‘The Orville’: Hey, guess what? Seth MacFarlane has even more thoughts about religion!

The Orville
“Mad Idolatry”
December 7, 2017

We begin this, the season finale and my final stop on this particular hell ride — THANK XENU — with Seth MacFarlane wandering the ship late at night, looking for someone with whom to have a drink. Because remember: you’re not an alcoholic unless you’re drinking alone. He eventually is invited to play a drinking game with Bortus and his husband which ends with some sort of blade going through his hand, ha?

Seth MacFarlane returns to his room where he reaches out to Ex-Wife with a not-booty-call …


… and she agrees to meet him in the mess hall for a drink. There, they admit that they are both lonely and make plans to go on a real date to test the get-back-together waters.

The next morning, the ship encounters a distortion in space so, obviously, Ex-Wife, Robot, and Gordon hop into a shuttle to check it out even though previous distortions in space have been invisible portals to instant death. BUT SURE, GO GET CLOSE TO IT.

The shuttle ends up bouncing around on yet another planet that bears a striking resemblance to southern California. To kill some time while Robot fixes the shuttle, Ex-Wife decides to go wander around for a while despite being warned that she isn’t supposed to make contact with the primitive Bronze Age-era culture on the planet lest she “contaminate it.”

So she immediately makes contact with a primitive culture, contaminating it. Some children spy her in the woods, and, running away, one little girl trips and cuts her head open. Ex-Wife calmly introduces herself before zapping the wound with her wound-zapper, but then a crowd arrives and Ex-Wife is like, “WHOOPS BYE,” and runs away.

Back on the Orville, Seth MacFarlane files a report about the team’s findings, leaving out the part where Ex-Wife contaminated an entire culture because who needs to know, right?

Meanwhile, the planet disappears from view just as quickly as it had appeared and Robot theorizes that it is in a “multi-universe phasic orbit” — basically, the planet divides itself between this universe and another, and when it returns from this other universe 11 days later, some 700 years have elapsed on the planet because time travel multi-universe shenanigans blah blah blah.

So these dummies decide that they should go back to the planet to make sure that if they didn’t contaminate the culture the first time, they do so this time they didn’t contaminate the culture. And guess what? Ex-Wife had totally contaminated the culture, giving rise to an entire religion that worships her. But instead of being all, “I’M A MOTHERFUCKING GOD! BOW DOWN, MORTALS, AND BRING ME THE OFFERINGS,” like any normal person would, Ex-Wife is all upset and wants to “fix” it.

jon hamm sure ok right sarcastic

Back on the Orville, the Big Bosses discover that Seth MacFarlane left off the part where Ex-Wife turned herself inot a god and they are SUPER PISSED. Seth MacFarlane is officially reprimanded and these dummies are warned to not return to the planet.

So they immediately return to the planet. Once there, Ex-Wife approaches Space Pope to prove that she’s not a God, but merely a mortal with cool gadgets. Convinced, he agrees to spread the truth and these dummies leave the planet. However! After they leave, Space Cardinal takes exception with Space Pope’s plant to reveal the truth about the Church of Ex-Wife which would result in the church abdicating its power and stabs Space Pope to death.

And when the planet reappears after its 700-year-cycle, placing it in the audience’s contemporaneous times, the Church of Ex-Wife still exists and is the cause of wars and shouty cable news heads screaming at one another. GET IT? DO YOU GET IT? BECAUSE I CAN EXPLAIN IT TO YOU.


Ex-Wife is even more determined to return to the planet to fix this mess but there is not enough time for her to do so without being trapped in the 700-year cycle, so Robot volunteers to spend 700 years on the planet to explain this mess and everyone is like, “Yep, this is a good idea,” EVEN THOUGH THE BIG BOSSES TOLD THEM EXPLICITLY NOT TO DO THIS EXACT THING.

11 days later, Robot returns with citizens of the planet who are now 700 years older and completely over Ex-Wife. Turns out, they didn’t need the Orville dummies to spacemansplain religion to them. According to the new enlightened citizens of this planet, they came to realize in this most recent 700-year span that religion is just a natural part of the cultural evolutionary process; if it weren’t Ex-Wife, they would have found something else to worship and fight over. But it’s fine because in the end, they did what all cultures do: mature out of religion and moved towards logic. Anyway, in 11 days, they’ll be more advanced than the Orville folks, so smell ya later, future slaves until then, fellow space travelers!

And then Ex-Wife calls off the whole getting back together thing with Seth MacFarlane because the show was renewed and we have to keep up the sexual tension somehow.


First of all, everyone on The Orville should be fired for being disobedient doofuses.


But second of all, this is not the show that atheists should be so excited about, contrary to some of the comments I’ve received. Again, not to get too personal here, but to the great consternation of many people in my family, I am not personally a believer. As such, I am always more than happy to have stories about religion and atheism explored on television because I do think these are important and interesting questions. I just wish those conversations weren’t being moderated by the equivalent of a 7th grader who is very convinced of his own sophistication.

Specifically to this episode, it’s just lazy, ham-fisted writing to have the religion that springs up after contact with Ex-Wife be just full-bodied Catholicism. They really couldn’t be more imaginative than that? Even down to the Pope hat? HOW DO TWO CULTURES IN DIFFERENT UNIVERSES AND NO CONTACT BOTH COME UP WITH THE POPE HAT?

But aside from the laziness, just photocopying Christianity — Catholicism, specifically — is so obvious that it will only make believers defensive and less likely to explore their own beliefs or religion’s history. There’s no nuance, there’s no depth; it’s just Seth MacFarlane telling believers that they have the intellectual maturity of Bronze Age citizens and reassuring non-believers that they are superior by literally saying out loud, “We non-believers, we are logical and evolutionarily advanced and have all the smarts.” Reducing all believers to unevolved idiots who mistake science for miracles is just as reductive and stupid as believers suggesting that all atheists “hate God,” and it doesn’t advance the conversation one whit.

Jesus, I hate this show.

And again, I don’t hate it because it’s silly or tries to be funny; and I don’t hate it because of its sincerity. What I hate about it is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be, vacillating wildly between silly and sincere, leaving us with abrupt tonal shifts in every episode. I hate it because it is repetitive and often completely illogical. But I mostly hate it because it thinks it is smarter and more important than it actually is. YOU ARE NOT CLEVER, THE ORVILLE. STOP TRYING TO BE CLEVER, THE ORVILLE.

But you know what? Not my problem anymore. The Orville will have to continue its exploratory journey into space and ill-considered plot points without me. With this, the season finale, I am done with The Orville for forever and ever, amen. Sometime next week I will post a poll of midseason series from which you can choose a new show to torture me with, because apparently I still have a deep masochistic streak running deep inside me somewhere.

In the meantime, I’m going to spend the holidays watching Black Mirror on Netflix, skipping directly ahead to the episode, “U.S.S. Callster,” i.e. “The Show The Orville Should Have Been.”

Adios, The Orville. This show is not good, y’all. But you know what? It ain’t my problem anymore.

The Orville will return next fall on Fox and I still haven’t forgiven you guys for this.

One thought on “‘The Orville’: Hey, guess what? Seth MacFarlane has even more thoughts about religion!

  1. Obviously, OBVIOUSLY, you are not a fan of this show. But damn it all if these recaps weren’t a joy to read. Thank you for slogging through this exercise. May Adrianne Palicki bless you, all of your days.

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