The Orville: 2.10 Blood of Patriots
No episode was ever going to be able to top last week's dramatic Kaylon invasion of Earth, but the effects of that conflict were felt this week. After a welcome opening medal ceremony for Yaphit, who's actions saved the ship, attention turned to the Krill who paused hostilities to help the Union defeat the Kaylon fleet at Earth.
The Klingons / Romulans of The Orville have been the recurring big bad since day one and I'm surprised that we've gotten close to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country territory this quickly in the show's history. The Kaylon threat spearheaded Captain Ed Mercer's mission to open negotiations with the xenophobic aggressors in the first step to peace and naturally, it wasn't quite so smooth sailing.
Enter Gordon's long lost friend Orin Channing (guest star Mackenzie Astin) and his daughter (Aily Kei), escaping in a Krill shuttle after spending twenty years in a Krill prison camp. It was great to see Scott Grimes get his teeth into something a little more dramatic - even in last week's dramatic story Gordon was very much the comic relief - as he was faced with the return of his former best friend who he believed had died in a Krill attack twenty years ago. Things got more complicated with the Krill refusing to start the peace talks unless Orin was returned for crimes against their people, namely destroying three Krill vessels.
The episode soon presented a moral quandary; Orin, a Union officer, had lost his wife in the attack and had spent twenty years a Krill prisoner with his traumatised daughter. He deserved sanctuary with his own people. At the same time, destabilising the opening peace talks would result in resumed hostilities with an alien race that had killed hundred, possibly thousands and would do so again. The rights of the Union itself or one man and his daughter?
If I have any real criticism of the episode, it's that the moral dilemma only felt surface level for most of the episode. Ed debated the ramifications with the Admiral setting him the mission (guest star Ted Danson) but Orin's experiences largely felt glossed over by the crew. Arguably his actions were worthy of suspicion but there was a worrying idea that Orin could be so easily sacrificed. At the same time, Ed seemed willing yo jeopardize the mission. While played for laughs, the whole boarding protocol scene was really an abject humiliation of the enemy that had been willing to open peace talks.
The reveal surrounds Orin's daughter was surprising, the reveal that Gordon and the crew were playing Orin less so. Still, it raised the stakes and gave impetus to Gordon's own struggles to support a friend that might no longer be the man he knew. Grimes really sold the guilt over Gordon's own betrayal, leading to that intense stand off in the shuttle.
Blood of Patriots was all about tragedy. Orin had lost everything - his family, his friend and his career - and now when he had a chance to go home, he found the Union was looking to negotiate peace with the very race that had caused him his suffering. It made for a far more complex storyline than the issues of the crew simply navigating those first cautious steps towards peace with the Krill. And it added to Gordon's character beyond the comic relief role. It may not have been a the level of the last two weeks but that was expected. But it did show that The Orville continues to deliver engaging and thought provoking television, a show that stands on its own two feet and not just on its homage to the shows that influenced it.