Halo: Nightfall may not have fallen well with its critics, but it left a vast legion of unanswered questions in its wake. What the fuck were those worm tentacle porn creature? What the hell happened to Gaines and Hundley? Why didn’t Locke fulfill his stereotypically assigned role as a black male lead and sacrifice his life at the end? Above all, there is one lingering question: what happened to Randal?
The last we saw of former Spartan, Randal ‘Randal-037’ Aiken, was him exposing his powerful arms to the rising sun whilst detonating a HAVOK-class nuclear warhead. On first glance, we can infer that if Randal wasn’t instantly cremated by the nuke, he would instead have been cremated by the star in which Alpha Shard orbited. Either way, all logic points to him being dead.
What all logic doesn’t point to is how his voice-over lines all hinted that he was referring to the events of Nightfall as if he were recalling upon a past experience, rather than simply narrating the movie and breaking the fourth wall with ex-Spartan brute force.
For example, when the lovable Michael Horrigan made his claim, “do you see God anywhere here? We’re the gods here!” to justify his murder of one of Alerian smugglers, Aiken’s voiceover dialogue spoke the following:
“But he was right. We were the gods—gods of the damned.”
Aiken’s line not only in past tense, but it’s also specifically referring to that specific moment while citing specific lines from said specific moment. That means it can only occur after the mission to Alpha Shard—not during, and certainly not before. And that breach of the fourth wall isn’t the only set of evidence indicating he survived; at the end of Nightfall, during an action-packed scene of Locke walking through a teeming crowd of civilians, Randal’s voiceover once again rears out:
“I have a question for you, Commander Locke: how will you die, and for what?”
We still don’t know why the hell Randal would ask that, but because of how A) Randal had not encountered Locke prior to Nightfall, and B) Randal never said that during the mission, these are words that could only have been said afterwards.
With already two impoundments of evidence galloping into existence, it’s certain that Randal survived the detonation of a 30-megaton nuclear warhead, and direct exposure to 900°F+ temperatures due to Alpha Shard’s red giant parent-star (actually foster parent but still). However, it would be physically impossible—
Unless Randal was actually a Precursor the whole time.
Precursors, pretty much being a race of badass fucking gods, had technology that was impervious to pretty much all forms of damage (minus the Halo array). Precursor technology was often cycled through plate tectonics without any hints of damage (over the course of tens of tens of millions of tens of years), and withstood, unrelentlessly, to literally every non-Halo attack that the Forerunners threw at them when the enormous Star Road constructs would come to life and wrek total shit during the final days of the Forerunner-Flood war. If Randal was a Precursor, and had the ability to control Precursor technology, he’d be able to surround himself in an invulnerable wall of neuralphysics and successfully survive both the detonation of the nuke, and the scorch of the sun, all to recollect his memories of the experience to his fellow Precursors, and to randomly pop in and ask Locke a ton of weird questions.
That is why Randal survived; not because of shitty writing, not because of his badass lifeboat rules, but because he was a Precursor.