Gently Falling Rain”
The Orville Season 3 (New Horizons), Episode 4 – Debuted Thursday, June 23, 2022
Written by: Brannon Braga & Andre Bormanis
and directed by: Jon Cassar
As the Planetary Union moves toward signing a treaty with their longtime foes, the Krill, everything seems to be moving in a positive direction. But a change in the political winds on Krill strands Captain Mercer and his delegation on the wrong side of the new administration, which is headed by a familiar face. Can a lasting peace be salvaged from a mess of demagoguery and fear? Can Mercer and his friends even survive? And how does this strange child fit in?
The fourth episode of The Orville’s third season is a fascinating story, with fantastic makeup and CGI effects, and some compelling performances. It deepens the universe of The Orville without significantly broadening it, and it links up with contemporary issues in a way that is at times thoughtful, at times hamfisted, and at times deeply weird. The result is a mixed bag–mostly good and worthwhile, but with some puzzling decisions along the way.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
Top-level criticism time–out of the first four episodes of this third season, three of them have involved returning to stories begun in the previous two seasons. Only episode 2, “Shadow Realms” has involved exploring new worlds and situations. This has the benefit of deepening our understanding of the universe of The Orville, but it doesn’t expand it much. In some fandoms this is known as “small universe syndrome,” as every major character and situation in some way is picking up a thread from before.
This episode picks up the Krill threads that started in episode 106, “Krill,” in which Captain Mercer and Gordon Malloy infiltrated a Krill battlecruiser to try to steal a copy of the Anhkana, the Krill holy book, in an effort to understand them better, but in the process wound up killing the entire ship’s crew to prevent the unleashing of a powerful bomb over a Union colony. They spared only a schoolteacher, Teleya, and her classroom of children, but in the process, Teleya was radicalized against humanity. In episode 204, “Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes,” Captain Mercer discovered his new girlfriend was really Teleya in disguise, seeking revenge on him for killing her brother and shipmates the previous season. Mercer and Teleya have to cooperate to reach rescue from a dangerous planet, and Ed releases Teleya to his people, hoping he’s established common ground.
Something Was Missing
In this episode, Teleya has become the voice of a populist uprising against the Krill Supreme Chancellor, Korin, and is running against him in the current Krill election. Her demagogic speeches warn of the “looming nightmare” of “the inevitable erosion of our ideals and our identity” if “the false prophet” is re-elected. With every speech, she paints the election as an existential battle for the Krill people between the forces of goodness, religion, and morality and traitorous enemies of all that is decent. Korin and his cronies are not just political opponents, they are “enemies,” “traitors,” and “heretics,” and they don’t just need to be defeated at the ballot box, they need to be executed at the hands of “justice.”
There is clearly some intent on the part of the writers to comment on recent American (and international) politics, depicting some of the dangers of political extremism and polarization. But it avoids hanging a lantern directly on the point, and never goes as far as Mirror Lorca’s “Make the Empire great again!” slogan in Star Trek Discovery season one. Mercer and company experience the joys of falsified videos painting political opponents as vicious evils, the Krill calling them “influence operations.” Mercer admits it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not in that environment, a sentiment that I’m sure many in the audience can relate to.
When Teleya unexpectedly wins the election for Supreme Chancellor, the Union delegation–consisting of Union President Alcazar (Bruce Boxleitner, unrecognizable in thick alien makeup, but with his unmistakable voice and charisma intact), Senator Balask (Lisa Banes, former Trek guest star who died between filming this episode and its release, and to whom the episode is dedicated), Captain Mercer, Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber), and Ensign Charly Burke–is caught between the two administrations. I thought this was a compelling moment, and found myself wondering what that would be like, to come at the invitation of one administration, and suddenly find yourself the prisoner of the next.
It’s The Hard-Knock Life
Teleya’s actions upon assuming power are somewhat confusing. She first establishes her power base by assassinating former Chancellor Korin with a knife before a massive cheering Krill crowd that is apparently always gathered around the Krill government building. She then has a sneering conversation with Mercer, to establish for herself that he is actually part of the Union delegation. Then she orders her guards to take him back to his cell to prepare for his execution–which they immediately do not do, apparently obeying earlier, unspoken orders from her to take him back to his ship. Those guards are then bushwhacked by other Krill, who take Mercer to meet his half human, half-Krill daughter, whom Teleya has hidden away to avoid political embarrassment.
This whole sequence is long and confusing. It gives the viewer a wonderful, on-the-ground look at Krill society, which is great, but the motivations of the characters are unclear and at points specifically contradicted by clear dialogue. There’s a meat-on-a-stick salesman who confusingly won’t take no for an answer, and all of it is made more obscure by the fact that Krill costuming and makeup make it hard to tell one Krill from another. Mercer is shuffled around in a robe and hood to disguise his humanness, but because no Krill on the street wears anything on their heads, or wears a robe, it actually only serves to draw a target on him.
Mercer and Teleya’s daughter, Anaya, is a beautiful girl with huge eyes, and in the year, year-and-a-half since she was born, has grown to the size and maturity of a human nine-year-old. And when Mercer confronts Teleya again, and the show brings up the topic of abortion, it is handled about as badly as a show can, treating the question quickly and with zero depth, and then forgetting that they ever talked about it in the first place.
You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile
The rest of the cast of the show are involved throughout in space battles and rescue missions. There’s a conflict between the Orville and three Krill battlecruisers that is intense and makes sense, and that serves as the beginning of a “Directive 21” mini-plot-mystery that pays off near the end. Malloy gets to try an “expanding helix maneuver” that he made up on the spot and leaves Bortus (of the famously iron Moclan stomach) losing his lunch.
Then there’s a huge fleet-on-fleet battle commanded by Kelly Hu’s Admiral Ozawa, that is almost on the scale of the Battle for Earth in Season Two’s “Identity, Part Two.” In that battle, the goal seems to be to effect a military rescue of the delegation, but there’s no dialogue or visuals that indicate how a military rescue might be underway. “Directive 21” is mentioned as their fallback plan, but in the end, it seems to have been the only plan actually in motion. As a result, this battle seems wasteful and perhaps misguided. Not every military objective is worth the destruction of half a dozen ships and their crews.
Finally, there’s a ground-based car chase through the streets of Dalakos, the Krill capital city. “Directive 21” turns out to be an in-disguise rescue attempt by John Lamarr and Claire Finn, infiltrating the Krill government building, rescuing the delegation with some light grenades, and then flying their hover-car back to their cloaked shuttle. This is a thrilling chase sequence that unfolds in parallel to the gigantic fleet battle taking place in orbit.
Each battle is cool, and the effects are great, but taken together, this all feels like a bit much. When every episode is kitted out to be the equivalent of a feature film, every climax has to be super-explosive and has to outdo the previous episode. That can quickly become tiring, and I’m sure will be exhausting for people binge-watching Season three.
Your Bottom Dollar
There are a lot of great pieces in this episode, and everyone involved seems to be at the top of their game. But there are also a number of pieces that don’t fit, which makes the overall picture confusing at parts. All in all, it’s probably the second- or third-best episode of the season so far, with “Mortality Paradox” as the best so far, and “Shadow Realms” as the worst.
- The episode opens with the Krill attending a Broadway showing of “Annie,” where the little orphan is played by a Xeleyan, and Daddy Warbucks is one of Ensign Dann’s species; that girl can really sing!
- The Orville crew participates in a “pub crawl through history” on the Simulator, which of course, if you have a Simulator, you would totally do. This is a very funny scene that features a return (in a sense) to Bortus’ season one mustache, a glimmer of a romance between Lamarr and a newly-promoted Lt. Commander Keyali, and a hysterical appearance by Isaac.
- The historical pub crawl also continues my deep concern for Kelly Grayson’s drinking problem.
- When Mercer questions Admiral Halsey about his ability to pilot the shuttle, the humor in that scene is compounded when you know that in real life, Victor Garber has never learned to drive a car!
- We learn a lot about the Krill and their homeworld, which is covered by a cloud layer 80 kilometers thick. No wonder they see the sun as an ill omen. Kahspid cider is a Krill delicacy that humans also enjoy. Katal and Garathon are two districts on the Krill homeworld. The Krill religious hierarchy are known as the “Circle of Clerics.”
- The one Krill costume that really stood out from the rest is Teleya’s striking purple Chancellor’s outfit. It was pretty stunning. We also see some skimpy Krill pole dancers costumes.
- In the Krill language, “Anaya” means “gently falling rain,” the episode title.
- “The sun’ll come out tomorrow; the repeated prophecy of the orphan child was quite haunting. In our culture, the sun is a symbol of suffering and death.” “Yes, in retrospect, Oklahoma! May have been a better choice.” Chancellor Korin and Admiral Halsey
- “It wasn’t until we advanced beyond the need to buy and sell things that our world became a more stable place.” “The merchant class is the backbone of our civilization, and our society has been stable for tens of thousands of years. What you lack is divine guidance.” “All things considered, I’d say we’re doing pretty well these days.” The admirals and the Krill delegation
- “When the threat is existential, one cannot afford a margin for error.” Chancellor Korin, wisely applying the aphorism to the Kaylon threat. Of course, Teleya will apply the same logic to the threat of Korin’s rule.
- “Once the people see you for themselves, as I have, they will understand you are not the soulless monsters my opponent would have them believe.” – Chancellor Korin
- “This town will not accommodate the numerical totality of our combined mass” – Isaac with a hat and hysterical handlebar mustache
- “Kahspid cider, a Krill delicacy.” “Alien delicacies.” “Always a crap shoot.” Korin, Halsey, and Mercer
- “Looks like you’re an Uptown Girl now. Billy Joel.” Mercer making probably his least-convincing music reference ever to Teleya
- “Most men who lose their heads tend to die. Yes.” Teleya
- “Hubris has a way of coming back to bite you in the ass.” Mercer, discussing the poem about Ozymandias, King of Kings
- “That’s a funny name. You look funny.” “Thanks – I get that a lot.” Anaya and Ed
- “With every child, a new world is born” – the Anhkana
- “You wanna have breakfast with me?” Mercer – wait, is their romance “on” again? Oh, please no.
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