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The Orvilles Timing Could Not Have Been Worse

first_img How Designers Achieved the Sci-Fi Sound Magic of ‘The Orville’The Orville Brings a Much Better Trailer to SDCC Stay on target Oh boy, was yesterday the exact wrong time to air this episode of The Orville. Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek inspired dramedy has been pretty hit and miss during its first season, but overall has grown into a respectable piece of light sci-fi. Last night’s episode saw the show indulge in its worst tendencies, bringing back a plot point the show was better for having ignored. Worse yet, it completely undid all the great character work accomplished by last week’s episode. Looking at it that way, the timing barely matters at all. This episode would have been a disappointment no matter what was going on in the news.It starts out promising enough, with the crew enjoying a night off with some karaoke. Kelly is singing Journey’s “Any Way You Want It,” and the camera zoom’s in on Ed enjoying her performance. Right away, you know it’s going to be an Ed and Kelly relationship episode, but it hasn’t tipped it’s hand completely. After all, by this point in the season, the show seems to be aware that any sort of will-they-or-won’t-they scenario is the least interesting part of these two characters’ dynamic. The karaoke scene even ends hilariously with Bortus about to sing a song that Malloy taught him: “My Heart Will Go On.” Unfortunately for everyone, the crew is called away for an urgent mission before Bortus sings even one note. As funny as the interruption is, I’m still disappointed that the episode never revisited this moment. How could they deny us Bortus singing the Titanic theme? Hasn’t MacFarlane ever heard of Chekhov’s Celine Dion?Halston Sage, guest star J Paul Boehmer, guest star Derek Mears and Seth MacFarlane (Cr: Ray Mickshaw/FOX)Unfortunately, that’s the high point of the episode. The Orville is called away to oversee a potential end to a conflict between two species who have been warring for generations. Both sides claim they were the first to colonize a small planet. At first, I worried that the episode was going to turn into a hamfisted allegory for Israel. It certainly threatened to go that way with Malloy’s line about a planet so small causing so much conflict. Seeing where the episode went instead, the Israel thing might have been better. An ancient artifact has been found in an archaeological dig on the planet, and both sides have agreed to have an independent scientist test for DNA, accepting whatever the result is as proof of who was there first. Ed and Kelly are also instructed to use the test as an opportunity to make a more lasting compromise and peace between the two species.The problems start when the scientist who will be studying the artifact arrives on board the ship. It’s Darulio; the blue alien Kelly cheated on Ed with at the start of the series. That’s when it became clear that this episode was going to shove the more interesting conflict into the background and focus on Kelly and Ed bickering over how their marriage ended. It’s always been The Orville’s weakest gag and having a whole episode dedicated to it makes for the most obnoxious, unfunny hour of television this show has given us yet. Seriously, even that infant sex change episode was better than this. It missed hard, but at least it swung for something. This episode wasn’t even trying to say anything. It might be the laziest storytelling we’ve seen from this show so far.Mark Jackson, Penny Johnson Jerald, Seth MacFarlane, Halston Sage, Adrianne Palicki, Scott Grimes, guest star Larry Joe Campbell, Peter Macon and J Lee (Cr: Ray Mickshaw/FOX)It’s not even that hard to see how it could have been better. Yes, the Ed-Kelly relationship drama has always sucked, but this could have been the episode where the series finally dealt with it. If it focused on their real feelings about each other now that they’re working together, this episode could have put the issue to rest and allowed the series as a whole to move forward. The moments when Ed and Kelly are at their best on this show are when they’re in sync. When they riff on each other’s jokes and work together to solve problems. That’s when you can see both why they got married and why it didn’t work out. The complex nature of their relationship, where there’s still clearly love and respect but also professionalism and distance, is one of the show’s greatest strengths. It’s nowhere to be found in this episode. Darulio’s presence could have been way more interesting too, if the episode had explored the boundaries between Kelly and Ed now that they’re both free to see other people. Even if Ed was completely over the divorce, walking into an exact recurrence of the scene that caused it would bring up old emotions for anyone. If only the episode had done anything with that.Instead, it made it all about pheromones. First, Kelly goes to talk to him to set personal and professional boundaries. Sparks start flying and the two end up in bed together. To the show’s credit, the scene where ed walks in on them again, blue fluid and all, is funnier as a callback. That’s not saying much, but it at least got a chuckle this time. Ed tries to fire Darulio, but soon finds himself awkwardly flirting with the blue alien. Thankfully, the jokes don’t get too homophobic. Malloy just thinks it’s strange that Ed is suddenly showing interest in Darulio, but there’s not the overt gay panic we’ve seen from MacFarlane in the past. That’s the nicest thing I can say about it, though. From here until the end of the episode, the jokes still boil down to “lol, gay.” That’s especially disappointing when the series has shown itself to be capable of so much better than that.Penny Johnson Jerald (Cr: Ray Mickshaw/FOX)The pheromone plot point is especially tone deaf right now when sexual assault and coercion is so prevalent in the news. The last thing we need from our space comedy is a running joke about a guy who chemically alters people’s minds so they’ll have sex with him. He doesn’t do it maliciously, it’s just something his species does when they’re in heat once a year. The problem is he knows this is the case and doesn’t tell anyone about it until Alara confronts him. Even then, the show doesn’t treat him like he did anything wrong. He even gets a redemption at the end when he convinces the two warring species to have sex with each other. That’s the solution to this generations-long conflict. It’s a cop-out and a bad gay joke all in one. I get that these episodes are written and scheduled way ahead of time. There was no way to know we would be in the midst of a news cycle where women are coming forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault by powerful men.  But this episode would have been bad no matter when it aired. The way it handles issues of consent would be shockingly poor even if that very issue wasn’t at the forefront of all our minds right now.No character suffered more than Dr. Claire Finn. She’s been dismissing Yaphit’s advances since day one, and suddenly some pheromones make him irresistible to her. I really didn’t need to see what Yaphit having sex looks like. The fact that she turns her into a crazy ex-stereotype when he doesn’t call her afterward might be this episode’s biggest crime. We just had an episode that demonstrated how strong, capable and nuanced her character was. This undid all of that for the sake of a bad joke. It’s a real shame because Rob Lowe was a welcome presence on the show as Darulio. He’s a fantastic, funny actor who could have really shined on The Orville. It’s a shame he wasn’t given better material to work with.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img read more

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