The Orville Season 3 (News): S3E4 Review
Another action-packed episode of New Horizons, which suggests numerous upcoming payoffs, further paves the way for the Orville universe.
Science fiction that is good should make us think. By shedding light on elements of our environment that we don’t want to see, it should have subtext that can instruct, undermine, and even make us uncomfortable. These little pieces of fiction are packed with political subtext and significant values, whether they are the genre’s gold standard, like The Outer Limits, the venerable The Twilight Zone, or more recent entries, like Black Mirror. Similar to the season 3 opener of The Orville: New Horizons, this week’s “Gently Falling Rain” may go from subtext to “text,” but it may still be regarded as one of the biggest episodes of the show in terms of scale, effect, and timeliness.
The plot is introduced in a very scary and nearly silent manner by “Gently Falling Rain” filmmaker Jon Cassar, giving viewers a somber view of the Krill home world. The current Krill Supreme Chancellor, Koran, is being denounced as a false prophet by Teleya (Michaela McManus), a persistent thorn in the side of Captain Mercer (Seth MacFarlane). She passionately opposes a treaty with the Planetary Union, uttering the Trumpian phrase “Krill comes first” in front of a sizable and enraged crowd.
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From the first few minutes of the show, “Gently Falling Rain” makes its political point plain. The current rise in populist movements, militaristic coups, and the use of fear and misinformation to manipulate the voting public are all topics that Brannon Braga and André Bormanis explore in their writing. These parallels are very clear. Throughout the entire show, Teleya’s terrible government serves as a parallax for the detestable far-right techniques used in real life.
The main issue arises as Koran starts to lose the race, which he believed to be a lock, deepening the comparison to a recent American presidential election. Worse yet, the outcomes of the Krill election have profound effects on the Orville world. If Teleya triumphs, the alliance between the Union and the Krill is all but dead because our hero’s Supreme ally will no longer be in a position of authority. This proposed treaty will alter the nature of the entire galaxy and has been a big Orville revelation since the end of season 2.
As previously stated, this episode’s goals are unquestionably noble. We should pay close attention to the lesson behind recent developments in global elections as well as the terrible possibility of losing the democracies that many independent states have worked so hard to establish. However, some of the big beats, which are obviously intended to express this subtext, lack nuance. One scenario, after Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber) informs Mercer of Teleya’s rise to populist power, is particularly clumsy.
Mercer and Commander Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) appear to use only idioms fit for a t-shirt as they debate the utter failure that is the Krill political system. It may be true, yet sayings like “rhetoric and fire” or “emotions can be more convincing than thoughts” ring loudly. a little bit too loud. Instead of an otherwise well-written episode, they feel more deserving of your Aunt’s Facebook banner.
The episode’s second half is frequently highly exciting and almost flawlessly balanced. The magnitude of the episode was already clear and epic when the Union delegation approached Krill’s surface (before the coup). The Krill homeworld itself has a peculiar, gloomy beauty to it, evoking Blade Runner, while the orchestral score swells to John Williamson proportions. It was a fantastic approach to establishing the world of The Orville, and it gave the episode a more cinematic feel than television is frequently capable of.
The episode’s main events also changed the universe in profound ways. It seemed the Union delegation would suffer the same fate as Chancellor Koran, who was killed in front of everyone shortly after allegedly losing the election. However, before that, Mercer and Teleya had a frank conversation about their confusing love-hate relationship. Although there were some pleasantries, the audience had to understand that they would never agree. The pact would never be ratified since Teleya’s heart was still burning with resentment over previous incidents, putting both the delegation and the Orville in orbit in grave risk.
Mercer is abruptly and inexplicably led out of prison by two guards without any explanation. Unexpectedly once more, Mercer is abruptly captured by a small group of armed Krill when they creep through Dalakos’ streets like the Krill equivalent of rats. He is transferred to a tiny underground building after the guards who took him out are dead in the street. A lovely half-human, half-Krill named Anaya, who is the daughter of Mercer and Teleya, is revealed to him by a small opposition group while he is there. Teleya has supported the daughter but never pays her a visit out of concern that the youngster will damage her reputation in the eyes of her fervent fans.
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If the first scene involving MacFarlane and McManus wasn’t excellent enough, the second scene following Mercer’s deliberate return to prison is outstanding (despite perhaps the logic of him going back to be re-imprisoned in the first place). In the scene where Mercer confronts his former lover about their child, the concealed feelings that both performers portray are incredibly captivating, and MacFarlane displays more dramatic prowess in that one brief scene than he has in his whole career. Teleya even mentions that the episode’s title, “Gently Falling Rain,” was inspired by the name “Anaya,” which means “Gently Falling Rain.” The authors, MacFarlane, and McManus should all be quite proud of this sequence since it demonstrates the deep complexity they are all capable of, and Teleya and Mercer both exhibit a wide variety of emotions.
But regrettably, the episode’s abrasive “textual” undercurrent destroys any emotional momentum that this intense and impassioned exchange might have given the story. The authors inserted a tale about abortion, which is undoubtedly a sensitive and loaded topic, as a hasty climax to Mercer and Teleya’s argument.
Teleya is asked by Mercer why she had Anaya in the first place if she is such a hardship. When Mercer chooses to end a life, Teleya takes him to a sterile Krill clinic where she demonstrates to him what the Krill do to such individuals. The Krill perform a barbaric technique in which they use the DNA samples of the parents to simulate the lost child’s future appearance. Since it is obvious that the viewer is not supposed to share Krills’ pro-life viewpoint, it is designed to be horrifying and difficult to see.
Even though the politics surrounding that topic are outside the scope of this review, this particular scene in the episode feels overly forced. The quarrel between the ex-lovers might have easily been resolved by Mercer asking Teleya why she persisted in it, but Braga and Bormanis felt compelled to bring up this particular political discussion. A shoehorned, supplementary preachment was the only thing that this one unnecessary clinic scene added to an already laden program.
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This season has been entertaining so far because many of the episodes have established plotlines that will certainly come back to haunt the Orville crew. While pondering the future and laying the groundwork for darker storylines, this episode also had numerous touching moments. The story thread of Mercer having a daughter is excellent. When Talla (Jessica Szohr) received her promotion to Lieutenant-Commander, she and LaMarr (J. Lee) had an unexpected moment of flirtation while celebrating with their fellow senior officers. It will be fascinating to watch how this develops in the future.
This was, for the most part, a beautifully well-acted episode with a well-balanced tale; a story that has changed both the character dynamics and the overall tone of the program. It’s fascinating to consider the writers playing the “long game” when it comes to the show’s journey, even though they could have found a tiny bit more balance.
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