This article contains spoilers for The Orville: New Horizons season 3.
Creator Seth MacFarlane and his team accomplished an amazing third season with The Orville: New Horizons, and did so with so many outside factors affecting production. Despite the pandemic, interruptions in filming, and Fox being bought by Disney, season three is arguably the show’s strongest season in terms of storytelling. Most notably, the writers often seemed as if they were playing the “long game,” setting up new plots for the future, and incorporating several throwbacks from previous episodes.
As of now, there is no announcement as to whether or not The Orville will set sail into the stars for a fourth season, but if it doesn’t, there are several of those story threads that may forever remain loose ends. Here are some reasons why we hope The Orville returns.
A pivotal thread Captain Mercer (MacFarlane) has had to deal with over the entire three seasons was his relationship with a Krill woman, Teleya (Michaela McManus). When they first met, they developed a kinship only for Mercer to kill most of the crew on her ship, violently betraying Teleya’s trust. A scorned Teleya then posed as Union officer Janel Tyler and developed a romantic relationship with Mercer. When her plans for revenge went awry, and the two had to trust each other once again in order to survive a harrowing situation, Mercer eventually let Teleya go free rather than take her into custody.
A still scornful Teleya eventually worked her way to become the supreme leader of Krill, and as Chancellor, put the kibosh on the developing peace between Krill and the Union. As Mercer found himself face to face with the woman he wronged, their complicated love/hate relationship became even more complicated when Mercer discovered Teleya and he had a child, an adorable half-Krill girl named Anaya.
Mercer risked everything to go back and confront Teleya about their daughter, and while he was able to escape Krill with his life, Anaya was left behind. In the season finale, Teleya was arrested and awaiting trial, and the last confrontation between the two was extremely open ended. Teleya merely said she’s satisfied with Mercer never being able to see his daughter again, leaving the fate of their daughter perhaps forever unknown.
This however is not a satisfactory ending for many fans. Anaya was innocent in this entire situation, and while the relationship between her parents is tense to say the least, she deserves happiness. Teleya’s stubbornness has already cost Mercer time with his daughter, but is a reunion in the works if there are further episodes? Would Anaya grow to hate her father and become a powerful enemy like her mother, if the show chose to advance the timeline? Or could she and her father begin to develop a loving relationship?
The Krill and Moclan Alliance
Teleya’s legacy as Chancellor is not simply reduced to her messing with her ex. Her climb to power, as mentioned, reshaped the entire Orville universe. In the final throes of her regime, she formed an alliance with the newly antagonistic Moclans, fashioning a considerable threat to The Orville and The Union.
The immediate threat of the Krill/Moclan alliance concluded in the penultimate episode of the season when The Union and Kaylon teamed up to ensure the Kaylon race wasn’t wiped out by a weapon of Union design. This was enough of a deterrent that we never heard about the Moclans or the Krill in the last episode, but that does not mean the story is over.
Who will slide into the chancellor position now that Teleya is gone? It is entirely possible that the Krill will remain a threat and the populism that Teleya ignited on the planet will continue to burn, sparking a renewed conflict with whomever might take over Krill and the Union? It is unlikely that The Union will find the Krill to be an ally again any time soon, but the Orville universe has surprised viewers before with quick changes in allegiance.
The Moclans, however, are also a stubbornly proud people, and would not likely let any of the perceived wrongs against them go. As possibly the only military threat in the galaxy that can match the power of the Kaylons, and their steadfast confidence that their cultural beliefs are infallible, what would a fourth season hold in terms of tension between The Union and The Moclans?
The Threat of the Expanse Aliens
In one of the only purely episodic stories of the season, “Shadow Realms,” was seemingly a “monster of the week” story. That is… unless the writers of the show had more time to expand on a brand new threat.
The unknown species deep within a region of pitch-black Krill space known only as “The Expanse” was an invasive species that after excreting a slimelike sputum on their victim, altered their DNA, mutating them into one of their own. A horrific species in a horror-inspired episode that could have easily been a one-off, if it weren’t for the promise of their first mutated victim.
Admiral Christie (Guest star James Read) was the first to be transformed, and for the remainder of the episode acted as “Expanse Alien Prime”, even communicating with key members of The Orville crew near the conclusion of the episode. As Doctor Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) threatened to wipe out the species with an artificial virus she created, Christie barked a not-so-veiled threat: that aliens would return and make The Orville and its crew “of them.”
This would of course mean that this species, which up to this point was practically unknown by the Union, is now terrifyingly aware of our heroes, and would possibly venture out of the Expanse to hunt. It wouldn’t be a far stretch that with the Kaylons now being an ally, that if there were a season four, the Expanse Aliens would be the major threat to the safety of The Union.
In one of the darker and certainly more entertaining episodes this season, “Mortality Paradox,” fans were introduced to the extremely advanced Dinal (Elizabeth Gillies). Dinal is a multiphasic alien from Kandar 1, the planet that at one time worshiped Commander Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) as a deity. Kandar 1 also exists in two planes of existence, and when not in our dimension, evolves at an exponentially quick rate. The result is a species of beings that border on god-like at this point.
The mystery behind the terrifying vignettes of survival in “Mortality Paradox” was simply Dinal wanting to study the crew in moments of near-death. This is somewhat reminiscent of what “Q” did in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe, which had many fans theorizing that Dinal might be back to further study The Orville and her crew. With a shared history between the Kandarians and Grayson, and a god-complex bordering on emotional indifference, it seemed that The Orville writers were setting Dinal up to be a recurring proverbial thorn in the side of the crew.
The Crew’s Love Life
On the lighter side, The Orville expertly traversed the personal lives of the crew in its third season, perhaps save the all-too-brief relationship between John LaMarr (J. Lee) and Lieutenant Commander Keyali (Jessica Szohr).
It would certainly be interesting to see how the marriage between Doctor Finn and Isaac (Mark Jackson) would unfold. While the final nuptials of the season finale is certainly a concrete enough ending if the show were to conclude this season, that story is not necessarily over. Could the two adopt a child, or perhaps even… create one?
One other tease that was clearly an intentional moment to create gossip between fans was simply a moment of eye-contact rife with sexual tension between Commander Grayson and Bortus (Peter Macon) during a rescue mission of Bortus’ daughter, Topa (Imani Pullum). Grayson has found herself to be an excellent mentor for Topa in her times of need, and there is an understandable respect between Grayson and Bortus. Yet when Bortus described his fondness for what Grayson has done for Topa, it seemed to speak volumes more. Considering the show has never been afraid to tackle topical issues, could the stoic Bortus possibly be a little more fluid in his sexual identity? This could also create tension in his marriage with Klyden (Chad L. Coleman) after the couple just renewed their vows.
Perhaps the most unlucky in love is Lieutenant Malloy (Scott Grimes), as he once again had his heart torn out, and his family literally torn away from him. Granted, through the magic of science-fiction, it was merely a possible alternate timeline where he was able to meet his beloved Laura (Leighton Meester) in the 21st century and start a family, but as a fan-favorite, many believe Malloy deserves that happiness.
Time Travel Possibilities
The episode that featured Malloy finally achieving domestic bliss, “Twice in a Lifetime,” did try to wrap up the story neatly, but it felt like a very easy out. The Gordon Malloy who was eventually rescued was unaware of what he had in a possible future, and easily forgave Mercer and Grayson for making the hard decision to protect the timeline and tear away that possibility.
In a show where anything is possible through the lens of science fiction, this doesn’t mean that we’ve necessarily seen the last of the Malloys. Could there be a descendent of Malloy’s out there, specifically from this alternate timeline that manages to make their way to the Orville universe? Could Laura find her way to the future, knowing the full gravity of who her husband is, and where (and when) he originated?
The tease of time travel, a sci-fi staple, also gives the writers carte blanche in terms of bringing characters back. When Alara (Halston Sage) left the show early in the second season, audiences have been treated to her return in an alternate timeline, and as an exciting cameo in the season three finale.
A recently lost character, whose end was slightly more permanent, was that of Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters), but death is never permanent in science-fiction. While Charly’s ultimate sacrifice in this season’s penultimate episode, “Domino,” would possibly ring hollow if she were to magically return, the irony being that this character, who had a mixed reception from fans, has earned a second chance. It could merely be for a cameo if they were to visit another alternate timeline or dimension, or it could be a full return to the crew depending on how bold the writers want to get.
Let the fan theories commence.