On another middling episode of The Orville, “Home”, we lose a crewmember we finally spent time developing, as well as some hope for getting amazing science fiction again.
This recap of The Orville Season 2, Episode 3, “Home”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Isaac and Alara (Halston Sage) have regular Friday arm wrestling matches and he accidentally breaks her arm. Alara’s superhuman strength (because she’s not human, she’s Xelayan) is diminishing because she’s acclimating to Earth-normal gravity. So she needs to go home to reacclimatize herself. And we’re still trying to adjust to an unambitious season of The Orville, one that’s taking its time to just get going.
The good: “Home” is a more focused, tighter family story. Alara’s family is a seriously wealthy, intellectually overbearing one. She’s still deeply wounded from a childhood of, if not neglect, constant underestimation because she didn’t stack up to her father’s (Robert Picardo’s) expectations. She shoulders her family’s deep disappointment that she joined the military. They look down on her because they feel as though she was cornered into her career choice. She must prove she’s actually meant to follow this choice. This leads to some sinister turns of events on Alara’s vacation, as a mystery begins to unfold and some chickens come home to roost.
I’m tempted to deeply critique The Orville for its story structure choices, because I don’t know if they’re choices or laziness. At the moment, though, I’m staying positive. Much of what is presented here is thoroughly predictable from a story standpoint, with Chekhov’s Guns placed clearly from the outset. And yet, there’s a comfortable familiarity there. While Star Trek: Discovery and Game of Thrones and intricately plotted, story arc-driven shows like them rely on deep unpredictability, uncertainty about characters’ fates, and plot twists to achieve their goal (and truth be told I prefer them), there’s something reassuring about an episodic series that gets the job done. And the story here works well, and there is some unpredictability to be found, though it’s often in the scatological vein and not entirely welcome.
Temporary replacement security chief Tharl (Patrick Warburton) is a total wanker. Absolutely slimy–Warburton always has fun with those types of roles. He’s designed specifically to make us hate him so that we’ll miss Alara. He’s got an exterior esophagus and prefers to eat loudly on the bridge during his shift, while also uttering phrases like, “Sick ship,” and “My last Captain totally had a boner for me.” He’s a turd, and I’d like to say it’s a tad too obvious for The Orville. But I’m worried it’s not, and I’m worried he’ll be around much more.
It’s been fun for me, a die-hard Trekkie, to see some of the crossovers between series. Much of The Orville’s creative team are Star Trek alumni, and in this episode, we get two former Star Trek Doctors: John Billingsley and Robert Picardo (as Alara’s father). Both get to do some scenery chewing, and both are believable and engaging.
An another more consistent note, The Orville boasts beautiful effects; the flyover into Xelaya is breathtaking. The Orville is still keeping its visual standards sky high.
So, apparently Halston Sage is officially leaving the show with this episode. At least, unlike its model show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, this chief of security lasted more than 1 season. I’m not sure why; maybe to make room for the two new series regulars (plus Jason Alexander’s recurring bartender role), but she had certainly been underused. So much for pure predictability, I suppose. But why spend an episode finally developing her so well?
I’m still waiting for The Orville to step it up and push some Sci-Fi boundaries. This was a good, character-driven story, but we need more. And we need it soon.