After a lengthy hiatus, the wait is finally over – ‘The Orville’ has returned to the airwaves with new episodes! Building on a surprisingly successful first season, creator Seth MacFarlane brings his intriguing blend of “cheerful sci-fi” and “workplace humor” back to viewers for a slightly-longer second season. The burning question, of course, is: how fared the first episode of the second season? Read on to find out!
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: Picking up fairly immediately where the first season left off, we see Captain Ed Mercer and the crew of the Orville dealing with their next big threat: monotony when nothing “exciting” seems to be going on. Ed even laments to the ship’s bartender, Olix, “You know what the worst days are? The days when you can’t stay busy. No Krill confrontations, no spatial anomalies, just nothing going on… and all your thoughts march inward.” Pretty heavy stuff to open the season – even if it is in a vacuum of action.
Surprisingly, that’s the theme of the episode, really. ‘Ja’loja’ focuses heavily on the interpersonal relationships of the crew, and does a surprisingly good job of maintaining balance in that everyone has a part to play in the threaded stories. We quickly learn that one of Season One’s best “throwaway” jokes, that of the Moclan process of relieving their bowels only once every year, was not such a one-off line of dialogue after all: Bortus informs Ed that his time has come, and after an awkward explanation to the senior staff, the Orville is on her way to Moclus.
En route, the minutiae of ship life and everyone’s personal lives are highlighted in individual ways. Ed and Kelly continue to grapple with how their former marriage and current in-limbo relationship status is impacting their ability to work together to effectively guide the ship. Alara and Gordon seem to be looking for love in all the wrong places: Alara is set up with oddball crew member Dann, and Gordon enlists the help of LaMarr to help him woo the newly-arrived stellar cartographer Lt. Tyler. Meanwhile, Dr. Finn (Medicine Woman – never gets old) is having trouble parenting her ever-growing young sons, and the robotic Isaac is thankfully present to assist/critique. Kelly is secretly dating someone else on board, and Bortus still has to pee. It all gets resolved, in typical self-contained episodic nature, hooray!
- Where so many other shows would want to come screaming into their second season with “guns blazing” and forcing some huge action-heavy plot, I think ‘The Orville’ choosing to continue to show audiences the more mundane and routine aspects of what life would likely be like on a starship is, quite simply, a brilliant move. There will be plenty of time for “action” as the season progresses, I’m sure, and this episode can serve very effectively as a “jumping on” point for viewers who may not have seen the first season (or who need a bit of a mental refresher, as the show has been gone from the airwaves a bit longer than normal in between seasons).
- The parade of unheralded-but-big-name guest stars continue! It only took me one line of dialogue to recognize the voice and know that hiding underneath the lizard-like latex of the bartender onboard the Orville, Olix, was none other than comedian and ‘Seinfeld’ star Jason Alexander. He got a surprising amount of dialogue thrown his way in his Guinan-esque capacity – here’s hoping he may actually be a repeat character this season.
- As we discovered when Ed does his shuttlecraft “fly-by” of Kelly and her date: the Planetary Union has cloaking technology? Is this something we knew prior to this episode and I hae simply forgotten? If this is our first sniff of this tech, then that’s fine, of course, but what a delightfully, randomly, casual way to introduce it to viewers. YOLO!
CLOSING THOUGHTS: I swear I’m going to stop comparing these two largely dissimilar shows, but I was infinitely more excited to sit down this evening and watch ‘The Orville’ than I am anticipating I’ll be when it’s ‘Star Trek: Discovery’s’ turn here in a few weeks. The vibe of this show, the stirring classic-Trek-esque opening credits theme song, the bright sci-fi visuals… for me, it’s all coming together to create a very enjoyable experience, one that I hope continues on through the entirety of the second season. Come back and see us every week for more insights and commentary!
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.