The Avocado

Moral Orel Was Always Dark

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Chitty Chat. Here, I will discuss a particular pop culture topic with a fellow Avocado. This week, Immortan Scott and I will be talking about Moral Orel, and how the series didn’t get dark, it was dark from the beginning.

Mindymoo: When people talk about Moral Orel, they almost always say “man, that shit got so dark in the third season.” I watched the show when it first premiered over a decade ago, and what drew me into it was how dark it was. When it got to the two part season finale in the second season and then the third, I thought it was just shining a light on the darkness that was already present the whole time. What about you?

Immortan Scott: Yeah, agreed. There was darkness there the whole time. The Bartholomew episode happened before S3.

Mindymoo: That and the Mr. Creepler episode, where Doughy was trying to buy Ms. Sculptham’s love by stringing along a pedophile rapist and getting gifts from him, which he in turn would give to her. And why did he do that? Because he was being neglected by his piece of shit parents!

Mr. Creepler trying to woo Doughy in “Courtship”.

Immortan Scott: Yeah, I had Doughy’s home life in mind when I agreed to this. The third season may have gone into explicit detail about how his parents being WAY too young has fucked him up but it was obvious from the first episode with them.

Mindymoo: They were stuck in this state of arrested development which at first comes off as funny in a very uncomfortable way, and the more you see of them, the more fucked up you realize their whole situation is and the worse you feel for Doughy.

doughy and his parents
Orel and Doughy imposing on Doughy’s parents, Kim and Karl Latchkey, in “Courtship”.

Immortan Scott: That’s pretty much the show’s progression in a nutshell: “funny in a very uncomfortable way at first.” Also, does the whole “it got dark in Season 3” talk seem dismissive against the first two seasons? It feels that way to me, it’s like they’re saying it was just a silly claymation show at the start.

Mindymoo: I think it does. I mean, the first season wasn’t really serialized, and Adult Swim kind of screwed the pooch by airing what was supposed to be the first season finale as the first episode because it was Christmas-themed and they aired it around Christmastime, but the first season was still great on its own. And if you watch it in the actual production order, once you get to “The Best Christmas Ever”, it becomes this huge gut punch that sets up the rest of the series. But even without that, we have Orel becoming a crack addict, a pimp, having his dog put to sleep because he loves him too much, and nearly every episode ends with the poor kid getting beaten by his father.

Orel Crack
Orel shooting up with his junkie friend/drug dealer in “Charity”.

Immortan Scott: It honestly makes me wonder if the people saying this were asleep at the wheel while watching it.

Mindymoo: It’s possible. I remember at the time people describing the show as “’Davey and Goliath’ meets ‘South Park’”, but I didn’t get that at all. It was a deep, dark series from the start that had the ability to really get under your skin.

Immortan Scott: Wow, that is… not a very accurate description. I’m now convinced that they were just looking at the surface level details. It MAY seem like “’Davey and Goliath’ meets ‘South Park’” on the surface but actually watching it should dispel that notion.

Mindymoo: I mean, it was claymation and had religious themes like “Davey and Goliath”, but similarities ended there, and it was nothing like “South Park” at all. I think people just wanted to label it as something so they went with the weirdest mashup they could find. It would be like saying “Watch ‘Breaking Bad’! It’s like, uh, ‘Bill Nye’ meets ‘The Sopranos!’”

Immortan Scott: One thing I’ve learned many times over is that comparing sometime to “X meets Y” is completely off like 99% of the time.

Mindymoo: It’s definitely a bad metric for trying to describe something.

Immortan Scott: I just looked at the production order and the episode that was supposed to be the premiere was “The Lord’s Greatest Gift,” the one where Orel raises zombies. If you watched by production order or airdate order, the first episode was dark either way. People should have picked up on this, dammit.

Mindymoo: No kidding! And aside from him raising dead people, the whole reason he ends up with the Necronomicon in the first place is because it’s in a stack of books that contain too much knowledge Ms. Censordoll wants banned and burned. Books like “Fahrenheit 451” and “Animal Farm”. That’s also when we start learning about the lost commandments, and that one was “thou shalt be ashamed of thy natural anatomy.” It’s funny, but it’s dark as hell. And way too real for anyone who was raised in a crazy religious environment.

Ms. Censordoll, Doughy, Orel and Tina in the library in “The Lord’s Greatest Gift”.

Immortan Scott:  Speaking of Censordoll, that weird fucked up episode about her… thing for eggs was pre-S3 too.

Mindymoo: Oh god, the eggs. That was season two, I think? And there were the farmers that had fetishized chickens laying eggs because they were so sexually repressed. And of course Ms. Censordoll couldn’t say anything to Orel when he started protesting eggs because she made him that way.

Immortan Scott: Yeah, that was Season 2. One thing that pops up in the show is people getting themselves hurt or disadvantaged to keep up their facade. Censordoll doesn’t stop Orel from protesting because it would reflect badly on her, Clay doesn’t punish Orel for beating him up because it would make his advice seem bad, the whole town going out of their way to help Oral in “Innocence,” etc. Only the third one happened in S3. Another thing I’ve noticed about Season 3 discussion is the episode “Closeface” doesn’t get brought up often when talking about how dark it is. It’s probably the sweetest episode of the entire run. Putty and Stephanie bond while Orel and Christina get to dance together.

Stephanie and Puddy
Stephanie and Reverend Putty singing together in “Closeface”.

Mindymoo:  That’s a good point. After what happened between Orel and Christina’s family in season two, they get to have their little date at the Arm’s Length Dance. And Rev. Putty bonds even more with Stephanie and he even seems to accept that she’s a lesbian. Another episode out of season three that turned out sweet was “Dumb”, when Coach Stopframe tells Joe that his mother isn’t dead and actually is Nurse Bendy. He ends up with a really nice relationship with her, and she throws out her teddy bear version of Joe, because she doesn’t need him anymore since she now has the real thing.

Joe and Nurse Bendy
Nurse Bendy and Joe sharing a sweet moment in “Dumb”.

Immortan Scott: Yeah, when I was doing my rewatch of it, I hadn’t watched it in a few years and was expecting Season 3 to be non-stop darkness. I wasn’t expecting sweet episodes like those two and the end of the finale, where Orel is shown to be a well-adjusted person with a family. Also, if you look closely in the finale, you can see that Shapey and Block are well-adjusted too. Their pictures are on Orel’s wall, being a fireman and police officer.

Mindymoo: No joke, that finale always makes me cry when you see that Orel and Christina are married, happy, with kids of their own and a dog. I always thought that kid would end up fucked up and he was just too good hearted to let his upbringing get to him.

Immortan Scott: Also, the dog looks just like Bartholomew. I liked that, Orel remembering his beloved dog/possible resurrection of Jesus.

End of Moral Orel.JPG
Grown up Orel, Christina and their family in “Honor”.

Mindymoo:  In my headcanon, that dog was totally the return of Jesus. Another thing that rarely gets brought up when discussing the show’s darkness: Shapey is accidentally traded for Block towards the beginning of the second season, and only Orel notices. Only when Orel and Clay are gone and Bloberta is drugged out of her gourd does she realize “hey, I don’t think that’s my kid that’s screaming at me.”

Immortan Scott: I’m not sure how many people noticed the trade, much like how Clay and Bloberta didn’t.

Mindymoo: I think that only Orel and Christina noticed. There was that running joke of Orel saying “that’s not Shapey” any time an adult would address Block as Shapey. And then when Bloberta went to pick Shapey up from the Posabules, she ended up leaving with both kids, so the Posabules both didn’t notice and didn’t even give a shit about that kid in the first place because they were willing to give away his replacement. But hey, what can you say about the kind of Protestant that forgives debts instead of trespasses? Those people are nuts.

Immortan Scott: Total fucking lunatics, that’s what they are! Something that I was wondering about with Shapey returning. He ran to Bloberta with open arms but Block doesn’t. How fucking terrible must the Posabules be as parents for those two to prefer Clay and Bloberta?

block and shapey
Bloberta trying and failing to exchange Block for Shapey in “Numb”.

Mindymoo: Man, I didn’t even think about that. They were the mirror image of the Puppingtons, yet worse parents somehow.

Immortan Scott: It’s the little touches like that that make Moral Orel so brilliant.

Mindymoo: Definitely. Since the third season episode order was cut down from 20 to 13, we lost out on a lot of good stories too. One of them being that Block and Shapey bonded, stopped acting like unintelligible screaming hellions and actually start acting like seven year olds. It sounds like it would have been another sweet “Dumb” or “Closeface” sort of episode. I am so pissed that Adult Swim took hedge clippers to the show before they cancelled it.

Immortan Scott: Me too! I would have liked to have seen Orel interact with his grandfather like they were planning on. At least we got to see that happen in “Beforel Orel”.

Mindymoo: Orel sharing his bedroom with his dying grandpa, Orel becoming a Christian goth in the wake of his death to deal with his grief, there was going to be another episode focusing on Orel and Christina’s relationship, and even Bloberta was going to find a measure of happiness because she was going to start cheating on Clay with the newly divorced Officer Papermouth. Adult Swim robbed us of it all!

Immortan Scott: We were supposed to get an episode with Miss Sculptham dating a woman and a prisoner and finding out her coathanger abortion only killed one of the babies.

Mindymoo: It always makes me laugh when I rewatch the series and I get to “Alone”, and the episode description is, no matter what service I’m watching it on, “The final nail in the show’s coffin.”

Immortan Scott: I just checked Hulu and that’s the description on there too. A fitting description.

Alone screencap
Ms. Sculptham in “Alone”.

Mindymoo: It just makes me mad that the head honchos at Adult Swim told Stamatopoulos to make this already dark and deep show even darker, so he went ahead and did that, and they said “Wait, no no no, that’s too dark, we’re cancelling your show.” Fuck those guys.

Immortan Scott: Yeah, that’s baffling. You can’t say you want something and then get mad at them for going through with it, It’d be like if you got mad at me for talking “Moral Orel” now.

Mindymoo: Well Scott, it’s been a pleasure Chitty Chatting about “Moral Orel” with you.

Immortan Scott: It was a pleasure talking with you as well, Mindy. I enjoyed talking about one of my favorite shows with one of my favorite people.

Edited for clarity and formatting.