The latest episode of The Orville, “The Blood of Patriots”, is written (once again) by series’ star/producer/writer/creator Seth MacFarlane (“Captain Ed Mercer”), and is directed by Rebecca Rodriguez, a former editor from “Machete.”
“Blood…” focuses on the character of Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes), the wiseass helmsman who, until season 2, was little more than a walking joke-dispensing machine. This year, with his command training under First Officer Kelly Grayson (Adrienne Palecki) as well as this latest episode, he is showing much needed shading, and Scott Grimes runs with it. This was a character I didn’t like at all in season one, so I’ll be the first to admit, he’s come a long way. Taking a break from the action-heavy sturm und drang of the past two episodes (the superlative “Identity Parts 1 and 2”), “Blood…” is a smaller scale episode, but with ambitious stakes.
****KRILL WARSHIP SIZED SPOILERS****
The episode opens with a much-deserved medal ceremony for the heroic gelatinous blob crew member, Yaphit (voice of Norm MacDonald), following his heroic actions in “Identity Part 2.” Nice that the medal doesn’t sink into Yaphit, either. Life seems to be returning to normal for the crew, after galaxy-shaking recent events.
Ed then receives word from Admiral Perry (former “Cheers” star Ted Danson) that their old enemy, the Krill, who came to the Planetary Union’s defense in the attack by the Kaylons (Isaac’s people), are now open to formal peace negotiations. Captain Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) and the Orville have been tapped to head the negotiations. The admiral reiterates that the Union cannot stand alone against another Kaylon attack, and that it’s imperative that the negotiations succeed. The Krill and Union have a long history of distrust, but both parties agree to a rendezvous.
At the rendezvous point, a Krill shuttle is being fired upon by a Krill warship. A distress call from the shuttle begs for assistance. Ed immediately orders the shuttle bay to receive the incoming ship, which soon crash lands. The Krill are incensed, as the shuttle’s occupants are accused enemies of the Krill. Ed and his officers, including Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes), Security Chief Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr) and Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) board the ship and discover an injured pair of humans, whom Gordon recognizes as his onetime best friend since middle school, Orin (Mackenzie Astin) and his now-mute, traumatized daughter Layna (Aily Kei).
Both were presumed dead during an attack on a Union outpost 20 years ago, an attack that saw Orin sacrifice his freedom to save Gordon… and in which Orin’s wife was killed. Layna is terrified of Claire’s medical ministrations, and Claire is unable to complete a medical analysis of the apparently frightened young woman.
The Krill have no extradition treaty with the Planetary Union, so they’re unable to demand their prisoners’ release into their custody, but their representatives arrive on the Orville to negotiate the first step of the eventual treaty. Ed, wanting to hear more of Orin’s story, orders Talla to delay the Krill delegates arrival at the briefing room for as long as possible. In a return to the broader humor of the earlier episodes of the show, we see Talla prepare to perform all kinds of unnecessary ‘safety inspections’ on the arriving Krill delegates, including a full-cavity search (this gag was particularly over-the-top, as Talla snaps on the latex gloves…).
The delay gives Ed a little time before the initial meeting, which doesn’t go well. The Krill state that the former POW in Orville’s sanctuary seeks war with their race, and has hidden weapons with him. Bortus reasserts that no weapons have been found on the man, nor on his seemingly traumatized daughter, who tentatively bonds with Talla and Claire. Talla even shows the girl a musical instrument from her homeworld of Xeleya, which displays wispy patterns of color in accordance with musical notes (vaguely reminiscent of the alien color/sound combinations seen in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”). Despite her reaching out to the girl, Talla doesn’t fully trust her, or her father.
Ed talks frankly to Gordon, who’s known Orin longer than anyone. The captain and his security chief are distrustful of Orin and his daughter, especially when Talla catches Orin clandestinely searching around the engineering section for magnetic containers, seemingly innocuous devices that are used to store materials with certain unusual properties. Gordon thinks they’re being overly judgmental of his friend for the sake of a Krill treaty, and he even suspects the captain may be jealous of Gordon’s longer friendship with Orin.
Orin later approaches Gordon with his true intentions; he wants to steal a shuttle and take the fight to the Krill with Gordon’s help. He reminds Gordon that he owes him a life debt. Gordon is conflicted and goes to Talla’s office under the guise of ‘getting to know her better.’ She sees through the BS and he tells her everything that Orin told him. She reminds Gordon that by coming to her, he’s essentially made up his mind on what to do.
The suspicious Talla visits Layna in her quarters, and notices injection marks along the girl’s arm. Before she can report her findings to Dr. Finn, the now talking young woman takes the super-strong Xeleyan at knifepoint. The takes-no-bulls#!t Talla then hurls her against the bulkhead like a dodgeball, and the young woman’s nose is bleeding…but it isn’t human blood. Instead, it is an acidic gel. Claire arrives and immediately seals the room and orders a high-power forcefield to contain it. “Layna” isn’t human, nor is she Orin’s real daughter (the real “Layna” died 20 years ago). This “Layna” is an alien ally of Orin’s whose blood is immediately weaponized in a heavily nitrogen atmosphere (like the Earth-type atmosphere aboard Orville). Orin has been taking injections of her blood (and the magnetic cases) to make weapons to use against the Krill.
We then see Gordon coming to Orin’s quarters… he’s in. The two old friends head to the shuttle bay, where Talla is lying in wait for them. The conflicted Gordon fires a weapon and stuns her. He and Orin take the shuttle and depart.
En route, Gordon learns of Orin’s plan to use the bombs as suicide weapons against the Krill. With the entire ship in on the plan, Gordon disables the shuttle’s helm controls and begs his friend to abandon ship with him in one of the emergency spacesuits, but the betrayed Orin is committed to his revenge. Gordon suits up and reluctantly leaves his suicidal friend behind. The shuttle is destroyed, and Gordon is knocked violently away from the explosion. He is then caught in Orville’s tractor beam and rescued.
Back aboard the ship, the first step of the treaty is signed by Ed and the Krill commander. The mission has been accomplished. Ed goes to visit his friend Gordon and concedes that perhaps Gordon was right regarding Ed’s jealousy. Gordon tells Ed that the Orin he knew died 20 years ago, and that Ed is his true best friend.
–A strong Gordon-centered episode (haven’t had one of those in… well, ever) and Scott Grimes runs with it. It’s interesting how the actor has turned a once cringe-worthy character (for me) into a likable one by sheer force of the actor’s personal charm. This year Gordon had command training, sung a serenade to shipmate Isaac, and now gets a meaty storyline of his own. He really nails it, too. Well done, Scott Grimes.
–Also enjoyed more of the spotlight on new season 2 Security Chief Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr), who has completely filled the void left by her sweet-natured, waifish predecessor, Alara Kitan (Halston Sage, who left the seriesearly this year). I really dig Talla, who feels like she’s been on the job since the ship left space dock. Despite being from the same race as Alara, they are as different as any two characters can be, and I appreciate the fact MacFarlane wisely avoided making Talla an Alara clone. Her tearing off a shuttlecraft door and flinging “Trisha” against the bulkhead were arguably the closest we’ve seen this year to ‘opening a jar of pickles.’
–Love the smiling alien Lt. Dann (Mike Henry), and his selections of Earth slang (“Sweetness!”) as well as his ideas about lightening things up the ship whenever possible, such as his ‘casual Friday’ idea. He’s one of the many touches that make “The Orville” feel more like an offbeat workplace comedy than a military starship in space show.
–Ship’s android Isaac (Mark Jackson) takes a background role in this episode, though much of the desperation for the Krill treaty comes from the threat of his cybernetic Kaylon race.
—Yaphit (voice of Norm MacDonald) gets a well-earned commendation, just as I felt he did in my post on The Orville, “Identity Part 2″…
–A return to the gags and one-liners that typified early episodes of the show almost feel a bit out of place after the heaviness of previous installments, with the full cavity search on the Krill delegates feeling especially groan-worthy. It’s interesting that the series, which was heavily promoted as a comedy early on (at least in trailers), now feels a bit quaint when it tries to re-embrace that element of itself in earnest. That said, I get the need for MacFarlane to try and lighten things up a bit after the heavy drama of the season to date.
Summing it up.
“The Blood of Patriots” is a solid, if not particularly outstanding episode of The Orville, and that’s okay; with so many great stories this season alone, the show is more than entitled to take a breather now and then (just be careful of nitrogen-rich atmospheres…).