We’re in the final stretch of The Orville: New Horizons, and did this show come out swinging this week. “Domino” is the penultimate episode of the show’s third season and it pulled out all the stops. I’m still reeling over here.
As always, there will be SPOILERS for this week’s episode of The Orville: New Horizons below.
The Orville: New Horizons Episode 9 review
With only one more episode left in its stellar third season, The Orville really had to start setting up for the finish…and wow did it deliver. After spending several weeks exploring different sections of the galaxy and deep character stories, “Domino” returned the war with the Kaylon to the forefront.
The episode primarily revolves around the idea that the Union, through the efforts of Isaac (Mark Jackson) and Charly Burke (Anne Winters), has developed a super weapon capable of destroying any Kaylon caught in its field; it works by setting off a chain reaction that zaps through the system connecting all of the robotic life forms (thus, the episode title). While this is seemingly the key to winning the war, Union leadership is torn about how to use it. Some want to amplify its effects, go straight to the Kaylon homeworld, and exterminate them once and for all. Others, like Captain Mercer (Seth MacFarlane), believe that a literal genocide is something that should only be an absolute last resort.
Instead, it’s proposed that the Union take this weapon to the Kaylon homeworld, show the alien species how deadly it is, and then use it to force them into an armistice. It works, celebrating ensues, and all seems to have gone according to plan.
Of course, given that this all goes down in the first half hour of an hour-and-twenty-minute long episode, you know things are going to take a turn or two. Disagreeing that the Kaylon can be trusted, Admiral Perry (Ted Danson) steals the weapon and gives it to the newly formed Krill-Moclan alliance, which is led primarily by Teleya (Michaela McManus). You can guess how well that goes down: Perry’s ship is blasted out of the sky to keep the news from getting out, and we get our first big casualty of the episode…but it will not be the last.
Epic space battle, ahoy!
From there, events quickly hurtle toward the main event: a battle between the Moclan-Krill forces and a fleet composed of the Union and Kaylon, who form an uneasy alliance in order to get the weapon back or destroy it before it can be used to wipe out every single Kaylon in the universe.
The Orville: New Horizons has been at the top of its game with its special effects, writing, music…pretty much every aspect of its production. But “Domino” brings that to a whole new level. The battle, which is comprised of a chaotic armada clash in orbit, a smaller dogfight across the sky of the planet below, and an infiltration into a science facility by a small team composed of Commander Kelly Grasyon (Adrianne Palicki), Talla (Jessica Szohr), Charly, Isaac, and the Kaylon Primary is nothing short of stunning. The effects are ridiculously good and the music gave me chills repeatedly. Disney may have released a bunch of new Star Wars shows and movies in the past few years, but honestly, I don’t know that any of them have come close to capturing the tension of the original trilogy’s Death Star battles the way this episode of The Orville: New Horizons did. There’s even a pretty fun section that feels like a nod to Luke’s trench run in there.
I could gush for a while about the battle sequence; it comprises nearly 30 minutes of the episode, and might well be one of the best battle sequence on any show that’s come out so far in 2022.
More than one kind of domino
As the weapon is activated and the doom of the Kaylon seems imminent, Charly and Isaac finally capture the control room. But they can’t deactivate it in time. Instead, Charly stays behind to overload the system, blowing up the entire facility along with a sizable piece of the planet in an absolutely shocking moment. The Orville is not a show that is known for killing off main characters; in fact, thinking back I can’t recall if it’s ever actually pulled off a death’s like Charly’s in its entire run.
But pull it off, it did. I sobbed like a baby during the final moments of this episode. First there was the realization that Charly — a human who had repeatedly expressed her hatred for the Kaylon literally since this season’s opening moments — sacrificed herself to save their species. Then there was the funeral, where Isaac spoke about his time with Charly; how she disdained him and how they grew together. Due to her sacrifice, the Kaylon become part of the Planetary Union, and a path toward peace appears to open. When Isaac compares her last gesture to a domino that set off a chain reaction of compassion, perfectly mirroring the way the weapon to destroy the Kaylon was described in the episode’s opening moments, it’s yet another poignant example of the incredible writing on this season of The Orville.
We’ve complained a bit here at Winter Is Coming about various shows not having the guts to kill off characters, but never in a million years did I expect The Orville to be the series that got the memo. Charly Burke’s death is a huge moment, both in terms of what it represents for this series being willing to go all the way and kill off a main character and what it means for the story. And if The Orville: New Horizons was willing to go this big on its penultimate episode, who knows what next week’s finale holds?
The Orville: Bullet Point Horizons
- The party scene in Kelly’s father’s cabin was a lot of fun, even if there was a looming feeling that things would soon go wrong. It was nice to get that last moment of the crew cutting loose together before things went to hell in the back half of the episode.
- Speaking of the party scene, it was nice to see Malloy (Scott Grimes) and Charly singing a duet!
- And of course, Bortus and Klyden arguing over how to properly use a nutcracker to open walnuts was hilarious.
- The strike team’s skydive out of the shuttle during the battle was insane. I was on the edge of my seat throughout that whole sequence.
- Kelly and Teleya’s fistfight was another great moment. It was both more brutal than I expected and funnier, as they traded blows and insults in equal measure. Huge kudos to the special effects department for how they gradually worsened Kelly and Teleya’s wounds as the fight went on.
- Since we’re talking about Kelly, she’s pretty much become an Ellen Ripley-level badass this season and I didn’t expect that. Palicki pulls it off really well.
- This episode did a tremendous job with small, silent moments like Charly watching as Isaac disarms a Moclan who was about to kill her, only to then spare the Moclan and allow them to escape with their life. Seth MacFarlane’s quiet moments of grief during the funeral were another standout. There was a lot of character development in this episode.
- The parallel between the season’s opening episode having a funeral for Isaac and one of its closing episodes having one for Charly is so powerful, both in terms of their respective journeys as characters and for what it represents for the crew. The seats at Isaac’s funeral were practically empty, which was a great representation of how fractured the crew was after his betrayal in season 2. Conversely, Charly’s funeral was packed, with the crew once more feeling like a unit after their adventures during New Horizons. She may have only been on the show for one season, but Charly Burke left a huge impact.
It’s a testament to basically every aspect of The Orville: New Horizons that we’re this late into the season and it has not stumbled even in the slightest. “Domino” was a movie-quality piece of entertainment with all the heart and character development you’d want from a longform TV series. While other shows may be trying to bridge that gap between TV and movies, I don’t know that any of them are pulling it off as well as The Orville. “Domino” was stunning, and heartbreaking, and left me eager for the show’s season finale next week.