A spotlight episode for Doctor Finn, her family, and…Isaac? What happens when the group gets caught on an alien planet ravaged by war, with Isaac left to play babysitter for the children? It’s a lot better than you’d think! Remember, if you like this article and 5 Point Discussions please share it, and if you have any questions or comments hit me up @SageShinigami on Twitter!
1. Feel free to call me evil, but the opening parts of “Into the Fold” just reminds me of how much I dislike children. Only, I think that may have actually been the point. In a departure from the usual misadventures of the Orville crew, this week’s episode follows Dr. Finn and her two children as they get the chance to go on vacation. Her kids are noisy, rambunctious, constantly arguing with one another while Dr. Finn is often forced to play peacekeeper in ways that prove to be ineffective.
Still, as their trip to a nature planet turns sour and they wind up on a planet deep in uncharted space, the kids come together rather quickly. They turn from annoying to endearing and the two actors playing them did a fantastic job. If the whole point of being a parent is that children are meant to drive you mad, but you just can’t help loving them anyway, then this episode conveyed that sentiment perfectly.
2. Anachronism Alert: Lately these episodes have been fairly light on traditionally obvious anachronisms, but this week’s episode had a brief one. While the crew of the Orville was upgrading some of the ship’s systems, the crew in the engine room listen to Barry Manilow. For what it’s worth, more than anything else I’m willing to let music off the hook. We still play classical music today, though it’s not nearly as common as what The Orville, where they seem to have replaced whatever they’d be listening to in the present with a bunch of oldies. Maybe they’re all musical snobs?
3. One of the nicer bits to “Into the Fold” is that for once Issac’s seeming inability to understand biological lifeforms resulted in some insightful commentary. After an accident in space damages their ship, Isaac is left trying to make a safe landing for himself, Dr. Finn, and her children…that still results in the ship coming apart and Finn crashing in a different place than everyone else. For the remainder of the episode, Isaac is forced to watch the children on their own, and begins to question their relationship with their mother.
It’s relatable to anyone who’s ever gone through an awful, bratty pre-teen/teenage phase, where you say all these terrible things to your parents that you never really mean. As the older brother, Marcus has gotten to the age where he’s trying to find his own place in the world, and attempts to drag him into family events just results in him sounding like a jerk. So when Isaac wonders why Marcus hates his mother, it’s only when Marcus hears how he actually sounds via Isaac’s ability to instantly playback prior events that he realizes what his behavior’s been like. After several episodes of watching the “smartest member of the cast” prove completely incapable of understanding even the most rudimentary interactions between non-mechanical lifeforms, it was nice to see him actually at least push those around him to think about their own behavior.
Also, Isaac was pretty funny this entire episode. From pointing out that defective programs on his own planet are “deleted” and offering to do the same for Dr. Finn, to blowing up Marcus’ game system to stop an argument between the two boys, this was a strong episode for him.
4. It was even better for Dr. Finn, though. For most of The Orville it’s been fairly simplistic stuff when it comes to character development. At best things have focused on Ed and Kelly’s broken relationship, with some occasional appearances from the peanut gallery flight crew of Gordon and John. We haven’t really seen anyone else get any development since episode three’s “About A Girl”, but “Into the Fold” changes all of that, as both Isaac and Claire are allowed to develop without the shadow of any of Captain Ed’s drama or foolishness.
With that, we learn that Claire is a single mom who chose to raise children but didn’t think she necessarily needed a man around to do it. I’m a little torn on that. While I respect the writing team’s decision to not force a man into Claire’s life, I’m also slightly bummed that the one black family on the ship just HAS to be missing a dad. Still, just the fact that such an optimistic science-fiction universe even featured a black family at all feels like a huge win, so I’ll take it.
Beyond that, Claire establishes herself as someone who’s not only smart regarding her field, but resourceful and willing to fight to protect herself and her family. Early in the episode she’s captured by a guy who reveals that the planet they’ve landed on was damaged by a chemical weapon, infecting those around by poisoning the water, and he managed to survive on his own because he was a creepy Doomsday prepper. Intending to keep her there in some sort of…weird Beauty and the Beast-type scenario until (presumably) she grew to love him purely because there was no one else there, Claire quickly figures out a way to escape and get back to her children…even though it eventually involves taking the guy’s life. The lesson learned here? Don’t screw with a mom trying to get to her children.
5. The Orville continues to be the most relentlessly optimistic series airing this fall aside from The Mayor. When the crew realizes that Isaac, Dr. Finn, and her family never made it to their vacation planet, they immediately put everything on hold to go look for them. They chase them down to their last known location, then risk their own lives traveling through a spatial fold that could have led them anywhere. Even when they realize tracking her down could take weeks, they don’t lose hope, searching a system of three dozen planets one at a time in the hopes of finding them. Most other series would have uttered the classic “they’re on their own” line, but this is a group of people who care about each other, which makes sense–the only way we ever reach space exploration on this level is if we as a people stop treating each other as disposable and realize we need one another.
But it’s not just that–the planet they find Dr. Finn and Isaac on has been ravaged by war, and the remaining people are essentially zombies, living out the last of their lives in pain and feeding on whatever animal…or people…they can find because of the disease. Because this is a culture that exists to map out the unknown and help other societies, once Dr. Finn develops a cure Kelly suggests they go back to administer it to those people in the hopes of fixing their society. Even when Dr. Finn kills her captor, it’s really only as a last resort–both after attempting to talk sense into him AND after attempting to escape without harming him. She doesn’t hesitate, but it’s not a thing she seems to enjoy in the least, and that IS an important difference.
Recently The Orville was confirmed to be renewed for a Season Two, and I couldn’t be happier. Staying alive on FOX is hard, but I hope they go on to reach another three years at least.
The Orville airs on FOX and is available on Hulu for streaming.