For our review of the last episode of The Orville, click here.
Synopsis: Ed finds himself behind enemy lines when he crash lands on a mysterious planet; Kelly questions why Gordon wants to take the Command Test. (IMDB)
Writers: Brannon Braga and André Bormanis
Director: Jon Cassar
Running Time: 44mins
Airs: Thursdays at 9pm on CityTV (Canada)/Fox (United States)
One of the best things about a show is the moment it organically discovers its voice, something that The Orville accomplished in the latter half of season one and has successfully carried forward. Since that point, the show has reached a stride of confidence in its storytelling that has liberated it from its sole reliance on jokes or sight gags and instead afforded it to take calculated risks that explore much deeper themes and at times take on a more serious tone. As we approach the midpoint of the second season, The Orville has steadily built upon each of its four episodes so far and with last night’s “Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes,” the show took yet another major turn in laying solid footing for its future.
The main storyline of the episode revolved around Capt. Mercer’s evolving relationship with Lt. Janel Tyler (Michaela McManus), the ship’s Dark Matter Cartographer (yep, it’s a thing). After several dates, the couple decides to take a trip off-ship together leaving Commander Grayson in charge of The Orville’s supply run mission. Their trip goes awry when they are attacked and kidnapped by the Krill, the fleet’s largest opposing species. Once aboard the Krill ship, Lt. Janel’s torture is used as a weapon to force Mercer to give up his command codes in order to obtain Fleet’s flight schedules. As Mercer eventually gives into their demands and provides the codes, it’s revealed that Lt. Janel wasn’t who she claimed to be and was actually, Teleya, the sister of a murdered Krill by Mercer’s hand last season who vowed her revenge.
This drama is quickly overshadowed by an external threat to the Krill that forces Teleya and Mercer to escape onto a nearby planet with the hopes of delivering a distress signal to The Orville for rescue. As they wait, Mercer is forced to work through his emotions and understanding of just how far Teleya was motivated to destroy him as well as Teleya attempting to make sense of the fear that she and her species inherently have due to their insignificance within the universe. The future implications of Mercer’s ability to extend kindness despite being emotionally wounded by Teleya is hopefully the first major step in repairing relations between their species. There’s a wonderful monologue that he delivers about how the human race experienced the same fear of insignificance when they first discovered that they were not alone and that he hopes that shared emotion can serve as a common ground between them.
The secondary story woven in-between Mercer’s plight featured Gordon’s desire to complete the Commander’s Test in an effort to become the Captain of his own ship. Lt. Grayson, Bortus and Dr. Finn all know that this will not end in success and yet still indulge him with the tests with hilarious results. It’s later revealed that all of this stems from Gordon’s boredom with his life’s direction and want to expand into something more challenging. Plus, the nice perk with the ladies doesn’t hurt either. If he does achieve the Captaincy one day, I hope it instills more confidence in Gordon’s ability to talk to women. For now, his insecurity in this department provided the funniest moments of the season and possibly the series in the first episode as he goes to speak with Lt. Tyler and walks completely around her without saying a word.
This episode led to two major conclusions. First, The Orville has shown this amazing ability to deliver more serious thoughts and conflicts under the guise of comedy in a consistently effective way. Each week there seems to be an underlying theme that encompasses the central, and at times secondary, conflict that upon first glance appears to lack depth and just seems to be a story mining for laughs but with patience it reveals itself to be something that is relevant in our modern conversation albeit placed through Seth McFarlane’s workplace space comedy lens. Secondly, the practical effects on The Orville are incredible and make for the show to take on a completely different atmosphere than that of other space ventures.
At times, it is worrying that the show’s budget was completely sunk into this because the CGI can be TV-worthy at best, however, the amount of detail and diversity given to the various alien species are incredible to see each week and have consistently been impressive for almost two seasons. Perhaps being the foremost leader on The Orville Apologetics and acknowledging that it is not for everyone, there is something admirable in McFarlane and his writers attempting to generate a dialogue about certain modern world issues through what could be perceived as a simplistic space show.