Extant isn't bad television, it's boring television—which is worse, in my opinion. When a TV series is bad, you can mock it, hate-watch it, or ignore it altogether without feeling any sort of real emotion. But when it's boring or wasting its potential, it's downright frustrating to watch—and after four mediocre episodes, Extant is both boring and wasting its potential. While there's still plenty to mock about the alien ghost baby growing and playing Tetris inside Halle Berry's uterus, it's just not as fun when you know that Extant has/had the potential to be better.
The series wants so badly to be a sci-fi thriller, but it forgets on a regular basis that the most successful thrillers deal in quick reveals. Giving viewers time to deconstruct all the ways in which your story is failing or doesn't make sense is the best way to lose your audience, which seems to be the only thing Extant is excelling at right now. The series is currently plodding along at the pace of a one-legged elderly gentleman moseying on a Sunday afternoon stroll while eating rum raisin ice cream AND doing some birdwatching. Extant probably would've made a great fun-but-dumb summer movie, but as a TV show, it's lacking. We're a third of the way through the season we still don't know much more than we knew after the pilot: Molly is pregnant with an alien baby, her son is a creepy Robokid who hates birds but eats real food, and Sparks and the ISEA cannot be trusted. We still don't have any details on what's growing inside Molly or how it ended up there, we still don't know why Mr. Yasumoto wants it, we still have no idea why Robokid is anti-avian, and we still don't understand how that awesome trash compactor works. I need answers, people!
One of Extant's biggest problems is that it doesn't have any sympathetic characters. I still don't care about Molly or what happens to her, which is a giant red flag. I wish CBS had invited me to sit in on focus groups for this series, because Molly's could've been fun and creepy—if she wasn't such an idiot. Aren't astronauts supposed to be, like, smart? I can count several instances in "Shelter" in which Molly's common sense (if it ever existed) flew right out the window, hopped a boat to Cape Canaveral, and blasted straight up into space. But nothing was more egregious than when she tried to pet her dad's dog, who was very clearly not feeling friendly toward her—probably on account of the alien ghost baby in her midsection—and ended up getting bit (and suffering cuts that looked nothing like a dog bite). Molly also still thinks there's a possibility the baby is actually hers and John's, even though she should be able to discern that, given her recent experiences, it's pretty out of the question at this point.
Taking home the second place trophy for Extant's Least Interesting Character is the mysterious and shady Mr. Yasumoto. He seems to be at the center of everything—he's connected to Sparks, to Molly, and to John—and the show's writers seem to think he's far more compelling than he actually is. But we have no reason to care about him because we know nothing about him. Why should we bother with Yasumoto or his agenda? This week, he and Sparks arranged to kidnap Molly after she tried to hide out on a remote island (albeit not so remote that there aren't a ton of people living on it) after escaping from Sparks.
Side note: Hey Molly, I don't want to tell you what to do, but in the future, maybe pick a hiding place other than the island where you grew up and where your father still lives because that's probably going to be the first place people will look.
Sparks and his goons captured Molly by using Ethan as bait, and then Mr. Yasumoto put her on a freighter out at sea, as if Extant was Alias Season 5. And this might be a controversial opinion, but right now I'd rather be watching Alias Season 5. At least when I watch that final season, with all its pregnancy woes and convoluted secrets and Vaughn-isn't-Vaughn stuff, I have fond memories of Alias's first few seasons to lessen the blow of how terrible Season 5 was. When I watch Extant, I mostly just sit around thinking about what else I could be doing instead.
Ethan is still the best thing Extant has going for it, and I'll give both Pierce Gagnon and the writers props for making me care about that creepy little bugger so much that when those jerks fried his insides, I was actually upset by it. He's just a kid! His evolution as a character has been engaging in a way that Molly's alien ghost baby hasn't. Maybe it's because his story feels relevant to our world, maybe it's because the study of his humanity is something we can all relate to as we explore our own. If the series airlocked Molly and that damn baby and focused solely on Ethan's journey from android child bird killer to, I don't know, the leader of the robot uprising or something, I'd watch the F out of Extant. As it stands, I can't recommend sticking with the series going forward.