Friday, November 17, 2017

The Orville--"Firestorm"

     The Orville was renewed for a second season. But with the good news comes some disappointing news. The twelfth episode of the first season is being delayed until next season. There is no official word on why the change will take place, but speculation is the episode hints at the will they/won't they get back together dynamic between Mercer and Grayson. It might have been fine for a one season wonder to feature so an episode, but not one that will go on for at least two seasons. It feels like a weak explanation, but maybe we will find out more details later. The bottom line is there are only two episodes left until—i assume--fall 2018.
    Actually, I have some other disappointing news to deliver. “Firestorm” is highly moody and entertaining for all but the final five minutes. It was dark and scary enough to be a Halloween episode. With a better ending, the episode might contend for my favorite. Alas, even a cameo by the great Robert Picardo could not save the episode from a script that fizzled out at the last act.
     When the ship enters a plasma storm, engineering is severely damaged. Alara is sent down to use her super strength to light debris off a trapped crew member. But when a fire breaks out, Alara freezes in fear. The crewman dies because of her momentary hesitation. Fire turns out to be a phobia of hers from the time she was nearly trapped in one as an infant. She does not have much time to beat herself up over the issue as the crew begin battling their typical fears come to life—killer clowns, giant spiders, bottomless pits, and surgery. Is there, as the crew suspects, an alien life form on board terrorizing them?
     No, that would have been pretty cool. Maybe an alien psychological parasite living off fear or something along those lines. But no. it is actually simulation Alara runs to test her reaction to common phobias. She is never in any real danger beyond the health risks extreme fear might cause. So there are no consequences. The episode might as well have been a dream.
       The cop out is a shame because the episode is great outside of it. The clown is terrifying even for someone like me who is not bothered by them. Giant tarantulas are creatures I would wet my pants to see chasing me, so top marks for that fear being well presented. But then, the whole thing deflates. I would much rather see Alara match wits and defeat an alien who has incapacitated the crew. Then again, 'Firestorm” is the second episode so far in which Alara faced crippling doubts about her command abilities only to triumph in the end. Twice in nine episodes? Perhaps in such a short period of time, another aspect of her character could have been explored instead?
     “Firestorm” is the first episode of The Orville I am awarding a mediocre rating. As I said above, but for a better plot twist, the episode might have been my favorite. But I am disappointing by the ending. It is the first episode to not be written by Seth McFarlane. Hopefully, the lackluster results are not a sign only he is good at writing for the show.
     Rating: ** (out of 5)

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