Extant 1×1 Review: Re-Entry

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Steven Spielberg’s newest offering, Extant, starring Oscar winner Halle Berry, has the potential of either being something great or a complete failure. The pilot episode had elements of sci-fi, mystery, and thrills all packed into a show that focused on family drama. Will the story crash under its own weight or will it be able to fly into space? Let’s find out!

I am by no means a huge fan of science fiction. Given the choice between a paranormal and a sci-fi show, I would pick the supernatural genre. I was excited about this series because of Steven Spielberg and Halle Berry. There aren’t a lot of shows that star women of color and that’s why Extant seemed like a nice change. The pilot of the new series immediately did what most pilots do: it introduced the characters as well as the many mysteries the story will deal with in the 13-episode season.

Halle Berry plays Molly Woods, an astronaut who returns home after a 13-month solo mission. The episode didn’t explain why anyone would even consider going into space for 13-months. It was shown, however, that Molly wasn’t the first one to go on such a mission. I think we will find the answer in the coming episodes. I liked Molly’s character and how the show gave her a job that’s typically linked to men in the media. Most of the story unfolds from Molly’s perspective and how she tries to reconnect with her family after returning to Earth. Her husband, John Woods (Goran Visnjic), is a scientist who created the Humanichs Project. He created a prototype son named Ethan (Pierce Gagon) because of Molly’s infertility, and is looking for funds to expand the project. The show lost no time in showing the audience that something is wrong with the little robot-kid, and that John has a very strange idea when it comes to the concept of ‘soul’. Not only that, Molly has returned from her 13-month mission in space pregnant. This is where things got a bit heavy for me.

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 11.33.54 AMIn just the pilot we got: a pregnant Molly, a robot kid with anger issues, an obsessed scientist, an evil cooperation, and people returning from the dead. I get that the show wanted to touch upon all the mysteries in the pilot, but I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the information. I would’ve preferred some of the plotlines to be introduced in the next episode. Seeing that the show falls under the mystery genre, I have a feeling the above mentioned plotlines aren’t the only ones we will be seeing. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Molly’s pregnancy and her strange encounter with a deceased ex-boyfriend Marcus, played impressively by Sergio Harford. The actor has the ability to portray a lot of emotion through just his eyes. Also the number 13 does seem to be playing some role in the story. Molly was in space for 13-months, 13-hours of video footage went missing from the space station records, and the season itself is 13-episodes long. If the number 13 is referred to in the future episodes, I will be waving a red flag.

The theme of love, and what it means to be human is also prevalent. Even in the future people aren’t comfortable with the idea of making machines that are similar to humans. Who can blame them? No one wants a robot uprising. John, however, has a different take on the situation, and believes that humans and machines need to have a connection. Molly isn’t sold on the idea of thinking that robots can be taught to love, but she’s trying the best she can to make everything work for her family. Fans of the amazing but short-lived TV series, Almost Human, might find something interesting in this new show with regards to robots and humanity. I love it when shows talk about philosophical ideas, and that’s why I’m looking forward to how future episodes handle this debate.

Extant didn’t specify the year the story is set in, but some of the gadgets made me believe we could be seeing similar things in about twenty to thirty years. I personally liked the new trash bins, the self-driving cars, and the TV screens that pop up on bathroom mirrors. I think the show wanted the audience to relate to the environment and that’s why it showed many things the present world is familiar with. It’s obvious the show spared no expense in the production budget, and the scenes in Molly’s space station looked quite cinematic. The production value alone makes you feel as if you are watching something good.Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 11.36.11 AM

Though one might think that it’s a science fiction series, truth be told, the story is about a woman trying to figure out the web of lies spun around her and reconnecting with her family. The show seems to have something for everybody. You can see inspiration taken from films like: A.I, The Omen, Aliens, Rosemary’s Baby, and A Space Odyssey, to name few. Considering the amount of mystery shows I’ve seen, I couldn’t help but wonder if the things we saw from Molly’s perspective were even real. Ethan always has anger issues when he’s alone with her, and she met a man who was supposed to be dead when she took out the trash alone. Is Molly hallucinating?

The show does seem to have potential and Molly does come across as a vulnerable woman trying to make sense of her experiences. Only time will tell if Extant is able to provide the audience with an entertaining story, and keep them coming back for more for the 13-episode run. With TV offering masterpieces like Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, The Walking Dead, Sherlock, etc., the competition to capture audiences is very stiff, and shows being canceled, regardless of the star power attached to it, isn’t unheard of.

Did you watch the season premiere of Extant? What did you think of the story? Let us know in the comments!

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Masters in Psychology and an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Arousing the Legacy, Missing in Somerville, The Game Master of Somerville, and The Escaped Murderer of Somerville. He gives us insight on comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.



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