‘Primal Urges’ is a bit of an odd duck here in the second season: it was actually meant to be the 12th-aired episode of the 13-episode first season, but due to scheduling conflicts with Fox, the decision was made to “bump” it into the second season. The theme of the plot lines of the episode do align a little better with the first season; let’s dive into some analysis of the episode, so we can break it down a bit further.
WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘The Orville’ lie ahead, obviously. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!
RECAP: The Orville arrives in a planetary system that originally had 11 planets, but is now down to its last one; the system’s sun has turned into a red giant and has swallowed the other planets, as will happen to Earth’s sun in “about 5 billion years,” per the intelligent insight of Isaac. The final planet is beginning to break up and be swallowed by the star, so Ed and his crew have arrived to document the experience for scientific posterity.
On the bridge, Bortus asks to leave his shift early, ostensibly because he is not feeling well – in reality, however, he is routinely visiting the holodeck and running a variety of pornographic simulations, unbeknownst to anyone else. This, of course, is causing him to miss time “at home” with his family, mate Klyden and son Topa. Kylden is becoming frustrated at Bortus’ continued absence, which Bortus blames on Ed making him work longer hours than normal.
Through their scanning and documentation, Isaac discovers that the planet actually has a subterranean dwelling with living beings still inside the planet. After Ed makes contact, he discovers that the indigenous people of the planet discovered their impending doom 100 years ago and went underground to try and survive as long as possible, as they do not have the capability for space travel. Ed and the crew hatch a plan to modify one of the shuttles with enough shielding to travel to the planet and attempt to rescue the remaining 75 living people across a few different trips back and forth from the ship.
Bortus’ addiction comes to a head when he seeks out an exotic foreign simulator program to run, and the program gives the Orville‘s computer system a virus. The virus complicates the rescue mission, which makes the first run to the surface the only run that will happen, and the aliens must choose 30 of their people only that will be able to be rescued. Once back on board, Malloy loses helm control to the virus, and it is only at the very last second that LaMarr and Isaac are able to conquer the virus and stop the Orville from plunging into the ever-expanding star.
- Perhaps it was because I knew going in to my viewing of the episode, but there were quite a few aspects of ‘Primal Urges’ that felt a little out of place here in the second season. There is a scene in Ed’s ready room where Ed and Kelly are discussing command matter, but then jovially decide to have a “day drink” together to help take the edge off a bit. Last season, that would have been a natural progression of their relationship, but after the second-season premiere episode has put them at odds with each other a bit, this scene feels very out of place now. Also glaringly missing from the narrative of the episode was Lt. Tyler, the new stellar cartographer played by Michaela McManus, who was just introduced to us as a new character last episode.
- It’s interesting, too, to revisit the theme of Bortus and Klyden’s offspring and the societal gender issues with the child, that were first explored significantly in About a Girl‘ the show’s fifth episode of the first season. ‘Primal Urges’ was meant to be a story that came only 7 episodes later, but again, the “bumping” of this episode to the second season puts an air of odd feeling around revisiting this issue so much later than anticipated.
- Porn addiction is certainly real, and kudos again to show creator Seth MacFarlane for not being afraid to tackle “heavier” topics (especially so early on in the show’s run), but the reason/connection as to why Bortus started his mental reliance on pornography – the trans-gendering of his daughter and how he resents his mate for forcing the issue – feels like a thin rationale at best, and really seems to exist simply to push the narrative along.
- One thing that ‘The Orville’ has done surprisingly well since its inception is the incorporation of the more “sci-fi” elements of the show. That trend continues in this episode, as viewers are treated to some truly beautiful and hauntingly powerful shots of the red giant star destroying and devouring an entire planet. It’s a good reminder of just how much powerful cosmic force does truly exist out there in deep space.
- My highest praise for this episode, though, lies in its extended use of Chad L. Coleman in his portrayal of Bortus’ Moclan mate, Klyden. Coleman is a fantastic actor who has recently been seen on genre TV shows like ‘The Expanse‘ and ‘The Walking Dead’ – in these shows, his characters are much more imposing and heavy-handed, so it’s nice to see him flex his acting range here a bit as a more soft-spoken, “neglected housewife” type of presentation for his character. More Klyden in the rest of this season, please!
CLOSING THOUGHTS: Overall, this felt like a “down” episode for me. Whether that’s due to the episode not being as strong as some others that ‘The Orville’ has given us recently or if it was because things felt a bit “out of place” with this seasonally-displaced episode, it’s hard to say. The next three episodes, as announced by Fox, all seem to have production codes that line up with them being the intended “next” stories in order for the second season, so let’s see that the show has in store for us moving forward.
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Seth MacFarlane as Ed Mercer
Adrianne Palicki as Kelly Grayson
Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn
Scott Grimes as Gordon Malloy
Peter Macon as Lt. Commander Bortus
Halston Sage as Alara Kitan
J. Lee as John LaMarr
Mark Jackson as Isaac
Michaela McManus as Lt. Janel Tyler
New episodes of ‘The Orville’ are premiering on FOX every Thursday this season.