Okay, I have to give credit where credit is due: Extant is continuing to surprise me. Although the show has not yet found a way to move a bit faster or to find a way to make its proceedings matter more, it’s certainly not doing what I expected, either. It’s possible, too, that Halle Berry’s performance as Molly is growing on me as I’m getting used to it—her sudden rushes of emotion seem more plausible now that they seem like part of her character, and any confusing gaps in emoting are outweighed by a line delivery that is so profound it makes me quake. (I think Berry and Nicolas Cage might be in that same tier of good-and-badness that broke Abed’s brain. “I don’t know—if I was in 70 films over 30 years, and spent each one talking at random volumes, I might accidentally win an Oscar.” This is eerily also true for Halle Berry.)
The primary element that surprised me tonight is that Molly’s marriage is not in jeopardy, despite all of those seeds of discord planted in the first two episodes. It’s a common plot decision: Introduce a couple, barrage them with plot twists, break them up by the end of the first season. (Or even the end of the first episode.) Despite creepy robot child Ethan, and Marcus the ghost of the ex-husband, and even bitter robot nanny Julie, John and Molly seem to really love and care about each other—and don’t do the television-couple thing of not believing each other when secrets are revealed. Even when John finds out she’s pregnant, he’s not like oh hey you cheated on me, he’s like oh hey we’re pregnant!, and then when Sparks tries to abduct her he is totally there to rescue her and whisk their whole family to safety.
Avoiding the predictable estranged-marrieds plot means that I’m actually not sure what Extant is going to try to do next. Clearly, it’s not as interested in being a relationship drama as it is interested in robot boy’s interest in killing pigeons, and though that’s a little flat, as far as character dynamics go, it’s at least doing what it wants to do. Having been recently inundated with a lot of dramas with pretensions to character drama (I saw a lot of trailers for mediocre things at the TCA press tour) it’s really nice to see something focus on what it’s interested in, and better still, to do it well.
Extant wants to be a show about the creepy and all-too-soon future—as evidenced by its attention to production design and props and costumes. The interfaces for phones, computers, and cars are all surprisingly plausible—either Extant’s tech consultants are very good or Mickey Fisher has a specific and accurate vision of the future (like Steve Jobs). (I’m not convinced on the fashion—neutrals seem so unlikely, when technology would make crazy dyes and textures even easier and cheaper—but I admire the effort.)
Today’s episode offers a lengthy flashback that gives some context to John and Molly’s decision to adopt Ethan—which is a little pointless, but offers some useful context. Mostly it establishes a throughline of emotional intimacy that continues through to the episode’s climactic conclusion, where Molly jumps from a nearly moving car onto open road, guided only by a text message. (I confess, as much as I am behind Camryn Manheim being the voice of God in all situations, I couldn’t quite understand what the danger of the situation was. Like yes: Sparks is going to whisk Molly to a terrifying secret facility run by Yasumoto. But how did Sam know that, based just on ISEA moving boxes and a computer out of her office? Who cares? It’s Camryn Manheim!)
The mystery is still getting thicker at a nice pace—Molly’s skin keeps bubbling up with that pattern, over her womb and where Sam drew blood from her. The same pattern pops up on Harmon’s wall—but he’s mysteriously vanished. And the DNA analysis of the fetus is going to reveal something terrifying for Molly, as Sparks and Yasumoto discuss with each other. (Too bad—I liked Sparks, because I like Michael O’Neill, because Ron Butterfield.)
Weirdest of all, though, is that Molly experiences another extended hallucination—this time on Earth, in her own apartment, with a whole bunch of people around. It’s another young black man—Tim, Marcus’ brother and her (former) brother-in-law. Interesting thing here is that Tim isn’t dead, he’s apparently just away at sea, because he’s in the navy (or the space navy? It is the future. Space navy!). And Molly doesn’t black out like she did in space—she’s instead pretty normal except when she can’t find him at the end of the party. Remains to be seen what’s happening there. Extant has demonstrated an interest in solving its own mysteries, so at least I’m optimistic going into next week.
- Yo, what is robot kid’s situation with pigeons? Every day it’s another pigeon. I do not get it.
- Why would the pattern thing pop up over where Molly’s blood was drawn and her womb? Those are two very different places. More mysteries, or just patterns-are-cool syndrome?
- I am a straight woman, but holy shit, Halle Berry in that dress.
- Sonia’s speculation corner: I am going to go out on a limb here and say aliens are not what this show is about. The aliens feel like a red herring (much like communism). The danger, I think, is closer to home. (Specifically, the robot apocalypse. Woo!) I also have a sneaking suspicion that the fact Molly only hallucinates black men means something. At the TCAs someone asked CBS President Nina Tassler about diversity in casting, and she pointed to Extant. The questioner countered that the kid is white, not biracial. Today’s episode explains at least that part of the origin story—Ethan wasn’t designed to be their kid. But I also wonder if Extant’s premise has a little more to it, in terms of race, than what we’ve seen so far.
- Hey, I like Grace Gummer fine, but I really do not understand why she’s in this story.
- “He says it’s the dance of my ancestors.”
- Sparks drives a Tesla? Daaamn.