Thus ends season three of The Orville.
The episode is hardly what most were expecting from a season finale. It was low stakes, thoughtful, and centered around a wedding between two main characters. The B-plot was a call back to an earlier episode that allowed the show (specifically Seth MacFarlane, who wrote and directed) to wax philosophic about The Orville’s version of the Prime Directive, and about the hope for a future that will come when people quit fighting with each other and learn to work together for the good of all.
It’s a long episode, as most have been this season, and if you aren’t invested in the characters you probably got a bit restless. If you, like me, love this crew you probably enjoyed spending an hour-twenty with them while Isaac and Claire prepared to get married. The old humor was back, though never over the top (not even when two nude Mochlans were playing hide and seek). The egg sandwich made its comeback. My favorite character from season one, Alara, got to cameo. And it all ended with a speech, a toast, and a folk song. Ed and Kelly even held hands.
It was delightful…
8/10 – The Orville’s third season finale was a low-stakes, thoughtful episode that ended with everyone smiling and happy.
As I say, it was delightful…and that’s why I’m upset.
What do you call a season finale that ends with everyone smiling and happy?
A series finale.
The title was a clue: Future Unkown. This wasn’t a time-travel episode. There was no great mystery to the plot. The title is a meta-commentary on the fact that this might not be the end of the show…but it might be.
I hope this isn’t the end. I love this show too much, from the characters to the alien races, to the storytelling style that takes the best of the 90s-era Star Trek and plays around with the fact that it doesn’t have to kowtow to the Star Trek rules. It can do its own thing whenever it wants, or it can be a 100% homage whenever it wants, too. It’s the best of both worlds (pun intended) and I love it for it.
Seth MacFarlane and co. might want to go on and do other things. That’ll make me sad if so. Yes, the show could conceivably continue without him, but The Orville is more than just a show starring Seth MacFarlane; it’s a show overseen by Seth MacFarlane. He heads the writer’s room. He wrote and/or directed many of the episodes, and the balance of humor and science-fiction in every episode is what it is because his imprint is everywhere. Losing him is more than losing Ed Mercer. In fact, Ed Mercer is probably the most expendable part of the equation. The show would be just fine with Kelly as captain. What the show can’t lose is Seth MacFarlane.
The Orville started as a Family Guy-like parody of Star Trek. It was Trek with dick and fart jokes. By the end of the first season, you could see hints that Seth and co. really wanted it to be more than it was. There was a genuine love of the tropes that made Trek great in the 60s-90s.
The second season showed they were willing to try being serious, while also keeping their brand of humor in a toned-down way. The balance was great, in my opinion, and some of the storyline payoffs like hearing “9 to 5” playing in the episode “Sanctuary” were amazing. They did things that, on paper, sounded ridiculous, but were executed with so much love and with such deftness I couldn’t help but get sucked in.
Season three has toned down the humor even more. I’d say if season one was 60-40 humor/sci-fi, and season two was 50-50, then season three has been like 30-70 humor/sci-fi. This is the show fans wanted “new” Star Trek to be. The only new Trek show that’s come close has been Strange New Worlds, but Orville blows it away in terms of the depth of characters, the richness of the world-building, and the balance between serialized threads and episodic stories.
I want a season 4 more than I want any other Trek show to be renewed.
Orville is Star Trek without the baggage and expectations that come with Trek. The aforementioned Dolly Parton thing (and the call back in season three) could never have been done on Trek. The franchise is too high brow and I say that as a fan for 30 years. Orville can do it because they’re brave enough to do it, and it works because it’s still enough to work in this universe.
I hope we get a fourth season.
I have no idea how the show is performing on Hulu. I don’t know the numbers. I haven’t seen any press releases touting it, but I also haven’t seen any articles from Variety or the like talking about how big of a money sink it’s been. I’m totally in the dark. I’ve got to believe, however, if Hulu wants it back, and if the support is there, that The Orville will return. I think TV needs it, and not in the form of a “made for Hulu movie” every couple of years. The Orville needs to be weekly because that’s the format that TV needs: weekly adventures, a new ethical dilemma to solve each week, a new weekly wrinkle to a long-running plot thread, a recurring new development for a character, etc.
The Orville was conceived as “Family Guy in Space” because that’s the only way Seth could have sold it to Fox. He made it a trojan horse to slowly phase out the gags and phase in the Star Trekian drama. Mission accomplished. He saw a void on TV: There was no Star Trek. The Orville filled that void. Yes, it premiered the same year as Discovery, but it wasn’t until this year that Strange New Worlds came along and really embraced the Star Trek legacy. It would be tragically ironic if that happened the same year as Orville’s last. I don’t want The Orville to bow out now that a genuinely good Star Trek show is back airing weekly adventures. There’s room for both, especially since Strange New Worlds only runs ten episodes per season. I can handle one in the Spring and one in the Fall.
I’m selfish. I want both.
If I have to start a letter-writing campaign so help me I’ll do it!