The Orville is dealing with some strange occurrences. What’s the secret behind all of them? And what’s wrong with Alara? Remember, if you like this article, please share it everywhere you can. And also, if you’ve got any questions or comments on 5 Point Discussions be sure to hit me up on Twitter @SageShinigami!
1. “Firestorm” brings us something that we hadn’t really seen up to this point in the series: the death of an Orville crewmember. Caught in the midst of a plasma storm, the ship suffers heavy damage and a column falls on one of the engineering staff, killing him. There’s a lot about this that’s important, as it underlines exactly the kind of show The Orville really is. We’ve seen people die before, we’ve seen them in danger, we’ve even seen some of the cast get heavily injured–The Orville is a show where stakes DO exist. But it’s taken us ten episodes of a thirteen episode series to finally see someone die.
As television has gotten more comfortable with stories where “no one is safe”, they’ve also forgotten that occasionally writing things so that no one is safe also means you’ve created a world where no one cares about the characters you’ve created. It’s hard to get invested in someone when they can literally be fine one moment and dead the next. But Orville simply isn’t that kind of show; that’s semi-obvious due to its optimistic nature, but that doesn’t mean they can’t highlight that, or that they can’t keep the tension at a high level, either.
Now admittedly the aftermath of the death is handled a bit awkwardly by the entire crew but even that feels natural. When you don’t know someone that died, it’s sad but its not life-changing. Y’know, unless you feel responsible for the death itself. Speaking of…
2. This episode has a pair of exceptionally strong performances, but I also wanted to give a shout out to Seth MacFarlane for the character development they give to Ed Mercer this episode. After Security Officer Alara Kitan freezes up in the face of a raging fire and failing to reach the dying crew member in time, her guilt becomes consuming enough for her to tender her resignation to Captain Mercer, only to have it denied.
After ten episodes of a lot of shenanigans, it can be hard to remember that Ed Mercer was supposed to be a genius young officer well on his way to being given his own ship until his divorce with Kelly. But over the course of the last few episodes, he’s proven he deserves his spot as ship captain, constantly looking after his crew and knowing when to push them, when to lay off, and when to encourage them. This week he smartly points out Alara’s absolutely stellar record when she tries to quit, and even suggests to her that she should work to overcome her problem rather than run from it. That’s great decision making on the part of a captain trying not to upset the make-up of a tested and proven crew, and reinforces the fact that the Orville is generally just every bit the bright, optimistic show it purports itself to be.
3. Things we learned about Alara’s parents and homeworld this episode:
– The Xelayan people are from a total Crystal Spires and Togas kind of world where everyone dresses like space hobos even though they’re apart of a futuristic, interstellar society.
– Alara’s supposedly not as intelligent as other people on her planet, as her parents are incredibly condescending towards her for their brief appearance. Despite this, Alara seems like one of the brightest, most resourceful members of Orville, so either the people of Xela are geniuses or they value different kinds of intelligence than those we’re used to.
– On Xela, humans are basically looked at as the hillbillies of the universe. I was disappointed in this perception, as we’ve now set up humans as the only race that isn’t trash. They’ve become smart enough to explore the stars and evolve beyond the need for capitalism, while every other race is in constant need of help or has some custom that’s backwards. The Moclans don’t believe in women as a part of their society, the robots look down on other biological people, and every other race we’ve met the humans have had to help in some way. It sets us up as this “great hope” and that’s astonishingly ethnocentric for a show that mostly gets everything else right.
4. This was an Alara focus episode, but I still have to draw attention to Penny Johnson Jerald, who is a fantastic actress that deserves all the focus episodes she can get. Because of Alara’s simulation, we get to see Jerald play Dr. Finn as a more creepy, insane version of herself and she hits the role perfectly–she’s unsettling in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a person that’s basically been the Team Mom from day one.
5. Most of this episode taps into the horror elements that can be present in space opera, resulting in a tone shift for The Orville that’s quite a jump from what we’re used to for this series. It’s meant to be a big twist, but basically Alara chooses to have her memories wiped in order to be plunged into a simulated series of horrific tests based on the greatest fears of her crewmembers in order to overcome any fears, suppressed or otherwise, that she might have.
She overcomes them all and manages to escape this nightmare scenario, but the strangest part is that in proving herself she kind of proves…she’s not a great security officer. By the end of the simulation, literally every crewmember is dead and only she manages to escape things alive, which you’d think would be the opposite of what she was going for? It was just one more fear to overcome (isolation) in a series of others, but still you’d think she would’ve focused on how she was the only person able to escape.
The Orville airs on FOX Thursday nights and is available for streaming on Hulu.