The Orville: 2.07 Deflectors
The Mochlan race have been a difficult race to love. Their deadpan tones and expressions might lead to some good laughs but their beliefs are something different altogether; violent, phobic and bigoted. The question over why the Union still works alongside them was a key focus this week, with the third Mochlan-heavy episode of the seven so far this season. I wonder if perhaps this is a set up to some kind of Mochlan-Union conflict coming? Certainly it feels as if respecting the traditions of another race can only take both peoples so far?
I was torn with this episode. On the one side, it continued to shed light on the Mochlan's hatred and aggression towards sexuality and gender - this time through Bortus's old flame who dared to be attracted to a woman. But on the flipside, it felt like a big step back after the last run of episodes, delivering its message in a very heavy handed manner by exploring a race of people whose beliefs are downright vile. We've seen the same message on The Orville before, and handed better through season one's story of gender reassignment surgery of Bortus and Klyden's child. Here this only served to reaffirm those beliefs and even make Bortus by association, a less likeable character, something that has been apparent this season so far.
I'm all for character flaws and shade of light and dark. Having characters and alien races that aren't overtly good or bad makes for more interesting drama. But I feel like Seth MacFarlane and his writing team haven't really moved on from the same messages and storylines they were giving last season.
That being said, I liked the small connection between Mochlan engineer Locar (Kevin Daniels) and Lieutenant Talla Keyali. Jessica Szohr joined the show a couple of episodes ago and this was the first to give the character some focus and showing how she differed from her predecessor Alara. Her fierceness and determination, both in defending Locar and then hunting for his killer, gave the episode some strength. The budding relationship was certainly rushed but Star Trek rarely did one-episode romantic relationships well. Despite that connection feeling forced, there was chemistry of sorts between the two characters.
His murder was a shocking twist, giving Deflectors an interesting new narrative to pursue and show Talla in action. The framing of bigoted Mochlan Klyden as Locar's killer who was threatening to out the engineer to his people, made him a more uninviting character too; part of me would have been happy to see him jailed for the crime - I certainly believed he did the deed. Of course, the new security chief was too good at her job and soon discovered that Locar had faked his death to save the rest of his family from persecution. It was incredibly sad to see him return home in chains ending the episode on a somewhat sour note. But as dark as it was, it did give new cast member Jessica Szohr a chance to show off her skills as a performer as she rounded on Klyden with quiet fury.
As for the side story, Kelly dumped Cassius but the follow through never really worked. The amusing giant singing flower aside, the breakup turned the likeable Cassius into a bit of a desperate stalker while the episode seemed more concerned with dealing whether Kelly still had feelings for Ed.
I wanted more from the episode. Perhaps if there had been some meat to the bones of the murder mystery storyline, Deflectors may have been stronger, but it was a little half hearted. It certainly continued to paint the Mochlans as a race of bigots without really telling us anything new about them. Last week, there was a huge heart and passion in the story of Isaac and Claire but there was none of that here. It certainly feels as if Bortus needs a new direction; I'm not sure I care to see more of his people and all the harm that comes with them.
Let's hope The Orville moves forward from this next week rather than sticking to the past...