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The Orville: New Horizons S03E07 Review: Setting Submissive Standards

The latest The Orville: New Horizons episode "From Unknown Graves" fires away with all of the best intentions and in varying ways, hits every single one of them. The thematic focus this time around is on what others will do when pushed too far within their respective submissive roles, with several arcs approaching the point from varying perspectives. First, the cold opening to the Hulu series shows an alien family who wait for their package to arrive, which we find out is a Kaylon, revealing its subservient origins. And from this point forward, consider this your minor spoilers warning…

The Orville: New Horizons: S3E7 Review: Setting Submissive Standards
The Orville: New Horizons — "From Unknown Graves" – Episode 307 — The Orville discovers a Kaylon with a very special ability. Dr. Villka (Eliza Taylor) and Timmis (Christopher Larkin), are shown. (Photo by: Greg Gayne/Hulu)

As we come to find out, the aliens, defined by their silver and bald complexions with red eyes, are the original creators of the Kaylon. Each time the episode flashes back to the featured family, we see the deteriorating relationship as it gains more sentience through learning. The main arc that serves as the backdrop of the episode is a diplomatic mission with a matriarchal species, the Janisi. As they represent a living contrast to the Moclans, the crew devise a plan to openly lie to them to make it appear that only the female senior officers hold ranking with their male counterparts to do their bidding to mirror their society in a crude convoluted sitcom manner. First officer Cmdr Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) acts as "Captain," Security Chief Lt. Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr) as "First Officer", Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters) as "Chief Engineer", and Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald). Speaking of Moclans, Lt. Bortus (Peter Macon) gets all the ironic one-liners this episode.

The Orville: New Horizons: S3E7 Review: Setting Submissive Standards
The Orville: New Horizons — "From Unknown Graves" – Episode 307 — The Orville discovers a Kaylon with a very special ability. Lt. Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr), Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), and Charly Burke (Anne Winters), are shown. (Photo by: Greg Gayne/Hulu)

When the male characters aren't corralled to "out of sight, out of mind" status, we see Seth MacFarlane's Ed Mercer and Scott Grimes Gordon Malloy play up all the "buffoon" stereotypes in a sharp, slapstick fashion as they carry the "excessive luggage" for their guests. Again, low-hanging fruit from the sitcom tree but with a modern twist. As they resume the façade, we get other developments, like the relationship brick wall that Lamar (J Lee) and Talla keep running into (which is the running gag we see every time we wonder how does a superhero have sex with a normal human and not break them in half). We've gone down that comedic road before with the super-strong Xelayan and Talla always breaking Lamar's bones or heavily bruising him (and his running to Claire for treatment while lying about his "broken sexcapades" to protect his manhood). That's an aspect that's feeling a little played out because even as the episode focuses on problem-solving, it leans a little too hard on the comedy without doing a deep enough dive into the problem. Meanwhile, as a society, we're conditioned to see men in physical pain for comedic effect and it feels a bit demoralizing that we haven't really evolved the narrative as far as body positive differences & growth, especially when women continue to be narrowly bottlenecked when it comes to "acceptable" body images by literally shaming a strong woman.

The Orville: New Horizons: S3E7 Review: Setting Submissive Standards
The Orville: New Horizons — "From Unknown Graves" – Episode 307 — The Orville discovers a Kaylon with a very special ability. Timmis (Christopher Larkin), Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), Issac (Mark Jackson), Dr. Villka (Eliza Taylor) and Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr (J Lee), are shown. (Photo by: Greg Gayne/Hulu)

The most interesting development in the episode was the focus on Kaylon Timmis (Christopher Larkin), who's able to feel emotion thanks to the efforts of Dr. Villka (Eliza Taylor). This provides a potential watershed moment for the emotionless Issac (Mark Jackson), who's re-engaged himself in a new relationship with Claire, who's looking to explore and possibly try again. The talents of Jackson and Jerald can't be understated here as the duo travels the gamut of a lifetime just enclosed within the microcosm of the episode. What didn't painfully work in Lamar and Talla continues to work so much better in Isaac and Claire, because the journey between the latter feels more earned. And let's not forget that giant major piece of the puzzle about the Kaylon that we now have to work with… interesting to see how that plays out.

The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 7 "From Unknown Graves"

The Orville: New Horizons: S3E7 Review: Setting Submissive Standards
Review by Tom Chang

Hulu's The Orville: New Horizons director Seth MacFarlane and writer David A Goodman did a wonderful job instilling empathy for the show's greatest enemy, the Kaylon. In addition, the episode opened up a golden opportunity for a new facet in the Claire-Isaac relationship, left us with some questions about the Lamar-Talla relationship, and provided another eye-opening classic that looks at the themes of subservience, submissiveness & power in a different light. Major kudos go to Penny Johnson Jerald, Mark Jackson, and Christopher Larkin.

Seth MacFarlane

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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