Review: “Blood of Patriots”
The Orville Season 2, Episode 10 – Aired Thursday, March 7, 2019
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by Rebecca Rodriguez
As the USS Orville arrives to begin peace negotiations with the Krill, they give asylum to an old friend of Gordon Malloy’s, who is accused of terrorist attacks against the Krill. Malloy’s loyalty is pulled between his oaths to the Union and his debt to his friend.
“Blood of Patriots” succeeds as a stand-alone episode, delivering plot and character moments on its own terms decently. But it falls short as an installment in a serial adventure.
Warning: When in the course of a television review it becomes necessary to use SPOILERS, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires a warning. So, spoilers below!
This past week, I’ve been asking Trek fans, “How do you follow up ‘The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2’?” And the answer they’ve given—to a person—is “Family.” That’s not just a trivia question or a proof of fan credentials. It’s a truth, a glimpse at part of the genius that made Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s third and fourth season the unstoppable engine of quality that they were. Where do you go from a gigantic, fast-paced, action-packed two-part episode? You go deep on the consequences of the two-parter, you dive into the characters in a meaningful way, to show that what happened in the two-parter meant something.
“Identity, Parts 1 and 2” were The Orville‘s first foray into feature-length storytelling, and while it didn’t quite reach the heights of “The Best of Both Worlds,” it was an impressive story, well told. The battle sequence at the end of Part 2, reportedly the longest space battle in television history, was thrilling, leaving the viewer just trying to catch their breath. So, did The Orville learn the lesson of “Family”?
Yes and no.
LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
“Blood of Patriots” opens with a ceremony investing Lt. Yaphit with the Sapphire Star for heroism. This is a great little bit of continuity to “Identity,” when Yaphit performed his heroic actions. This scene indicates to the viewer that this episode is connected to “Identity” and promises that the consequences of that episode will receive treatment here.
That promise is reconfirmed when the celebration is interrupted by a call from Admiral Perry (Ted Danson), who orders Mercer and the Orville to rendezvous with Krill ambassadors aboard the vessel Davoro’kos (“bringer of blood”) at Tarazed 3 to begin negotiations toward the signing of a Lak’vai pact—a precursor to a formal peace treaty, an assurance of good faith.
Arriving at Tarazed 3, the Orville detects the Krill ship, and something else: a damaged Krill shuttle, fleeing the Davoro’kos under fire. The shuttle requests emergency docking aboard the Orville. Crashing into the shuttle bay, the tiny ship turns out to contain an old friend of Gordon Malloy’s, Orrin Chambers, and his daughter Leyna. Chambers is a Union officer who claims he and Leyna have been detained in a Krill prison camp for 20 years and just recently escaped. The Krill claim that Chambers is responsible for the destruction of four of their warships—three in the month since the cease-fire with the Union. Chambers is allegedly responsible for over 1200 deaths, and the Krill want him back for interrogation and execution.
Mackenzie Astin plays Chambers as a man who is fiercely proud and deeply injured, and maintains just enough of a sense of nobility to keep us wondering whether he is being falsely accused. Scott Grimes – who is usually leaned on heavily for comic relief on The Orville – mostly plays Malloy for the drama here, letting us see his deep friendship with Chambers and the loyalty he owes to a man who saved his life at the cost of 20 years of abuse at the hands of the Krill. Kudos to both of them for solid acting throughout this episode.
LONG TRAIN OF ABUSES
The Krill come aboard the Orville to demand Chambers’ extradition, but Mercer wants them stalled until he can figure out whether there is any validity to their claims. This leads to an extended sequence in which Talla Keyali not only subjects the Krill to greater and greater humiliation, requiring them to divulge personal information, give urine samples, and eventually submit to rectal examinations. The “pee corner” of the shuttle bay, one of the last episode’s small jokes, makes its return here. I found this sequence unfunny and unworthy of the second season’s more mature tone.
Chambers has suffered greatly in Krill custody. Malloy tells Mercer that Chambers’ wife was killed in a Krill attack on Outpost 73, when Chambers saved the lives of Malloy and a number of others by pulling them to safety, after which he and his daughter disappeared. Chambers has paid the price for that sacrifice for 20 years. His rage and agony are well-played and feel real. He is opposed to a cease-fire with the Krill. “You make a deal with tyranny, it only gets worse.”
The episode doesn’t pull any punches. It lays out the stakes very clearly—a lasting peace with the Krill could save billions of lives according to Admiral Perry, but it means sitting down at the table with people who have already killed and tortured tens of thousands of Union citizens. And the Krill worldview justifies these killings. They see the Union as “godless heretics by nature,” and Gordon calls them “…butchering, fundamentalist fanatics! We shouldn’t even be talking to them!” The overarching theme of the season—the question of whether or not there can be tolerance between people who differ so strongly in their worldview and values—is expressed vigorously here. We also saw this theme expressed with the Moclans in “Deflectors” and “Primal Urges,” with the Kaylon in “Identity, Parts 1 and 2,” and with the Krill in “Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes.” What are the limits of tolerance? Can intolerance be tolerated? What if “they” seem bigoted to “us”? What if “they” have hurt “us,” badly? It’s an important theme, and I’m glad the show is taking it so seriously, and treating it at such depth.
The Davoro’kos departs the system for no reason, promising to come back in 12 hours, and demands to receive custody of Chambers upon their return, or there will be no Lak’vai and no peace.
A LITTLE REBELLION NOW AND THEN
When Chambers learns that the Union admirals are considering extraditing him to the Krill if he is found guilty of destroying those ships, he asks Malloy to help him steal a shuttle. Malloy is torn between his loyalty to Orrin and his oaths to the Union, not to mention his loyalty to Ed Mercer and the crew of the Orville. In a way, this theme contrasts with the actions that Isaac took in “Identity.” But even though there is a bit of a misdirect, trying to make us think that Malloy is going along with Chambers’ plan, his loyalties are not in serious doubt. Mercer needs to figure out how Chambers could have destroyed four Krill ships without any apparent weapon, and Malloy goes along with Chambers’ plan to help him figure it out.
This involves running through the halls of the Orville, shooting Talla with a stun pistol, and stealing a throat lozenge—er, I mean shuttle—to rendezvous with the Krill ship. Chambers’ daughter Leyna, who has seemed terrified all episode long, resisted a medical examination, and has not said a word, suddenly turns violently on Talla, holding a knife to her throat. Talla flips her into a wall with her Xeleyan strength, and Leyna bleeds duck sauce from her nostrils. Dr. Finn identifies her immediately as an Envall from Lakar B, a species whose blood becomes explosive in a nitrogen-rich atmosphere like that aboard a Krill ship. The crew deduces that Chambers had launched containers of Leyna’s blood at the Krill ships using the Krill shuttle’s torpedo launcher, destroying them. But the Union lozenge has no torpedo launcher! Chambers has taken Malloy on a suicide mission.
WALL OF SEPARATION
As the Orville speeds to intercept the lozenge of death, Orrin reveals his plan and the container of Envall blood to Malloy. “What is that?” Malloy asks. “Justice,” answers Chambers. “Looks more like egg nog.” I laughed when I first saw the design of the “quantum storage cell” that Chambers steals to safely transport the blood. Lamarr explains that it uses a small antigrav field to transport quantum plasma from one place to another, but it looks for all the world like it a pneumatic suction container, which does the same thing at bank drive-thrus across the country.
Gordon refuses to go along with Chambers’ plan, a fistfight ensues, Gordon destroys the shuttle’s controls, and Chambers sets the blood for detonation. Gordon has to don a space suit to escape the lozenge via spacewalk, and Chambers refuses, blowing himself and the lozenge to smithereens. The Orville arrives just in time to retrieve Gordon via tractor beam.
The Lak’vai is signed, in a ceremony with a flourish of little speeches that neatly bookends the episode with the award ceremony at the beginning. And the episode closes with a touching little scene between Ed and Gordon, in which Ed reveals that he needs his friendship with Gordon because he can’t reveal his doubts and insecurities with any other member of the crew without undermining their confidence in his leadership.
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS
“Blood of Patriots” is a solid episode that picks up one of the major threads from the two-part “Identity” story: the new cease-fire with the Krill, who are ostensibly the Planetary Union’s main rivals in their part of the galaxy. Is this enough for “Blood of Patriots” to credibly pick up the consequences from the previous episode? In “Identity,” Captain Mercer was forced to seek the assistance of their longtime enemies in the face of a common foe. That shows that “Identity” meant something, right?
Sort of. But then we see Captain Mercer issuing orders to Isaac on the bridge of the Orville, and Isaac carrying them out efficiently, as if Isaac’s betrayal—leading to the deaths of dozens of nameless redshirted members of the Orville’s crew, along with the USS Roosevelt and ultimately the crews of many Union vessels—never happened. Even though The Orville still remains a show built around the standalone episodic structure, the show skillfully built up to “Identity” with a series of character moments throughout the second season. All indications were that it would take time for Isaac to fully regain the trust of the crew and for this issue to not even merit a mention in “Blood of Patriots” is a serious misstep.
Nevertheless, “Blood of Patriots” is an affecting and effective episode when judged on its own merits. It does carry on the main theme of the season in a compelling way, and while it feels padded at times with too many transitional shots of the Orville in space, it is competently directed. I disliked playing the Krills’ humiliation at the hands of security for laughs, but perhaps this will come back to haunt the Orville like their demeaning of Isaac did in “Identity.” Here’s hoping.
- The episode title comes from a famous quote by Thomas Jefferson, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
- Yaphit is the second Orville crewmember to receive the Sapphire Star award, following Alara Kitan, who earned it in the first season episode “Command Performance.”
- Terazed Three is an actual, real-life location in space. According to wikipedia, Terazed is a common name for the star Gamma Aquilae, in the constellation Aquila.
- The music in this episode is tense and excellent. As the Orville approaches Terazed Three, the music reminded me of the approach of the Enterprise to the Reliant in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and the battle music reminded me of John Williams’ Return of the Jedi score.
- Talla gets two chances to showcase her Xeleyan strength in this episode, ripping off the door of the damaged shuttle, and flipping Leyna into a wall while at knife-point. More of this, please!
- It has been 30 days since the events of “Identity, Part 2.”
- 20 years ago, Gordon had a mohawk. Sadly, when we see an old photo of Malloy and Chambers together at the end of the episode, we don’t get to see Scott Grimes in full-on Mr. T mode.
- The holographic game we saw Isaac playing with the Finn boys in “Identity, Part 1” is called Bolodon discs.
- Talla teaches Leyna to play the pelpifa, a Xeleyan instrument that combines musical tones with holographic patterns.
- Gordon shows Leyna the movie Planet of the Apes – how would the climax of this movie make any sense to someone who had never been on Earth?
- Gordon drinks scotch, neat. Talla drinks a Xeleyan rum.
- The Krill ambassador is played by Berman era Trek alumnus John Fleck. Best known for the role of Silik on Star Trek: Enterprise.
- This was Ted Danson’s second appearance as Admiral Perry, the last being “All the World is Birthday Cake.”
- “Maybe we could offer the Krill something else instead [of Chambers]?” “Like what?” “Free back rubs, or something?” “Yeah listen, I gotta get back to this.” Gordon and Ed
- “You know what scared me the most? The knowledge that someday, years down the line, there would come a time when her absence would feel like the norm, when I would resign myself to her loss, and my life – the life that I accepted as real – would be the one without her in it. And now that is my reality.” Orrin in a touching speech
- “So basically all this guy’s done is steal a bunch of pens from the office. What are we missing?” Ed Mercer
- “I’m sorry. It’s not easy to put duty before a friendship, especially when someone dies.” “Orrin died a long time ago, back in that Krill prison. The man who died in that shuttle was someone else.” Ed and Gordon
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