When it comes to bureaucratic decrees that seem to have no moral conviction for protecting its own, the Union really is the worst. Or maybe it's Admiral Ted Danson who is the worst. First he orders Mercer to leave Grayson and Bortus to rot in an alien concentration camp in "All the World Is Birthday Cake." Now here he asks Mercer to maybe look for a way to send Orrin Channing (Mackenzie Astin), a Union POW who has escaped after 20 years of harsh imprisonment, back into Krill custody in the absence of any sort of extradition agreement, because it might soothe tensions ahead of peace negotiations. (Also, the Orville is sent to broker this agreement, because the Union has no one better. Not promising.)
This is a morally bankrupt move and also pretty questionable from a pragmatic standpoint. If the Union are such pushovers that they will sell out one of their own in the interests of patching together a treaty, what does that say about not only their moral ground, but their clear desperation? Grayson herself questions the decision, which is at least something. The bigger problem, of course, is that the Union and Krill are so loosely defined that all of this feels like a dramatic patchwork anyway. After the Kaylon attack* that has changed the dynamic, the Krill are at the negotiation table to broker a peace agreement, but we learn surprisingly little new about them or the hostilities they hold toward the Union. Is this a cold war or something where many lives have already been lost in border skirmishes? What makes the Krill tick? There's a mention of more progressive elements that are responsible for this dialogue even being possible, but can we get some more depth here?
* The mass destruction caused by the Kaylon attack is not even acknowledged. So much for feeling the consequences. Likewise, Isaac sits on the bridge like nothing happened, let alone an invasion he was complicit in, and everyone just accepts it. Maybe there will yet be fallout from this, but this is not a promising start.
I offer all this up mostly as a rhetorical exercise, because it's the thing I felt the most strongly about in "Blood of Patriots," which is an unremarkable exercise in familiar themes that have been explored in Trek previously. I was reminded mostly of TNG's "The Wounded," which was, of course, far better, in no small part because it had two terrific dramatic actors in Colm Meaney and Bob Gunton, as well as solid writing. "Blood of Patriots" has Scott Grimes and Mackenzie Astin. They are okay, but the writing doesn't give them a ton of help. There's nothing hugely wrong here; it's just relentlessly mediocre.
The most interesting scene comes when Ed and Gordon argue over Channing's possible shady motives. At one point they realize they hold opposite viewpoints about whether the Union should even be talking to the Krill. This leads to some heated debate about whether such a brutal enemy can be humanized given their fundamentalist attitudes, and it seemed like maybe this was going somewhere, but rather than explore political issues, the episode instead decides it's about Friendship, and Malloy's old debt to his old friend Channing. (Of course, the fact that this is ultimately framed as jealousy encroaching on the series' most notable bromance feels like a second tier take on this material, rather than confronting larger issues head-on.)
The plot is fairly standard and nothing approaching compelling. The most notable thing it does is treat Malloy as a serious character facing a personal dilemma, which allows him to break out of his usual role as the wisecracking comic relief. Of course, the rub is that Channing is indeed hiding something nefarious. It's obvious immediately. But Keyali can't prove anything beyond "he just doesn't feel right," and the Krill's claim that he has destroyed multiple Krill ships and taken countless lives can hardly be taken at face value.
At one point it looks like Malloy, who has discovered Channing does indeed intend to stage another attack on the Krill, might be sympathizing with him, and even taking action to help him (he stuns Keyali and helps Channing steal a shuttle), and I felt like this was maybe getting twisty and interesting and committing to a serious change in the status quo. But I should know that's not this show's modus operandi; it's all a con to entrap Channing, and Mercer and the rest of the crew are in on it. (It seems like not a great plan to entrap a suspect in a way that gives him access to a shuttle that may allow him to stage the very attack you are trying to prevent, but this is what's known as "stakes.") Meanwhile, the revelation that Channing's "daughter" is really something completely different (and an accomplice to his plans) feels like a shoe waiting to drop the entire hour.
Meh. This is a missed opportunity. On the plus side, this was possibly the most straightforward dramatic episode of The Orville so far, and for Malloy for sure. (Wait — I take that back. I just remembered Keyali's bureaucratic "stalling techniques" used on the Krill delegation, which are so broad and bland as comedy — cavity searches, really? — and unlikely to be tolerated by the Krill that they feel like they were beamed in from a different universe.) But rather than delving into specifics around this Union/Krill alliance and the details leading up to it and what it will mean moving forward, we get a pedestrian guest star offering up a pedestrian one-off war-story issue. But, hey, at the end Ed and Gordon get to reaffirm their status as BFFs, so it's all good.