The Orville's Best Episodes (So Far), Ranked

Ed in Captain's seat in The Orville: New Horizons
(Image credit: Hulu)

The Orville: New Horizons is quickly becoming one of the sci-fi treasures of pop culture, and the latest season really kicked things up a notch on all levels. Now, it’s available for fans with a Hulu subscription or Disney+ subscription to binge to their heart’s delight, or for anyone just looking to get into a great show.  

With the possibility of The Orville: New Horizons Season 4 still up in the air, according to the cast, now is a great time to revisit some of the best episodes the show has done to date (especially if streaming numbers factor into the show’s renewal). Hopefully, these won’t be the only ones, as revisiting these iconic episodes (spoiler free) and recalling what makes them so special really has me wanting more.

Adrianne Palicki in The Orville: New Horizons

(Image credit: Disney+)

10. “Mad Idolatry,” Season 1, Episode 12

“Mad Idolatry” takes The Orville on a wild ride, when Kelly Grayson is mistaken for a goddess while on a planet the crew is visiting. What follows is a deep analysis of religion in society, and an episode that served as an excellent capstone to Season 1. 

This episode isn't near the top of the list, but make no mistake, it’s a wonderful episode just as great as some of the latter ones. This is especially true if you’re someone who checked out the franchise due to its similarities to Star Trek: The Next Generation, as it emulates similar episodes of the franchise. 

Halston Sage on The Orville: New Horizons

(Image credit: Disney+)

9. “Home,” Season 2, Episode 3

After Alara breaks her arm during an arm-wrestling match with Isaac, she’s told by Claire she needs to return home in order to help regain her Xelayan strength. This episode centers around the character and her strained relationship with her family, and ultimately leads to an unexpected gut-punch of a twist. 

It’s hard to encapsulate what makes “Home” an all-time episode of The Orville without jumping into spoilers, but suffice it to say this is a huge episode for actress Halston Sage. Break out the tissues for this one, as it’ll be a tear-jerker. 

Seth MacFarlane on The Orville: New Horizons

(Image credit: Disney+)

8. “The Road Not Taken,” Season 2, Episode 14

The Season 2 finale of The Orville has a lot of moving pieces, as the timeline is drastically shifted thanks to Kelly Grayson’s decision in the previous episode. It’s a finale loaded with action that can be disorienting at times for reasons regular watchers will quickly pick up on, but for spoiler purposes, it’s best to say as little about this one as possible.  

I wouldn’t suggest jumping into “The Road Not Taken” as the first episode to watch, but it is one that those who watched everything in the series to that point will love. The “elseworlds” type story that shows the ripple effect of just a few actions drastically alters the paths of the crew. This episode is one of my personal favorites, but because of the foreknowledge needed to appreciate it, it’s much lower on the list. 

J. Lee in The Orville: New Horizons on Disney+

(Image credit: Disney+)

7. “Majority Rule,” Season 1, Episode 7

Social media feels like a big part of modern society, but what if it was a mandatory element of it? The series explored this concept to the fullest when the ship encounters a planet in which people’s social standing and others' opinions of them means everything. The crew is forced to inject themselves into the chaos when John is imprisoned, and subject themselves to a system of absolutely unstructured democracy. 

The Orville isn’t the first science fiction series to tackle this type of story, but hey, what’s one more to the list? This story is a fun one from start to finish, and one that really challenges the idea of “majority rule” and how that would impact us as a society.

Penny Johnson Jerald on The Orville on Disney+

(Image credit: Disney+)

6. “Future Unknown,” Season 3, Episode 10

“Future Unknown” is a joyous episode in the show's library, as it all centers around a big wedding that impacts the ship’s crew. It’s a surprisingly light-hearted episode given how heavy Season 3 is overall, in terms of serious storytelling. There’s also a pretty awesome cameo that happens towards the end, but as we’ve stated, no spoilers on who or why. Overall, it’s a feel-good episode and one that might serve as the series finale. 

I have “Future Unknown” on the list because it works as a series finale in a world where The Orville doesn’t return for Season 4, but in a world where it’s renewed, it’s a valuable and fun episode. It’s hard to express the satisfaction of paying off a major character arc without getting into spoilers, but the wedding is certainly one that is satisfying to see after all these years. Hopefully, there will be additional episodes to come, but if not, this is still a fitting end. 

Baby Topa on The Orville: New Horizons

(Image credit: Disney+)

5. “About A Girl,” Season 1, Episode 3

The crew is blindsided with a massive debate when the Mocclans, Bortus and Klyden, give birth to a baby girl. As many on the crew soon learn, Mocclans aren’t all male as some would believe, and any females born often undergo sex change surgery at birth to switch genders. The crew struggles with this Mocclan custom, especially after discovering a colony of women living on the Mocclan home world. 

“About A Girl” is the first time watching The Orville where I was like, “Ok, this is more than just a comedic space drama.” This episode feels like it hits Star Trek levels of presentation in its moral quandary, although it takes the issue much further than I’d reckon the heads at Trek would be willing to take. That’s a trend that will re-emerge with other storylines, as viewers continue watching, because this show can get pretty heavy when it wants. 

Teleya on The Orville: New Horizons

(Image credit: Disney+)

4. “Domino,” Season 3, Episode 9

It’s hard to find an episode more impactful than “Domino.” This episode effectively changed the course of some major alliances in the series and is absolutely stacked with breadcrumbs that tease there’s still a much larger story to tell with this crew. Alliances crumble, new ones are forged, and ultimately, we’re left with a lot to think about with the show’s universe at the end. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say without spoiling the story, but rest assured, this is one to watch (once you do, be sure to check out this recap for a rundown of all that happens)!

We don’t know right now if The Orville: New Horizons will return for Season 4, but if it does, this episode will ultimately be vital for fans. It effectively laid the framework for where this story will go, and the larger story Captain Ed Mercer will lead his team through in future episodes. It’s also just a damn good episode, because it resolves a lot of long-running storylines in the series up to that point, and has such a satisfying conclusion.

Scott Grimes on The Orville: New Horizons on Disney+

(Image credit: Disney+)

3. “Twice In A Lifetime,” Season 3, Episode 6

Gordon is usually the comic relief, but there was nothing funny about the journey he went on in this episode. Gordon is accidentally left in the past, and by the time the ship travels to where he’s located, many years have passed. Gordon has established a life on Earth centuries out of his own time period, which is a major Union violation. 

“Twice In A Lifetime” is an emotional episode for Scott Grimes’ Gordon Malloy, and a true masterclass in all the talents he brings to The Orville: New Horizons. The episode itself also presents a great moral quandary in terms of the consequences of time travel, on levels beyond whether or not it’s something that should be done. Anyone who is a fan of the show’s serious storytelling will immediately fall in love with this one, and should watch it immediately. 

Mark Jackson on The Orville: New Horizons

(Image credit: Disney+)

2. “Identity Part 1 And 2,” Season 2, Episodes 8 And 9

Isaac shuts down in “Identity Part 1,” which ultimately sends the crew off to the Kaylon home world in an attempt to fix him. That trip results in an incredibly complex journey that outlines the history of the Kaylon empire, and reveals a dark secret about Isaac’s true purpose on the ship. It all culminates in a huge game-changing episode that effectively altered The Orville as we know it. 

The “Identity” two-parter is the point where this sci-fi show really turned a corner. From that point on, it established that this series can do a serious science fiction plot without the classic Seth MacFarlane jokes, and just tell an intense and action-packed story set entirely within its own universe. Even for those watching on streaming, I’m sure they’ll feel the shift in the series while watching these exciting episodes from start to finish.

Topa on The Orville on Disney+

(Image credit: Disney+)

1. “A Tale Of Two Topas,” Season 3, Episode 5

Kelly finds herself at odds with the Mocclans in “A Tale Of Two Topas,” when Bortus and Klyden’s son, Topa, deals with sadness while preparing for the Union Point entrance exam. Kelly soon realizes this is due to Topa’s gender reassignment surgery that happened way back during “About A Girl” and attempts to convince Bortus and Klyden to tell Topa the truth about their background. 

“About A Girl” is such an instant classic of an episode, it’s wild to think The Orville: New Horizons wanted to revisit this story and risk lessening its message. The plot not only succeeds at honoring the original point of the initial episode, but expands upon it with a very relatable story on sex change operations and how they impact the people involved. It’s the type of social commentary that is desperately needed in this modern era, and one the cast’s actors like J. Lee gave a lot of praise to the series for tackling. Good on the writers for telling Topa's story, and expanding it to show more beyond the original story of the sex change. 

Catch up on The Orville by streaming the series on Disney+ (opens in new tab) or Hulu (opens in new tab). As mentioned, now is as good a time as any to catch up, especially while we wait for Disney to make a decision about whether or not it will return for Season 4. 

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.