The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5 Review: A Tale of Two Topas

Spoilers

I gotta hand it to them. The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5 really demonstrates that they’re aiming high to dig deep this season.

The most impressive element in the narrative is how the search for the temple’s burial chamber is a metaphor for Topa’s need to know the truth about herself.

Topa In Command - The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5

The team senses something hidden in the temple, just as Topa senses there’s something more to her identity.

Ever since I was a young child, I have always felt incomplete. As if the person I am today is a bookmark — a placeholder — until I discover who I am.

And when they find the door to the treasure chamber, it’s booby-trapped, just as revealing the truth to Topa has knock-on effects on her family and, on the grander scale, the Union and the safety of the biological universe.

The treasure of the burial chamber isn’t riches of any monetary worth but knowledge of the lost culture and its people. Topa hesitates before her procedure because she has no idea who she will be on the other side.

Going Nuts - The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5

To top it all off, in both cases, Isaac proves to be the key to opening the literal and proverbial door.

It’s bloody brilliant in its layering of meaning and plot parallels.

In fact, you could say the temple teaser foreshadows the main narrative. Just as Topa shadows Grayson as part of her Union Point prep.

Ok, that might be a reach.

Bolobar - The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5

What isn’t a reach is noting the deliberate inclusion of Bolobar, the naked ensign.

Before touching on the foundational misogyny of Moclan society, we’re primed for a cultural showdown by watching Grayson come up with a way to respect Bolobar’s religious belief against wearing clothes on the first day of the month.

Grayson: I don’t want to disrespect your religion, but maybe there’s a sensible compromise between your faith and Union protocol that would satisfy everyone involved.
Bolobar: What do you suggest?
Grayson: Put some pants on and we’ll call it a day.
Bolobar: Very well, Commander.

(Personally, I would’ve just given him the first day of the month off for religious observance. But maybe I’m oversimplifying.)

Finally, the songs we see Bortus perform at his distraction/alibi concert are as coded as Grayson’s instructions for searching for kimbok recipes.

Ty and Bortus - The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5

He opens the concert with Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy,” which ends with a repetition of the lyrics, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn / Is just to love and be loved in return.”

That’s clearly a message for Klyden, who obviously did not attend the concert.

The last song we see Bortus sing is for his child.

Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote “You’ll Never Walk Alone” for one of the weirdest Golden Age musicals ever, Carousel. (Seriously, look it up.) The song was later recorded by the Liverpudlian band Gerry and the Pacemakers and became the anthem of Liverpool FC.

“Walk on, walk on / With hope in your heart / And you’ll never walk alone / You’ll never walk alone.” The song’s message of hope is echoed by how the crew rallies together for Topa.

Heveena - The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5

This has been a long-game story that kicked off way back on The Orville Season 1 Episode 3.

For them to use the footage of Heveena testifying at the trial is probably the most blatant wraparound ever attempted by a show to prove they aren’t “rebooting” themselves on a different network.

(Who else cheered to see Alara on screen again?)

Heveena’s presence serves a double purpose here. First, it drives home the need for representation. You really can’t be it unless you see it. Topa has no female Moclan role models, and she’d be hard-pressed to find one anywhere.

And then there’s the question of the true rarity of female Moclans that the trial introduced.

In the Chair - The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5

Moclans claim females are such aberrations that only one is born every 75 years. Bortus admitted that, in actuality, a few are born every generation, but they are converted to male immediately, and thus the numbers are artificially depressed.

At the trial, Heveena claimed the numbers are even higher than those like Bortus suspect. Effectively, the fabric of Moclan society is woven on and with gendercide.

I may appear to be male, but what is inside me still exists. It is why I have felt the way I have for so long. My body has been screaming to me that I am someone else!

The perspectives on the controversy range from Klyden to basically everyone else.

Grayson’s involvement is very much in keeping with her claim she came to serve the Union in the interest of helping others become the best versions of themselves. Her sympathy for Topa is genuine, as is her fear that the child will self-harm if not offered a respite from her despair.

A Whole New World - The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5

Bortus has long walked the line between the good of his child and his love for Klyden.

While it’s satisfying to see him finally choose Topa, I don’t think his love for Klyden will crumble away quickly.

As Isaac points out, Klyden’s indoctrination is so absolute, he is unable to perceive any other way of life.

His self-loathing for being born female is ingrained, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever be able to accept that side of himself.

Not a Moclan Egg - The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5

This leaves Bortus in the difficult position of being a single parent of a Moclan girl, two unique circumstances in his culture.

Were Tope to follow through on her plan to enter Union Point, she will face tremendous hatred from any Moclan crew or delegations.

Grayson: This kid is unhappy.
Klyden: All children are unhappy. He will outgrow it.

But she is happy. Every detail of her movement and expression conveys that happiness; for her and Bortus, it’s clear that is enough.

Isaac’s perspective on the situation is fascinating as he does not factor Topa’s happiness into his calculations.

Instead, he realizes that being the conduit to Topa’s happiness, he affects the crew’s receptiveness to him, which will make them more “efficient” because they’ll be hating on him less.

Isaac in the Dark - The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5

Isaac is still best observed when people stop projecting their own version of him, but I don’t mind that he’s still Dr. Finn’s go-to dinner date.

And in contrast to the temple’s hidden chamber and Topa’s hidden truths, Isaac is exactly as he represents himself. As the doctor says, he is the most honest member of the crew.

The humor here landed better than it has so far this season. Can we get a “woot-woot” for Bolobar?

Malloy’s allergic reaction, Yaphit’s (yay!) ass-kissing, and even Isaac’s sight gag with the arrow to the temporal access conduit are appropriate and believable behaviors.

A Swell Time - The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 5

I’m starting to suspect Mercer’s the weak point on the cast. His scenes are unengaging and his lines are unconvincing. You’d think I’d care a little about him writing letters to his newfound daughter. Nope.

And then there’s Burke. I’m still not vibing on the ensign. Nothing makes sense about her. If you’re going to put her in charge of a major cartography mission, at least promote her to a rank where she should be ordering people around.

Hit the comments with your takes on this outing. I sense some of you will have a lot to say.

Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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