In terms of writing, effects, and performances, there are vast improvements on every front.
The science is still pretty sketch but I'll give that a pass since, with so much going on, it would've bogged down the action if they actually explained stuff.
(And I honestly don't believe anyone's ever gonna be able to explain to me in a satisfactory manner how a shuttle and starship can suddenly double as deep-sea amphibious vessels.)
As with most Orville episodes, there are recognizable influences from various sci-fi franchises.
The costume look of the episode is clearly a tip of the hat to Whedon's Firefly, all raw-hide Western and hobo layers.
Meanwhile, the Kaylon threat continues the Battlestar Galactica undertone.
The action (especially at the start) had a Star Wars feel with the first Kaylons encountered (on Hoth? wait, no, Sarin IV) being typical Stormtroopers with their ineffectual firepower and Mercer playing Solo to Malloy's pilot Wookie.
They were definitely out to impress and please the fanbase. The space chases and interstellar scenes were cinematic and stunning.
And that strange distant roar of approval at the twenty minute mark? That was the enthusiastic clamor of the Xelayan Watchers at the return, however brief, of Alara Kitan.
I liked that they didn't just drop her in there as a token appearance to appease the masses. Her interactions with LaMarr clearly indicate their own backstory in this timeline.
Furthermore, just because it's an alternate timeline doesn't mean that she isn't still impaired by the gravity sickness that forced her to leave the Orville in the original timeline.
The difference may be, of course, in this timeline, Xelaya may have already been destroyed by the Kaylons so she can't recover at home.
You expect to lose characters in war stories. Seeing the Earth and its moon in tatters was a dramatic image that conveyed the huge losses the Planetary Union had suffered.
Finn: I don't even see any fish.
Grayson: The Kaylon were thorough.
Losing Kitan to the explosion of the resistance base was hard since we'd just got her back.
Watching Bortus process the news that Moclus (and, most likely, Klyden and Topa) had been destroyed was also heart-wrenching.
The major similarity shared with The Orville's first season finale is that they both pivot on Grayson's best intentions going horribly wrong.
When she helps a child on the phasing planet, she inadvertantly becomes deified, accidentally planting the seed of organized religion and all its societal problems.
When she tries to save herself and Mercer years of hardship and emotional pain, the Kaylons destroy Earth and most of the biological universe.
Woman can't win for trying. And it's a bit problematic that these dilemmas repeatedly get hung on her actions.
It's also interesting to note that in both finales, Isaac was the key to solving the situation.
Isaac: Your species' extinction is inevitable. It would be far more efficient to surrender.
LaMarr: Not today, my man.
As much as I find time-travel narratives to be difficult to execute well, I always enjoy seeing what an alternate timeline looks like in terms of the characters.
Nine months of being overwhelmed by Kaylon forces obviously took its toll on our central cast.
The only one still in uniform was Bortus and despite some austerity measures (and total isolation) he seemed physically probably the best off of the lot.
Mind you, this is also the dude who could literally survive on eating tin cans so field rations were probably quite luxurious no matter what Malloy might say.
It's awesome that Malloy and Mercer's friendship is a constant no matter what the timeline.
Which is why we know that when Mercer says that Gordon would probably live with him and Grayson on their idyllic little farmhouse, he's totally serious.
Mercer: We'd have to learn how to farm. How to cook.
Grayson: Look at the sunset every night.
Mercer: Look at you every morning.
The character most affected by the timeline change is Mercer himself.
Without Grayson pulling the strings to put him in the captain's chair on the Orville, he just doesn't have the confidence in his own abilities to get there.
Even in this timeline, Bortus has to order him to sit in the chair and take command. That was a lovely moment of irony.
So what does this say about our intrepid leader? That people around him, even those who have just met him, have more belief in him than he does in himself?
In some ways, it's reminiscent of what Grayson said to him (multiple times) about him not having "game" when it came dating.
He doesn't do things the way other people or other captains do. And he knows it.
Grayson: Because you were captain, the Kaylon were defeated.
Mercer: Because I was captain?
Mercer: I stopped the Kaylon?
Mercer: I had to swim with my shirt on until I was twenty.
He attracts people who see his potential and try to help. Hence, the presence of Dr. Finn on the Orville which led to Isaac's defection in the original timeline.
And he knows when to delegate duties to those on his crew better suited to certain tasks.
Having never worked with Kitan in the alternate timeline, it was perfectly natural that he'd ask Keyali to open the bridge door using the "jar of pickles" phrase.
The consistencies in the characters were elegantly demonstrated and I applaud the authenticity they convey in the relationships between the crew members as well as the sentiments Dr. Finn exchanges with her sons.
In the middle of this nightmare universe, I felt this weird sense of comfort, being with you.Grayson
With Season 3 still a question mark, there's lots of time to watch The Orville online and relive some of your favorite moments.
Amid all the developments that The Orville has undergone this season, what have been the highlights and lowlights for you?
Was this episode a satisfying finale? Is the full reset a cop-out?
Was this really the best way they could resolve the timeline issue created by The Orville Season 2 Episode 13?
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.