The Orville’s best humor comes from playing off of the unlimited possibilities of a sci-fi setting. The funniest part of this week’s episode happened in the cold open, when the crew discovers Bortus’ race adapted to consume almost anything for nourishment. Naturally, this leads to an enjoyable bit where everyone presents increasingly outlandish objects for him to eat. The weakest, and most conventionally MacFarlane jokes are the 20th century pop-culture references and the ongoing incongruity of space dudes who talk like stoner frat dudes. Tonight’s episode leaned too heavily on the latter, taking the gag one step further by featuring evil alien space dudes who are secretly regular space dudes who talk like stoner frat dudes. I’m happy to see each week The Orville’s stories show consistent growth. The narratives are gaining confidence and displaying more depth. It’s the show’s humor that remains the most erratic from one episode to the next. This week had a decent story with a lot of anemic jokes sprinkled on top.
“The Krill” felt like it was going to be the show’s religion episode. The one that would explore Krill zealotry and how it shapes their culture in order for the heroes to present a better humanitarian alternative in that way Star Trek shows have since their beginning. So far, the Krill have served as The Orville’s template bad guys who can show up armed and belligerent whenever the show requires some stock antagonism. With their pale, bat-like faces and grey chitinous armor, they certainly look the part. Their guns all end in an ominous three-pronged claw shape and if you take one letter away from their name, what remains is the Kill. When we learn that their aggressive nature is due to a central tenant of their faith, it seems like an opportunity to challenge that faith and force some level of development with a one-note species. But as with the Moclan views on sex and gender in “About a Girl,” nothing really changes here. The Orville recommits to the truth that it’s going to take more than a small handful of meddling do-gooders to change the trajectory of an entire race.
When the Orville destroys a Krill starship attacking a mining colony, they find an intact shuttle in the wreckage. The Union knows very little about the Krill; only that they view everything in the galaxy as theirs by divine right, and believe all other sentient beings lack a soul. They want Ed to infiltrate a Krill ship to procure a Krill bible that the Union may better understand the race, and possibly forge a peace treaty. The Union admiral who orders the mission makes an aside that for most civilizations that reach space exploration status, with the exception of the Krill, religion recedes as technology advances (this is as much of a philosophy on faith as the show puts forth, and one that, given all the terrible things I read of people doing in the name of religion on my magical pocket super-computer, is suspect). Ed and Gordon have to disguise themselves as Krill and infiltrate one of their ships.
The scene where Ed prepares to depart gives us the episode’s one glimpse of his and Kelley’s relationship. The undertones of rekindled chemistry are there, but played subtly enough that their dynamic could be construed as two people who were once in love and shared their lives who still maintain a deep affection for each other. I prefer this route for their characters over the possibility of them getting back together. It’s more interesting, and much less frequent, to allow for two people to maintain an intimate, but ultimately platonic relationship, than it is to conspire for two people to get together romantically.
After a funny scene in transit where Ed and Gordon try and fathom what Krill names might be, the two board the Krill ship and we see some of the trappings of their theocratic culture. A red-clad high priest stands to the right of the captain on the bridge, and mandatory religious services occur at least once a day. But other than Ed musing that their holy book reads like “a Brett Easton Ellis novel,” there isn’t much exploration beyond what we learned before Ed and Gordon infiltrated the ship: the Krill murder because their god, “Avis,” says it’s okay to murder.
Despite knowing absolutely nothing about Krill culture, mannerisms or etiquette, Ed and Gordon ingratiate themselves enough with the crew to discover that there are children aboard. And also a massive bomb the Krill plan to use on a nearby farming colony.
I felt certain the Krill faith would become more relevant after Ed and Gordon discover there are children aboard and can no longer just destroy the bomb and the ship with it. I assumed Ed would manage to unearth some arcane bit of Krill scripture he could cite to inflict an existential conundrum amongst the crew and stave off the bomb attack. Nothing so rabbinical, however. Instead, he and Gordon use their knowledge of the Krill’s photoallergic physiology and just crank up the ship’s lights and incinerate the crew. What the solution lacked in a bracing exploration on the nature of interpretative faith, it made up for in melting alien heads.
I was worried that Ed’s dopey, ain’t-I-a-stinker “Don’t be mad” rejoinder would be the last word on his slaughter of an entire ship. Fortunately, the show allowed the remaining living adult Krill to voice her hatred of Ed, and let him know that by saving the lives of the children, he ensured another generation will grow up eager to kill him and his friends. Violence begets violence. Unlike Star Trek, Ed didn’t have a lengthy, off-the-cuff rebuttal about the good news of secular humanism, and how it allowed humanity to escape a violent past. Sparing the kid’s lives was a referendum on Ed’s morality–but so was killing everyone else aboard. We don’t know much more about the Krill than when the episode started, but we do know a bit more about the Union.
- I’ll bet church attendance would be way up if stabbing a severed head repeatedly with a knife became a common ritual.
- Which edition of Dungeons & Dragons does that illustration of Avis look like it was lifted from? It was digitally painted, so at least 3rd. I’m going to say 4th. It looks like it would fit right in between all the half-dragons and tieflings.
- Everyone aboard the Orville really knows their 20th century pop culture to a fetishistic degree. It’s the future equivalent of crewing a ship with the members of the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
- That said, given the show’s reliance on 20th century specific references, I can’t believe this week’s title wasn’t “Faster Pussycat, Krill Krill!”
- It’s cool seeing a larger class Union starship. One thing I’ve enjoyed about The Orville from the start is how the ship isn’t cutting edge. It’s a modest, conventional exploration vessel. I’d like to see even more examples of the Union fleet.
- “Tramp Stamp” needs to be retired from our lexicon.