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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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‘The Orville’ delivers an excellent drama on a real issue

"A Tale of Two Topas" tackles a current-day controversial issue using the classic Star Trek (TNG) style. It does so with heart, feeling, empathy, thoughtfulness, messiness, ugliness, and no shortage of emotional and plotted complication. It’s all the more effective because of its straightforward take on the material. This is an episode that demonstrates how properly existing at the vertex where the intellectual and the emotional converge can result in something pretty great.

This episode uses science fiction to just barely put a twist on a current-day issue. In this case, it’s the matter of gender identity as seen through Bortus’ and Klyden’s child, Topa (Imani Pullum) — born female but reassigned male (unknown to him), shortly after birth as a result of the deeply misogynistic Moclan culture. While Topa is shadowing Grayson to learn more about how the crew operates, he reveals to her that he has been feeling "incomplete" and "unhappy"; he has realized there is something wrong deep within himself. In a rather alarming development, Topa goes to Isaac and asks him what it felt like to be dead. Isaac explains that being dead was not unpleasant, because it was merely a state of nothingness. Isaac wisely reports the conversation to Grayson.

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When it gently rains, it pours

On the eve of the signing of a treaty between the Planetary Union and the Krill, a delegation is invited to the Krill homeworld where the treaty is to be signed. The Orville will, of course, carry the delegation, and Admiral Halsey invites Mercer and his away team to attend the signing.

This invitation happens after we’ve already witnessed Teleya (Michaela McManus) — the undercover Krill woman who pretended to fall in love with a duped Mercer (see "Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes"), and who is now a rising populist politician with a growing following — provides an ominous speech that begins Trumpian and works its way up to Hitlerian as she decries the treaty that’s going to be signed and promises that all who have taken part in its creation will be punished as traitors if she wins the election. The crowd screams and chants like a howling mob.

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‘Orville’: High school will kill ya, amiright?

I’m beginning to think giving Seth MacFarlane longer runtimes for this season of The Orville was a really bad idea. They say the final rewrite of a screenplay happens in the editing room, and now in three consecutive episodes we’ve had an editing room that’s far too lax. Nicholas Meyer once said that art thrives on restriction. Well, redundancy thrives on a lack of discipline.

Take the opening minute of "Mortality Paradox." We watch Talla’s shuttle approach the ship (with multiple shots), enter the shuttle bay and land, and then we see Talla get off the shuttle, walk up a spiral staircase and through a corridor, and finally into Grayson’s office. This sequence could’ve been done in 30 or even 15 seconds. Instead, it takes over a minute. Now, that’s not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but it’s indicative of the overall lack of economy and discipline here, and the tendency for this episode to be repetitive by showing us different iterations of the same idea.

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Finally, ‘The Orville’ has its Fun With DNA episode

Claire’s ex-husband, Admiral Paul Christie (James Read), who was her former professor way back in the day before they got married and then divorced, and who is now a top Union diplomat, comes aboard the Orville to negotiate passage through an area of Krill space that could open up entirely new exploration opportunities.

Included in this area of space are "shadow realms" that the Krill say should be avoided, because of the "demons" that exist within them. Because the Krill base this, like everything, in their religious fanaticism, Christie and Mercer are skeptical of the warning, and think exploration of this area of space is still important.

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‘Orville’ season premiere: Dealing with Isaac

Season three of The Orville — moved from Fox to Hulu and now dubbed "New Horizons" — premieres some three-plus years after the second season ended. "Electric Sheep," the first installment — filmed more than two and a half years ago — serves as a re-acquaintance of sorts, with the Orville docked at a starbase for a retrofit and waiting to deploy for its next exploration mission.

But the episode first opens with a Major FX Sequence, featuring a huge battle between the Kaylon and Union fleets, and Marcus (BJ Tanner) running through the corridors of the ship trying to escape the explosions and mayhem. He’s able to get back to his quarters where Isaac is there waiting, but then Isaac suddenly goes into Red Mode and lunges at him like a predator. Marcus wakes up in a panic. (This opening sequence was released months ago to stave off impatient fans amid yet another delay announcement, except it didn’t contain the obvious reveal that it’s all a nightmare.)

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