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Showtime's Halo Series Scores Black Mirror Director Otto Bathurst

Showtime's Halo has found the man to launch it into action.

The Steven Spielberg-produced series has tapped Otto Bathurst, who helmed inaugural Black Mirror episode "The National Anthem," to direct the pilot as well as several additional episodes, according to Collider. 

The long-gestating adaptation of Microsoft's iconic video game series has had its fair share of bumps in the road on the way to the small screen. The project began life as a potential feature film way back in 2005, languishing in development hell for years after Microsoft famously bit off a lot more than it could chew in attempting to find a studio for the venture. Such talents as writer Alex Garland (Ex Machina) and directors Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) and Neill Blomkamp (District 9) were attached at various points before the prospect of a feature officially died in 2014. That year, it was announced that Spielberg and his Amblin Entertainment had come on board to produce a series, which was originally intended to be exclusive to the Xbox Live network. 

The shuffling of behind-the-camera talent then continued for the next several years, before appearing to settle down with the announcement of Showtime's involvement last summer. At that time, writer Kyle Killen (Awake) was tapped to showrun, while Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt was said to be handling the pilot. Wyatt, however, departed the project in December, leaving the door open for Bathurst; Killen is still attached as showrunner for the time being.

The hiring of Bathurst looks like an extremely smart move. His sole feature directorial credit — last year's massive flop Robin Hood — may not have lit up the big screen, but the Brit has extensive experience in television, and has shown an uncanny knack for guiding the initial launches of critically acclaimed series. It's safe to say that "The National Anthem" was a risky choice for introducing the world at large to Black Mirror; in case you've scrubbed it from your memory, it's the episode in which the British Prime Minister is forced to save his family from the clutches of kidnappers by — there's no delicate way to put this — having intimate relations with a pig on live television. Bathurst was able to inject what could have been a jaw-droppingly silly premise with an absurd amount of tension, realism, and gravitas, and the episode served notice that Black Mirror was not a series that would be handling its audience with kid gloves.

Bathurst also helmed the first three episodes of the acclaimed Cillian Murphy-starring BBC Two crime drama Peaky Blinders, which has found a sizable stateside audience thanks to its landing on Netflix, and currently has a fifth season in the works; likewise, he handled the first three episodes of the award-winning BBC legal drama Criminal Justice, which was reworked into the 2016 HBO series The Night Of. With all of the uncertainty surrounding the live-action Halo adaptation for the entirety of its existence, it seems exceedingly wise to place the first episode into the hands of a man who is no stranger to getting series off the launching pad.

Today's announcement also dropped the tidbit that Showtime has ordered nine episodes for the series' initial run, and while we have zero in the way of plot details so far, we do know (because we reported it in November) that Master Chief himself will be front and center among the cast of characters. The search has been ongoing in recent months for an actor of imposing stature to fill the role; we also know that Dr. Catherine Halsey, the creator of the SPARTAN-II program that produced the Mjolnir armor worn by Master Chief, will figure into the plot somehow. 

At a TCA press tour in August, Showtime president of programming Gary Levine explained to fans that the production would eschew creative talent from the world of big-budget sci-fi/action spectacle, saying that the series "will service that," but that producers "wanted to make sure we were getting underneath the armor of the Spartans to the human drama, so it felt like it belonged on Showtime." Tapping Bathurst to launch the series certainly feels like a step in the right direction in this respect. Hopefully (assuming he remains on board), the hiring means that we'll soon get a few more details filled in. For the time being, however, let the fan casting begin: who do you cast as a hulking killing machine, a man of few (if any) words who never shows his face? For our money, you could do a lot worse than Vin Diesel, who not only looks the part but has demonstrated an ability to project more emotion using only three words (as Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy series) than many actors are able to accomplish with reams of dialogue. Of course, this is pure speculation of the highest order, but since when have we ever shied away from that?

We'll have more details on Halo as they become available; the series is expected to premiere on Showtime in 2020.