The Orville: Primal Urges, Home
I’m not sure what this says about season two, but my favorite episode of the young season is one held over from their first season. Borrowing a page from TNG’s “Evolution,” “Primal Urges” finds the ship in danger because of crew member’s carelessness. On TNG it was Wesley Crusher creating a new form of sentient life. And The Orville, it’s Bortus getting a nasty virus into the computing systems thanks to his new-found addition to holodeck adult content.*
*Because the series has to remind us at least once per episode that Seth McFarland is behind this. Don’t get me started on the CGI alien whose species writes the best adult simulations in the business and how he talks exactly like a character out of Family Guy.
“Primal Urges” works well because it built on a story line from last season (Bortus is still upset about how their daughter was treated and angry at Kleiden for his role in how things unfolded) and because it found a way to offer commentary on a social issue from our world today. Yes, there were parts of it that felt a bit like TNG light (honestly, Bortus’ race feels like a bargain basement offshoot of the Klingons, what with the actual killing your partner to get a divorce). But at least McFarland is borrowing from season three of TNG when the show was at its prime.
It’s too bad that “Home” was a bit of a step backward. It wasn’t that the episode was terrible. It’s just that for a long stretch in the middle — pretty much from the time Alara gets home to the time when it’s revealed that her family’s houseguests have an entirely different agenda than the one they originally outlines — I found myself not quite as invested as I could or should have been. This section features characters making lots of speeches to each other about the life Alara chose for herself because of how her family treated her.
It also doesn’t help that the show pretty much telegraphs where things are headed from the first moment we hear about Alara’s family’s attitude toward her chosen career path and the Union as a whole. I get what the story is trying to do and give her a path off the show, but it still felt like the show was checking all the boxes to wrap up the character’s story arc and time on the series.
Not the series’ best episode of the season and a bit of a step back after two solid episodes to begin season two.
The Passage: Pilot
If you’re looking for an in-depth comparison between the book and the series, this isn’t the place. I read the books years ago and recall the broad strokes of it, but not too many specific details. That may mean re-reading the book is in order (also, because I never finished the entire trilogy and I’d like to do so).
So far, so good. As a pilot, the series sets itself up well, establishing our characters and putting the central mystery in motion. I did feel like we were a bit rushed in getting Brad from a good agent doing his job to going on the lam with Amy. It felt like all it took was winning her a unicorn at the fair and then talking to his ex-wife about their loss (in one of the biggest tell, don’t show scenes ever) to spark a protective feeling in him. Again, my memory of the book is hazy, but I’m not sure how long it took for Brad to be “won over” by Amy into throwing everything into chaos to go on the run.
And yet, I’m still intrigued enough to give his one a shot and see where it all goes. I do wonder if it might be more fun to binge it rather than waiting for each weekly installment.
True Detective: The Great War and Modern Memory
Season one of True Detective was a (well, at least until the final episode) fascinating experiment with some great performances and direction at the heart of it. Season two lost me early and never quite recovered my interest.
Season three is off to an interesting enough start. As with season one, the show isn’t as concerned about the who did it factor of things (thought I expect that will be important) so much as it is the impact it has on the characters. I like that we’re getting three time frames for the story to unfold and part of the fun of season one was spotting how the stories were different across the various points of view. Adding in a layer that our focal point’s memory may not be all that it was once is intriguing (several characters point out that he may have forgotten some details of this case).
I’ve only sampled the first installment and not the second that HBO debuted. I find that this series can be a heavier one that works better if you let the episodes have some time to breathe between them. We’ll see where things go and if the show can stick the landing this season.