The Orville Review: “Cupid’s Dagger”

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I have a feeling that not a lot of people liked this episode. But this is without a doubt the best episode of I’ve seen yet. For the first time this season, I understand why this show exists. It’s not to recreate Star Trek (it’s not a “love letter” if it’s just a copy) despite the fact that Star Trek still very much so exists. It’s to give us Seth MacFarlane’s take on the sci-fi genre. Whether you like MacFarlane or not, you have to admit that the idea of a Star Trek with a Family Guy tone makes a lot of sense. That’s like Fox’s bread & butter right there. But the recent iterations of this series have embraced an overtly serious take on the genre. It’s not that The Orville is without its supporters, but the reason why critics have found trouble with this show has been their commitment to simply steal from Star Trek. At the very least, this is the root of my problems with the series. But for the first time, The Orville has decided to move towards the realm of comedy, and create an episode that tells a unique story.

Rob Lowe plays Darulio, the blue alien that slept with Ed’s then-wife Kelly, a few years ago. Flash forward to today: Ed and Kelly have a working relationship on the Orville and they’re tasked with a special assignment. It turns out The Federation needs to move in and settle a dispute amongst the Navarians and the Bruidians for control over the planet Lapovious. If this sounds like a lot of made up names, it is, but that’s the problem with a lot of these sci-fi worlds. I mean, what race is fan-favorite Max Rebo anyways? In order to facilitate the peace treaty, an archaeologist will be brought on the ship with the purpose of analyzing an ancient artifact for DNA. To the winning alien race showing a positive relation to the ancient DNA, goes the planet. Everything seems to be in fair order until we realize that the archaeologist behind this is none other than Darulio.

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Immediately, Ed freaks out. This is unbecoming of a captain, but totally normal for the man we were introduced to in the pilot. And that’s the best part about this episode – it feels like a continuation of the tone we were promised during the promos. Not once does this episode steer too dark or too violent or too serious. Instead it focuses on the ridiculous nature of “space quests” and how unknown variants can lead to insane problems. This episode’s X factor turns out to be Darulio’s pheromones which cause Kelly and Ed to fight over the man that destroyed their relationship in the first place. It’s a clever ruse with less than clever lines (“You’re a sexual Jihadist”), that has serious consequences. After Ed promises the Navarians and the Bruidians a healthy peace talk, he’s nowhere to be found – spending his time instead chasing after Darulio. Kelly too, recreates the moment that ended her relationship as Ed walks in on her sleeping with Darulio. Watching them at odds again, in a fun constrained way, develops their characters while also keeping the tone light enough that I didn’t feel like I was just watching Star Trek. A big win for The Orville.

There was even a central theme to this episode – love. Not just love with the intention of mending relationships, but also love that should never be explored, like Claire’s and Yaphit’s. Love is a powerful tool that can make people do stupid things. But what’s most interesting is that when Kelly asks Darulio if she was under his spell when she ruined her relationship with Ed, he simply replies, “Maybe.” This lack of admission could mean many things, but at the heart of it, I think it’s fair to assume that we are not done with this thread. Especially if Kelly was under a sort “love potion,” Ed might have to forgive her, falling under the same potion himself.

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This episode also filled the gaps for me. Every time I asked myself a question, like why is Claire sleeping with Yaphit (the ooze voiced by Norm MacDonald) it was later answered, which is not always the case. I mean sure, I still have no idea why Kelly and Bortus would BOTH sing music from the 20th/21st century if they’re living in the 23rd, but that’s neither here nor there. Darulio later walks through why Claire, Ed and Kelly were infected when others were not. We get an explanation for why Kelly falls into the same traps while Ed creates new ones for himself. And the ending – a clever use of the episode’s conflict – involves using Darulio’s pheromones to create a solution to force a peace amongst the two warring aliens. It’s just overall a well thought out episode.

I hope to see The Orville continue in this manner. Though there wasn’t a particularly large abundance of plot, refocusing on the central conflict of the two main characters, while reminding us that this show can (and should) be funny, was a welcome change. But it’s hard to say what The Orville wants out of this show, because right now it feels like it wants to toe the line. This might be fine for the hardcore fans, but others will most likely be pushed away if it yo-yos back to a serious plot that fails to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. I’m not advocating for the characters to break the fourth wall or anything, but a wink and a nod from the tone of the show, as done in today’s episode would really go a long way.

TB-TV-Grade-B+Season 1, Episode 9 (S01E09)
The Orville airs Thursdays at 8PM on Fox

Read all of our reviews of The Orville here.
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Arman is a Seattle based writer who often lives in LA and wants to be in New York. He has worked on Billy on The Street and Black-ish. He also loves sandwiches.
Follow Arman on Twitter: @armanbfar
Keep up with all of Arman’s reviews here.

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