The most important dialogue in "Deflectors" comes near the end. "You know, the more I learn about the Moclans, the more I see that our differences go right to the core of our values," Ed says to Kelly. "How long can an alliance with a culture like that last?" It's a good question, one that helps acknowledge a disconcerting pattern that's been going on here across multiple episodes.
This is no less than the third episode of this series to detail Moclan culture as having some highly questionable qualities — forced gender reassignment in "About a Girl," divorce by murder in "Primal Urges," and now harsh prejudicial judgment for sexual preferences as seen here. A trend has emerged regarding the Moclans, and it's not so hunky-dory. So this must be going somewhere, right?
I hope so, because something ominous seems to be building, and stands in stark contrast to the use of Bortus' Moclan deadpan to provide the series' best comic delivery.
In "Deflectors," one of Bortus' exes, a very tall dude named Locar (Kevin Daniels) comes aboard to help the Orville crew install some technologically superior new deflectors. This weapons upgrade is apparently a part of the alliance that Mercer later says the Union "needs." One question not asked or answered here: How much did the Union actually know before allying themselves with the Moclans? It appears not much. There's an alarming new thing we find out in each episode. Did they form this alliance on purely military, transactional terms? And what are the Moclans getting out of the deal? For that matter, how did Bortus become a Union officer? That's a bit of backstory that seems more urgent now than ever.
Locar, it is revealed, is attracted to females, something that is strictly forbidden and shameful on Moclus (and the reason Bortus ended the relationship, but, notably, did not turn him in to the authorities over), and something Locar reveals to Talla because he's attracted to her. She obliges by taking him to the simulator for a dance before he aggressively moves in for a kiss, which she then returns. From here, things take a turn for the sinister and mysterious when Locar vanishes; visual holographic logs show that a mysterious shape shot and vaporized him, and that shape — after the covered tracks are uncovered — turns out to be Klyden.
The episode's twisty whodunit plotting is nothing extraordinary here, but it serves its purpose and keeps the episode moving forward and always watchable. If it takes a while for the show to get going (by first featuring an amicable albeit one-sided breakup when Kelly dumps Cassius because he wants more from the relationship than she does, followed by hints we're going back to the Ed/Kelly well yet again) and features an attraction between characters that comes completely out of left field (Locar and Talla's dance/kiss feels more like a rushed plot-induced piece of motivational business than a believable thing that actually happens between two people) — well no one said an effective episode had to be perfect, or even great. (See also: much of Star Trek: Discovery.)
This worked for me a lot better than some of the other relationship-based episodes of the past several weeks because there seemed to be more urgent and believable stakes. There's something to be said for that sinking feeling you get about the Moclans and their borderline-oppressive beliefs mired in judgment and injustice that makes for compelling viewing.
There are scenes here that have the hallmarks of drama and tragedy. Locar staging his own death and framing Klyden out of pure fear. Locar's painful admission to Talla in the shuttle. The sight of Locar being dragged before a judge for a crime that open-minded people would never consider a crime, but certainly still a backward thinking that exists here on Earth in 2019. Recognizable things from the real world that make us flinch.
So this show plays on the emotions and gets you involved, even if the plot doesn't always make sense in retrospect. (Why doesn't Locar accept asylum? Turning himself in is not going to protect his family from being shamed, is it?) And the scene at the end where Talla chews out Klyden is compelling in its unfortunate clash-in-value-systems way. Klyden is genuinely grateful for Talla's investigation that cleared him, but also genuinely tone-deaf in expressing that sentiment in that moment to that particular person. And things are less than great between Bortus and Klyden, who still have not dealt with their many issues.
It all makes for a solid dramatic outing — one that doesn't shoehorn in stupid jokes (excepting a giant talking plant with the voice of Bruce Willis) or elaborate flights of fancy — and thus works in a much more straightforward way. I'm not sure what we'll see next from the Moclans, but I suspect this alliance is not going to be smooth sailing forever.