So… I was reading through the commentary of TN72H in the Escalation Library Edition, it having finally arrived the other day, and Mr Reed had this to say:
“When these issues were first conceived, we thought maybe the Didact was going to be in Halo 5. He was certainly present in the story early on, but as the plan for the next few years of the franchise (books, comics, other games, etc.) took shape, Didact became extraneous to the story we were telling.”
The Didact was going to be in Halo 5…
THE DIDACT was going to be HALO 5…
THE D I D A C T WAS GOING TO BE IN HALO 5!
Because of course he fucking was - he was conceived as the Reclaimer Saga’s primary antagonist, and Frank O’Connor said before Halo 4 even came out that the he would be instrumental in post-H4 fiction.
Oh, but then he became “extraneous” when they decided to throw in ‘the Created’ with absolutely no build-up. Reed admits that TN72H was done to bump the Didact off to the side so they could do Halo 5 without him but still bring him back when they feel like it.
I’ve been thinking about it all evening while at work, and I’ve finally settled on exactly how I’d have handled Jul in Halo 5.
So Jul is well aware that the Covenant is breaking. As soon as he seemed to have consolidated his power in the wake of the events of Spartan Ops, it all starts to fall apart. There are mutinies and uprisings in the ranks with the likes of Sali ‘Nyon claiming to be the true Didact’s Hand. The Prometheans end up turning against Jul. The trip to the Absolute Record cost Jul many of his best ships.
Things are not looking well. Jul is getting what he wants (Halsey’s cooperation, Janus Key, getting to the Absolute Record, etc), but at a mounting cost.
Jul knows that his luck has run dry, and as soon as he and Halsey discover the Guardians mysteriously awakening across the galaxy he knows his time is done. Ever the pragmatist, he looks to a means for his own survival rather than continue to pursuit of this folly.
So Halsey and Jul contact the UNSC, warning them about the Guardians.
Jul tries to call the Covenant off their plans for the assault on Sanghelios, but this ends up creating sympathy for Sali ‘Nyon and the Covenant turns against Jul. Sali becomes the leader of the Covenant and continues their work as we see in Halo 5, while Jul and Halsey fight to survive - ending up on Kamchatka, where Sali has pursued them.
Osiris is hot on their tail, having received Halsey and Jul’s warning, and they rescue the two of them just as Sali is going in for the kill. Sali, the very definition of a ‘gateway character’ is killed off in the unceremonious style Jul was canonically killed off to show how badass Osiris is, and Jul now finds himself working with humans.
Not only that, he’s sent on the mission to Sanghelios with Osiris, Palmer, and Halsey, and has to help the Arbiter.
We would see Jul’s prejudices against Thel and humanity gradually dissipate as he sees that humans and Sangheili can co-exist, they can fight for the same goals, and both species can stand together as brothers. Imagine the surprise Jul would feel hearing Vale speak the Sangheili burial prayer to the fallen Swords of Sanghelios soldiers, to Buck saying that these are their brothers as far as he’s concerned, to Tanaka saying they’re going to avenge their deaths.
But imagine how he’d relate to Locke, who also signed up to assassinate Thel in the past and now finds himself fighting alongside him - saving his life, even.
There’s so much you can do with that.
At the end, Jul decides to go of and find his son, Dural ‘Mdama. Dural was set on a very similar path to Jul in the wake of Raia’s death, vowing to get revenge on the humans and kill the Arbiter. Jul effectively becomes Raia, where she went out to find Jul to bring him home he is going out to find his son and try to save him from making the same mistakes he did - breaking the cycle of violence for the next generation. This also fits perfectly with the theme of family in Halo 5, the ‘Mdama family is a pretty big focus of Glasslands and The Thursday War, it would be a fitting follow-up to actually make something of that in Halo 5.
With this, you can effectively write Jul out of the main events of the story in order to focus on other things without just killing him off and squandering his potential. You can then either cover this search story in some other media (give Jul a full book or something), or you can leave it as a loose end so we’re left wondering whether Jul was successful - but at the same time, knowing that he departed the narrative in a way that comes full circle and brings a sense of thematic resonance.