DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Orville: New Horizons episode “Mortality Paradox” has spoilers. Prepare to engage quantum drive, and proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, space explorers! The Orville: New Horizons delivers a profound and visually stunning outing with “Mortality Paradox.” It’s a mind-bending thrilled ride chock full of plot twists. There’s even a smattering of humor in the mix, making it feel more like The Orville again.
While the subjects explored in this episode aren’t groundbreaking, “Mortality Paradox” executes its themes beautifully, showing us the universal truth threading all humans together — our collective fear of death.
Ready to delve into “Mortality Paradox”? Let’s get to it.
We open with Lt. Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr) returning from a somewhat restful trip to visit her parents on Xelaya. She tells Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) that she picked up the residue of a Kaylon quantum signature by the Avior system. She assumes they left a while ago, as said signature is faint.
While on the bridge, Isaac (Mark Jackson) detects electromagnetic emissions from the surface of Narran 1, a desolate planet. Capt. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane), Grayson, Lt. Cmdr. Bortus (Peter Macon), Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters) and Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) seem incredulous. However, Mercer orders them to move closer.
Keyali notes the planet possesses the infrastructure for communication, but they’re not responding when she hails them.
So, Mercer, Grayson, Malloy, Bortus and Keyali take a shuttle to Narran 1 while Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr (J Lee) takes control of the bridge.
We see nothing but trees when our shuttle team lands on Narran 1. Bortus detects several hundred “humanoids” nearby, so our crew follows the signal. They stumble upon a high school. You know, those are usually in the middle of nowhere on an ostensibly barren planet.
Next, the team surveys the school, walking through the empty corridors to figure out why there’s a seemingly inexplicable high school on Narran 1. Suddenly, the halls flood with energetic students as they move from period to period. Mercer and Malloy attempt to ask them questions, but the teens seem bewildered by their confusion. Without any knowledge of the precise date, our group assumes they’re in the 21st century based on the building’s design.
Meanwhile, on The Orville, LaMarr learns from Isaac that there’s no trace of the landing party. He orders the crew to prep another shuttle for departure with Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) onboard in case anyone’s hurt. Isaac notes that that might not be wise, considering that Mercer and his team vanished. Burke snaps at him out of her disdain for the Kaylon.
With the doors and windows barring our heroes from exiting, the group decides to split up. Bortus and Keyali wander into a packed classroom while a few bullies beat Malloy to a pulp in the bathroom. The kids order Malloy to pay Randall by 3:15, or something malicious will happen to him. Yes, he got a swirlie.
Later, our crew reunites in the cafeteria that’s buzzing with vim and vigor. The group sits at a friendly lunch table (after Bortus tells a mean girl she has a “fivehead”), and their new buddies tell them all about Randall. Everyone must pay Randall to avoid getting a beating. Those are the rules. That’s a surprisingly lucrative idea — Randall might be a business genius.
The bell rings, and the students head outside. Mercer, Grayson, Bortus and Keyali believe it might be best to pump Randall for information. He might know how to get off this planet. Malloy doesn’t seem enthused, but he acquiesces.
Our team walks onto the school’s football field, wherein a massive creature charges toward them. That must be Randall. He grabs Malloy while Mercer and the crew fire at the beast. We see Malloy’s eyes turn white before Keyali launches part of a bench into Randall’s face. The alien creature stumbles and falls in defeat.
Next, a door appears, and our quintet wanders into a 21st-century airplane. Grayson notes it’s an ancient vessel, but it looks pretty modern to me!
The flight attendant urges them to sit and fasten their seatbelts as the pilots prepare for landing. But Malloy notices something’s amiss. His pilot senses are tingling.
Meanwhile, Dr. Finn and Isaac land on Narran 1, but all they see is a desolate wasteland — not a tree in sight. They spot Mercer’s shuttle, though.
Then, Malloy decides to seize control of the plane. He barges into the cockpit, finding it utterly bereft of pilots. Grayson punches the annoying flight attendant who’s harping incessantly about them sitting. Hey, she did what she had to do.
Mercer assists Malloy as he flies the airplane. Suddenly, the engines go out, making this flying thing significantly more difficult. Malloy avoids flying into a looming mountain range, aiming for a patch of flat land beyond them that Bortus points out. After a turbulent landing that finds them perched precariously on a cliffside, the danger, well, stops. Mercer’s eyes also flash white.
Our group notices the plane is empty of passengers before entering the next open door.
Next, they wander into a Moclan morgue, where Moclans lay their dead upright for nine days so they can resolve their affairs on Moclus before moving to the next plane. We see a slew of pods seemingly suspended midair in a room drenched in crimson light.
Suddenly, the pods open, and one of the dead wakes to grab Bortus by the neck. The Moclan chokes him, but Mercer and Grayson step in to save their friend and crew member. After the incident, Bortus remarks how he felt the same sensation Malloy and Mercer felt with Randall and the crashing airplane.
Meanwhile, Finn tells LaMarr she wishes to send a search party for their missing crew, but LaMarr orders her to return to The Orville. He doesn’t want more valuable team members disappearing. Mercer and the team move through the next door onto Xelaya, near a lake. They spot a bright light emitting from the other side of said lake.
Earlier, at the high school, our team determined they must not be hallucinating since Malloy’s injuries from the bullies are real. However, if they were really on Xelaya, gravity would be a genuine issue. So, what’s happening?
Grayson, Keyali and Malloy row to the other side of the lake on a rudimentary boat while Mercer and Bortus wait on shore. Suddenly, a massive water beast snatches Grayson, dragging her toward the bottom of the lake. Keyali dives in and saves Grayson from becoming dinner.
Later, the trio reunites with Mercer and Bortus. Grayson notes that before losing consciousness, she also felt the same out-of-body experience as the others.
Then, our team takes the long way around to pinpoint the light source, stumbling upon a cave wherein a holographic power generator sits. It boasts a vast projection radius and an axionic shield to boot. Bortus neutralizes the shield, and Mercer shoots it up with his weapon. Boom!
Finally, our team sees they’re standing in a desert, not a dense forest. Mercer notifies LaMarr, and the group heads back to the ship.
Next, Dr. Finn patches them up while hypothesizing why the generator’s signature was so potent. Was it a hallucination if they could feel the effects?
Mercer and Grayson report to Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber), who orders them to rendezvous with a science vessel so they can transport the generator fragments to Earth for experimentation.
When the Union ships arrive, Isaac suspects something’s amiss. He notes they’re the Kaylon cloaking themselves as Earthers. Burke scoffs in disbelief that Isaac would suggest such a thing. Mercer orders the team to prepare their defenses, siding with Isaac. Sure enough, when The Orville speeds away, the ships tailing them transform into Kaylon vessels. A battle ensues, with The Orville bearing the brunt of the damage, notably to the ship’s quantum core.
Meanwhile, in a potentially different timeline, Keyali calls LaMarr from her shuttle. She’s back from Xelaya. LaMarr tells her that she traveled to Narran 1 with Mercer and the others. Uh oh. Something’s not right.
Amid the Kaylon battle, one massive vessel perches atop The Orville. Before the ship’s destroyed, time seems to … stop. Mercer, Grayson, Bortus and Malloy move about freely while the other crew members, including Burke and Isaac, are frozen. Keyali morphs into Dinal (Elizabeth Gillies), a highly advanced being beyond human comprehension.
We see our (now) quartet are still on Narran 1 as the desert landscape reappears. Dinal explains that her people are immortal, so they conducted a series of experiments on The Orville crew to understand mortality better. That’s why Mercer, Bortus, Grayson and Malloy harbored near-death experiences. Dinal wanted to know how humans react and process death when faced with it.
Dinal informs the group that they were never in genuine danger, as it was a simulation. It was a terrifying science experiment!
Back on The Orville, Mercer, Bortus, Grayson and Malloy contemplate Dinal’s experiment. How would they feel if they were immortal and trying to comprehend mortality, something that would be a concept to them? Everyone discusses what they believe happens after death, while Mercer asserts if he had the chance to be immortal, he’d take it.
He wants to see what happens next.
“Mortality Paradox” is a gorgeous hour of science fiction, encapsulating what I love about this genre — its ability to hold a mirror to the face of society and make us think. Plus, throw in the ethereal shots of space, battles with aliens and scary-looking monsters, and you’ve got the recipe for a damn good sci-fi series.
Do you think we’ll see Dinal again? Where are the Kaylon lurking? Will Bortus get his beach body ready for Klyden when he goes on shore leave? Join me next week while I recap The Orville: New Horizons, only on Geek Girl Authority.
The Orville: New Horizons drops new episodes every Thursday on Hulu.
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