The Orville

Orville season (series?) finale: A modest proposal

"Future Unknown" is a quiet, deliberately-low-stakes coda for the season — and, very likely, the series — following last week’s big plot-resolving action extravaganza. And it proves that spending time in the company of this crew is enjoyable when it’s just sitting back and being a laid-back hangout comedy. Indeed, this is the most Orvillian comedy episode of the season, and it finds the precisely right mutedly humorous tone.

But this 80-minute episode, perhaps more than any all season, suffers from its runtime bloat. It’s way, way too long, by at least 20 minutes and maybe even more, and it had me checking the clock more than once. You can sense that MacFarlane suspected this was the end of the line and just couldn’t bring himself to cut it down to length. He had to get it all in. But by indulging himself, his cast, and his crew, he only waters down what could’ve been a perfectly acceptable character-based sendoff for the season and series.

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Orville’s ultimate case: Star Trek vs. Star Wars

"Domino" is an entertaining but uneasy duel between Star Trek and Star Wars, with Star Wars ultimately — and regrettably — winning. It’s basically a double episode, with the first episode being the Star Trek think piece and the second one being the Star Wars X-Treme Action piece. This is a trend that’s been brewing all season, as well as in previous seasons, but "Domino" takes it to the nth degree. The transition is as unmistakable and instantaneous as that time From Dusk Till Dawn suddenly changed from a southwestern crime story into a vampire splatter flick.

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‘Midnight Blue’ inserts the Orville into a political firestorm

The single word that might describe "Midnight Blue" best is "satisfying." This is nearly 90 minutes of political drama and personal angst that puts its characters and institutions through all manners of hell and hardship and emerges on the other side with something that makes us want to pump our fists, even as it employs no shortage of outrage, ugliness, and contrivance to get there. This is a personal and political melodrama that doesn’t hesitate to manipulate us or the characters in its grand plan of getting to its destination. It is not subtle about what it does. Indeed, it’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer. But in being bold and decisive, it finally tackles the problem with the Moclans and their status in the Union head-on, and does so without flinching.

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Four plots for the price of one (you get what you pay for)

"From Unknown Graves" is an overstuffed, overlong, unfocused mess of an episode with far too many plotlines and not nearly enough insight. There are at least four major threads going on in this 73-minute episode, and two of them probably should have been cut entirely.

I’ve talked a lot about the length of the episodes this season, and that’s because it’s something that’s noticeably turning shows that would’ve been tight and focused at 45 or 50 minutes into ones that feel drawn-out and sloppy at 70-plus. These are unforced errors, and with this episode we might have the most egregious example yet of the season, where we basically have two episodes’ worth of material crammed into one. One of these episodes would’ve been okay; the other would’ve been a total loser.

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Back to the future over my dead body

A breakthrough in experimental time-bending technology aboard the Orville brings with it significant new real-world risks in the potential for timeline contamination, especially if the technology were to fall into the wrong hands. Or even the right hands: An unexpected mishap sends Malloy 400 years into the past (to the year 2015) where he somehow sends a message through time that explains he’s stuck there unless the Orville crew can find a way to retrieve him. The Orville uses the technology to jump back in time, but the jump lands them in 2025, at which point Malloy has long since given up hope of rescue (after having waited three years in self-imposed near-total isolation) and fully integrated himself into the 21st century, with a job as an airline pilot, a wife, son, and second baby on the way.

The core of "Twice in a Lifetime" tells a simple and effective emotional story: Malloy, who has moved on to another life, must now make the choice of what to do now that Ed and Kelly have found him and can take him home. Actually, it’s not much of a choice at all: Malloy fully intends to stay in 2025, where his wife is the very woman, Laura (Leighton Meester), who put her cell phone into that time capsule in 2015 and was the subject of a series of simulated dates for Malloy in "Lasting Impressions." He intentionally sought her out here, having landed in her exact time period, and they are now happily married. (This is not purely a coincidence, as the story implies that his subconscious sent him to this year because he was already thinking about her.)

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