We’ve all known the story of John, maybe no the full story in the case of some, as the claims that he was originally birthed as a husk, an empty being, a vessel. Throughout Halo CE, 2 and 3, we only saw but a glimpse of the major character he composes in the universe.
John has been entirely built for the mainstream media with the entire believe that he is this badass being, this demigod, someone who will not die in any way or form, he’s bigger than the world and he’s bigger than the galaxy.
Having defeated countless enemies singlehandedly in the games, we’re led to believe that he’s all that stood between our total annihilation and our victory, that he is the sole reason we won, he and only he.
But that’s not all that he is, and he is so much more than just a soldier behind a mask. He is many things.
The Hero, the Saviour, the Child, the Abductee, the Warrior, the Soldier, the Friend.
From his early beginnings, he’s struggled in his life to overcome hardships, even since he was a kid in that circle he stood on testing his ground and fending off any odds that would come to his doorstep, fighting his way through life, through pain and hardship.
It is at that point that he becomes the man we needed him to be, the warrior. Which would bring him on, to endure many other hardships in the future
From his first day in boot camp, he knew what to do, when to do it and how to do it, although it would take him some getting used to, he would still endure anything that would be thrown at him, in any way he needed. He would come to become a leader, the rightful alpha of the Spartan-II Program.
And from his first day, he also knew pain and fear. And as such, Spartans were trained to know pain, and so, to endure it all. Anything that would come their way.
But in all of this, John was forged from incredible hardship, becoming close to the members of a team of the greatest soldiers alive, that only he would lead, and so he did, learning early on what is the cost of sacrifice. The difference between spent lives and those wasted.
Mendez stared at John with his impenetrable black eyes. He glanced at the squad, then back to John. “Walk with me.” He led John to the view screen. He stood and watched as the last of the canisters vanished into the darkness.
“A leader must be ready to send the soldiers under his command to their deaths,” Mendez said without turning to face John. “You do this because your duty to the UNSC supersedes your duty to yourself or even your crew.”
John looked away from the view screen. He couldn’t look at the emptiness anymore. He didn’t want to think of his teammates—friends who were like brothers and sisters to him—forever lost.
“It is acceptable,” Mendez said, “to spend their lives if necessary.” He finally turned and meet John’s gaze. “It is not acceptable, however, to waste those lives. Do you understand the difference?”
“I . . . believe I understand, sir,” John said. “But which was it on this last mission? Lives spent? Or lives wasted?”
Mendez turned back toward the blackness of space and didn’t answer.
Though he would never obtain an answer from Mendez as it was objective at the time, as time passed life answered his own question. The difference between a wasted life and a life spent. This would come with a slap in the face, however, more than the gentle caress of a lover.
As his best friend, Samuel-034, ultimately sacrificed his own life after his MJOLNIR Mark IV suit was breached by plasma fire. He understood then, what he hadn’t before as his best friend fell to the HAVOK Nuke they had installed just minutes before after boarding an enemy craft.
He would come to endure many hardships of this kind, he knew he would, and so he did, losing almost his entire Company throughout the war, from augmentation, those who became stranded, it is no wonder that John has the weight of the world on his shoulders, as broad as they may be, he’s endured many losses. He carries the weight of every death in his shoulders.
He is broken, immensely so, but yet he remains ever stoic, he remains a husk from his own emotions by choice as he feels his job is greater than anything, but his job is to safeguard his friends, his family, not only acting as the main line of defense to whatever odd comes to the doorstep of humanity.
His life has been entirely given to the service of humanity, of the greater good, and to his family, whatever is left of it. He’s chosen this life that was chosen for him, and he will see it through to the end. Whatever the cost.
“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?”
And as we see, he’s back with Blue Team, his friends, his family, whatever is left of it. Just four people and he stood there, asking if they will follow him once again, a question which we obviously know the answer of; but what of the outcome? What would it be of John? To what measures will he go, to protect the last remainder of his family.
And the answer is simple, he’ll exhaust everything he has in his repertoire, including his life. No matter how lucky, no matter how hard it will be.
And as we’ve seen, he’s endured everything life has thrown at him, everything, whether it was luck, an unwillingness to go quietly into the night, or skill, is debatable. What is for certain is that he did it for them, he saw everything through in the name of his brothers and sisters, those who gave their lives, those who he had forced to be spent, those who were still around, those wasted and those missing.
He gave his everything because he wasn’t ready to die, not in Installation 04, not in Mombasa, not even in the Ark as Thel stood beside him creating a friendship out of the asunder and ashes of the word that Thel bore in his mind as he stood back-to-back with this Sangheili whom John called friend.
He found that he was not ready to die each and every time, but it wasn’t until he fought the Didact the last time, that he truly realised this in his own mind, he knew it, he wasn’t ready to die. After having lost Cortana, after having lost almost everything.
“I knew someday I would die in battle, but now that it is here… Now that it is my time to die… I find, I am not ready.”
He wasn’t, not at all, especially not with the last remainder of his family in danger of dying to the very same aggressor that held him so tight. But of course something had broken in him, even if he had continued fighting on after this through every odd, he was still, of course, broken and he knew it.
His days would be numbered from this point forward. And a very possible death would set its path onwards from this point, and how do you bring such a behemoth of a character to his final resting place? On a blaze of glory, you’d think. But no, not this way, not in a million years. It would go against everything his character showcases.
He would not want to be elevated above anyone else, given that special death, it would ultimately break his character and the true perception of it. How so? Well, we know it in a narrative that has been pushed all throughout.
“The queen doesn’t sacrifice herself to collect a pawn!”
“At the end of the game, the queen and the pawn go in the same box…”
It has always been there, in plain sight, from Cortana’s birth which these were the following words she uttered when she was activated in Italian.
From this sole quote, said by John after he took the bullet for Sam when they went after Watts. I know the exact death I would give him, and I know, I know this might sound like some kind of heresy or blasphemy. But think about it, it is true, you know it so.
The death I would give to John, and the death he deserves and would want is to die like a dog, in the middle of the battlefield. Just another strategic casualty. Among corpses, his death unknown to everyone and living on as a legend with just his legacy to be simply marked as ‘MIA’ as just another corpse in the wet dirt, covered in plasma, ionised particles and gunpowder residue, a last grand battle for humanity of epic proportions which will be eventually forgotten by history.
In John’s eyes, I believe this would be the rightful death if it meant saving his family… Or be laid to rest among them.
And that is the incredible life and a very possible death Of John-117.
The Hero, the Saviour, the Child, the Abductee, the Warrior, the Soldier, the Friend… The Dog of War.
On a last note, before we bring this reflection to a close, he doesn’t need a badass-being-badass death, he doesn’t need to die in blaze of glory of immense proportions alone and surrounded a la Noble Six, because what ultimately makes him badass is his legacy, his complex character, the depth of his emotions that are so scarcely thrown into the screen.
He will live through in his actions as a badass to all of us, his legacy is what makes him badass.
He does not need a death to cement what is already cemented. Both in-universe and out of it, he deserves to live on as a legend and as a monument to his actions through an unfortunate and slow death on the battlefield amongst rattled corpses. As a reminder that war isn’t fair.
And I simply cannot think of a better example, than a real life figure of heroism and valour. who died in battle at Iwo Jima on February the 19th, 1945. Sergeant John Basilone.
And on that note, I shall bring this to a close, for any of you to decide whether you support this idea or not. Either way, it is just the thoughts of a man, on a screen about what he thinks would be best for a character so beloved.
As always, keep on keeping on, see you next time. Possibly with a new story.