TL;DR – The terrain constantly shifts out from underneath the crew of the USS Orville, as enemies become friends and friends become enemies.
Disclosure – I streamed this on SBS OnDemand
The Orville Review –
A few years ago, it was announced that Seth MacFarlane, most well known for Family Guy, would do his take on a Space Opera, a show like Star Trek but with more jokes. It was a premise that had me both intrigued and concerned. That is because I was sure you could make that balance work, just that it would be hard, and Season One was rough at times. But by the time Season Two drew to a close, it had wholly found its feet and was soaring forward. Now it is time to dive into the much delayed and possibly final season, titled New Horizons, and if it is the end, at least it went out on a bang.
So to set the scene, in The Road Not Taken, the threat that the Kaylons pose is shown when we see a universe where the crew of the USS Orville never came together, and the galaxy is in ruin. But there is hope, and the team come together for some last-ditch time travel shenanigans to set the timeline right. It worked. But now, everyone on the ship has to work to get it ready for the next attack, and while the refit takes place, there is a lot of resentment brewing on board, with most of it landing square on the lap of the ship’s lone Kalon crewmember Isaac (Mark Jackson). While captain Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) and first officer Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) work to keep the ship together, there are crew members like new navigator Charly Burke (Anne Winters), who lost people in the war and have legitimate reasons not to trust. But they will need to find that trust because the galaxy is on the precipice of collapse. Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
If I could sum up the thematic direction of the season, it would be fractured unity, and we see that both in the larger geopolitical moments as well as with the crew. The season starts with the Union and Krill being on friendly terms, only for it to fall apart, the Moclans rip themselves out of the Union in a messy divorce, and the Kalon discover that organic life has some merit. However, they had to face their own destruction before that happened. On a narrative level, this works because it means the sand is constantly shifting underneath the crew’s feet. It also meant we got to spend more time with the political side of the Union with the introduction of Union President Alcazar (Bruce Boxleitner). However, the stronger thematic narrative showed that you should stand up for your core principles even when it is difficult.
From Season One, the Moclans have been this thorn in the side of the Union. They needed them for their military technology. Still, it became more apparent that there were cultural components of Moclan society that were incompatible with the Union and which were hardening throughout the society. The Union always ended up turning a blind eye to this because whether it was the Krill or the Kaylon, they needed Moclan’s support, but we as viewers got to see the outworking of what turning a blind eye actual meant through the family of Bortus (Peter Macon), Klyden (Chad L. Coleman), and Topa (Imani Pullum). This constant capitulation always shirked because you got to see the actual damage inaction was causing. So this season’s choice to finally take this narrative head-on was its best decision. Much of this narrative rested on the shoulders of Topa, and I have to give a big shout-out to Imani Pullum for having to do a lot of the emotional heavy lifting this season. It also meant that we got more of Heveena (Rena Owen), one of my favourite guests on the show and, of course, the best cameo in the show’s history with Dolly Parton.
The other main storyline that spanned the season was the on and off again relationship between Isaac and Dr Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald). It is here where we get some of the best comedy for the season, such as Claire absolutely eviscerating LaMarr (J Lee) in the middle of engineering or Isaac not quite getting a part of the organic culture and inviting the entire Kaylon Collective to his wedding, instead of just Kaylon Primary (Graham Hamilton). It also had some of the best moments of exploring the nature of love. There are a lot of highs and lows this season in their relationship; indeed, Isaac has to rebuild trust with Claire’s children, Ty (Kai Wener) and Marcus (BJ Tanner), who at the start of the season see him as a threat. Isaac’s and Claire’s unlikely love also mirrors the unlikely end point of the Union and Kaylon.
While the overarching storylines were one of the show’s strengths this season, the stand-alone episodes were a bit hit and miss. So, while we get a dive into time travel realities of what would you do if you were stranded for decades, which I think might be Malloy’s (Scott Grimes) strongest episode yet. You also get someone sticking their head into alien biotech and being as shocked as the captain in Alien Covenant that it went wrong. Then there was the new character of Charly Burke because you could see her arc written out from the first episode. I am honestly not a fan of introducing new characters so you can kill them off and raise tensions without risking any of your core. While Anne did an excellent job with what she was given, and the outcome fitted, it was frustrating throughout the season.
In the end, do we recommend The Orville: New Horizons (Season 3)? Yes, yes, we would. This is a show that started off with a straightforward premise, but as it has gone on, it has grown and matured into some fantastic science fiction. I am not sure if this will be the show’s final season. If it is, well then, I am happy it went out on a high note, but I would very much like to see more of the USS Orville and her crew.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Orville
Directed by – Seth MacFarlane & Jon Cassar
Written by – Seth MacFarlane, Brannon Braga, Andre Bormanis, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, David A. Goodman,
Created by – Seth MacFarlane
Production/Distribution Companies – Fuzzy Door, 20th Television, Hulu & SBS
Starring – Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Jessica Szohr, J Lee, Mark Jackson & Anne Winters with Chad L. Coleman, Kai Di’nilo Wener, BJ Tanner, Imani Pullum, Victor Garber, Kelly Hu, Ted Danson, Bruce Boxleitner, Kyra Santoro & Norm MacDonald and Mike Henry, Alexis Knapp, James Read, Elizabeth Gillies, Michaela McManus, Lisa Banes, Rena Owen, Leighton Meester, Johnny Knoxville, Jack McBrayer, Eliza Taylor, Sophina Brown, Christopher Larkin, William R. Moses, Scott Speiser, Elyse Levesque, Giorgia Whigham, Jim Mahoney, Amanda Joy Erikson, John Fleck, James Read, Simon Templeman, Gavin Lee, Matt Gottlieb, Andy Milder, Andi Chapman, Jonathan Adams, Antonio D. Charity, Graham Hamilton, Wren T. Brown, Robert David Grant, Michael J. Sielaff, Jeffrey Muller, Jay Whittaker, Sarah Jane MacKay, Halston Sage & Dolly Parton
Episodes Covered – Electric Sheep, Shadow Realms, Mortality Paradox, Gently Falling Rain, A Tale of Two Topas, Twice in a Lifetime, From Unknown Graves, Midnight Blue, Domino & Future Unknown