Hello! Kaitlin is off playing footsie with the ghost of her third-grade sweetheart while orbiting th Jupiter moon Io, so I'm here in her stead to review Extant while we wait for her to re-enter our atmosphere.
Before we get to "Wish You Were Here," a brief overview of my thoughts on the show so far: It' okay. The series arrived pre-built, with so much stuff going on (namely, alien baby and roboboy) that its early episodes have really only taken simple first steps to expand on its big plot points, without a whole lot of depth to lock viewers in.
Think about what you knew going into the series: Halle Berry is pregnant with an alien baby, and her son Ethan is a robot. And think about what you know now: Halle Berry his pregnant with an alien-ghost baby, her son Ethan is a robot, and ISEA is bad news. For one thing, of course ISEA is awful; we could have seen that from space. Also, its name reminds me of IKEA, and if you've ever gotten lost in the furniture giant's labyrinth of inexpensive Euro homegoods, then you know that's not a good mental association to have. Extant isn't moving too fast, preferring to build mystery with Molly's continued hallucinations and the dreaded sci-fi trope of strange patterns randomly and repeatedly appearing in unusual places, but there's nothing terribly wrong with it. It's just a little safe and boring.
"Wish You Were Here" was built on a lie. Sparks told Molly that she got preggo in space because she was part of a super-secret government program that tinkered with astronauts unbeknownst to them, and they shot Molly up with some nanotech that was time-released to help fix her anovulation. It was a pretty good explanation, because I had no idea what the F he was talking about; like Molly, we're supposed to just nod and agree. Except that we knew from an earlier scene that Sparks was lying ("I'm going to tell her something more believable than the truth"). The truth is more believable than THAT? Yikes! So we spent the rest of the episode waiting for Molly to catch up, and unfortunately, it didn't happen in a very interesting way.
After hallucinating her dead boyfriend's brother Tim at her birthday party, Molly decided she was totally cuckoo and agreed to undergo some more tests from ISEA. Dr. Sam, after seeing her office raided by men in suits who were talking WAY too loud about snatching Molly's files, sent Molly a text to GTFO of Sparks' car. Molly and Sparks struggled over the steering wheel (just hit the brakes, dude), an alien baby pushed at Molly's stomach, Molly ran away, Molly's hubby John arrived at the perfect time to pick her up, and for whatever reason, Sparks didn't bother to get out of his car to stop her. It was a pretty thrilling way to end the episode—and Extant has been pretty great at ending episodes—but it didn't make for a very fulfilling hour of television.
I think my biggest complaint about Extant so far is that I just don't care about Molly. She's too much of a victim, just running away from things and unraveling the mystery at the same pace we are. But the classic "What's happening to me?!?!?" character is better served by the limited runtime of a film; it's just not as compelling on television, where we're following her around for an hour every week. If she were less passive and had more of an edge, she might be more interesting.
I will also say that Academy Award-winner Halle Berry isn't that good at acting, which doesn't help. Phew, it's such a relief to get that off my chest. You may remember her for her brave performance in Monster's Ball, but all I see is Swordfish. She does look good in a dress, though, and for some reason I'm enraptured by her running.
The biggest revelation of "Wish You Were Here" (besides the fact that in the future, when the power goes out, everyone holds a candle instead of placing candles around the room) was that Molly told John she's pregnant and John didn't flip a table or call her a cheating whore. (Or maybe he's in on it, too!) It's a promising sign that Extant didn't keep Molly's pregnancy secret from John any longer, because the more John knows about Molly's situation, the more cohesive Extant will seem as stories intertwine. Of course, Molly felt a little better about telling John the truth because Sparks told her the baby is theirs, and we all know it's really an alien ghost baby! At least, it better be.
CBS's description of "Wish You Were Here" said it would be about Ethan's first day of school, but in my opinion, the episode should've devoted a lot more time to the little android terror unleashing robo-cooties on his classmates. The alien-baby stuff will come out through the typical web of conspiracies and secrets (wake me when we get there), but Ethan's humanity or lack thereof is still delicious territory to explore. That's what I want to see! Instead, Molly unleashed a preachy and horrible speech to some pro-robo-segregation yokels about not being "afraid of different"; I would rather have seen Ethan rub paste in other kids' hair. There was supposedly a big debate about whether or not Ethan should go to school with human children, but we didn't get to see him there to judge who was right or wrong. Also, LOL at John demanding that Ethan have random experiences so that he can develop naturally and then chastising him for making his own decisions like going outside to catch pigeons. How about springing for a babysitter, John?
Extant isn't breaking new ground in the network sci-fi department, plodding along with the steps we all expect it to take. There are interesting aspects of the show—Ethan, most notably—but the focus wasn't on them in "Wish You Were Here." I'm hoping that Extant will keep John and Molly (and I suppose Ethan) on the run to add some stakes, but I'm guessing it will find a way to rein Molly back in to cooperating with the ISEA, probably to negotiate Dr. Sam's release from the goons who caught her snooping.
– Ethan did the Robot! That was cute.
– "Wish You Were Here" felt like the most contemporary episode of the series thus far. Maybe the show's budget is already starting to dry up? Aside from a few shots of AppleTV 5.0, nothing seemed too futuristic this week.
– Julie's place in the series is really coming along slowly. She needs something important to do, and I'm not sure she should be in the camp of not letting Ethan go to school.
– Move over Ethan, you are no longer the creepiest thing in this show. That title belongs to Lucy! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
What'd you think of "Wish You Were Here"?
AIRED ON 9/17/2014
Season 1 : Episode 13