Review: ‘The Orville’ Takes An Emotional Turn In “Home”

Review: “Home”

The Orville Season 2, Episode 3 – Aired Thursday, January 10, 2019

Written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong

Directed by Jon Cassar

When an arm wrestling match between Alara Kitan and Isaac results in a broken arm for Alara, Dr. Finn discovers that Alara is losing both muscle mass and bone density as a result of living in an Earth-normal gravity aboard the Orville, compared to the far higher gravity of her home planet, Xeleya. She must return home to re-acclimate herself to the higher gravity and regain her bone density and strength.

While with her family, Alara has to work through her relationships with her parents and her sister, while trying to resolve a terrifying home invasion. The result is an episode that is light on comedy but strong with familial themes and emotion.

Seth MacFarlane, Halston Sage and Adrianne Palicki in “Home”

EXIT, SAGE RIGHT

It has been known in the fan community for months that actress Halston Sage would be leaving The Orville, at least for some time. If “Home” is, in fact, Halston Sage’s swan song, writer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong has fashioned a wonderful exit for her character. This is an episode that showcases Alara Kitan’s inner strength, much like last season’s “Firestorm” (also written by  Chevapravatdumrong). Early in the episode, Capt. Mercer argues that Alara doesn’t just bring her Xeleyan strength to her role as Security Chief, but also a valuable “skill set.” During this episode, Kitan gets to display that skill set in spades – questioning witnesses, examining a crime scene, and fighting at a disadvantage against a much stronger, armed opponent.

Alara’s replacement aboard the Orville is an elephantine alien officer named Lt. Tharl, played by the booming-voiced Patrick Warburton. The character displays a tendency pointed out by TrekMovie user The River Temarc in comments from our review of the last episode, “Primal Urges”: “[The show has a] habit of creating highly realistic alien prosthetics and then having said aliens behave — and *speak* — like early 21st-century bros, down to the hipster accents.” Tharl calls the ship “sick” and “bitchin’,” and says his previous Captain had a “boner” for him, but “not a boner-boner, a professional boner.” I could have lived the rest of my lifetime without hearing that exchange, and been just fine. Tharl also eats noisily on the bridge (out of a Tupperware container, no less!) but otherwise does nothing to advance the plot of the episode. Don’t expect to see his character remain in the show.

Patrick Warburton in “Home”

YOU CAN DO IT

The family drama takes center stage in “Home,” as the episode picks up threads from “Firestorm” to depict the patriarch Ildis Kitan (the always excellent Trek veteran Robert Picardo) as a demanding intellectual who looks down on the choices his younger daughter has made. Mother Drenala (played by another Trek alum, Molly Hagan) is loving, but also does not understand why her daughter would join “the military.” Incidentally, “the military” is how everyone describes the Planetary Union fleet in this episode.

Soon after arriving on Xeleya, Alara pours out her pain in an argument with her father. “All I ever needed to hear from you was, ‘you can do it.’ That’s all, just once, and maybe it would have been a lie, but I needed that, Dad – I really needed it.” She sees her entire family as “rooting for me to fail,” and longs to be respected for the work she does, and for the person she is. This is a theme that will resonate with many young people going out into the world and making a life for themselves different from what their parents had expected.

Robert Picardo and Molly Hagan in “Home”

When their home is invaded by a charming couple that quickly turns menacing, it is Alara who inspires her father to take action, telling him, “You can do this, Dad. You can do it.” And by encouraging her father with the words she herself had longed to hear, Alara brings about not only the resolution of the plot, but the family reunion she desperately needed. It’s very neat, but also heartfelt and real.

The menacing couple is played by Star Trek: Enterprise‘s John Billingsley and Kerry O’Malley. The two of them convincingly portray both the charm-with-a-hint-of-sorrow that their initial charade demands, and then make the turn to terrifying kidnappers and killers with ruthless efficiency. Honestly, the tone of a couple of the kidnapping scenes was quite intense, amping up the “V” component of this episode’s “DLV” rating.

John Billingsley in “Home”

TRASH

One of the understated themes of this episode is that of class differences. Gordon Malloy describes Xeleya as the “best-looking planet in the Union,” and upon seeing its gorgeous CGI vistas up close declares, “You know, it’s places like this that make me realize… God, I’m trash. My family is trash.” The Kitan family lives in an enormous, modern-looking home, and own another palatial home on a remote resort island. They reach the island in an amazingly-designed, leather-appointed Xeleyan skimmer that looks like what Mercedes or BMW would build if they had anti-grav technology. They have a man who is a hired helper to maintain their vacation property, who himself lives in a tiny house elsewhere on the island, and when kidnapper Cambis Borrin takes a swig of the Kitan family’s Frizzian champagne, he declares, “Oh, Ildis, you’ve been holding out on us! Saving this for higher-class company?” 

Class differences among humans are something that Star Trek rarely delved into, usually depicting the Federation as a utopian society with no class distinctions. The TOS episode “The Cloud Minders” contrasted the cloud-dwelling residents of Stratos with the zenite-mining Troglytes below. More recently, the first-season Star Trek: Discovery episode, “Choose Your Pain” featured an imprisoned Harry Mudd stating accusingly to Captain Lorca, “Have you ever bothered to look out of your spaceships at the little guys below? If you had, you’d realize that there’s a lot more of us down there than there are you, up here. And we’re sick and tired of getting caught in your crossfire.” Interestingly, in that episode, it was Starfleet that was seen as the higher-class elite, whereas in The Orville, the Union Fleet is seen as more working-class. It’s a fascinating difference to explore.

Xelayah in “Home”

TRIVALVE SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE

“Home” also dips its toe into current-issue controversy through the motivations of Billingsley and O’Malley’s characters, who are seeking revenge against Picardo’s Dr. Ildis Kitan for writing a paper discrediting their son, Galdus Harona, who had been an outspoken opponent of a widespread vaccine. Ildis’ paper pointed out Galdus’ shoddy methodology and flawed conclusions, which led Galdus to spiral into a years-long depression until he eventually took his own life.

While not a focus of the episode like porn-addition in last week’s episode “Primal Urges,” by presenting this vengeful, kidnapping family as “anti-vaxxers,” The Orville makes a statement on the present-day controversy over the widespread use of vaccines. It is not unusual for Seth MacFarlane to take stands opposed to the public proclamations of Hollywood celebrities when he thinks they are wrong, and this seems to be another of those bold stands.

Seth MacFarlane and Scott Grimes in “Home”

In the end “Home” delivers the most satisfying episode of the sophomore season so far. The show seems to be settling in, bringing a good mix of action, character drama, social commentary and humor.  

BRIEF BITS:

  • Jason Alexander returns as Olix the bartender, is he the Guinan of The Orville?
  • The name of Alara’s home planet is spelled “Xeleyah” in the episode’s subtitles and in some promotional material – it is not clear to me if this reflects an official change in the spelling of this planet’s name, or is just a persistent typo
  • Betting on the Isaac/Alara arm wrestling competition uses comscanner code 7-4-9-9-A-6
  • Yaphet (Norm McDonald) appears in this episode and has a line, after being almost absent in the first two episodes of the season
  • Captain Mercer’s hardsuit takes some visual cues from Iron Man’s armor
  • Gordon: “Hang on – I’ve always wanted to try something on this planet. Brought this with me.” Tosses bottle outside shield, it crushes to the ground. Is there a connection between the class themes in this episode (“trash”) and Gordon littering?
  • The picture of a wild eevek in the background in Alara’s room foreshadows the later appearance of the eevek on the Kitan family’s property and Alara’s stunningly-beautiful dream of riding an eevek across the beach at sunset
  • “Yaphet’s six-month evaluation was last week, and he asked what our parental leave policy is.” “Why, is he thinking of splitting in half?” “We can’t legally ask him that.” Kelly and Ed, in a brief, funny bit
  • “I have a theory. I think the soldiers and the intellectuals all secretly wants what the other has. The muscle wants the brains, and the brains wish they had what it takes to clobber the barroom drunk who gets out of line.” “Why can’t a person have both?” – Solanna Kitan and Alara
  • Dr. Ildis’ article was published in the Xeleyan Journal of Science, titled, “The Mellara Vaccine, and its Effects on the Risk of Torin’s Syndrome: A Formal Dispute.” 
  • “I will not go on record declaring a vaccine is dangerous when it isn’t!” – Dr. Kitan
  • The violence in this episode is heavy. Cambis forces Ildis to plunge his hand into boiling trivalve sauce and threatens to cut off one of Solana’s fingers with garden shears. Alara fights and kills Floratta, and shoots Cambis dead. Pretty grim stuff, Orville.
  • “I don’t know you. I never even tried to know you.” “I wanted you to know me, Dad. All I ever wanted was for you to be proud of me.” – Ildis and Alara
  • “We’ve managed to create a finite area of stabilized synthetic graviton particles in the simulator.” – Lamarr, raising the question if the Orville has artificial gravity, why is this such a hard thing to pull off?
  • Alara’s parting gift to Ed is a jar of pickles, a callback to Ed’s favorite command to Alara in the first season, to “open that jar of pickles” when confronted with a locked door. 
  • Alara’s goodbye montage is presented with no dialogue, over music only, and it showcases Halston Sage’s great smile. Her departure is reminiscent of the first-season exit of Denise Crosby’s Natasha Yar character in TNG. The Orville did it better.
  • The alien with the vertically-stacked eyes in the arm-wrestling scene has a voice that sounds like Wallace Shawn. Can’t be him, though, can it?

A Xelayan eevek in “Home”


Keep up with all the The Orville news, reviews and interviews at TrekMovie.com.

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Scott Gammans

The last three minutes of the episode were an emotional catharsis not only for Alara the character but also, I’m sure, for Halston Sage and her castmates (and us). The reveal of Alara’s parting gift and Ed’s reaction were simply perfect. If this really is Halston Sage’s swan song, they did a helluva job.

Denny C

An unexpectedly emotional episode with great performances. Nicely done.

Richard

I really loved seeing Billingsly and Picardo in the same scenes. These are two awesome actors, playing CMOs of their respective starships now playing against each other. This was a real treat.

I was unaware of the actress leaving the show, but the departure was handled well. I cried when she left. This episode was a great look at a society that feels superior because of their supposed intellect. “Knowledge is Power” but arrogance is going to be their achilles heel

NCC Lincoln 1785

Yes that was. Was hoping for Doctors debate

Mike

Really loved the performances of both Picardo and Billingsley. I did not expect Billingsley to turn full antagonist. Picardo’s role was in many ways similar to the EMH, or Woolsey in Stargate, so the behavior felt expected. Billingsley I primarily know from Enterprise, where he plays a very friendly, kind character.

Turning full-on homicidal, forcing Picardo’s character to burn himself in boiling water, was quite shocking to say the least.

You should see Billingsley on True Blood then.

Olaf

Go watch the mirror universe two-parter of Enterprise! You’re in for a treat! ;-)

Cygnus-X1

Yeah, Billingsley is quite convincing in this episode. He does the nice-guy-pushed-too-far persona very well.

A fine send-off in and of itself, but it’s still exceedingly frustrating that she’s leaving. She was wonderful.

There’s apparently a replacement lined up but she looks VERY similar to Alara. And is from the same species, even. Which… is really rather awkward.

Not sure how they’re going to handle that.

I’m interested to find out, at least. But in more of a “how did this roadside accident happen” kind of way, not necessarily a good one.

We’ll see.

Olaf

Well, it seems to make sense to pick another Xelayan, because of their inherent strength. And to keep the simulator program ;-) But other than that, yeah, it’s awkward…

RFontcuB

“We have to replace Commander Sonak. I’d still like a Vulcan there, if possible.”

ADeweyan

Exactly what came to my mind as well. At least here the officer left of her free will rather than as the victim of a horrifying transporter accident.

PuertoGeekan

If I remember correctly, it was established in S1 that Captain Mercer has a preference for Xelayans as security chiefs.

GarySeven

I want Alara back! Sage played this wonderful character so well. If this is because Seth dated her, it sucks that we all have to suffer because of his romantic issues. At any rate, this was a wonderful episode that had me tearing. I want to thank McFarlane for bringing us back to a Star Trek which, while shockingly able to portray viciousness, is really about the best in us and our capacity to love and care for each other, which to me is what Star Trek really is about.

I guess Halston didn’t want to open Seth’s jar of pickles! ;)

It was a pretty good episode, and Alara will be missed. My only problem with the episode is how useless Gordon was. I mean, do they not have a second hard gravity suit aboard? Can’t he replicate one real quick, put it on, and pull Ed back into the shuttle?

PuertoGeekan

Or just move the shuttle a couple of feet over until the force field is over Mercer!

The River Temarc

Wow, it’s not every day you get a shout out on the front page! ;)

This episode was, after two cringingly bad outings, wonderful — setting aside Tharl, of course, and Yaphit, who also has the bro-accent (brocent?). And notice they abandoned any pretense of comedy and toned down the helmsperson’s wisecracking. It was reminiscent of “Skin of Evil,” “ENT “Home,” and DS9 “Melora.” But it was still fresh.

I find it hard to believe that a humanoid species would have evolved on a high-gravity world, but that’s a minor point.

Halston Sage was one of the best things about the Orville. I hope she comes back, and I’m worried the remaining cast isn’t strong enough to make up for her absence. And replacing her with another female Xeleyan security chief screams lack of imagination.

Cygnus-X1

Malloy’s “trash” line was very funny and had me laughing for about 15 seconds. Tharl was obviously supposed to be comic relief also, but didn’t really work that well. The total lack of humor from Norm MacDonald’s character is an ongoing vexation for me. Norm MacDonald is literally one of the funniest professional comedians ever. I honestly regard him as the funniest person alive. And The Orville gives him totally unfunny dialogue. I just don’t get it.

I shared your thought that one would expect Xeleyans to be shorter and stouter in stature, given their high gravity environment. But, it is science fiction, and who knows what Xeleyan biology is like. Their anatomy might just be much denser than ours. Maybe they have less water and their bones are made of stronger stuff. Maybe they have titanium in their bones. Or super strong carbon molecules, like graphene or diamond.

kmart

I sure don’t see or feel what everyone else seems to have gotten from this. I never liked the character, but this sendoff is worse than Kirk in GENERATIONS, which from me is saying a lot.

If this was their attempt to do something in the vein of FAMILY, then it comes up as epic miss.

This whole episode was the biggest snooze they’ve offered up so far, much worse than the pilot even, and that’s coming from somebody who admits to being a fan of the show and has watched everything in the run twice. Not this one, though …

kitbashcanon

Since Captain Mercer, and the show itself, was nobody’s first choice, I feel expectations are greatly relaxed…and one can then enjoy little tidbits of it here and there. I liked the episode a lot. Will miss Alara. Maybe she’ll come back. Is she doing a movie or something, that takes her away from Orville for awhile?

NCC Lincoln 1785

Crosby was like I need more money the writers and show runner some we’rel like you are died

kmart

I thought she wanted out because of the paucity of good material. She even said that if she had gotten more shows as engaging as SKIN, she wouldn’t have asked to leave.

Chris Freestone

Regarding the artificial gravity on board and simulating Xeleyah’s gravity on the sim deck, I can understand why this would be an issue. A human can handle about 9Gs for 15-30 seconds before passing out, and even this force wouldn’t crush a metal bottle or pulverise bone. It would barely have a noticeable physical impact on anything. Therefore, Xeleyah’s gravitational pull must be several orders of magnitude higher than even 9G. To attempt to replicate that in a sim deck would a) require an override of pretty much all safety features, b) present a physical risk to nearby bulkheads, and c) cause potential distortion of the solid holo projection systems. Basically, it would need to be contained within a gravity field similar to that used by the shuttles, and that’s not something you’d normally have set up for a small area of the ship. Speaking of the gravity field around the shuttle, I was a little annoyed that when Picardo stepped into the field, he didn’t immediately lift Ed up onto a chair one handed, or accidentally throw him into the wall – suddenly finding himself in 1G.

I, too, am very sorry to see Sage leave. I really like the Alara character, and Sage has an absolutely dazzling smile.

Danpaine

This episode was exactly what the doctor ordered. Very well done.

Bob F

I haven’t been watching The Orville since season 1 episode 2 because of Seth Mc and hais sophomoric humor. Please tell me he has stopped telling piss and fart jokes and maybe I’ll try again. That sort of humor is not a STNG type thing.

PS. Seth totally ruined the Green Hornet!

It still has them from time to time.

Wrong Seth with The Green Hornet. Seth Mcfarlane (Family Guy, Ted) produces The Orville. Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, Neighbors) was in The Green Hornet.

Bob F

Argh. Thanks soooo much! I’ll give it a try!

FrostUK

I gave up on Season 1 after 4 or 5 episodes but I have to admit I’ve watched all of Season 2 so far and I have enjoyed it a lot. I might go back and watch the rest of Season 1.

ML31

Funny to hear all this. I’m actually pretty disappointed so far with the first 3 episodes. And it’s mainly because of the lack of comedy. This show is pretty ‘blah’ without the laughs. They REALLY need to bring them back. Desperately.

DataMat

Is Seth trying to mimic TNG beat for beat?
Comedy and lameness in S1
More seriousness and moral debating for S2?
What next?

ML31

I wouldn’t say “lameness”. I thought the balance between comedy and drama leaned a tad too much to the drama in S1 but at least many of the jokes landed. Thus far in S2, including last nights yawner that has yet to be reviewed here, the jokes for the most part fall flat. Which makes for a very tired show. So far, season 2 is less than season 1. And it’s falling pretty fast.

John Ruschmeyer

One minor criticism… was it just me or were the effects when we first see the wild Even *really* bad. I mean like, “Clash Of The Titans’ bad.

It was just you.

I agree this was definitely the best episode of the new season and one of the stronger outings of the series so far. Alara was one of my favorite characters on the show, so I am sad to see her go.

I would make a strong comparison Alara’s departure to Yar’s on TNG.

1) The Yar character was not effective and I thought one of the worst elements of season 1, due to both the writing and Crosby’s performance. (I liked her far more as Sela on TNG and in other shows like Ray Donovan.)

2) Alara was around for longer and the reason for her departure was at least organic to her character arc.

I thought Warburton was funny as Tharl, but that the character would be better suited to another show — e.g. if Orville’s premise was full-on “The Office” in space. On the Orville, Tharl is an example where the balance between the comedy and the drama is off.

MattR

Tasha made it through 23 episodes. Alara only made it through 15 episode…though I feel pretty sure she’ll be back at some point.

Vice Admiral Nakamura

Armus gave Halston Sage a tough break. I hope she finds what she’s looking for as she departs to join The Traveler. BTW, hipsters and bros are two different things.

skyjedi

They Tasha Yared one of the best characters.

Gary 8.5

Not really.
Tasha died.

Marja

P L E A S E … Put a SPOILER WARNING at the beginning of the article.

I’m so glad I had already seen the episode when I read the review!

I don’t mind the crew speaking in contemporary American slang. That’s part of what makes the show funny, whether Dann is reciting crappy poetry or Patrick Warburton’s character is using bro-slang for “great!” It’s kind of a send-up of the idea that every alien speaks perfect English. [We Trek fans have the Universal Translator to excuse that, but.]

The first three episodes were pretty good; I don’t look for High Art or even Great Writing when I watch Orville. The crew are watchable, Ed’s relationship with his ex-wife is wayyyyy old [it was old by episode 3 of Season 1], but I will say the SFX look awesome and Episode 3 Season 2 has the most beautiful backgrounds [and alien creature] I have seen in a while.

Ep. 1 didn’t bother me as much as it might have; the reviewer was put off by it, but I liked the send-up of “Amok Time” with its “alien biology aspect. The second episode was touching and I love the Maclans anyway; the “witnesses” subplots were good, with Isaac serving as a positive witness and Ed serving as a creepy sort of witness.

This third ep was funny and touching. I was surprised by the violence, but it fit the circumstances, I thought. The gift at the end was something I saw coming the moment Alara handed Ed the box, it was a little TOO cute.

Curious Cadet

@Marja — well there’s no accounting for taste. ;-)

Although, I do agree with your perspective on what you like about the show. That said, I feel like we’ve had three filler episodes so far, the forgettable kind that air between the good episodes of a TNG season, none of which do much to excite the audience, just a lot of boring exposition. And MacFarlane truly looks bored in these three episodes. The writing is entirely too on the nose and barely skims the surface of any issue. I actually detested the nod to vaccination skeptics, especially in this context, where it got all confused with the suicide of their son. It’s just another example of scratching the superficial surface of an issue, and spoon feeding the simplistic stories to their audience. The humor, what little is left, seems misplaced and is generally overshadowed by the heavy-handed, melodramatic drama.

I’m excited to see the next episode with the Krill. If nothing else, at least there should be some excitement, but I’m sort of counting the humor out, and MacFarlane still looks bored … at least in the previews anyway.

bree

i thought that the ending was appropriate had this been at the end of the fifth or sixth season. honestly, it’s been one season. imagine that you worked a year at a job, you would not expect this kind of attention for a send-off, would you? though if it is her last show, it’s a loss for the orville. but potentially a terrific booster shot for Sage’s post-Orville career (she should thank her agent and McFarlane in such case).

ML31

“Why, is he thinking about splitting in half?”

Best line in the episode.

Is it me or is the humor ebbing away in the show? Episodes used to have a lot more, or better jokes.

Cygnus-X1

MacFarlane said during the interim between Season 1 and 2 that the latter would focus more on drama and less on humor. I’m not sure why he’s made that decision, but it is intentional. The good side of that is that the stories have been much tighter and well constructed. Season 1 had much awkwardness due to the conflict between the show’s comedic and dramatic ambitions. Focusing on the drama has remedied the conflict, but the down side is, of course, that there are fewer jokes. I hope they do at least a few episodes this season that are comedic episodes, like Season 1’s “Cupid’s Dagger,” which worked very well.

On one of Mark A. Altman’s podcasts that I was listening to recently, writer/Producer David A. Goodman has said there’s a good group of more humorous episodes this season as well. He said they did a roughly even split between more dramatic and more humorous episodes.

He kind of hints at that in our coverage from Comic-Con as well:

https://trekmovie.com/2018/07/26/sdcc18-the-orville-panel-promises-bolder-more-confident-sci-fi-in-season-2/

There are episodes this year that are full comedy, start to finish. Then we got some serious, dark stuff.

ML31

This is just obviously just speculation but I get the feeling at this point that Seth really would rather do the more TNG-like episodes without the gags. And I kinda feel like he would like to be taken more seriously than he is. Hence his heavy involvement in Cosmos and the leaning away from the jokes in Orville.

The idea that they have intentionally turned down the comedic elements really doesn’t do the show any favors. It’s more bland and tired without the gags.

Cygnus-X1

Matt Wright

Thanks, that’s good to know.

Phil

Was done with this last year, but still check the ratings. Year over year, not so good. The show is bleeding off its audience.

That’s a weird thing you do.

Cygnus-X1

I enjoyed this one and agree that it’s the best of Season 2 so far.

I had to go back and watch carefully to find Jason Alexander’s extremely brief cameo. He’s the green alien with the horns on his head taking bets on the arm-wrestling contest. (BTW, Denes House, is there some significance to the comscanner code being 7-4-9-9-A-6?) I hope we get to see more of him. Having him be The Orville’s Guinan is a splendid idea.

Among other good things, The Orville has adopted Trek’s habit of hiring Seinfeld actors, of which there are three in this episode: Patrick Warburton, who played David Puddy on Seinfeld; Molly Hagan, who played George Costanza’s Latvian Orthodox love-interest; and, of course, George Costanza, himself — Jason Alexander.

Nitpick: When Alara is on the beach, we see a couple of planets in the sky that appear to be as close to Xeleya as a moon would be to a planet. Given Xeleya’s extreme gravity, it can’t be a moon. Xeleya must be something like 100 or 1000 times the mass of the Earth. Is it possible for such a massive planet to be so close to other planets? I’m only familiar with our Solar system, but none of our planets — even the smallest ones — are nearly so close together. From the Earth, both Venus and Mars (our closest planets) look like tiny dots in the sky.

Jeff Haas

What the hell happened to The Orville?! I guess if you get rid of most of the regular cast and replace them with two Star Trek vets, and dump the idiotic jokes, suddenly it’s pretty good. Predictable, and obvious, but still pretty good…instead of stupid.

Really like it. It was nice to see some Star Trek actors for this one. And this week episode 4 was one of the better one to date. The Orville season 2 didn’t started very strong but episodes 3-4 are pretty good.