The Orville #35: Domino

"You have got balls." "It is the only acceptable arrangement."

IN THIS ONE... The Union tries to strike an armistice with the Kaylon, at great cost.

REVIEW: Domino may be the penultimate episode, but it's the big action finale of the season. The Moclans, now out of the Union, run to the Krill for an alliance. A new weapon, created by Isaac and Charly (now working together), turns the tide of war, and forces an alliance between the Union and the Kaylon lest the latter be destroyed. And it's all going to end in a giant set piece with more ships than have ever been seen on the same TV screen (are all the sci-fi shows trying to outdo each other on this point?), Pteradon dogfights in a planetary atmosphere (took their time using those fighters given the attention they got in the season's first episode), rocket pack jumps, firefights, fist fights (Kelly vs. Telaya with the latter ending up on trial for war crimes), and not everyone walks away. It's BIG, and perhaps a bit more relentless than it needs to be.

But at the heart of it, there's still a moral dilemma. The Union has a weapon that can destroy the Kaylon locally, but with a big enough power source, globally as well. Should we use it in the defense of the Union? Is genocide ever acceptable? Some Union officers think so - it's a matter of survival - including Charly, who despite having accepted Isaac as a crewmate, doesn't want to wait for other Kaylons to miraculously change like he did. Even the Admirals consider this a viable option, and it's Mercer who acts as the ethical voice of reason throughout (not a bad thing for the show's captain to be). The Council compromises: Use the weapon as a deterrent to force an armistice. It works, but the Kaylon vow to find a loophole and start exterminating biologicals all over again. A deterrent doesn't engender trust, even if WE know the Union can be trusted. But can it? A conspiracy of officers who think like Charly (but doesn't include her) steals the weapon and delivers it to the new Moclan-Krill alliance, people who aren't hamstrung by such considerations. Admiral Perry (Ted Danson) fully intends to then render himself to the authorities for trial and punishment, so it's an ethical issue for him as well. Teleya is too ruthless to let him go however so the Orville finds out for itself just what happens and tracks the weapon back to a Moclan lab where a giant quantum core is set up to broadcast the killer frequencies across all Kaylon space. Again the Kaylon feel like their hand is forced. They will help the Union in order to survive, but they don't really understand why the Union cares.

And so it's up to Charly to show them the HUMAN heart (or the Union one, if you will). She's part of the away team that's to disable the weapon, of course, and since they get there too late to stop the sequence, she chooses to blow the core before the weapon detonates, and herself with it. Kaylon Primary, along for the trip is at first surprised when Isaac doesn't kill a Moclan because it's "not necessary", and even more so that a biological would give her life to save a race she hates because it's her duty and it's the right thing to do. (And maybe because she has a death wish, as her final words might betray.) Indeed, the "Domino" of the title isn't so much the weapon's cascade effect as it is Charly's action resonating through history, convincing the Kaylon they have mistakenly painted all biologicals with the same brush, leading not just to a cease-fire, but to their gaining a provisional seat on the Union Council. And so we lose Charly before the end of the season. She was never a very pleasant person - I'm honestly sadder to lose Danson - and one imagines that her extremely useful four-dimensional thinking this season will never be a required skill ever again. Still, they give her a good send-off. She gets a song with Malloy, a hero moment, and strong funeral scenes. And her seat is once again open.

WHERE SOMEONE HAS GONE BEFORE: The conspiracy between Union officers and two enemy races in order to prevent galactic peace was the plot of Star Trek VI. A weapon that can destroy a machine enemy through its hive mind is from I, Borg, but also Voyager's Endgame. Allying with that machine race to fight a more dangerous enemy evokes the Scorpion two-parter. Isaac's response to Primary, "They are my friends", quotes Spock to his father in Star Trek IV.

REWATCHABILITY: High - While I do think there's too much action, the show sticks close to its Trek-inspired values and proves a game-changer for the cast and the world of the Orville. But to do all this in the PENULTIMATE episode? What's next?!