The Krill show more fear than ever before on the show, saying that is basically forbidden space. The Expanse is a place of pure evil, inhabited by demons and that even the most righteous are possessed by this evil and commit heinous acts. The three Union officers take it in stride, and weigh their options before making the decision to venture on. Before the Krill leave the ship, they offer a prayer to “those who are about to die,” and ominously inform Mercer and his people that they won’t stop the Orville from heading into the Expanse, but they also will not come to their rescue, should our heroes need it.
The Admiral joins Claire at dinner to tell her he’s staying aboard, and coming on the mission. The two begin to reminisce a bit and Christie shows Claire he’s kept his wedding band all these years. Claire asks him to respect the boundaries of professionalism, that she had to spend a long time to get over him, and doesn’t want to go through that again. Before they venture off into the expanse, Christie even speaks with Isaac and asks what it was like to date Claire. Once again, we find ourselves following the story of a character who has not earned it. It was a nice moment for Isaac, but the show dwelled far too long on Christie and his hang up on Claire.
The episode finally gets moving both literally and in terms of the story when The Orville ventures into the Expanse. Bringing in more and more elements from the horror genre, the Expanse is complete darkness. There are no stars, no suns, and the only light comes from The Orville. Keyali informs Mercer she’s detected a distress call, and so they venture deeper into the Expanse. As they trek further and further, they come across an ominous, organic-looking monolith, which they deduce is some sort of space station. Mercer, Grayson, Keyali, Finn, LaMarr, and Admiral Christie all take a shuttle to board the station and get to the bottom of the mystery.
Thus begins a long thread of poor writing choices for this episode, as suspension of belief becomes as dark as the starless Expanse. It’s easy to question the story beats used to set up the horror half of this episode, and how quickly the characters fall into horror movie tropes. Why were so many high ranking officers on this particular, dangerous away mission? Why were they going in without hazmat suits or weapons? As soon as they board the station, Mercer unwittingly embraces another trope, telling the crew to split up, which simply initiates a series of character decisions that would have regular film fans screaming at the characters on screen, desperately reminding them of their stupidity. After praising the writing of the previous episode, ‘Shadow Realms’ seemed lazy, utilizing frustrating, overused story beats.
Needless to say, Admiral Christie gets too close to one “energy node” in the station; a glowing almost fungal-looking node which expands as he gets close and gives him a bit of a jump scare. When they all return to the ship, The Admiral, to no audience members’ surprise, collapses, and begins to mutate almost immediately. Dr. Finn, after examining the Admiral, informs the Captain that something is rewriting Christie’s DNA.
The rest of the episode devolves into a fairly pedestrian “monster of the week” story. Christie mutates into an arachnid looking and aggressive creature, and he somehow manages to cripple The Orville and shuts down the power. This leads to characters venturing off on their own, children being left in scary hallways, things that go ‘bump in the night’ and inevitable jump scares when an unnamed crew member suddenly realizes something is behind them. All these moments create tons of atmosphere, but lack real enjoyable logic. You simply have to go along with it, because it is a horror episode. The Christie Alien can also mutate others by excreting a green sputum in the face of its victim, which is supposed to add an extra threat, but we never even get a sense of how many crew are being hunted or who have turned.