Sunday Morning Orel: Season 2A (episodes 11-20)

GREETING

Welcome and welcome back, dearly beloved.  If anyone is here for the first time, please raise your hand so the rest of you can turn around and stare you.  Thank you.  Today we will be continuing our Lent season journey through the 2005-2008 Adult Swim series “Moral Orel.”  Last week, we explored the blessings and tribulations of season one.  This week, we are going to be looking as the first half of season two — specifically “God’s Image” through “Be Fruitful and Multiply.”  In its infinite wisdom, all episodes are available on Hulu.  When there is a question about viewing order, we follow the Correct Doctrine of production order as listed here.

THIS WEEK’S TEXT

This weeks episodes are the first ten episodes of Moral Orel’s second season.  They begin with Orel finding out his parents are not splitting up, which he sees as an answer to prayer.  Orel continues to try to serve God in his everyday life, but more than in season one finds himself being beaten down into accepting that some things just can’t be.

SERMON

If the running theme in the first 10 episodes of Moral Orel (the first season) was “Religious literalism gets WACKY,” the running theme in the next ten episodes (the first half of season 2) is “Religious literalism hurts people.”  Completely gone (more or less) are the magical and unrealistic visible consequences of Orel’s actions.  In fact, the one episode that might have used some old fashioned black magic — “Satan,” — pretty clearly comes down on the side that the supernatural doesn’t exist in this world.  It’s a change from season 1, but a necessary one since the show is going to repeatedly ask why people believe in things that can’t be proven.  A world with visible magic (like the dead rising) would indeed be one where being a skeptic is pretty silly.  Instead, the transformations and harms of Orel’s actions in these episodes are to relationships and identity.  Orel has taken the same steps that many young Christians take — from being a rebel who shakes things up to being an unintentional standard bearer for the status quo.  That’s not to say he’s become one of the town’s many hypocrites.  He retains his good intentions.  But the universe of the show is subtly different in season 2, more aware (or at least more willing to show) the inner lives of the characters.

One subtle but very important change from season 1 to season 2 is the nature of the Puppington’s marriage.  In season 1, it was a dysfunctional marriage that they were in denial about.  Clay spouted (whether he believed it or not) that he knew how to make his wife happy and Bloberta never let her mask of perfect housewife crack.  The blow-up at the end of season 1 (The Christmas episode) changed all that.  In season 2, Clay and Bloberta are more honest about how much they hate what their life has become.  Visually, there’s always been a wall between their beds.  It’s called a “lust guard,” and in season 1 we’re supposed to believe it is to keep them from being tempted by each other.  By season 3, it will be clear that the barrier is not because they want to put God ahead of desire but because all desire is long dead.  As Clay says in the second episode of season 2, love quickly fades.

That episode, appropriately entitled “Love,” is a great indictment of how religion can get in the way of what it is supposed to be encouraging and introduces us to the theme I mentioned above: used callously and insensitively, religious literalism can be a bludgeon that makes us feel bad for being who we are.  Love is bad when it doesn’t adhere to obedience.  Religion in Moralton is too often about control.

A character who thrives on her ability to control others through religion and morality is Ms. Censordoll.  That is, until the tables are turned on her in “Offensiveness.”  The moral of this episode is that anything can be viewed as offensive if you try hard enough.  It’s a complicated theme and one that pro-social justice people might bristle at, since we know bad actors often say similar things to get away with being horrible people.  That doesn’t mean there is no truth to it.  I think what the episode is trying to get across is that there needs to be some sort of criteria beyond “this feels icky to me” before we pick up the picket signs.  Ms. Censordoll ends up getting caught up by her own tricks and becomes another example of a person who has to hide what they loves (eggs in this case) because of a edict based morality.

After losing his dog in “Love,” in “The Lord’s Prayer” poor Orel also has to give up his girlfriend when he learns her family disagrees with his over what is literally just a translation issue.  And I didn’t even touch on Coach Stopframe or Tommy, both of whom are stopped from being who they want to be because of the suffocating community.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though.  Episode 10, “Be Fruitful and Multiply,”  is one of my favorites of the series (I think I am showing my love for Stephanie – she rocks) and the heart it shows reminds me of Futurama episodes like “Leela’s Homeworld.”  It’s a gross and weird story that nevertheless has a positive message: friends and family and faith (and fucking) are all different ways to find fulfillment, and it’s ok if you don’t have all of them.  Since the series is very often about how things go wrong and leave us sad, it was very nice and important to see Orel wrap up this block by giving us hope.  It foreshadows the very end of the series, which states that even though the world is messed up, sometimes truly loving families really do happen.

CLOSING HYMN

played at the end of “Be Fruitful and Multiply”

FELLOWSHIP HALL

Season Three is considered the season that really made Moral Orel transcendent.  But the first half of season two has its proponents as well.  How do you feel about these ten episodes?  Do you enjoy them or are you waiting to get to the fireworks factory?

As the episodes are getting heavier and denser, we’re going to be slowing down.  Next week we are going to cover just five episode — “Praying” through “Courtship” and I am specifically going to focus in on “Courtship.”