Martin Carr reviews the eleventh episode of The Orville season 2…
Poignancy and pathos extol a heavy price from the audience this week as captain and crew encounter a time capsule. ‘Lasting Impressions’ is not only a highly perceptive piece of writing on the impact of social media, but subtlety encompasses other addictions without preaching. Touchstones include Spike Jonze’s Her and Alex Garland’s Ex Machina for those who like their science fiction less rose tinted. Pivotal to it’s success is the chemistry which exists between Scott Grimes and guest star Leighton Meester.
Using an iPhone artefact as a gateway across time we get to observe infatuation, longing and denial through the eyes of Gordon Mallory. Besotted by the memory and experiences of a girl long since dead MacFarlane raises questions of perception and subjectivity whilst critiquing the influence of others. Meester is captivating whilst Grimes shows a frailty and depth to Mallory which has been gently broadened in recent weeks. She possesses a girl next door quality which instantly connects with audiences making this cameo instrumental in making things work.
Comedic moments from Bortus and Klyden more broadly address addiction on a more literal level, while MacFarlane adds in satire through chuck away comments concerning American broadsheets. This week the twist comes through the manipulation of realities and individual experience which in turn carries its own price. From a theological point of view the phone acts as catalyst allowing Mallory to literally time travel and experience his ideal mate without fear of rejection. This God like quality which at best could be construed as unhealthy also feeds back into the notion of fake profiles, manipulation of identity and technology as a hindrance. For Macfarlane this is the closest he has come to Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror.
Where ‘Lasting Impressions’ and The Orville differ however is through the underlying inclusion of romantic whimsy which is ever present within this show. Black Mirror might be rapier like in its dissection of human frailty but MacFarlane imbues his writing with a softer more forgiving edge than Brooker, except for rare exceptions like San Junipero. Homages to Majorie Prime are also evident which took certain elements from slightly different directions with a similar end result. Ultimately the comments passed whether pertinent, poignant or revelatory, MacFarlane remains more than the sum of his parts and a subtle observer of humans in every condition.