The Orville: Identity, Part 1
February 22, 2019 7:24 AM - Season 2, Episode 8 - Subscribe

When Issac shuts down, the crew head to his home planet to fix him, and uncover a shocking secret.

The Orville Season 2 Episode 8 Review: Identity, Pt.1 (Diana Keng for TV Fanatic)
Honestly, none of us should be surprised by The Orville Season 2 Episode 8's reveal.

It was made abundantly clear again and again (sometimes to humorous effect) that Isaac was devoid of emotion and without sentimentality.

But we wouldn't listen and insisted on projecting humanity onto him like Mr. Potato Head accessories.

He was there to observe humans and develop an understanding but nowhere and at no time did he ever express an interest in emulating them.
‘The Orville’ Season 2 Episode 8 Recap & Review: This Show’s Not a Comedy Anymore (Stephanie Dube Dwilson for
Tonight on The Orville, a plot twist happened that no one was expecting. The show went from being a comedy to something much darker. Season 2 Episode 8, “Identity Part 1,” was not anything that fans had predicted, but it was amazing.
posted by filthy light thief (30 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I know that part 2 is next week, but this would have been a killer (no pun intended) season finale.
posted by Roger Pittman at 8:02 AM on February 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

Initial thoughts while watching this episode: "We'll learn that Isaac hasn't actually submitted any of his reports, and is actually fleeing his planet/people, right?"

Then, upon seeing the humanoid boneyard, I thought "ooh, of course - who built the robots, and where are they now?"

Which is how we got to Skynet with legs. Which lead me to sing (to myself) the humans are dead.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:06 AM on February 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

That was some solid walking-through-dimly-lit-subterranean-corridors-on-an-alien-planet sci fi entertainment.
posted by sfenders at 9:03 AM on February 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

If anyone missed it, Isaac's going away speech was Sally Field's acceptance speech for Best Actress in 1984's Places in the Heart. Notable that Isaac got the quotation correct, he did not say, "You Like Me, You Really Like Me".
posted by peeedro at 10:26 AM on February 22, 2019 [9 favorites]

I really wish sci-fi would dispense with the "artificial lifeforms will kill all organics" trope. It's so played out at this point.
posted by Automocar at 11:09 AM on February 22, 2019

I kind of dig it. We thought Isaac was a Data ripoff. Turns out he's a Borg ripoff. (Maybe Hugh?)

I mean, objectively not great that there's still a 1:1 mapping (as with hmmm... pretty much everything), but the fakeout is a nice touch.

This Show’s Not a Comedy Anymore

I hope that's not the case (admittedly didn't RTFA) because things like Bortus wanting the corner piece of cake is what the show has going for it (and there's enough to be well worth watching).
posted by supercres at 1:22 PM on February 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Turns out he's a Borg ripoff. (Maybe Hugh?)

Rather than Hugh and the Borg, I get a vibe more like that of Automated personnel unit 3947 and the Pralor from ST:Voyager's Prototype.
posted by RichardP at 2:44 PM on February 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm actually kind of impressed with how they pulled this off. Especially with "annoying child character not being totally annoying because they're pretty cool, actually."

In retrospect, Isaac didn't even try to "fit in" (beyond the minimum) until him becoming friends with Dr. Finn. Who made overtures to whom first?

If I were a betting man, I'd put my mark on Isaac having a turnaround.

Automocar; what kinds of steady state interactions can you envision between AIs and biologics? There's also, usually, a lot of chaos during conflict before an equilibrium is established (one way or another, including the extremes of geno/silico-ciding the other).

("True") AI (and there are lots of flavours) is something I find really fascinating, and there are so many different ways that AI interactions with biologics could go.

Asimov noted that when he began writing in 1940 he felt that "one of the stock plots of science fiction was ... robots were created and destroyed their creator. Knowledge has its dangers, yes, but is the response to be a retreat from knowledge? Or is knowledge to be used as itself a barrier to the dangers it brings?" He decided that in his stories robots would not "turn stupidly on his creator for no purpose but to demonstrate, for one more weary time, the crime and punishment of Faust."

So, yeah, your antipathy against robots/ AI destroying biologics stories has a patron saint. But, the trajectory of AI research (and inadvertent AI research) might just forgo/ forget/ not-bother-with hard-coding in restrictions in good faith to comply with the "Three Laws" even if that was possible (it isn't).

Asmiov is respected amongst AI/robotics/nerd/scifi crowd, but he's no Bradury (not a commentary on RB's views AI) - no one (working in creating the tech, especially in peripheral fields that end up contributing to saltatory advances in tech) really takes the "Three Laws" seriously.
posted by porpoise at 7:29 PM on February 22, 2019

(a rather interesting take on AI/ biologics/ self-evolved-biologics [and throw in time travel] is the 'Hyperion Cantos' by Dan Simmons. The time travel adds a lot of complexity, but I think does really well to convey the extent of how AI[s!, multiple political groupings]) can manipulate humanity, once humanity relies on the AIs for conveniences first, then necessities. Originally published in 1990, was either ahead of its time or was pretty broadly inspirational.)
posted by porpoise at 7:35 PM on February 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

This one was written by Trek vets Brannon Braga and André Bormanis, and boy, did it show! That was some old school Best of Both Worlds cliffhanger goodness, there. The robot city was stunning, too. The effects people on this show are producing some stuff good enough for movies.

They are working REALLY hard to convince us that Isaac's a bad guy. When he dropped the picture in the hall, that was just brutal... especially because we were all expecting one of those Data-like non-emotional emotional moments, where he'd decide to stay after all. Part of me hopes he stays a bad guy, because that's such an brilliant reversal of our expectations, but I still have a feeling he'll be redeemed. It's not impossible he'll just have a change of heart and decide he can't betray these people who grew so fond of him. (After Gordon's song, even!) But I also wonder if he knew his race was ready to exterminate organic life, he'd made up his mind it was wrong, and now he's secretly working to stop the bots. I read a fan theory that this could all be a simulation Isaac's race is running to test humanity. If so that'd arguably be a little TOO Star Trek, although that hasn't really stopped this show before.

If he does come back, though, I hope he and Claire call it quits. The more we see of their relationship, the more it just feels off to me. She keeps expecting him to feel things he literally can't feel, and getting mad at him when he doesn't. Claire and her kids are a science experiment to him, she's projecting all sorts of stuff on him and it's just a totally unhealthy dynamic. Even before he betrayed humanity, he was not good boyfriend material! FFS, she'd be better off with Yaphit! He's a sad sack blob bro, but at least he actually cares about her.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:22 AM on February 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

The one thing I like about Claire and Isaac is that even smart people sometimes make poor relationship choices, so I appreciate that as a somewhat realistic thing. I also don’t really want Isaac to change in a way that’s inconsistent with his nature as we understand it. Yes, people in real life do change, sometimes dramatically, but I think it’s lazy and unfulfilling when a character does a 180 in a way that’s not believable in the context of their personality. It’s why I love “The Remains of the Day”, we got an unsatisfying ending because the characters were true to themselves.
posted by wintermind at 6:58 AM on February 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

I liked the Star Warsy feel to this episode -- not just the visuals and action, but the music too. This plot twist was 100% predictable and I'm fine with that. Leaning hard into the tropes plays to this show's weird strengths.

It would be so easy for the two kids to be insufferable. It's a credit to their actors that they are not. Claire-focused episodes tend to be my favorites.

Gordon's song was one of the most ridiculously delightful things I've seen on TV lately. Scott Grimes has been doing some amazing voice work on American Dad! for years and it's nice to see him showcased in a live-action role.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:18 AM on February 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Star Wars. The whole bit of just flying a big ship through the middle of town and hover-parking next to a building and walking out the door and down a ramp like it was nothing. But I secretly think all they need to do is find the switch that turns all those red eyes to baby blue.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:07 PM on February 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

the red Kaylons' heads popped open like droidekas!
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:10 PM on February 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

"Droideka" sounded like such a Mel Brooks-ism that I thought it had to be something I'd forgotten from Spaceballs. Then I looked it up and I was disappointed to learn they were from the Star Wars prequels.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:55 PM on February 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

no one (working in creating the tech, especially in peripheral fields that end up contributing to saltatory advances in tech) really takes the "Three Laws" seriously.

Mostly because the Laws require such high-level concepts that one can't even begin to think of programming them. For a start, how do you do you even define harm? And then "Will not allow"? That's such a vague concept it really requires a sentience built up from instructors and refexes.

The entire conceit of a logical, emotionless being is very much an old school SciFi idea, one as disproven as ESP- in reality, emotions are essential to the decision making process. But the idea must appeal to the crowd that believes they are "completely rational beings guided only by logic, unlike those disgusting overemotional women"
posted by happyroach at 6:53 PM on February 23, 2019

It was a bit satisfying acknowledging the humanoid robots were created by humanoids. Everyone's humanoid for, you know, practical reasons, so I appreciated an in-universe nod to that fact.
posted by Monochrome at 11:20 PM on February 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Myself, I was wondering why the Kaylon (sp?) kept their oxygen atmosphere, when it's so highly corrosive.
posted by Mogur at 7:09 AM on February 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

That was really unexpected! Even when they found the mountains of bones, I thought the story would be that the Kalon were former biologicals who had uploaded themselves -- and that the process would be reversed for Isaac. I was very surprised by where they actually took it.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:17 PM on February 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Huh, kind of like "why didn't they get rid of the oxygen" Mogur pointed out - why did they keep the mountains of bones?

Were they just lazy (if so, why are they stacked up, but not sorted neatly?), or is this an indication that the Kaylon have some sort of sentimentality (in contradiction with Isaac dropping the kid's drawing)?
posted by porpoise at 11:10 AM on February 25, 2019

boney catacombs are sick af, every cool planet should have some, the Kaylons are smart enough to realize this
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:23 AM on February 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

The piles of bones are just one of the many ways this challenging and provocative episode exercises the viewer's imagination. Thinking back on it I, though I may have some details wrong, it seems to me there were many deep questions to ponder.

How did that kid sneak past whatever security the Kaelon and the human crew thought to provide at the main gangway?

What reason do the humans have to believe that the "Isaac" that came back is the same unit as the one the robots took away? Or am I just being racist for thinking they all look pretty much alike?

How did the robots achieve the super-human level of hypocrisy required to criticize the human race for having a history of being violently unpredictable and unpleasant to each other?

Couldn't they have taken the keys out of the ignition and hidden them or something when the hostile forces boarded the spaceship?

Don't the robots have a space-email address or some other way to maybe ask if it's okay before entering their atmosphere? Aren't there diplomatic channels? Does Starfleet even know about this?

Is there a good engineering or martial arts reason for why they keep their weapons in their heads?
posted by sfenders at 5:17 PM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this episode is as big of a mess as this week's ST:D.

Totally valid point on whether it was "their Isaac" - but the Isaac physical unit superficially looks different than the other Kaelons. But who's to say what programming/ memories he was "returned" with. But I hear you but some Kaelons do look different, pay attention to their metallic vest. I think some of their eye positions/ head shapes have small variations, too. I'd have to check but there might be height differences (among the "diplomatic" Kaelons, the soldier Kaelons were more homogenous, if not identical)

The red eyes/ baby blue eyes was egregious. But suggests they already knew a little about biotic psychology and made the choice to change Isaac before sending him out. Or maybe its a natural phenotypic variation; he could analogously have a Maori phenotype and they were visiting Denmark.

That the kid made it past whatever security hints at maybe the Kaelon wanted him to discover the bone grotto.

Head weapons - It looks cool and there's no real reason not to. It would depend on a lot of things, but it'd make sense for the core CPU/ memory to reside in their center of mass; can accommodate more armour, and given the anthropoid body plan and assuming that the sensors are in the head area, having one's targeting apparatus at the point of projectile/ beam discharge may contribute to accuracy (less cpu cycles to carry out targeting trigonometry/ don't need redundant optical sensors for direct targeting if the weapons were coming out of their hands, forex). Can't think of any energy/ ammo feed issues, in fact, there are several potentially good ideas that I can think of.

Maybe similar reasons as how human armoured artillery generally have center-of-mass top-side turrets, as an argument against having discharge from, say, the hands. Mounting weapons along the central vertical axis can improve speed of target acquisition, again given one's starting from an anthropoid body plan. If one queries stuff like Battletech or Mechwarrior or jMecha, over-the-shoulder is another viable mounting point (weapons at ends of articulated, and therefore more fragile, appendages tend to get blown up/ disabled first, maybe even moreso than legs). Head-mounted is less common (but not unheard of) but the head is usually the "cockpit" (and when head-mounted, the cockpit tends to be in the thoracic area).

This is all rather silly.
posted by porpoise at 6:30 PM on February 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ctrl F "Cylons". Nothing? Really? I realized the name is a clear tell as soon as they turned. the Kylons, I mean Kaelons red eyes and hypocritical butchering of their creators was pretty clear. Now the question is, do the Krill come to the aid of the Union or does the Union find a way to shut down the Kaelons?
posted by Ignorantsavage at 11:27 PM on February 25, 2019

Holy shit this episode was great! This is like my fantasy of what a TV scifi show about cyborgs would be. Of course they're superior beings who have no remorse or nostalgia about their organic creators. Of course they are superior and genocidal. I guess maybe it's a cliche but it's a cliche I'm glad to see play out directly here. Particularly with the cruelty of Isaac leading the way, the "good Kaylon" who is anything but. (I'm gonna be mad, but not surprised, if it turns out his actions are all a ruse and he was genuinely turned to the humans' side by the power of love.)

I love the caverns of bones. That's a pretty chilling image, more visceral than most TV shows are willing to show. I can't think of anything so grim on Trek.

I also loved that there wasn't a single joke in this episode. I'm pretty sure this is the first episode without a dumb bro joke. No esophagous alien, no blob monster hitting on Claire. Captain Mercer had one quip but it was the quip we were all thinking anyway, so that's fine. This was straight up sci-fi drama and well delivered.

Speaking of delivery; they did a great job on the city. And the design of the sphere attack ships that launched. I guess CG is a bit of an effects leveler but these were quite good.

(I don't want to spoil anything, but this episode has some awfully uncanny parallels with Star Trek: Disco the exact same broadcast day. The basic plot of "let's discover more about our crewmate's alien homeworld". The specific thing of head-mounted weaponry. And the general existential horror. It's kinda crazy just how exactly in sync the two shows are.)
posted by Nelson at 9:45 PM on February 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I can't think of anything so grim on Trek.

It's easy to forget that every single Borg - trillions of them - was once a distinct individual.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:43 AM on February 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's easy to forget that every single Borg - trillions of them - was once a distinct individual.

Since I can't resist being a pedant, especially about Trek, I am compelled to point out that not every Borg was assimilated. There are infant Borg shown in the early Borg episodes, with tiny implants and everything.

I guess you could say that they were still an individual at birth despite being a product of the drones, but that's not how it read to me.
posted by wierdo at 7:58 AM on February 28, 2019

I had taken that to mean that they had been captured as babies, but I grant that we can't rule out the possibility of Borg reproduction.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:52 PM on February 28, 2019

The earliest Borg appearances are pretty funky in light of what we learned about them later. IIRC, in their first appearance they assimilate tech but we never actually hear anything about them assimilating people. In a later episode we see they have the baby chambers, suggesting that they were just cloning themselves or something and then accelerating the growth of their young. There was only a gradual rollout of the whole space zombies idea. I don't know if that's what the writers had in mind all along but they wanted to reveal it slowly, or if they hit on the assimilation concept later and then retconned everything.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:36 PM on February 28, 2019

A bit: I was very pleased during the skull reveal, when Bortus called the captain to say "There's something you need to see.... so I'm sending you pictures right now." Yay Bortus! None of this bullshit, "Captain, come down to Engineering. There's something you need to see. Bye."
posted by Mogur at 4:23 AM on March 1, 2019 [6 favorites]

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