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The Road Not Taken is the fourteenth episode and season finale of the second season of The Orville. The crew of USS Orville must contend with the disastrous fallout from Kelly Grayson's decision.

The title likely refers to Robert Frost's poem by the same name, which explores personal choice and consequences through a metaphorical narrative of a traveler who took "the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference."[1]

The Road Not Taken was written by David A. Goodman. As early as Season 1, writers tinkered with time-travel plot lines that would be enjoyable yet original, and some staff, such as science adviser André Bormanis, concluded the task "was pretty much impossible at this point."[2]

Goodman and the writing staff mulled over the surprise ending of the preceding episode, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, for inspiration.[3] What emerged was a marked departure from previous episodes: While the show normally tells allegorical stories in the vein of Star Trek, The Road Not Taken presented a 'What If?' space opera and an homage to Star Wars. And, like Season 1's Pria, the episode explores choice, determinism, and the Butterfly effect all in an alternate timeline.

The episode was scored by Joel McNeely and directed by Gary Rake, while actress Halston Sage (Alara Kitan) made a surprise return to the show as a Resistance leader. The episode did not feature the standard opening credits and theme music by Bruce Broughton as they were removed for time constraints.[4]

The Road Not Taken was very well received upon airing, and currently holds a rating of 8.6 on IMDB.[5] The episode is considered the final chapter in the show's very strong second half, where every episode after Deflectors earned a rating of eight or higher. Two weeks after airing, 20th Century Fox renewed The Orville for a third season.[6]

Plot summaryEdit

Act 1Edit

Two figures walk through the forests and snow of Sarin 4, masked and thickly jacketed against the cold, until they find an old Planetary Union Listening Post. The two scour the abandoned building and find a Food Synthesizer, but are interrupted by a Kaylon Interceptor-class Sphere. The sphere disgorges three Kaylon, whose heads detach and pursue the two figures.

The two men flee, dodging laser blasts, until they reach their shuttle, ECV-342-1. The two men remove their masks, revealing themselves to be Captain Ed Mercer and Helmsman Gordon Malloy. Gordon says he thought the planet was safe but Ed replies that there is nowhere safe anymore.

Their shuttle flies through space, followed by another sphere hiding in a nearby asteroid field.

Act 2 Edit

Ed and Gordon are unable to jump into "quantum," but their engines are interrupted by Kaylon fire. To buy time to reset the quantum drive, the two enter the hollow of an ice moon. In a cavern, Gordon turns the shuttle around and fires at the cavern's roof. Sheets of ice and rock fall, crushing the sphere.

Now in quantum, they set a course for Calivon. Though the species is extremely dangerous, the Calivon are at war with the Kaylon. Ed reasons they can hide on the fringe of Calivon space in safety. With their new Food Synthesizer, Gordon orders a Twinkie. Suddenly, the shuttle's Computer goes offline and the ship drops out of quantum. An enormous scavenger ship reels them in by tractor beam.

The two men draw PM-44s and prepare for a last stand. However, the shuttle door opens to reveal Kelly Grayson, Claire Finn, John LaMarr, and Talla Keyali. Ed remembers Kelly as a woman who went on a single date with him seven years ago. Kelly says that failed date is why she is here now.

In the ship's conference room, Kelly, Claire, John, and Talla tell Gordon and Ed about another timeline where they are all part of Ed's crew on the USS Orville - a ship now infamous the vessel the Kaylon used to infiltrate the Planetary Union and spearhead the Battle of Earth. Kelly explains that seven years ago she was accidentally sent forward in time to what would have been six months ago, but when the Orville sent her back, Claire's memory wipe that failed to work due to a deficiency in a protein called Beta-secretase. As a result, when she returned to her timeline, she turned Ed down and altered the timeline.

In the original timeline, the Kaylon emissary Isaac had a relationship with Claire which convinced him to betray his people and save the Union from the Kaylon. Now that never happened and the Union lost the battle. Claire states that the only way to restore the timeline is to send Claire to the year 2414 and successfully wipe younger Kelly's memory.

All Union Sick Bays are long lost, but the Resistance maintains military cells which might be able to manufacture Beta-secretase. One such cell is remote, far from any Kaylon. In private, Kelly apologizes to Ed but says it is good to him again.

Act 3 Edit

The scavenger ship flies through an asteroid field, a former planet torn apart nearby black hole, and Kelly sights the planet with a Resistance base. Kelly, Ed, John, and Claire venture to the base, leaving Talla and Gordon to look after her sons Ty and Marcus Finn.

A quick trek through a forest leads to a camouflaged building. Yaphit answers and recognizes John from the USS Orville. He leads the four to Lieutenant Alara Kitan.

Act 4 Edit

Alara is pleased that her friend John survived the Kaylon. Alara produces a vial of Beta-secretase. They are interrupted by the ground quaking, and an officer warns that the Kaylon have found them.

Alara and the Resistance fight a futile battle against the Kaylon, but buy Ed and his companions enough time to escape through the south entrance and return to their shuttle. Meanwhile, the scavenger vessel is attacked by Kaylon spheres.

The four return to their shuttle but are met by a Kaylon ordering them to surrender. Ed and Kelly shoot him, then fly the shuttle through space to the ship.

Unfortunately, the ship is unable to jump into quantum with the drive offline. The crew flees through the asteroid field with the Kaylon spheres on their tail. Unable to outrun them, they decide to enter the gravity well of the black hole.

Act 5Edit

Time dilation means time moves more slowly for the crew in the black hole than for the Kaylon outside. After two days, the Kaylon leave and the crew sets course for Earth. To restore the timeline, they need to access Isaac's files on the Aronov device, which was aboard the Orville. All of that lies on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

John examines part of the fallen Kaylon's memory core. Meanwhile, Ed has a second date with Kelly over spaghetti bolognese. He tells her that he has been the Commanding Officer of the Epsilon Eridani outpost outpost for the past seven years, but never attained captaincy. Kelly explains that she altered the timeline to spare themselves from a painful, failed relationship. John finds the Kaylon's files are protected with quantum encryption codes, and all Kaylon are connected to each other by a central computer system. Gordon calls out that they are approaching Earth.

On the bridge, the crew and passengers find a fallow, barren Earth and a Moon fragmented into several asteroids. The team takes a shuttle to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, where the Orville awaits.

Inside the ship, the team follow a reading of "one life sign" to the bridge. Second Officer Bortus was hiding and strikes Mercer.

Act 6 Edit

Bortus remained aboard the Orville as it crashed to ensure every officer escaped. Though his mate Klyden and their son Topa fled to Moclus, the Kaylon destroyed the planet. Bortus joins the team to "make things right."

The Orville ascends through the ocean and then the stratosphere.

In the Science Lab, LaMarr fruitlessly studies the Quantum Accelerator, but without Isaac, it would take years to understand the mathematics. Unfortunately, Isaac had been disassembled by the Kaylon.

Ed and Kelly scout out a drink from the Orville's bar in the Mess Hall. Kelly admits "a weird sense of comfort" being with Ed in this timeline, despite all the sadness and terror, and they kiss.

Act 7 Edit

LaMarr announces he can connect to the Kaylon neural network and download Isaac's stored files, but doing so will announce the Orville's location. Worse, using the quantum accelerator will drain the Orville's quantum drive of its energy.

Just as John predicted, he downloads the files, which betrays their ship's location to the Kaylon. Claire gives a tearful goodbye to her sons and waits under the accelerator.

In Engineering, John feeds all available energy to the accelerator, pushing the quantum drive to its absolute limits. The enormous output of energy from the engines begins to tear the ship apart. "If this doesn't work," Ed asks Kelly. "Will you marry me?" In their last moments, Kelly replies, "Yes." The quantum accelerator begins to glow; the quantum drive destroys the Orville.

A young Kelly Grayson wakes to an alarm and grabs a coffee. In a span of seconds, she disappears seven years into the future, dropping the coffee mug, and then returns lying on the floor. She walks about her kitchen until Claire (from the future) appears. With a Multijector of Beta-secretase, Claire wipes Kelly's memory and then disappears.

Kelly wakes to a call from young Ed: "I was wondering if I could take you out again." She smiles.

"I'd love it."

Production Edit

Writing Edit

The Road Not Taken was written by executive producer David A. Goodman, who conceived of its plot while working on Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. Originally, writers intended Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow to host a self-contained story that would "reset" when young Kelly returned until Goodman overheard someone in the writing staff suggest that she turns young Ed down when she returns.

I started thinking that would mean Ed wouldn’t get the Orville, and that means Claire wouldn’t be on the Orville and that means that Marcus and Ty wouldn’t become friends with Isaac and that means the Kaylon would have won. So what I just pitched happened in around five minutes and [creator Seth MacFarlane] realized right then, there is your season finale, this big adventure story taking place in this alternative timeline.[7]
The episode was originally written for earlier in Season 2 until the writing staff wanted it as the finale.[7]

Filming Edit

Second-unit filming continued well into 2019 under the direction of Jon Cassar. The final day of shooting was February 26, 2019.[8]

Post-production Edit

Many of the visual effects and physical simulations were created by Pixomondo, an effects vendor contracted by the show in Season 2, in coordination with visual effects supervisor Luke McDonald. Typically, Pixomondo assigned a team consisting of a supervisor and three artists to each episode, but the intense underwater sequences in the Marianas Trench on Earth required a team of 30.[9] Pixomondo's visual effects producer Daniel Carbo recollected that

we had our environment team, our lighting team putting everything together and lighting all the shots. There were also people involved with flying the shuttle as it meanders its way to the bottom of the trench and populating that and the background into shots. It’s quite an effort and you have a certain time to turn it around from previz through final for that kind of sequence.[9]
On May 23, 2018, digital effects supervisor Brandon Fayette said in an interview with the Planetary Union Network that he was working on a particularly stunning ship for Season 2 (Kelly's scavenger ship), and called it "the Season 2 ship."[10]

The finale was locked on March 2, 2019.[11] One week before airing, actor Scott Grimes (Gordon) said that MacFarlane was still "putting the finishing touches" on the episode.[12]

Preparing to air Edit

In December, actor Scott Grimes (Gordon) said this episode would be "reminiscent of time-travel that will blow your mind ... where maybe everyone hasn't met everyone yet."[13] He later specified that, after reading the script, the cast reacted by asking, "How are we gonna pull this off, and how are we gonna afford it?"[14] And the crew has to find a way to make the vision work.[14]

The title was announced on February 6, 2019.[15]

Reception Edit

Viewership Edit

General audiences gave The Road Not Taken a warm reception, and it currently holds a rating of 8.6 on IMDB.[5] The episode is considered the final part of Season 2's strong second half, where every episode after Deflectors received a rating of eight or higher.

Roughly 2.97 million television viewers watched the episode live, the most since Identity, Pt. 2 but below the season average of 3.162 million.[16] The episode would be the final chapter of The Orville to have public television ratings. On July 20, 2019, 20th Century Fox transferred Season 3 of The Orville to Hulu, an online streaming service.[17]

Critical response Edit

Critics responded very positively to The Road Not Taken. Nick Wanserski of the AV Club gave the episode a grade of A-, calling it a "thrilling" conclusion to the season and possibly to the show (Fox had not yet renewed The Orville at this point):

It’s always impressive to see a finale provide some drama, some spectacle, an emotionally resonant ending that encapsulates the key themes of the show while at the same time (ensuring the favor of the renewal gods) keep things sufficiently open-ended to leave room for further adventures and hijinks.[18]
Jamahl Epsicokahn of Jammer's Reviews gave the episode three stars of four.[19] Alejandro Rojas of Den of Geek gave the episode 4.5 stars of five, who wrote that while Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow "got a little deep," The Road Not Taken "was all swashbuckling to the core. The primary purpose of this episode seems to be fun. And fun it is."[20]

Trivia Edit

  • The Orville Season 2 Gag Reel

    The Orville Season 2 Gag Reel

    A composite video with outtakes from this, and other, Season 2 episodes.

    Outtakes and bloopers from this episode were compiled by the show's editors for the Season 2 wrap party and were published by the Planetary Union Network.[21]
  • The episode opens with Ed and Gordon scavenging the planet Sarin 4 for a Food Synthesizer. The real Sarin is a binary star system in the Hercules constellation and can be seen with the naked eye.
    • Sarin's distance from Earth is roughly 75 light years, which means the Orville can travel between star systems in 7.5 hours.
  • Executive producer David A. Goodman, writer of the episode, has clarified that - contra fan speculation that Claire's second and final memory wipe still did not work - Claire's memory wipe worked and the universe of The Orville is reset.[7]
  • During the descent into Earth's ocean, Claire comments that the Kaylon killed off all the fish: a nod to the prior Season 2 episode, Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes. In this case, there is nothing left on Earth including "fishes."
  • The episode is Goodman's favorite.[22]

Timeline Edit

  • Kelly notes that the original future she witnessed in Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow would have occured six months ago.
    • The events of this episode take place just less than nine months following an alternate Battle of Earth, which may not have necessarily taken place at precisely the same time as originally seen in Identity, Pt. 2.

References Edit

  • The title likely refers to Robert Frost's poem by the same name, which explores personal choice and consequences through a metaphorical narrative of a traveler who took "the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference."[1]
  • Kelly recalls her temporal displacement in Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.
  • The disappearance of the alternate Claire Finn after erasing Kelly's memory is consistent with Pria Lavesque, who disappeared when the Orville destroyed a wormhole connecting the 25th century to the 29th century.
  • The show is known for its references to Star Trek, but this episode is clearly an homage to the science-fiction franchise Star Wars.
    • The scene where Lieutenant Yaphit's mouth protrudes from the door of the rebel's base parallels a scene from the movie Star Wars: Return of the Jedi where the eye of a gatekeeper droid at Jabba's palace cranes out from a door to inspect C-3PO and R2D2.[23]
  • The destruction of the Orville marks the second time the ship has been shown to be destroyed and the first time it has occured genuinely, following the destruction of the simulated Orville in Firestorm.
  • "The Aronov device" is the quantum accelerator, a machine capable of accelerating the passage of time, named after Doctor Aronov, overseer of the Epsilon Science Station on Epsilon 2.

Mistakes Edit

  • The crew calls the quantum accelerator "the Aronov device" when, in fact, the creator of the accelerator was a team of physicists led by the late Doctor Janice Lee. Doctor Aronov merely ran the facility Janice worked in.[25]

 Cast Edit

Main cast Edit

Special guest cast Edit

Recurring cast Edit

Guest cast Edit

Uncredited Edit

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Frost, Robert. Mountain Interval. Henry Holt. 1916.
  2. Oullette, Jennifer. "The Orville blends science fiction and science fact into a winning mix". Ars Technica. Dec. 29, 2018.
  3. Pascale, Anthony. "Interview: David A. Goodman On How ‘The Orville’ Wrapped Up Season Two And Where It Could Go Next". TrekMovie. May 3, 2019.
  4. @TomCostantino. "Thank you @spool_the !!! https://thespool.net/tv/2019/04/the-orville-recap-tomorrow-and-tomorrow-and-tomorrow/ … and don’t worry about the main title,  we just temporarily needed extra time for the show.  ⏱🧭⏰⏲@SethMacFarlane @TheOrville #TheOrville". Twitter. April 18, 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Episode List. IMDB. Last accessed Sept. 6, 2019.
  6. Petski, Denise. "‘The Orville’ Renewed For Season 3 By Fox". Deadline. May 11, 2019.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Pascale, Anthony. "Interview: David A. Goodman On How ‘The Orville’ Wrapped Up Season Two And Where It Could Go Next". TrekMovie. May 3, 2019.
  8. @TomCostantino. "MORE-VILLE stuff from my phone. Future throwback #BTS. The last set up of Sesaon 2. @SethMacFarlane @TheOrville #TheOrville @planetary_union @joncassar". Twitter. March 6, 2019.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Leighton, Susan. "GO BEHIND THE SCENES OF ‘THE ORVILLE’ WITH THE VFX WIZARDS OF PIXOMONDO". Krypton Radio. May 6, 2019.
  10. "The Orville Fan Podcast w/ The Visual Effects Team". Planetary Union Network. May 23, 2018.
  11. @ChillyKillary. "FINALE LOCKED YOU GUYS!!!! 👏". Twitter. March 2, 2019.
  12. @ScottGrimes. "Less than a week away and we are still putting finishing touches on the season finale of @TheOrville !! By “we” I mean @SethMacFarlane still at it polishing it up for y’all . #theorville". Twitter. April 19, 2019.
  13. "#253: Scott Grimes from The Orville and American Dad". Comic Book Central. Dec. 23, 2018.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Radish, Christina. "Scott Grimes on ‘The Orville’ Season 2’s Bigger Scope and Working with Seth MacFarlane". Collider. Jan. 10, 2019.
  15. The Orville. Fox Sweden. Last accessed Feb. 9, 2019.
  16. The Orville:Season Two Ratings. TV Series Finale. Last accessed May 14, 2019.
  17. @SFKMagazine. "Seth McFarlane says #TheOrville is moving to Hulu for season three". Twitter. July 20, 2019.
  18. Wanserski, Nick. "In a thrilling season finale, The Orville shows how much worse it can get when you try to avoid mistakes". AV Club. April 26, 2019.
  19. Epsicokhan, Jamal. "The Road Not Taken". Jammer's Reviews. Last accessed Sept. 6, 2019.
  20. Rojas, Alejandro. "The Orville Season 2 Episode 14 Review: The Road Not Taken". Den of Geek. April 26, 2019.
  21. THE ORVILLE SEASON 2 GAG REEL. Planetary Union Network. April 30, 2019.
  22. Sun - Main Stage | NYCC 2019 | SYFY WIRE. SyFy Wire. Oct. 6, 2019.
  23. /u/Runner_one. "Anyone else make this connection?". Reddit. April 26, 2019.
  24. Doctor Aronov: "No, the field can only accelerate the forward pace of time." Episode 1x01: Old Wounds
  25. Episode 1x01: Old Wounds
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