Contrary to many expectations and some predictions, it has been an enormously successful inaugural season for Seth MacFarlane's love letter to sci-fi space shows.
With a truly inspired little maneuver, The Orville Season 1 Episode 12 caps this bait-and-switch season wherein, rather than churning out the expected Trek spoof, it delivered an homage to the spirit of humanity surviving in alien frontiers in all its messy glory.
The good-natured charm of the ensemble is front and center immediately here with Mercer coming off shift and going door-to-door, looking for someone to hang out with.
From Malloy's bad puns, through LaMarr's interrupted booty call, to his ill-fated intro to Moclan leisure activities, well before Mercer admits his loneliness to Grayson in the mess hall, it is already abundantly obvious.
Mercer: Man, if it looks like this going in, I'm afraid of what it looks like coming out.
Clyden: Upsata does not come out. It grows into a parasite within the body. This sensation is intensely pleasurable.
Mercer and Grayson's personal history has been the foundation of the series' narrative. Throwing ex-spouses together as Captain and First Officer is the stuff of sitcoms, and the early jokes were cute, but it quickly became clear that they actually make a good team, professionally.
Their relationship is one of the handful of serialized plot-lines in the season. (The others, of course, being Yaphit's thang for Dr. Finn and Bortus' hidden talents.)
So when Mercer suggests they have a date, I groaned a bit as the predictability of their reunion seemed disappointing. Furthermore, there's a high level of disbelief suspension needed to buy into the Union allowing a husband and wife team to serve as both captain and first officer of the same ship.
You know, these jobs we've chosen? They condition you to be okay being by yourself. And, after a while, you start to think that giving yourself over to someone else is some kind of weakness.Grayson
But it was an excellent fake-out, and I'm happy to have been fooled. Everything about their dinner seemed to telegraph future hearts and rainbows.
What really impressed me here was how their romantic advancements were woven into a proper space adventure. After all, the eleven-day gaps between planet appearances made for a lot of potential peanut-butter-and-jelly time.
Mercer's concern for Grayson as she embarks on the initial investigation is a nice touch, but I'm on the fence as to whether her hangover was what led her to be so careless with her interactions with the local inhabitants.
Grayson's tender heart has been evident on previous adventures, but it's truly the cause of all troubles here. Well, technically, her being bad at walking quietly in the woods was the first cause but stopping to heal the child's cut snowballs, over seven hundred years, into official god status.
The novelty of a multi-phasic planet that evolves seven hundred years every eleven days is also inventive (although its rapid development did remind me a bit of The Simpsons Season 8 Episode 1 where Lisa creates a society of tiny entities out of her tooth.)
It wasn't an unexpected effect of her actions but, still, the reveal of the enormous statue in her image in the temple was appropriately ridiculous as was the stained glass window in the audience chamber. (I wonder if Adrianne Palicki got to keep one as a souvenir?)
I'll admit I didn't expect the head priest to be shivved quite so efficiently by his subordinate. It does highlight the old adage of "haste makes waste" rather well though. Having thirty-one minutes to convince the head of an organized religion that his god isn't a god is a tall order.
And yet, Grayson manages to get the message across to High Priest Valondis (a fun guest star turn by Twin Peaks regular Lenny von Dohlen). If his buddy there hadn't been so desperate to cling to power, she might've managed to reverse her damage.
I have seen you bleed. A god does not bleed.Valondis
As it is, it's Isaac who "saves" the day, a fairly regular occurrence in the Orville's modus operandi. I think this makes five times this season for those keeping score at home.
Reminiscent of Schwarzenegger's Guardian Gramps "taking the long route" in Terminator: Genisys, Isaac hangs out with the Believers In Kelly for seven hundred years in order to mitigate the damage Grayson feels responsible for.
The society's jump into the quantum age under the Isaac Effect is full of in-jokes since he basically creates the Vulcan society with its worship of logic and reason.
You must have faith. In reason. In discovery. And in the endurance of the logical mind.Baleth
They even manage to sneak a mention of "discovery" into Baleth's speech which actually made me laugh out loud. (Another awesome guest star here, Erica Tazel, who played my favorite character in Justified.)
But what earns The Orville my respect is that, despite the myriad of poor decisions made in this encounter, the central through-line remained the establishment of what sort of relationship Mercer and Grayson would have moving forward.
You and I? Together? It jeopardizes your command. It jeopardizes the smooth operation of this ship. And it jeopardizes our friendship. It can't happen.Grayson
In the very beginning, Grayson was brought on as First Officer to balance Mercer. She is thoughtful where he is instinctual. She is calm where he is impulsive. She is reasoned when he is emotional. She genuinely seeks the greater good even at personal cost.
Although it seems unlikely that they will be able to easily move back into the friend-zone, I would much rather see them work together than descend into some sort of Moonlighting travesty.
I feel like there will be debate on this and I'd love to hear from the shippers out there. Do you really see the show working with an active romantic relationship between Captain and Ex. O.?
Who's all about Isaac's awesomeness?
Anyone else think Kitan might make a move on the captain while he and Grayson are regrouping?
Who's up for a latchcomb tournament? Better yet, a Moclan cultural-immersion episode?
And seriously, who else is as ecstatic as me that The Orville turned out to be the show it is? HEAR US ROAR!
It's gonna be a while before Season 2 premieres so soothe the ache by watching The Orville online and I'll see you back here in 2018!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.