The Orville (2017) s03e09 – Domino

Once again, I don’t know how “The Orville” gets away with it. A lesser show would be entirely undone by the strange John Debney score. It’s bombastic and enthusiastic but altogether over-the-top. Despite Domino being a not-even-loose remake of Episode VII, ending with a combination Deaths Star and Starkiller Base homage (the latter already being an homage to the former), Debney doesn’t do a Star Wars score. He does a… I don’t know what.

And then, at some point… it starts working.

Because Debney’s score doesn’t have to handle the gravitas of the situation, the situation’s got its gravitas. The first half of the episode is awkward, too; the plotting’s rushed, and director Jon Cassar’s got no summary flow. So the episode digs itself a relative hole (especially since it isn’t as obviously strong as last episode) and then launches itself out to excellence. Not the best episode of the season, but in serious contention for second and a phenomenal hour and twenty minutes of television.

Domino is very much television. The commercial breaks in the action are very noticeable and sometimes jerky in this episode. The smoothness and gracefulness they’ve found with the “network on streaming” format are gone here. It’s very much commercial break for emphasis stuff. But it still works by the end. It’s marvelous.

The episode starts with the Krill and Moclans making peace; if the Moclans can handle having a female partner in Krill chancellor and Orville captain Seth MacFarlane’s baby’s mama, Michaela McManus. They’re both sick of the Union and their progressive ideals, which the episode will put to the test because the supervillain team-up is only half the main plot. The other half has MacFarlane and crew making a Kaylon maker. The Krill and Moclans are teamed up against both the Union and the Kaylon, but the Kaylon’s are after all biological lifeforms.

Anne Winters, this season’s new cast addition, hates the Kaylon. Her being shitty to Kaylon defector and “Orville” Data Mark Jackson has been the main subplot this season. Except it’s not really a subplot because it ends up tied directly to the main plot, as she’s got to deal with the Union wanting to take her Kaylon-killing super weapon and not use it to wipe out the robotic aliens.

The second half is two parts Death Star homage (because there’s the space battle alongside the trench runs), one-quarter Adrianne Palicki action hero stuff (I really hope she does something good next), one-quarter Winters and Jackson working their shit out on a Kobayashi Maru. Even though it’s kind of obvious where the episode’s going the entire time—including the traitor’s identity—it’s obvious because it’s the right story. Cassar, the writers (script credited to Brannon Braga and André Bormanis), and the cast do a fantastic job.

There’s some terrific acting from Jackson this episode, and MacFarlane does well with the more than usual he has this episode, though he’s still primarily support.

It’s great. I can’t believe they got away with it.

The bar’s even higher for next week’s season (and de facto series) finale.

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