the idea of geas removes some amount of Halsey’s agency and her achievements, as if some ancient being was dictating her actions, but I feel that there has been more than enough fiction (I’m primarily thinking of The Fall of Reach, First Strike, Ghosts of Onyx, and Halsey’s Journal) that has shown this not to be the case. A great deal of attention has been given to the situation humanity was in, with the Carver Findings predicting the breakdown of order in the Outer Colonies leading to a galactic war that would send humanity back to the Stone Age. It was a conflict that arose due to various social, political, and economic reasons, not predicated by the Librarian – who herself recognised conflict such as this was natural.

Understanding that was one of the base principles of the Mantle.

In every natural circumstance, living things engage in competition. This is a prime directive for those who uphold the Mantle: it is not a kindness to diminish competition, predation – even war. Life presents strife and death as well as joy and birth. But Forerunners in their highest wisdom also knew that unfair advantage, mindless destruction, pointless death and misery – an imbalance of forces – can retard growth and reduce the flow of Living Time. Living Time – the joy of life’s interaction with the Cosmos – was the foundation of the Mantle itself, the origin of all its compelling rules. [Halo: Cryptum, page 267 (Kindle edition)]

This situation, the escalation of conflict, provided the impetus – the trigger event – for the geas that would nudge humanity towards developing new technologies.

So, Halsey seemed like a pretty good bet for the Librarian post-Halo 4, right?

Except those developments were the cause of Halsey becoming a controversial figure, to say at the least. With ONI scapegoating and imprisoning her, and the UNSC keeping her on the tightest possible leash, she turned to Jul ‘Mdama (the Didact’s Hand – the fifth Chosen One) where she saw a greater opportunity to continue her work without being impeded by the limitations imposed by the UNSC.

This, of course, only made things worse because it resulted in Serin Osman ordering an assassination order against her.Beyond that, it escalated (heh) the conflict between the UNSC and Jul’s Covenant in the wake of the campaign for Requiem, as we see occur over the course of Halo: Escalation.

Halsey’s gambit to obtain the other half of the Janus that she gave to Thorne was successful and she did indeed make her way to the Absolute Record to meet once again with the Librarian, whose first recommendation in fulfilling this plan so long in the making was to provide Halsey with a fleet of Dreadnoughts “for expedition and defence”.

I’m sure you all remember how this story arc disappointingly ended, with Halsey and the Janus Key being yanked from the system by the Absolute Record’s unidentified Contender-class ancilla (who Halsey had previously disabled by fiddling about with a terminal, managing to somehow putting the esoteric magnificence of the Precursors themselves to shame – doing what took the Timeless One forty three years in less than forty three seconds).

Evidently, this storyline actually going anywhere just wasn’t compatible with Halo 5’s setting-breaking events, so it had to be prematurely forced to an inconclusive end to make way for the game’s narrative dissonance because Halo 5 needed Halsey back with the UNSC to serve the role of expositor. This is an instance where the overarching theme is kept – it’s still undeniably present – but its presentation and the overall way in which it was handled was poor.

Nevertheless: Halsey, the second Chosen One, failed. And, at the very least, it sets up an interesting debate as to whether or not that was a good thing because if the Librarian’s plan did work out with Halsey then we’d be looking at humanity possessing a fleet of Forerunner Dreadnoughts.

That’s two down…julm2Another victim of narrative inconvenience and our third Chosen One to discuss is Jul ‘Mdama.

Following the events of Halo 4’s main campaign where the Ur-Didact is defeated and Requiem is left for the taking, Jul ‘Mdama is appointed the title of Didact’s Hand and rolls in with his Covenant in pursuit of a means to reactivate Librarian’s Rest and acquire the Janus Key.

Alarm bells should be ringing here…

Firstly, Jul was not actually present at Requiem when the UNSC Infinity showed up after six months of prep time – the likely possibility being that Jul had personally met with the Didact at some point between these events in order to plan how the events of Spartan Ops were going to proceed. They’d surely have to have physically met at some point, and ever since the game, and the original Cryptum opening scene (shown in the Halo 4: Composing A Universe documentary) from when the marvellous David Anthony Pizzuto was portraying the Didact, that has been on my mind because the Sangheili who the Didact speaks to in this version of the scene would obviously be Jul.

Additionally, note how nobody ever seems to speak of or treat the Didact like he’s gone, even with the added context of The Next 72 Hours where he (somehow) ended up being ‘Composed’. In Catherine, the third episode of Spartan Ops, Gek tries to get his fellow Sangheili workers to work faster “as if the Didact himself were watching”. His defeat at the end of Halo 4 hadn’t impacted the Covenant’s perspective in any meaningful way, which is either bad writing or indicative that they knew something we didn’t get to see (which, of course, we could also argue is bad writing since we never get to see or hear of it).

Think about the actual plan here: Going to Librarian’s Rest and acquiring the Janus Key? The Didact can’t get it himself because the Librarian’s ancilla obviously won’t give it to him, considering the state he awakened in and how he’d use the technological bounties within against humanity.

So he uses Jul – our third Chosen One – to get it.

As if that wasn’t enough of a hint towards the Ur-Didact’s involvement, there’s the Durance featured in the third and fourth episodes of Spartan Ops (Didact’s Hand and Memento Mori).

Remember what that was called?

The Didact’s Gift.

Jul was personally trying to escape with this artefact using Requiem’s portal systems before Crimson managed to intercept it. There was obviously some importance to Jul possessing this artefact, but he decided not to pursue any further attempts to obtain it again once it fell into UNSC hands because he felt that they had already made enough of a display going after it.

And then there’s the ending…

Remember this shot?jm17Jul shows clear hesitance to give the final order to destroy Requiem because that’s a conflict with his own interests – I think a solid argument could be made that Jul could have feasibly won this campaign of occupation and destroyed the UNSC Infinity if his troops were focused on fighting rather than evacuating. The Covenant had the advantage of having troops entrenched there for six months, they had control over the Prometheans, and they had a larger fleet. Sacrificing this treasure trove of history and technology in order to destroy one UNSC ship is overkill and it’s something that I feel speaks more to the raw scale of strategic thinking that a Forerunner would have, particularly one who commanded much larger battles against ancient humanity and the Flood.

The Didact doesn’t have to worry about losing Shield Worlds because he knows that there are hundreds more out there that he can just automatically gain control of because they’re his worlds, but the UNSC and Covenant are in the process still of discovering where these things are and want to draw as much potential from them as they can in order to augment and advance their own tech.

Not to mention that, as Jul walks off, the camera pans up to reveal the Didact’s sigil while Nemesis – the Didact’s theme – blares over the scene.

The presentation of this scene could not have been more indicative that Jul was fulfilling the Didact’s orders, that he was manipulating things. Jul is made to look like an ant here – all attention is drawn away from Jul as he shrinks away towards the Phantom, the focus is drawn instead on the Ur-Didact’s sigil. As a side note: The positioning of the sigil and Jul lining up with those two pillars is a wholly appropriate visual because these antagonists are (were) among two of the most important pillars of the Reclaimer Saga and its main conflict.

In Visual Storytelling 101, all of this is screaming at us that Jul is a pawn in a larger game that the Didact is behind.

You can’t do something as unsubtle as this by accident. You just can’t.

Jul’s failure as a Chosen One is that he’s not actually the fanatical follower he projects the image of being, which some of his own followers begin to see in the time that passes after Spartan Ops. Jul doesn’t believe in gods and he is somebody who will strive to make his own destiny rather than follow one that’s set out for him (ironically, that sometimes manifests in him having to take a leap of faith – like diving into the portal to Hesduros at the end of The Thursday War). Everything, even his pursuit of the Didact, was a means to an end for him in the larger game he was attempting to play, and that was one of the major causes for the downfall of his reformed Covenant.

He sought Forerunner ships and armaments to strengthen his position and ease his pursuit of vengeance for Raia’s death. He clearly felt it was time to play his hand since the Didact didn’t have direct control over him – what was one ‘contained’ Forerunner against the leader of this consolidated Covenant that just got seven million Prometheans added to its arsenal? The destruction of Requiem was a necessity, but he played his part and seemingly ended up in a better position for it.

This is where we hit the stumbling block though. As with the way in which Halsey was handled, instead of this leading to any kind of interesting or meaningful developments with his character, the culmination of Jul’s arc was to just be off-handedly killed in Halo 5’s first mission. At this point, I am squirming at the effort to not go further into this because I’ve already written about it at-length over the course of the last year-and-a-half… All I’ll reiterate is that a far greater opportunity to use Jul to end the cycle of revenge by having him seek out Dural was presented and would’ve been totally in-keeping with the rejection of the purpose the Didact set out for him.

Regardless, so comes to pass the failure of our third Chosen One…Now we come to the crux of the topic that I’ve taken my sweet time getting to, the Chosen One trope and its application to the Master Chief.

The Ur-Didact was twisted by the Gravemind’s malediction and his condition was worsened by the Halos burning the Domain, which was supposed to heal him. Now he’s in narrative limbo.

The Absolute Record is also in narrative limbo – maybe it’ll be picked up again in the future, but, for now, Halsey failed to become its new custodian, putting the Librarian’s plans back even further.

Everything has gone wrong.

So when the Librarian says to John that he is “the culmination of a thousand lifetimes of planning”, she doesn’t necessarily mean “you are the Chosen One™”.

What she means is: “You are the one part of this plan that hasn’t [TT: expletive, possibly sexual slang, untranslatable] up”.

In theory, anybody else could have been stood in John’s place – he’s just the one who made it there by way of circumstance and he’s the one who has to sort it all out. To speak positively of Halo 5, this is actually something that is carried through into a conversation in the game during the mission Reunion, which I talked about in my analysis of that mission in-relation to a comment raised by Frank O’Connor.

Warden Eternal: “Your time has passed, Warrior-Servant. Your battle fought and done.”

To translate (and truncate) what I said in that analysis here:

Back when Halo 3 came out, the limited edition copies of the game came with a Bestiarum – a short booklet which served as a compendium of some of the major species in the universe which has been subject to a lot of speculation over the years.

In the Bestiarum, Spartans have their own category separate from humanity. The title of the page is called ‘Uncategorised’, and here are a few highlights from the page:

> Simple scanning reveals the Reclaimer is plainly Homo sapiens; however, it is enhanced and augmented in many significant ways. None of these indicate the need for species recategorization, but they are notable differences.

> Augmentations seem to be militaristic in purpose and include gene therapy, hormone replacements, and tuning to the capillary and nervous systems. Some of these augmentations have questionable health benefits, but their military application is obvious and relatively useful. The subject’s tenacity and ability to survive problematic circumstances are testament to that fact. Subject has not been observed without its [Combat Skin] and, while brutally primitive, this armour provides it with protection from elements as well as limited protection from our very basic countermeasures and [sterility hostiles].

> One last note: The Reclaimer employs a [noncorporeal citizen] companion. Further information is being negotiated. Its pertinence to the Circumstance is apparent.

A lot of the theorycrafting that happened in the wake of the Forerunner Saga revealing that the Forerunners had a caste-based society where roles and functions as well as the maturity of an individual were based in mutations involved the idea that the Spartan augmentation procedures are humanity’s very early form of these Forerunner mutations.

Their expanded prevalence with the Spartan-IV program as the augmentation procedures become less dangerous and more successful, with Halsey saying at the start of Halo 4 that Spartans are humanity’s destiny as a species, would definitely seem to corroborate that idea. The Librarian wants humanity to inherit the Mantle, and her planning has involved a means of sculpting human society to follow a similar structure to what the Forerunners had.

So the Warden calling John a Warrior-Servant ties in very neatly with the latter point of Frankie’s proposition – that Librarian was planning for “that level of human, in general”, rather than John himself.That’s just my personal perspective on whether or not John is ‘the Chosen One’, my interpretation of that scene, which you may or may not agree with, but here’s the thing…

It doesn’t matter either way.

See, the thing about Halo 4 is that 343 had the benefit of knowing that it was going to be the first act of what was originally planned as a trilogy – a benefit not previously had at any point during the time of the original trilogy. As a result, there are certain aspects of it that were clearly being posed as set-up for its sequels to expand on in more detail.

Much of that has been shelved or spaced, as I and many others have argued. But, in-keeping with speaking positively of Halo 5, it seems that the endgame of the Librarian’s plan where humanity will assume the Mantle is something that will be rejected by John.

From a conversation with Cortana during the mission Reunion:

John-117: “The Didact made it clear the Mantle of Responsibility was an imperial peace. Step out of line, and suffer.”

That explicit condemnation coming from the main character of this series seems rather telling for the overall trajectory of where this is going.

The Mantle is a system that enables racist and imperialistic ideologies, propagating the supremacy of one species – the most advanced – over all others. At best, it’s a ‘velvet prison’ for the other species of the galaxy. At worst, it’s an ideology of totalitarianism where one privileged species makes all the decisions about how every other species exists and those who do not comply are… dealt with.

Even on an internal level, the Mantle was not some monolithic belief system. Like any system (be it religious, political, etc), there were many sects where aspects and interpretations of that belief differed – I’ve often said that if I were to pose the question of what the Mantle is, I’d get a wide variety of responses according to each individual’s understanding and interpretation. We see this play out in the Forerunner Saga with the Precursors, the Ur-Didact, IsoDidact, Librarian, Faber, and even ancient human characters who had their own idea of the Mantle philosophy reflected in Daowa-maad(thu).

But the one certainty is that the Mantle has empirically bred racial conflict that denies your individuality, your worth and role is determined by your species. Those who oppose it must be brought forcefully assimilated into accepting this ideology and societal structure where the people who have arbitrarily placed themselves at the top (by virtue of simply being more advanced than you) decide which rung on the ladder you’re on – they decide just exactly what your entire species is worth.

This is where I’ve previously argued 343 could use the Assembly from the datapads in Halo: Reach, as the nature of their existence was to chart the course of humanity’s development as a species away from Forerunner influence. They would be a fitting way to make the Created conflict more interesting, particularly since, as it is, AIs have effectively been doomed by Caricaturtana when they’re inevitably defeated at some point in the future.But I digress… As I said, the point is that it does not matter whether or not John is the Librarian’s Chosen One. Whether he is or isn’t verges on a false dichotomy because that’s simply not what the story is about or where it looks to be going (I take the risk of saying this in full knowledge of how embarrassing it’ll be if I end up being wrong…)

Whatever stumbling blocks may occur from however poorly told at times it may be, this is a story about John’s agency. Now, that’s not reflected very well at all in Halo 5, but you can see, at a high-level, that the notion is present in the story and its conceit (and, more overtly, in the marketing) with John leaving the UNSC behind to go off in pursuit of Cortana.

It seems both evident and pertinent to me that this story will culminate in John rejecting his destiny and moving forward on his own terms.

That is one of the core motifs of Halo 4’s story for all of its characters – in a lot of ways it is a story about the roll-and-tug of each characters’ agency and decisions – and I think it is fair to say that some semblance of that intent for John’s character arc carried over to Halo 5, which is clear from his condemnation of the Mantle and the Warden’s affirmation that the Librarian was planning for humanity’s development of Warrior-Servants rather than one specific individual.

I fear that this is an aspect of Halo 4’s story that has been misunderstood, which, as I said at the start of this post, certainly has a reasonable basis for being the case. But this isn’t a story about John fulfilling his destiny, it’s about the choices that he has finally begun to make for himself.

From a writer’s perspective, it seems almost obvious to me that the crux of that character arc would be to reject the machinations of another individual that would seek to define who he is and what he is ‘meant’ for.

That is why I argue Halo 4 does more to deconstruct the Chosen One trope rather than adhere to it.And that’s all I’ve got for today, folks…

To reiterate: I’ve got a few non-Halo pieces coming up on the Horizon (heh), as I began this year with the intention of branching out a bit (beginning with a narrative appraisal of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, which I loved).

The level-by-level analysis of Halo Wars 2 is definitely going to happen at some point this year, and who knows what other topics of discussion will come up as some of the upcoming books (Envoy, Retribution, and Warfleet) release over the course of this year to deliver more lore goodness.

Until the next time, you’ll catch me in Halo Wars 2 – often playing as Anders, spamming armies of Sentinels and dropping Retreivers like it’s going out of style…

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About haruspis

Writer and aspiring teacher who cares and talks far too much about fictional universes.
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6 Responses to On Halo 4 and ‘The Chosen One’

  1. Rhas 'Churol says:

    I never really thought about it like that, as usual, you manage to bring up other ways of looking at it. Well done.

    (Also, yay, a fellow sentinel-spammer! I think my biggest wish for HW2 DLC is a Forerunner faction of some sort, as unlikely as it is to happen…)

  2. gardman3 says:

    Five months. Five long months…

  3. Megaguy453 says:

    Love your work man.

  4. Kiefer says:

    As always, solid read. Never thought of Halo 4 as evoking it so much, ’cause that Halsey monologue that opened the story really stuck with me throughout.
    Ultimately, though, I think you hint here at what the Lego Movie addresses: that the “Chosen One” really just boils down to a person that is told by another person to do something, who we talk about because they were the successful story (and we don’t tend to create unsuccessful stories). Anyone can be the “Chosen One” for just about anything, as evidenced by Del Rio somehow being Hood’s choice for the Infinity. Surely Hood woulda chosen someone with more gumption (like Lasky), where Parangosky would choose someone conniving and self-interested.

    Also, unrelated (except where it relates to your overripe feelings towards Lordtana), I realized that Cortana probably mass-executed not only humans, but AIs when she had a guardian shut down all the electronics on Earth. Surely any AI that didn’t magically vanish into the Domain (which, based on that one Tales from Slipspace comic, is exactly how it worked) was immediately fried if they weren’t housed in a device in some way shielded from electromagnetism. So, y’know. Death count: everyone arbitrarily butchered around and on guardian sites, everyone on Earth whose life depended on constant or uninterrupted power at the moment of the EMP, AND every AI that wasn’t in a protected device. But hey, the Greater Good.

  5. You can also mention Sarah Palmer as an eighth failed ‘Chosen One’ as the SPARTAN-IV commander. Her track record speaks for itself.

  6. Pingback: Fire Withstanding - Archive Beacon - March 26th, 2017 | Halo Archive

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