It has now been 2 years since I originally started work on “Two Hundred And Four Reasons” – and so as an addendum to my essay series chronicling the development of John-117 and Kelly-087′s relationship throughout Halo canon, I’ve decided to examine a few additional pieces of media featuring SPARTAN-II Blue Team that were released in the wake of 2015′s ‘Halo 5: Guardians’. I think both are worth taking a quick look at in regards to how they carry on the tradition of highlighting the bond between a certain Blue-One and Blue-Two.
Through All These Years
The first of the two is an animated miniseries (though more akin to a motion-comic) that loosely adapts the content of both the novel ‘The Fall of Reach’ and its comic book counterpart (which I’ve previously discussed). Like the comic before it though, this miniseries includes a few minor details that differ from the original source text in interesting ways.
The second is a short story from the comic anthology ‘Tales From Slipspace’, called “On The Brink”, and features some panels and dialogue that I feel are very relevant to the content I’ve analyzed so far in regards to Kelly-087′s character and her dynamic with John-117.
We’ll start with the ‘Fall of Reach’ miniseries. Most notably, the animation is bookended by a rather touching scene involving Blue Team returning to the glassed surface of the planet Reach (some time in between late-2557 and mid-2558) in order to hold a private memorial for Samuel-034. But I’ll get back to this after looking at the body of the animation’s content.
To preface: it is worth noting that the animation includes Fred-104 and Linda-058 in events at which they are not canonically present – mainly the “ring the bell” exercise as part of John-117′s team, and as participants in the assault on the Unrelenting in 2525. This was done in order to better familiarize a general audience with them as characters and the roles on Blue Team they would eventually come to fill in the years after the Spartan-IIs’ training in actual Halo canon.
Unlike the comic book version of ‘The Fall of Reach’s events, this miniseries does make sure to include the crucial lesson that John-117 learns from Chief Mendez after putting himself first during the trainees’ initial obstacle course exercise.
“You don’t win unless your team wins.”
Much like in the novelization though, Kelly in particular takes a stand against John’s selfish behavior before he proves he is willing to make amends for his mistake and commit to being a team player.
After the young members of Blue Team reconcile, we are then shown the Spartan-IIs’ wilderness training exercise that takes place two years later. And, in a new addition to this part of the story, we see Sam make a pit-stop to carve the symbol of an eagle and a lightning bolt (which would later become Blue Team’s insignia) into a tree in commemoration of the group’s friendship as John and Kelly look on and consider their next move. As described in ‘The Fall of Reach’, Kelly is noticeably taller than John as a child, which is a small detail I appreciate being included in the animation.
From here things follow the comic adaption pretty closely through the augmentation procedures and the Spartans’ first official mission to Eridanus Secundus to capture insurrectionist Colonel Robert Watts. A few nice asides are made throughout the entire animation where the members of Blue Team casually converse like normal teenagers (making jokes, encouraging one another, offering advice, invitations to do activities, etc.) when not directly engaged in mission-relevant dialogue. So it is good to see this kind of additional humanization of the S-IIs based off of what has long been established about them in Eric Nylund’s books.
Finally the last section of the miniseries is narrated by Kelly-087 herself in flashback (with Michelle Lukes reprising her role from ‘Halo 5: Guardians’), which covers the Spartan-IIs receiving their first sets of MJOLNIR Armor and Sam’s death at the hands of the revealed alien Covenant.
Without quoting every line she says, I will simply say this portion of the animation is well worth watching just for Kelly’s commentary. After Blue Team is outfitted with their suits of Mk. IV armor on Chi Ceti, we come to the Spartans’ infiltration of the Covenant ship Unrelenting. In a small departure from the novel and the comic book, Kelly is actually pulled aboard the vessel by John just as she is about to fly off into space – and though I doubt it was intentional, I find it is an interesting reverse-parallel to what we see in the ‘Halo Legends’ animated short “The Package” all the same.
From here events proceed in general accordance with canon, with Sam’s armor eventually breached by a plasma bolt after being shot while pushing John out of the line of fire. Once Blue Team makes it to the ship’s reactor, they hold off a few waves of Covenant while reading the bomb they brought with them to destroy it. John and Kelly work in tandem as Blue-One and Blue-Two; and in an amusing exchange of roles at one point, we see Kelly take charge of the situation and sprint across the bridge to shut the doors leading to the reactor room while ordering John to complete the work on the nuke.
“I’ll seal the door. John, finish arming that warhead!”
“I remember thinking that no matter how dark the future, we could face it as a team.”
However, as we all know, things reach a breaking point when Sam admits that he has to stay behind on the ship due to the irreparable damage to his armor. This part of Nylund’s book always struck me right in the heart, and the scene here is no exception. This moment is then bolstered by Kelly’s reflection on how this first loss in battle deeply affected not only her and John, but all of Blue Team.
“I know Spartans don’t cry…but for once, I was glad for the helmet.”
“We thought training, augmentation, armor made us untouchable, invulnerable, immortal. Blue Team. But we were wrong – we were children. This was the only thing John was ever afraid of: losing one of us. And we knew we weren’t finishing this fight, we were just getting started.”
The animation then ends with the Spartan-IIs visiting the same place Sam originally “carved their mark into the world”. They take a moment to remember their fallen friend and reflect on the meaning of his heroic sacrifice, as the Chief sincerely asks his remaining comrades if they will continue to have faith in him to lead them through whatever lies ahead.
“Last time we were here, I asked Sam to trust me to take us home, to follow me. Will you trust me now? Will you follow me?”
…which plays perfectly into the next section of this write-up.
“On the Brink” is a short comic featuring Blue Team that was relased as part of the ‘Tales From Slipspace’ anthology book in the fall of last year. It takes place in 2558 and is a fairly self-contained story about one of the Spartans’ many exploits after their reunion in 2557. Specifically, they are looking to stop a Mammoth that has been hijacked by some splinter-Covenant from running into a UNSC nuclear reactor. Once again the events are overlayed with a narration by Kelly-087.
The 12-page comic can be viewed in its entirety here. And while it is brief and rather straightforward in terms of the story’s content, there are a few panels that I would like to take a closer look at. Most prominently, this section where Kelly muses on the steadfastness of the Chief’s leadership.
I love How Kelly notes that even though she’s dog-tired and in the middle of a violent firefight, hearing the voice of her best friend is all it takes to renew her focus, confidence, and determination to complete the mission – in a way nothing else can. For his part, John continues to rely Kelly to back him up and talks to her throughout the operation even as her discovery of some civilian scientists aboard the Mammoth forces him to make a risky evasive maneuver in order to save them. And honestly I don’t know what could speak more for the strength of the bond that these two characters have and the kind of trust they have in each other.
After the massive vehicle finally comes to a complete stop, the reactor remains intact and some extensive property damage to the surrounding area is the only fallout of the Covenant attack on the UNSC base. This does not appease the site’s foreman however, and he confronts Blue Team. John keeps his cool while Fred reacts angrily in turn to the man’s disrespect and thankless attitude. Kelly looks on, and can’t help but wonder when John will finally grow weary of the tumultuous and unsure environment the Spartan-IIs have found themselves mired in in the wake of the Human-Covenant War.
The end of this story presents us with quite the conundrum from Kelly’s point of view. Because while she will always support John and believe wholeheartedly in his ability to triumph over adversity, her final thoughts reveal that she does indeed recognize that for all the ways he’s remained stalwart he still has limits too. Just like the rest of them. Which once again works to emphasize how human these characters still are.
These pieces of media continue to paint the same picture of these characters that we have gotten for the last 15+ years: two people who have grown together over a lifetime of experiencing all manner of hardships and yet they maintain a healthy mutual relationship based in respect and honest care. How this may come into play later in the series after the events of ‘Halo 5: Guardians’ remains to be seen, but for now it is good to at least have a few more moments to add to John-117 and Kelly-087′s catalog of positive representation.