This The Orville review contains spoilers.
The Orville Season 1 Episode 12
Although parts of The Orville’s season 1 finale may have been a bit predictable, the allegory surrounding the role of religion in developing civilizations was smoothly executed with a few surprises along the way. As a cautionary tale of the dangers of interfering in primitive cultures, “Mad Idolatry” showed exactly what would have happened on Star Trek had there been no prime directive, and as the final word on Ed and Kelly’s reconciliation, the finale continued the healing needed in their relationship while tempering our expectations of re-emerging romance. Instead of a cliffhanger ending, the satirical finale was framed by a conclusion of sorts for a season that began with Kelly’s betrayal.
Not that anyone blames Kelly for the butterfly effect of her intervention on the primitive planet. Perhaps she shouldn’t have wandered off when her shuttle crash landed, but non-interference is a tough sell when one has already been the cause of a dangerous injury. Should they have just waited in orbit until the planet achieved space flight as the admiral suggested? Maybe. But this crew has already established its propensity for bending the rules, and surely they had to at least try to fix their error!
The concept of a planet with a variable rate of time was certainly innovative even if beginning the episode with yet another “spatial anomaly” was not. As soon as the world disappeared again and Isaac began describing the “multi-phasic orbit,” it was easy to figure out what would result from Kelly’s healing of the young girl. It wasn’t exactly disappointing to know what was about to happen, but the predictability did make the medieval culture exploration a bit bland. Kelly’s demonstration of her medical tool was pleasantly persuasive, but it wasn’t until the lesser priest killed the religious leader that things really got interesting.
It’s difficult to decide if the arrival of the modern-day planet with its broadcasts of holy wars, religion in schools, and televangelists was a too heavy-handed metaphor for our times or if it was exactly the pointed commentary the episode needed to bring the message home. As the Union officers watched the reports of the many killings in Kelly’s name, the audience couldn’t help but wonder what our religions’ founders would think of the fighting between faiths on our planet.
Even with this strong thematic statement, the biggest surprise came when Isaac made the decision to stay behind on the planet to try to repair the damage they had done. Seven hundred years would certainly give the Kaylon plenty of time to study a humanoid species up close! The unexpected nature of this generous gesture was only outdone by the eventual revelation that he didn’t have to do anything at all to correct the error.
It’s the boldest statement The Orville could have made, asserting that the obsolescence of religion in a developing society is inevitable. Although the writers didn’t come right out and say that faith had no role in the spacefaring race that emerged in the final phase of the episode, the female representative of the culture did encourage them to “have faith” in discovery and the “triumph of the logical mind.” One has to wonder what’s in store for our own future in this regard, whether we head to space or not.
The Orville has never been a show that shies away from taking sides with social issues of our day, and for this finale to air just as Jerusalem is being recognized by the United States as Israel’s capital is remarkably germaine. As an audience, we may have fun watching John hook up with the smoking hot Ensign Turco (played by model Kyra Santoro) or seeing Ed’s hand impaled by a Moclan hot potato, but when the show tackles issues of our society, it more often than not excels.
So while the episode wasn’t necessarily a game-changing finale, it gave us food for thought and allowed for the evolution of Ed and Kelly’s relationship. Given how often the crew of the Orville defies orders in the name of doing what’s right, it would be dangerous for the captain to cover for his first officer because of feelings he might have. This realization was the only closure the season really needed, and now there’s plenty of time to discuss what impact The Orville has had in its first season. Or… we could just play Monopoly?