This The Orville review contains spoilers.
The Orville Season 2 Episode 8
Last week The Orville left us with a cliffhanger. It turns out one of the most beloved members of the crew has had an alternative motive that may prove to lead to the demise of the human race.
The episode begins with Dr. Finn’s kids playing what appears to be a futuristic version of chess with Isaac. When Dr. Finn gets home, she and Isaac tell the kids they are dating. The kids are not surprised. They are happy about it, and the youngest, Ty, is delighted at the prospect Isaac may be his new dad. But there is a bit of foreshadowing that indicates not all is well.
While playing chess, Isaac won. The kids were upset that Isaac always wins. He tells them there is no reason for them to be ashamed because they are intellectually inferior. The kids protest. Isaac’s response is along the lines of “that’s your problem.”
The reason I think this is important is that Isaac, once again, is showing a lack of emotion. However, the humans seem intent on not just pushing Isaac to understand, but also to project their own feelings or assume he is showing emotion when he is not. The humans seem to need Isaac to be like them.
At the end of the opening scene, Isaac falls to the ground and the blue lights that are his eyes go out. The doctor cannot figure out what is wrong with him.
Isaac was sent to the Planetary Union to observe them in order for his people, the Kaylon, to decide whether or not they want to join the Planetary Union. However, the Kaylon home planet is closed off to visitors. To fix Isaac, Captain Mercer requests that Admiral Halsey allow him to go to Kaylon. Mercer’s logic is that since he is their emissary, they will want him repaired to continue his mission. Halsey grants permission.
When the Orville arrives at the planet, the Kaylon welcome them. However, the Kaylon explain that Isaac is not broken. The Kaylon had deactivated Isaac since his mission is over. The Kaylon received the data they needed and were now deliberating on whether or not to join the Planetary Union. They tell the crew they plan to disassemble Isaac and “reintegrate” his parts. Of course, this is distressing to the crew of the Orville. They talk the Kaylon into letting them ask Isaac if he would like to return to the Orville even though his mission is over. Once again the humans were hopeful, if not sure, that Isaac would come back with them.
After being awoken, Isaac tells the Orville crew he had no reason to go back. Dr. Finn, upset, asks him to at least pretend he cares and come and tell her kids goodbye. Isaac agrees. He comes back, says goodbye and even has a party thrown in his honor. I do want to say, during a hilarious scene at the party, Gordon sings Isaac a song, and he is terrific. Who knew?
Before Isaac leaves, Ty gives him a picture he drew of his family at the dinner table and Isaac is with them. It is a cute picture worthy of being hung on the fridge, or battery charger, or whatever might be the closest equivalent to a refrigerator a Kaylon may have. As Isaac is leaving, he throws the picture on the ground.
In all of these scenes, the humans believe that Isaac, a robot, cared about them as much as they cared for him. But Kaylon is a friggin’ robot. He will not love or care for anyone.
Are humans this needy and desperate for love? Probably. Our first close friendships are often with inanimate objects like stuffed animals. I am currently typing on my relatively old MacBook Air, that I adore so much I would not dare to replace it. It loves me too! Doesn’t it? You do, don’t you, Mackie? Silence.
I think this episode does bring up an interesting issue regarding our relationship with technology. As we build better and smarter robots, how will our relationships with them change? How many of consider Alexa a friend, or feel she is present in the room with us. With our tendency to anthropomorphize, it seems that as we move into the realm of building robot companions, maybe the love we give them and the love we feel we receive will be sufficient for us to feel satisfied with these artificial relationships. Especially as technology improves and robotic companions become more realistic.
Cognitively we will know these are robots, but will our feelings supersede our rational knowledge? We seem to need these feelings so much we ascribe sentience to everything.
As this episode points out, there is a danger to getting lost in these artificial feelings of love. Isaac is a well-loved member of the crew, even though he does not pretend to love them back. He bluntly points out he has no emotional attachment to the crew. Isaac tells them attachment is a cognitive defect. How more deeply would the crew have been attached to him if he had pretended to love them back?
The person having the hardest time with Isaac leaving and not seeming to care is Ty. It seems even harder for a child to understand that giving love does not always mean you will receive it in return. After finding his discarded drawing, Ty sneaks off the ship to look for Isaac. Instead, he finds an underground tunnel with thousands of remains of biological beings.
The crew of the Orville finds Ty and the remains. They ask the Kaylon what is going on. The Kaylon explain they had to destroy their makers, the original inhabitants of the planet. They claimed their “builders” were inferior and sought to constrain their evolution, so they were killed. The Kaylon also reveal that Isaac’s real mission was to determine if humans are worth being allowed to exist. Unsurprisingly, the Kaylon decide we are not worthy.
The episode ends with the Kaylons capturing the humans. The last scene is the Orville, now under the control of the Kaylons, heading to Earth with an invasion force.
The Orville’s beloved robot, who tried to tell them he did not love them back, turned out to be telling the truth. Blinded by their love for Isaac, the silly humans now face annihilation.
The intended moral of the story is yet to be revealed, as we do not know what may happen. Will Isaac help the humans, or is this just silly human sentimentality ascribing human emotions onto Isaac again?
Either way, I find Orville to be brilliant, hilarious, and hugely entertaining. This was a great episode, and I look forward to seeing what happens.
Alejandro Rojas writes and blogs about science, entertainment, and the paranormal. Alejandro has spent many hours in the field investigating anomalous phenomena up close and personal. You can find him on Twitter here.