Review: “Into the Fold”
The Orville Season 1, Episode 8 – Aired Thursday, Nov. 2
Written by Brannon Braga and Andre Bormanis
Directed by Brannon Braga
In “Into the Fold,” Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) decides to take her two rambunctious children, Marcus (BJ Tanner) and Ty (Kai Wener), on a trip to a recreational planet for some much-needed vacation time while the crew of the Orville repair the ship’s navigational system. When her original shuttlecraft pilot is unavailable, Isaac (Mark Jackson) is volunteered as the replacement – much to Dr. Finn’s chagrin. Things get even worse for Dr. Finn as the shuttle encounters a space anomaly that sends them 1,000 light years away from home, crashing on a distant moon with dangerous inhabitants.
With “Into the Fold,” The Orville firmly cements itself as one of the most fascinating television experiments in quite some time. While the previews for the show advertised it as just a workplace comedy, the science-fiction equivalent of The Office, the show has become something so much more unique and special. It has proven to be one of the most insightful, poignant and socially relevant science-fiction shows of the last couple years with the added bonus of also being uproariously funny on occasion.
The Orville has been known to tackle familiar Trek tropes, and “Into the Fold” is no different. This week they do their own take on how shuttle trips and shore leave never goes as planned with Dr. Claire Finn discovering that a simple vacation with her boys isn’t quite in the cards. Marcus and Ty aren’t the most cooperative kids, bickering and getting on Claire’s – and our – nerves pretty quickly. However, the episode’s writers, Brannon Braga and Andre Bormanis, know what they’re doing, and this episode is one example where the ‘annoying kids’ stereotype is actually fleshed out and explored.
To make matters even worse for Dr. Finn, not only does she have to deal with her petulant children, but she also has to tolerate someone that might get on her nerves more – Isaac. Executive producer Seth MacFarlane has smartly set up Dr. Finn and Isaac’s differences throughout the show, leading up to this episode. So, when the compassionate Dr. Finn is paired up with the robot Isaac, it works because their characters have been set up to be at odds, allowing for the narrative resolving that conflict through character and story.
However, the situation doesn’t let up for Finn, as the stakes gets progressively higher as the episode wears on, forcing her to be more than just the ship’s doctor. With Finn separated from Isaac and her children, this challenges our characters to confront themselves head-on. Where Finn struggles to get a rein on her children, Isaac gradually learns more about humanity, as he tries his own unique take at “parenting.” This could have been sentimental or cliche, but instead provides for some of the episode’s more emotionally resonant moments, such as a touching campfire scene where Marcus and Ty ask Isaac to affect their mother’s voice to tell them a bedtime story.
Isaac’s no-nonsense personality also continues to provide for a good source of humor. Destroying Marcus’ handheld game that proved to be a bone of contention among the siblings – and the reason they ended up stranded – was both funny and effectual. Isaac really grows as a character here, with Braga and Bormanis adding new dimensions to him. He goes from suggesting vaporizing the children early on to admitting that he has grown fond of them by the end as he takes one step closer to understanding his shipmates – and his own sort of humanity.
When Captain Mercer is alerted that Dr. Finn did not reach the recreational planet, he scraps plans to install the new navigational system in order to mount a rescue mission. While Dr. Finn and Isaac are the centerpiece, the remaining members of the Orville crew have their moments, including providing for some of the funniest moments for the episode. While the humor with the Isaac and Finn storyline is more subtle, the crew on the ship provide the show’s signature broad gags, such as Bortus’ dry delivery of “We are entering the glory hole.”
When one of the officers complains about spilling soy sauce on his pants in his damage report – and Capt. Mercer comments that he needs to get better people – it reminds us that the Orville is not the flagship and these aren’t the best and brightest of the Galactic Union. They are just regular people, with regular family problems, in space – which is exactly what is need for a good workplace comedy. If The Orville can more subtly interweave its humor into its narrative, as it did in this episode, then the show may finally have found a way to balance its sardonic humor with its earnest tone.
“Into the Fold” is also another great character piece for The Orville, an episode that feels like it could have come right out of The Next Generation or Voyager, which makes sense given the pedigree of the episode’s writers. They have a lot of fun successfully expanding characters whose surfaces we’ve only scratched before. Penny Johnson Jerald rises to the occasion when Dr. Finn gets captured by a member of moon’s indigenous species, Drogan, played by Brian Thompson who has already earned his sci-fi cred on the X-Files and multiple roles in the Star Trek Franchise. He is appropriately menacing here, echoing Misery and 10 Cloverfield Lane, as Claire tries to reason with this crazed loner.
When reasoning with Drogan doesn’t work, Dr. Finn concocts a plan to reunite her with Isaac and the children. The choice to have this doctor who espouses the value of life chose to stab and kill Drogan as a last resort to escape to was one of the the darkest moment of the series so far. Along with the killing of the Krill crew (in “Krill”) this shows that The Orville may seek to embrace to optimism of The Next Generation, but it isn’t afraid to take a walk on the dark side every once in a while and these characters have a few shades of grey.
As Isaac and the children learn more about each other, Ty falls prey to the waterborne illness that’s infected most of the planet’s inhabitants, turning them into feral cannibals. As is his style, Braga effectively adds a dollop of horror to his sci-fi, and he does a good job with pacing, delivering the sharpest and most concise hour of the series so far. It’s not just a scenario where we hope our characters get off the moon alive, but now Dr. Finn must synthesize an antidote, all while escaping her captor and getting back to her children.
As they repair the shuttle’s communicator and try to find a way off the moon, the odds definitely do not seem in their favor as the tension rises and more of the infected hostile species close in on them. “Into the Fold” has some great moments of palpable tension, whether that’s a classic play on the “monster is coming” trope, or the ending where you genuinely feel like our characters are in danger, thus making us care for them even more.
This was a great character piece that took two of the show’s most underdeveloped characters, Dr. Finn and Issac, and fleshed them out in new, exciting ways. While the children themselves start out as typically annoying, thanks to Isaac they become far more endearing as they learn that deep space comes with risks and consequences. The humor was much more subtly woven into the narrative and often not only did it derive from character, but it advanced the characters as well.
“Into the Fold” may have been the darkest episode of the show yet, but it still didn’t lose sight of its optimism. Dr. Finn reminds her son of their values as she tells him to only stun the infected, and after a cure is found and they are rescued, Kelly lets us know they will make sure the remaining inhabitants of this war-ravaged moon also get helped. Braga and Bormanis lets the story go in some pretty morbid places, but doesn’t forget to tell a rousing and uplifting adventure story. That’s why “Into The Fold” works so well, and it is without a doubt the best episode of The Orville yet.
- Dr. Finn chose to be a single mother.
- The recreational planet Arboreus Prime prime included sky cranes, gravity bubbles and a hotel above the clouds
- Isaac’s line “I am better than everyone else” seems lifted right from Data in “Encounter at Farpoint,” where he says “I am superior.”
- Claire’s comment that “Bradley’s parents are alcoholics” shows that substance abuse is still a thing in this future.
- Did it really take them 8 episodes to do a fart joke? Surprising for a Seth MacFarlane show.
- Now that Dr. Finn has given Isaac a literal “welcome to the family,” will he now be a sort of Robot Uncle to Marcus and Ty?
- With the focus on Isaac, it would have been nice to learn more about how he is making his reports on his observations of humanity for the Kalon.
- There was surprisingly little focus on the space anomaly and how the Orville navigated with just the stars coming from an episode co-written by science advisor turned writer Andre Bormanis.
Clips from “Into the Fold”
Behind the scenes with ‘The Orville’ makeup
Fox has also released another behind the scenes video, this time featuring Oscar-winning makeup designer Howard Berger talking about making the alien designs for The Orville.
Preview for next week’s episode, “It’s All Your Fault”
Keep up with all the The Orville news, reviews and interviews at TrekMovie.com.