TV Round-Up: The Orville “Ja’loja”

orvilleseasontwoI started off last season doing a weekly recap of The Orville.  Well, at least until three or four episodes piled up on the DVR and I got behind in my viewing and recapping.

I eventually got the rest of season one, binging them* over a short succession of days. What I found was a show that was growing in confidence, characters, and storytelling, slowly moving away from the “typical” Seth MacFarland type of set-ups for jokes that more often than not didn’t quite land.  The only drawback of the last three-quarters of season one was the show spent far too much time dwelling on what I considered the least interesting aspect of the show, the “will they or won’t they” aspect of Ed and Kelly’s relationship.

*As much as one can binge having a two-year-old.  That generally means that binging is watching a full episode in one sitting without being distracted by whatever mischief Shortcake has discovered.

With the season one finale, I hoped the show might have finally resolved this arc and decided to move on.

Alas, that isn’t the case.  If anything, it appears that MacFarland and company are ready to ramp up the “will they or won’t they” aspect of the show by introducing new romantic partners for both Ed and Kelly.

It’s interesting that MacFarland wants his show to be a homage to Star Trek: The Next Generation because “Ja’loja” feels like a bit of an homage to classic Star Trek‘s season two debut, “Amok Time.” Both episodes find an alien member of the crew needing to return home in order to participate in a ritual ceremony.  For classic Trek, it was Spock going to Vulcan to take a bride and for The Orville, it’s Bortus going home for the annual ceremony of relieving himself.

Putting aside the logistics of an alien race that only visits the restroom once a year, the ceremony serves as a springboard to allow us to get back in touch with the crew and find out where they are and where things might be going in season two.  For Ed and Kelly, this opens up the can of worms of whether or not they can or should be together.  Ed is all for it because he admittedly still has feelings for Kelly. But Kelly has started to move on, revealing that she’s dating someone else and she wants to bring him to Bortus’ ceremony and after-party.  Ed, of course, doesn’t take this well and acts like a jerk, including checking out a shuttle to go on a drive-by Kelly’s window just as she and her new boyfriend are snuggling on the couch.

And while I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at large chunks of this storyline, one scene that does work well is Ed going to confront the new boyfriend and  giving him pointers on how to make up with Kelly after a big fight (and since his drive-by and the boyfriend’s being understanding led to the fight, I suppose it’s only fair).

The other threads offer a bit more of interest.  One centers on the new addition to the crew, Lt. Ducan, who Molloy immediately develops a crush on and seeks out LaMarr for advice on how to ask her to Bortus’ ceremony.  LaMarr’s solution is a jacket with “one more zipper than you’re comfortable with” and a big boost of confidence.  After working with Molloy on the Orville‘s version of the holodeck, Molloy is ready to ask for that date. Until he does what many of us did back in junior high, which is see the object of his affection, head up to talk to her, only to circle and decide he just can’t do it.  It’s a case of where the series actually takes time to set up a joke well and it comes without necessarily undermining a character.

Of course, this whole thing could be headed for disaster later this year since it appears that Duncan is attracted to Ed.  I really hope we don’t spend a lot of time dragging out these threads through the year.

By far the most entertaining plot is Claire’s.   We met her kids last year and the season premiere starts off with her oldest Marcus hanging out with a new friend at school.  This new friend isn’t exactly a great influence, calling Clair a “hard ass” when she won’t let Marcus go play without doing his homework first, cutting up in school, and finally breaking into some deserted quarters in order to hack the replicator into making a bottle of vodka.

When they’re caught, Marcus points the blame at his friend and his friend tells his parents that Marcus is the negative influence.  And, the friend’s parents are clueless that their son is actually the negative influence because he’s always so sweet and such a good student.  Enter Issac, who in his observing of human behavior, figures out that the friend is the one with the skills needed to hack the replicator (he’s been hacking his grades sent home to the parents) and it’s once Marcus started hanging out with him that his teenage rebellion was turned up a notch.  The thread is a nice commentary on different styles of parenting and it’s fun to watch the friend’s parents get set up for a huge fall in the final act.

The only niggling thing that detracts from this is the friend’s parents want to have Marcus moved to another class on the ship to stop dragging down their “special little snowflake.”  I found myself wondering just how big the ship is and if there is another class or teacher for Marcus’ age group.  OR would he be demoted a grade or promoted?  I’m probably dwelling on a logistical point that isn’t necessary to the story though.

There is also a plot about Kitan getting set up on a blind date with Dann that elicits a few laughs (he writes VERY bad poetry and shares it on their first date).

So, season two starts where season one left off — satisfying in many ways, frustrating in others.  There’s still enough here that I haven’t cancelled the DVR season-pass yet.  But it remains to be seen if I visit the crew weekly or allow episodes to pile up again like I did last year.

A few small things:

  • Nice to see Jason Alexander as the ship’s bartender.  I heard the voice in the prologue and didn’t believe he was there until the credits.
  • How long until Kelly figures out that her new boyfriend got advice on how to woe her back from Ed?  You’d think that the boyfriend using a Journey song he didn’t know anything about until Ed told him might eventually clue her in. This is one of my frustrations here because there are times this thread has to make either Ed or Kelly completely oblivious.  And it doesn’t help me like their characters.
  • “You Must Remember This” is used a lot in this episode.

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Filed under The Orville, TV round-up, tv roundup

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