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A Stunning Exploration of Anger, Grief, & Death

The Orville returns after a three-year hiatus with an updated name, streaming network, and darker storyline. The Orville: New Horizons made its Hulu premiere on June 2nd. Series creator, writer, and star Seth MacFarlane stuns with hard-hitting, tragic themes. “Electric Sheep” marks a dramatic tonal shift from the second season. The crew struggles in the aftermath of the Kaylon attack on Earth. Victory came at a significant price. Thousands were lost in the battle. Captain Ed Mercer’s (MacFarlane) decision to reactive Isaac (Mark Jackson) and allow him to return to duty causes turmoil. The episode addresses anger, grief, and suicide with frank realism.


SPOILER WARNINGElectric Sheep opens with a harrowing dream sequence. Marcus Finn (BJ Tanner) runs through the ship as it withers the Kaylon onslaught. He watches as a crew member are sucked into space. Marcus reaches the safety of his room. Isaac is waiting for him. The Kaylon’s blank metal face roars with savage teeth. Marcus awakens with a scream from the nightmare. His younger brother, Ty (Kai Wener), sleeps obliviously in an adjacent bed.

The Orville is docked above Earth completing repairs. Lieutenant Commander John LaMarr (J Lee) informs Isaac that he’ll need the science lab for a brief period. He comments that it has become Isaac’s default home. The Kaylon politely leaves and ambles to the mess hall. He sits down at a table. Everyone picks up their plates and leaves. New crew member Ensign Charlie Burke (Anne Winters) returns. She explains to Isaac that everyone despises him. Charlie’s best friend sacrificed herself to save Charlie’s life during the battle. Isaac betrayed the Planetary Union and does not deserve to be a part of the crew. Security Chief Lt. Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr) witnesses the exchange.

Outside the Ship

Outside the ship, Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) test pilots an improved fighter. Charlie, stationed at the helm, puts him through his paces with a simulated drone attack. She has exceptional skill programming in three dimensions. Gordon’s victorious but everyone on the bridge is impressed by Charlie’s ability. The mood changes once Talla informs Ed and Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) of Charlie’s hateful comments to Isaac. The ensign refuses to apologize. Charlie tells Ed and Kelly that having Isaac on board insults the entire crew.

In the hangar, an angry Charlie is with Gordon. He agrees with her on Isaac. Gordon feels he can not turn his back on the Kaylon. Isaac returns to the lab to find “MURDERER” painted in blood-red letters on the wall. Ed is outraged by this incident. He can not believe the distrust of Isaac has come this far. Isaac turned on the Kaylon and sacrificed himself to save humanity. Kelly warns that the crew obviously has not forgiven him.

Talla leads a thorough investigation. She uncovers that Marcus was responsible. Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) is stunned her son could do such a thing. She brings Isaac, her former lover, to their quarters to settle Marcus. He refuses to apologize for his actions. Marcus screams, “I wish you were dead” to Isaac before storming out. A shocked Claire hopes Isaac is not hurt by the outburst. Isaac replies he has no feelings to be offended.

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Isaac returns to the lab. He diligently makes a recording that outlines ways to help the crew and ship become more efficient. He offers best wishes to Claire and her children. Isaac then inserts probes into a device. He triggers feedback that destroys his neural network. Isaac falls to the floor dead.

Isaac’s suicide affects everyone differently. Charlie, Gordon, and the majority of the crew are relieved. Ed, Kelly, Claire, and John are shattered. How could he do this? Claire is distraught by Isaac’s death. Kelly tries to comfort her. Claire become more upset when she sees Ty talking to a hologram of Isaac.

John lays in bed with an alien crew member. She asks why he has a fork in a bedside drawer. It was a birthday gift from Isaac. A melancholic John misses his unusual friend. The Chief Engineer has a sudden epiphany. He races to Isaac’s body and removes a primary chip. Then has another alien smash it to pieces.

A Complex Task

John gathers the bridge crew. Isaac’s suicide was meticulously done. However, the collapsed pathways that built his personality and memory can be rebuilt with an exceptional fix. They would need someone with extraordinary spatial comprehension to rewire the circuitry. It would need an instinctive reaction the ship’s computer could not replicate. Charlie is the only crew member capable of such a complex task.

Charlie refuses Ed’s request to help Isaac. The ship’s repairs have been completed. A dejected Ed orders them on a deep space flight to test the new systems. They are ambushed by a Kaylon ship.

The Orville fires at the Kaylon vessel but cannot match its firepower. Ed orders the ship to hide in the crushing atmosphere of a gas giant. The Kaylon hovers above as they weigh their options. John informs that the stasis field holding Isaac’s network will soon collapse. Ed orders Charlie to help immediately. She refuses the command. A furious Ed relives her of duty.

Charlie sulks in the mess hall while the rest of the crew engages in battle. Marcus approaches her solemnly. He regrets what he said to Isaac. He knows that pushed Isaac over the edge. Marcus begs Charlie to save Isaac.

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On the bridge, Ed has an idea. He orders Bortus (Peter Macon) to fill a shuttle with quantum torpedoes. They launch the shuttle into the atmosphere above them. The massive explosion and debris field tricks the Kaylon. The Orville escapes the gas giant with minor damage.

Charlie works feverishly inside Isaac’s neural network. She succeeds in rewiring the circuitry. Isaac’s eyes light up. The Kaylon springs back to life. He asks if the feedback loop was not successful. Ed replies it was. Charlie revived him. A surprised Isaac turns to thank her. Charlie replies coldly, “I did not do it for you.” She walks away in a huff.

Claire sits with Isaac. She admonishes him for his suicide attempt. Isaac believed his death would benefit the crew. They would be more efficient without his presence. Claire finds a fault in his logic. The crew are angry now. Isaac had proven his worth many times in the past. He was the reason they defeated the Kaylon armada. It made sense that the crew would need him in the future. Isaac admits that had not occurred to him. Claire teaches him that suicide was a flawed solution. He promises to come to her with any suicidal inclinations before acting.

Electric Sheep ends with Charlie and Isaac returning to duty. Charlie takes her place at the ship’s helmet. Isaac continues to calculate better operations in the lab. Marcus enters the room. He wants to speak to Isaac but can not. He leaves unnoticed.

Commendable Despite Criticism

The Orville has been criticized for being too frivolous, a silly parody of Star Trek. I’m a die-hard Star Trek fan who has enjoyed The Orville from the start. The show never failed to entertain with great characters. Season two’s romance between Claire and Isaac, the Kaylon attack, and Isaac’s choice were thrilling. Seth MacFarlane’s decision to explore the fallout from that decision is seriously commendable.

Electric Sheep draws its inspiration from the Phillip K. Dick classic sci-fi novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? This was the source material for Blade Runner. Isaac is an android embracing humanity. He did not follow his program. Isaac refused to let Claire and her children be harmed. Does he love them? Yes but not in a way that his organic colleagues can understand. Charlie’s hatred of him is understandable. She saved Isaac to stop Marcus from feeling guilty. Isaac killed himself because he felt his life was useless and hurting others. Claire had to remind him of his self-worth. The crew’s anger has not abated. Isaac will have to earn their trust again.

The Orville: New Horizons reaches a new level of maturity with its characters. Everything about the season three premiere was impressive. The plot, acting, and visual effects were all fantastic. Seth MacFarlane makes a bold statement here. Sci-fi fans who scoffed previously need to give the show another chance. I have stratospheric expectations for the remaining episodes. Legendary comedian Norm Macdonald voices Lt. Yaphit in his final role.

The Orville: New Horizons is produced by Fuzzy Door Productions. It premieres exclusively every Thursday on Hulu.

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