The Orville: 2.14 The Road Not Taken
How big a change could Kelly's decision not to go on a second date with Ed cause? A hell of a lot it seemed. By not marrying and then divorcing Ed, neither of them, Gordon or Claire would have ended up on the Orville. And while events may have largely played out the same way they had over the first season and a half, the lack of Claire's impact on Isaac and Ed, Kelly and Gordon's actions in the Kaylon invasion would have turned out differently. Very differently.
The Road Not Taken was a bold and very fun season finale that shook up the dynamic of the show with an alternate reality episode. I suspected the twist from the beginning - the thrilling chase across the snow-capped outpost - but it was no less rewarding. The Orville got to have its cake and eat it, showing just how drastic things would have been if the Kaylons had succeeded in their attack on Earth in Identity. From Kaylon ships patrolling space to heads armed with guns cutting down resistance fighters on distant worlds, this was exciting to the very end.
And while there were bold Star Trek III: The Search for Spock vibes in the crew's uniforms, the rescue of the derelict Orville and the gorgeous James Horner-esque score, there was also a grander Star Wars feel to the episode too. From the resistance in bunkers - with a great cameo form a former character - to the John William's-influenced music as the ship navigated the asteroid field while pursued by Kaylon vessels. If this wasn't a play back to The Empire Strikes Back, I don't know what is.
But for all the dramatics at play, it was also a nicely focused exploration of Ed and Kelly; I've really come to love their relationship over the course of the show, still feeling a connection to one other as they move from partners to close friends of a different kind. Without the past of the failed marriage, we saw Ed and Kelly rekindle what could have been, even suggesting marriage in the episode's closing moments as the Kaylons closed in and everyone looked set to die. But given that this reality at least appeared to have been eradicated by the episode's end - restoring the original timeline - I'm intrigued to see how their relationship continues. I suspect that bond will continue to grow, assuming we get a third season to explore that.
It was also a gorgeous episode to look at. From the snowy outpost the flight through the asteroid field, the shots of the Kaylon marching through the forests to the breath-taking moment the Orville ascended from the ocean into the skies of planet Earth. There was a real sense of grandeur, not just in the stakes at play, but the earnest nature of the performances, the music and the cinematography. If this really is the final episode of the show, it went out in absolute style.
The second season of The Orville really has taken the show to another level. It was a lovely Star Trek: The Next Generation-style cosy nostalgia blanket in its first season, wrapped up with a big hot mug of comedy. But this year it has matured tenfold, with some episodes like Identity and the finale, that have become must-see television. It has a huge heart and a huge fondness for Star Trek - from guest stars to homages in its storytelling - this is so much to love about the show. It's the nostalgic Star Trek we wanted when Star Trek: Discovery came along but it also has very much its own identity. There's so much potential to come and so many story threads to unravel - the Mochlans, the Krill and the Kaylons are surely all going to provide some tense conflict but the crew of the Orville are where we find the best stories. Let's hope they get that season three renewal and continue their voyages for many years to come.