Martin Carr reviews the fifth episode of The Orville…
After the mediocre effort from last week ‘Pria’ represents a return to form for The Orville. Kicking off with a snippet of Seinfeld before segueing into some bridge banter, MacFarlane quickly establishes situation, character and central friction by roping in a former co-star. Oscar-winning and clearly a fan of his work this Academy award recipient adds gravitas and reality to the situation. That she comes with a certain amount of baggage goes without saying, but that also helps confirm her credentials to an audience more quickly than most. After the seemingly pointless inclusion of Liam Neeson last week, in an episode which could best be described as lacklustre, having an ‘Atomic Blonde’ on hand makes all the difference.
Conspiracy theories and suspicions are rife amongst the crew as this Amazonian interloper from a stranded mining vessel comes on board. Cutting quite the figure Pria slowly works her charms on Ed while first officer Kelly remains sceptical. Once again there remains that focus on character over humour which has come to define The Orville, but nonetheless there are still a few stand out gags. Moments of bridge dialogue which happen every episode have helped build a natural bond between crew members, which feels earned rather than given. Cybernetic lifeform Isaac played by Mark Jackson is slowly getting more to do, while LaMarr and Grimes still steal most one liners.
For all its formulaic roots episode five feels fresh, exciting, confident and familiar simultaneously. Effects work is average with some of the shuttle screen shots being decidedly ropey, while elsewhere flaming comets, cosmic wormholes and dying stars are etched with skill and flair. Beyond the appearance of a certain Dior model characters are also being allowed to develop and grow primarily through situational interaction with each other. Ed and Kelly continue their awkward chemistry while Alara and Botus play an active role in proceedings. MacFarlane has quickly established a believable crew who you look forward to watching without that sense of superficiality which often comes through character creation.
Opening on a bang and finishing on literal character disintegration ‘Pria’ earns MacFarlane some much-needed stripes after his last humdrum episode. I said this last week but maybe it needs repeating. Those who were ready to write off The Orville might want to hold off on condemning and maybe consider some praise occasionally, even if it is backhanded. Because The Orville shows that MacFarlane has a maturity, understanding and love of this genre, which cause him to rein in his baser instincts. As next week marks the midway point it is only a matter of time before questions of renewal start coming up.