The Orville: New Horizons: MacFarlane on Keeping S03 Cliffhanger-Free
When it came to the final two episodes of season three in Hulu's The Orville: New Horizons, the sci-fi series set up a major watershed moment that found their greatest threat in the Kaylon, now allies following the events of "Domino." The season finale was a complete 180 from the heavy action and drama to deliver the much-more lighthearted "Future Unknown" that saw the matrimony of Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) and the Kaylon crewmember Isaac. Series creator and star Seth MacFarlane broke down how the planning was intentional to highlight the best of the series, the motivation for bringing back Giorgia Whigham's Lysella from season one, and more.
MacFarlane wanted "Future Unknown" to be set up as open-ended. "Well, in this case, without knowing what the future of the show was going to be, it seemed like the only sensible thing to do and the only thing that would be really satisfying. The challenge was creating something that would function both as a season finale that set up possible new threads and yet also could be a series finale if we don't come back. I like the idea of ending on a character-driven note."
"I like the idea of 'Domino' being our penultimate episode, and this one being our finale because it really highlights the strengths of The Orville," MacFarlane continued. "The landscape is so crowded with so many sci-fi shows, and they all look so great — there's so much great production design, visual effects — and I think the thing that really separates us from the pack is that at the end of the day we really are a purely character-driven show. You can take all the special effects & explosions out of it, [and] put all of these characters in little rooms, and construct stories with those limitations, and they'll still work because you're tuning in for the stories about the people. I think that a lot of blockbuster-style, effects-heavy sci-fi franchises can project that from time to time, whereas that's our mission statement. It was representative of the franchise as a whole to end on something that was about the people."
Bringing back The Punisher star made sense for MacFarlane as her character comes from a place of empathy. "There are two reasons for that. 'Majority Rule' [Season 1, Episode 7] was an episode that kept coming up over and over and over and over as a fan favorite, and we were never really sure how we were going to revisit it because we had sort of made the point that we wanted to make about that planet [Sargus 4]. But also, a theory about Lysella is that she is us. Lysella is the audience in a number of ways. She's the audience in the Orville world, forcing us to explain and justify the politics of this fictional world that we've created because she wants answers, and she wants to know how all of this is possible. That creates the interesting challenge for us as writers of having to explain how and why we have all these things and why we use them in such a way, and how the political structure of this world works — which, in many cases, in sci-fi, you take for granted. It was a challenge, and even in that episode, we barely scratched the surface. But also, Lysella is the actual audience watching the show. She is the fans. She is all of us watching a sci-fi show going, 'Man, I'd much rather live in that world than the one I live in now.' She actually says that at one point."
In bringing in Whigham, it was an opportunity to directly give something back to the fans, "To try to attempt to top 'Domino' in a visual sense [with the finale] would have been a fool's errand, and at a certain point, you're like, 'What are we doing?' More explosions, more battles…. You want that stuff, but it's not what the show is about," MacFarlane said. "And to give Giorgia Whigham credit, obviously she's a fantastic actress. Everyone remembered her from "Majority Rule," and she sold it so beautifully in this episode as well. So it was a lot of things that came together. The popularity of that episode was something that was not lost on us; if there's one episode of The Orville that keeps coming up and that I keep seeing on my Twitter feed and elsewhere, it's 'Majority Rule.' With Season 3, hopefully, that will add a few more to that list."
For more on the cinematic breakdown on "Domino," how his novella "Sympathy for the Devil" would have factored in if they had a chance, the dynamic Anne Winters' Charly Burke brought into the Kaylon war fallout and her sacrifice, Dolly Parton & more, you can check out the whole TV Line interview here. You can also check out our interview with Winters about Charly's legacy here. The Orville: New Horizons is available to stream on Hulu and Disney+.
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