DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Orville: New Horizons penultimate episode “Domino” has spoilers. Prepare to engage quantum drive and proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, Union officers! The Orville airs, inarguably, one of its strongest episodes to date. “Domino” is visually ambitious, propulsive and incredibly moving. It feels like a legitimate movie. “Domino” delivers pulsating action, never letting its foot off the gas. It boasts stunning graphics, captivating performances, jaw-dropping cliffhangers, a relevant ethical/political dilemma and much more. Seriously, I could go on and on.
Ready to delve into “Domino”? Let’s get to it.
A New Alliance
We open on Krill with Chancellor Teleya (Michaela McManus) engaged in a meeting with Moclan delegates. Moclus proposes an alliance with the Krill, especially as a formidable front against the growing Kaylon threat. Teleya will only consider the proposal if it’s an equal partnership — no gender politics here. A Moclan-Krill alliance could spell danger for the Union.
Meanwhile, the Union squares off against the Kaylon near Xelaya. We see Capt. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) and his crew join a bevy of Union vessels to fight the Kaylon. Isaac (Mark Jackson), Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters) and Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr (J Lee) oversee a powerful device that can target the Kaylon’s weakness.
Suddenly, the weapon detonates, instantly destroying all Kaylon ships surrounding the Union vessels. Success! Later, Mercer, Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), Burke and Isaac meet with Admirals Halsey (Victor Garber), Ozawa (Kelly Hu) and Perry (Ted Danson) on Earth. They discuss the capabilities of the Kaylon-eradicating device. Burke insists they can upgrade said device to incinerate all Kaylon instantaneously.
Mercer questions the ethics of committing species genocide. Halsey asserts that the Union Council will meet to debate the next step regarding whether they should utilize the device to wipe out the Kaylon for good or hold onto it.
Then, Burke, Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes), LaMarr and Lt. Cmdr. Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr) debate the ethical merits of playing God. Burke is Team Kill Them All, while LaMarr and Keyali fear such a move will set a terrifying precedent for the future. Plus, it goes against the Union’s moral code.
Next, Halsey informs Mercer and Grayson regarding the council’s decision. After a tense, heated debate, they’ve decided to utilize the device as a bargaining chip. They’ll disclose its existence to the Kaylon and threaten to use it if necessary if the latter doesn’t agree to stop the violence.
Later, Halsey accompanies the Orville as they attempt to approach Kaylon. The Kaylon Primary grants them access to the homeworld. Of course, our crew used the Kaylon-killing device on the vessels surrounding the planet as an example.
Once on Kaylon, Halsey gives the Kaylon Primary an ultimatum: either the Kaylon cease the violence, or the Union wipes them out with the device. KP agrees to the terms, and we see an armistice between the two parties on the horizon.
Then, our gang returns to Earth to celebrate their success. They saved the universe! Malloy and Burke entertain everyone with a gorgeous duet while our crew stays in Grayson’s late father’s cabin. Lt. Cmdr. Bortus (Peter Macon) and Klyden (Chad L. Coleman) argue over the proper way to crack a walnut. Thankfully, Keyali is there to bust it open with her bare, Xelayan hands. The Moclans stew in defeat.
Meanwhile, Isaac schools Topa (Imani Pullum), Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), Marcus (BJ Tanner) and Ty (Kai Di’Nilo Wener) on the wonders of the night sky. Mercer finds Burke standing alone on the cabin porch. He encourages her to belt out another tune with Malloy. Burke divulges her concerns regarding the Kaylon. Will they uphold their end of the bargain? Will they comply with Union protocol? Mercer reminds her that they don’t kill unless necessary, so they’ll have to trust the Kaylon.
Next, we see a Union lieutenant break into the guarded quarters containing Burke and Isaac’s device. He steals it alongside other traitors as they depart Earth in a shuttle. Uh-oh. This theft could throw a wrench in the armistice proceedings.
The following day, Halsey informs Grayson and Finn that someone stole the device. We see the Union shuttle approach Moclan and Krill vessels. Telaya agreed to the Moclan alliance. Admiral Perry turns over the device to Telaya! He believes the Krill and Moclans will do whatever it takes to eradicate the Kaylon. He doesn’t view this as a betrayal to the Union; however, he plans to turn himself in upon returning to Earth.
As Perry flies away, Telaya orders his murder. Suddenly, Perry’s shuttle explodes. RIP, Admiral Perry. You managed to evade justice in the end.
Once Mercer and Grayson arrive to examine where the device was stolen, Halsey informs them of Perry’s betrayal. They finally learn about the Krill-Moclan alliance. While departing Earth, Bortus tells them about Dr. Kalba, a brilliant Moclan scientist who can operate the device without Burke and Isaac. He resides at an outpost on Draconis 427.
An Uneasy Truce
So, Mercer contacts the Kaylon Primary and proposes they forge a temporary alliance of their own to combat the Moclan-Krill forces that are undoubtedly protecting the device on Draconis 427. KP agrees, and the Orville welcomes KP aboard for a brainstorming session. It’s a much different scenario than the last time the Kaylon boarded the Orville.
The Kaylon Primary joins Grayson, Keyali, Burke and Isaac on a shuttle bound for the station on Draconis 427. Meanwhile, LaMarr and Malloy will lead a fleet of fighter jets to blast away the enemies.
Suddenly, a breathtaking, edge-of-your-seat battle takes place, with Mercer overseeing the proceedings aboard the ship while everyone else parts ways to perform their duties. LaMarr and Malloy kick ass in their jets. Grayson and the crew’s shuttle loses a significant amount of power. Rather than forge ahead cloaked, Keyali suggests they utilize the egress packs. Watching them dive from the shuttle looks like a scene from a spy movie!
Boots on the Ground
After our ground team arrives at the outpost, they take on a flurry of Moclan-Krill soldiers. Teleya orders Dr. Kalba (Regi Davis) to hurry it along with activating the weapon. Amid the insanity of the battle, Teleya surprises Grayson. She shoves a blade to Grayson’s throat and orders her to stand down. Otherwise, she dies. However, our gal Grayson will not go gentle into that good night. The pair engage in a high-octane skirmish. I imagine Palicki’s Mockingbird skills kicked into high gear here. I miss Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Meanwhile, Burke, Isaac and the Kaylon Primary storm Dr. Kalba’s quarters, with KP shooting a handful of soldiers. Burke and Isaac seize control from Dr. Kalba, but he reveals that they cannot override the activation or deactivate the quantum core. Burke hijacks the system to attempt to find a loophole.
KP kills Dr. Kalba and some of the Moclan soldiers who try to escape. However, when another Moclan tries to fire on Burke, we see Isaac’s guns activate. He shoots the weapon out of the Moclan’s hands but refrains from killing the latter. The Kaylon Primary wonders why Isaac didn’t murder the Moclan. Isaac informs KP that he didn’t view it as essential.
A Xelayan Saves the Day
Then, Keyali arrives to incapacitate Teleya before she takes out Grayson. That battle between those two is incredible. Hats off to the stunts team. Grayson and Keyali reunite with Isaac and Burke with a handcuffed Teleya in tow.
Burke reveals the only way to stop the device activation is to destroy the quantum core. An act like this will decimate the outpost and that portion of the planet. No one would survive such a blast. Grayson orders Burke to set the explosion on a timed delay, but Burke tells her it’s not that simple. Burke volunteers to stay behind because her order is to disable the weapon at all costs. Grayson and the others leave Burke and take a Krill ship off the planet.
An Ensign Saves the Universe
Before she rigs the quantum core to explode, we hear Burke say, “I’m here, Amanda.” Mercer and the crew watch as the outpost, along with part of Draconis 427, blows up. If this moment doesn’t tug on your heartstrings, you might be a Kaylon (and not Timmis).
Grayson hails the Orville from Teleya’s Krill shuttle and informs Mercer about Burke’s brave sacrifice. Once everyone’s back together, the Kaylon Primary questions why Burke sacrificed herself. Grayson vehemently defends Burke, saying she wanted to save them despite Burke’s hatred of the Kaylon. Burke longed to protect everyone. Isaac reassures KP that these humans are nothing like their builders. “They are my friends,” Isaac informs him. Good grief! Is someone cutting onions?
Later, Mercer visits Teleya in the brig. He reveals they plan to transfer her to Earth, where she’ll stand trial for war crimes. After that, who knows how the Union will proceed with her punishment? Mercer urges Teleya to allow him to care for Anaya, their daughter. Teleya offers Mercer an ultimatum — if he lets her go free, he can have Anaya. Naturally, Mercer doesn’t take Teleya up on her offer.
A New Chapter/A Moving Tribute
While on Earth, we see the Kaylon Primary negotiating with Admirals Halsey and Ozawa, President Alcuzan (Bruce Boxleitner), and Speria Balask (Lisa Banes). The Union will allow the Kaylon a seat on the council and Union membership if they behave. KP agrees to their terms. Ah, this could be the start of a beautiful union.
Then, the crew holds a funeral service for Ensign Charly Burke. Mercer delivers a eulogy, informing the crowd that the Union will award Burke a posthumous Medal of Valor for her bravery. Mercer asks the audience if anyone would like to speak, so Isaac volunteers. He doles out a moving, touching speech (thoughtfully curated with the aid of Dr. Finn). He emphasizes the importance of Ensign Burke’s life, no matter how transient it was. Her sacrifice saved a species and paved the way for an essential union between two previously warring parties.
Rest in Peace, Ensign Burke. Soar among the stars with Amanda now.
Let the Dominoes Fall
“Domino” harbors unexpected twists, like Admiral Perry’s betrayal. Plus, who could have foreseen Charly Burke’s demise? Not only that, but her sacrifice feels “full circle” regarding her narrative. She starts the season with the Orville after fleeing the Kaylon. Then, her journey culminates in a brave sacrifice for the beings she despised. Winters delivers a solid performance here, closing Burke’s chapter with grace and love. Burke has a beautiful evolution in just nine episodes.
Isaac calling the crew his friends and giving a eulogy at Burke’s funeral feels like a moment of growth for him. Never let it be said that The Orville sacrifices character development for super cool sci-fi stuff — it makes space for both.
“Domino” sets the stage for what’s sure to be an explosive season finale. Despite Teleya’s imprisonment, there are still the Krill and Moclans to contend with now that the Kaylon are close to joining the Union. Much like the dominoes fell in this outing, there might still be a few in need of toppling come episode 10.
The Orville: New Horizons will debut its season finale, “Future Unknown,” on Hulu on Thursday, August 4, 2022.