Airing Thursdays on FOX in the UK at 9pm
Writer & Director: Seth MacFarlane
Spoilers ahead. Deflectors Up. Standby Quantum Drive.
Ten months and six days after the last episode of season one, Mad Idolatry, showed the crew of the USS Orville discovering a multi-phasic planet and Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) accidentally becoming a deity, fans have been rewarded with the first episode of season two.
Finally, the first episode entitled Ja’loja aired in the UK last night. Expectations were certainly high and there’s been no shortage of hype building up to the second season premiere.
It’s safe to say that the very first episode of season one was slow to start, but then that could be said of almost any new sci-fi. (Encounter at Farpoint anyone? Yawn.) However, The Orville quickly picked up pace and soon offered us some great episodes, including Krill (S01, E06), Cupid’s Dagger (S01, E09) and New Dimensions (S01, E11).
Thankfully season two opened with an episode that felt as perfectly polished as the very best of what we’ve seen so far, with a string of different sub-plots all beautifully tied together, but more of that later.
It begins with an opening shot of Capt. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) propping up the bar in the ship’s mess, hunched over what looks like a large Jack Daniels, pouring his heart out to the alien bartender, Olix, played with artistic understatement by Jason Alexander. In the background, As Time Goes By by Dooley Wilson can be heard, most likely a homage to Rick from the movie Casablanca, who was in a similar relationship situation as Mercer currently is.
This song is used brilliantly to tie all the failing attempts at romance taking place aboard the Orville together, since they form the backbone of this episode’s storyline.
Suddenly Lt. Cmdr. Bortus (Peter Macon) enters and announces something of great importance. Making reference to a joke used in the very first episode of season one, Bortus reminds us that members of his species urinate only once a year…and it is his time.
Consequently, they must return to his home world, Moclus, so that he can perform the annual ceremony of Ja’loja and ultimately relieve himself. Thankfully, MacFarlane doesn’t let this golden opportunity for water closet wit dominate the story and instead the issue of finding a date for the ceremony becomes central, since it is considered bad luck to attend Ja’loja without a partner.
It’s tricky to tell exactly how much time has passed since the end of season one; we see Topa, the son of Bortus and Klyden, and he looks like he’s about four or five. However, we have no idea of the rate of aging of Moclan males, so this doesn’t mean a great deal.
Instead, judging by the still-unresolved situation between Mercer and Grayson, it would appear that no more than a few months have passed. As we saw at the end of last season, Mercer has forgiven his ex-wife and first officer for sleeping with Darulio (Rob Lowe) while under the influence of Retepsian pheromones and is still very much in love with her.
However, his attempts to rekindle their relationship haven’t proven successful and in fact, Grayson announces she is dating someone, but refuses to say who.
The relationship woes continue – and of all types. Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) tries and fails to ask the new dark matter scientist Lt Tyler (Michaela McManus) to go as his date to the Ja’loja. Lt. Alara Kitan (Halston Sage) goes on a date with Lt Dann (Mike Henry) arranged by Bortus, which hilariously falls apart and Mercer performs a fly-by in a shuttle past Grayson’s quarters so he can spy on her and learn whom it is she’s dating.
Meanwhile, Dr Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) is having relationship problems of a different nature. Her two troublesome young children, Marcus (BJ Tanner) and Ty (Kai Wener) are proving something of a handful. The older of the two, Marcus is being led astray by a bad kid at school and poor Dr Finn is questioning her own parenting skills.
She even appears to drop an f-bomb…
In all honesty, it’s probably just a weird sound-acoustic-effect-thing and she probably just says “Look”…but it does sound like the other thing, right?
Thankfully Isaac (Mark Jackson) is on hand to offer his unique perspective, much like he did in Into the Fold (S01, E08). Thankfully, the situation gets resolved in a parent-teacher meeting with a well-balanced mix of seriousness and humor.
And in fact, that sums up this first episode: a well-balanced mix of seriousness and humor.
Bortus performs his Ja’loja without incident and everyone returns to the ship.
The final scene depicts Mercer propping up the bar once more, nursing a large Jack Daniels as Lt Tyler approaches and sits next to him, offering us, the fans, the tantalizing thought that perhaps she might become the captain’s new love interest. However, according to IMDb, she’s not credited as that character in any more episodes in season two. McManus has however, played a number of different characters in The Orville, we just might not see Lt Tyler again.
At another end of the bar, Malloy confides with Dann, Grayson shares a kiss with her new beau, Cassius (Chris Johnson) and Dr Finn thanks Isaac for all his help.
And playing in the bar, in the background is As Time Goes By by Dooley Wilson.
As one has come to expect, The Orville occasionally makes reference to popular culture, especially within sci-fi. From the opening bar of the theme sounding rather similar to Galaxy Quest to the USS Orville making a very USS Voyager-style course passing through similar planetary objects, including a dust cloud and a comet, before entering faster than light travel in the final shot.
It could be argued that Isaac’s assistance to helping single mum Dr Finn is comparable to the T-800’s relationship with John Conner in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the location of the Ja’loja bears more than a passing resemblance to the planet Vulcan in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, but this is all just fodder for the fans to talk about for the next seven days until episode two airs.
Incidentally, there’s a quite a lot of gossip whirling around this second season – and weirdly, several cast members seem to be dating each other. The Daily Mail (shudder) spotted MacFarlane and Sage out together, but to be fair, that could be anything. There’s even rumours that she’s leaving the show, so who knows, perhaps that’s what that was all about. Also, according to that same (cringe) publication, Grimes and Palicki are dating…but most interesting is the addition of a new “cast regular” in Jessica Szohr. She pops up in the very next episode, according to IMDb and even the accompanying press material to season two makes a point to mention her. There’s a nice round-up of fan theories concerning this here, on Talking The Orville.
Scott Snowden is MyM’s US Editor. Follow him on Twitter.
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