Friday, November 3, 2017

The Orville--"Into the Fold"

     Good news, Orvillians! The announcement came today The Orville was renewed for a second season. I am not certain of all the details, but I assume the renewal means a full, 22-24 episode season. At least I am hopeful for that many. While some episodes were weaker than others, there has yet to be one I would call bad. Tonight's is no exception. I rank up there with the best for its successful mix of tension, violence, and heart. Now there is a heck of a trifecta.
     “Into the Fold” introduces us to Finn's two young sons, Todd and Marcus. While the Orville is in dry dock for repairs, Finn plays to take them on vacation to an amusement park planet. Malloy bows out unexpectedly of acting as their shuttle pilot, but Isaac fills in. He looks forward to studying human familial relationships. He is in for a bumpy ride. The kids are unruly brats for one, and they contribute to the shuttle crashing after it is drawn through a spatial fold.
     The shuttle is broken in half before the crash. Finn happens to be in the back at the time, so she is separated from the other three. She is also kidnapped and dragged back to an apartment by an alien named Drogen. He holds her captive even after learning she needs to find her children. This is bad for everyone, because there are cannibals out there.
     Finn's captivity and eventual escape are intense plot elements, but the emphasis—not to mention best parts—are Isaac's interaction with Todd and Marcus. While he does not understand humans or think much of them, he adapts quickly to keeping the kids safe and calm while working to send out a distress signal. Their bonding comes with some sweet moments, such as when Isaac learns holding a small child's hand helps him not to be afraid.
     The alien resorted to cannibalism when a biological agent infected their water supply. Naturally, the youngest of Finn's sons becomes infected in order to add a ticking clock to the plot. It was necessary for the sake of drama, but it does feel tacked on at the last minute. Frankly, our heroes falling under siege by the cannibals before the Orville rescues them probably would have been nail biting enough.
     While “Into the Fold” features some cute moments between Isaac and the kids, those are contrasted with a considerable amount of violence. Finn kills Drogen in order to escape, first by stabbing him and then shooting him with his own gun when she cannot over power him even with his knife wound. Some fans are already debating the morality of killing a man who believed he was helping her, but I say it was self-defense. He was holding her prisoner against her will and was not going to let her go. Finn even cuts herself with the knife in a ruse to initiate her escape. The shoot out in the end involved dozens of cannibals swarming the downed shuttle like zombies.
     Contrast the violence yet again with the humor. In the 25th century, Barry Manilow is considered a musical genius. Isaac settles a dispute over a hand held video game between Todd and Marcus by throwing it up in the air and shooting it. He casually refers to the older one as 'the less intelligent” without offense intended. The comic relief comes at just the right intervals in what is otherwise a dark episode.
     The episode is dark, but good. The episodes focusing on a couple characters at a time rather than the entire crew solving a problem are turning out great. From the previews, I was expecting a Finn-centric episode, but it turned out to be Isaac-centric instead. I have no problem with that. Nor, surprisingly, a problem with children playing such prominent roles. Child actors can make or break a story's execution, but these two did a fine job. As did everyone else.
      Rating: *** (out of 5)

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