[This is a review of Extant Season 2, Episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
Extant taps into a familiar sci-fi scare tactic: any one of us could be infected and under the control of an alien species. Then, as if that were not enough to make your skin crawl, the show also plays into our paranoia with artificial intelligence and the threat of having humanoid robots living amongst us. With its use of aliens and robots, Extant dares to merge classic science fiction into our everyday lives; so much so, that it starts to feel like it is holding up a mirror to the world we live in today. With technology increasing exponentially each day, humanoid robots could be living amongst soon enough. So Extant‘s Ethan (Pierce Gagnon) is a precursor to what could be our reality very soon.
As Extant returns in the season 2 premiere, ‘Change Scenario,’ astronaut Molly Woods (Halle Berry) has been ordered into a mental health facility. In the intervening months since the events of the season 1 finale, Molly has been kept sedated and under the watchful eye of the government. Apparently, the justification for locking Molly up was her alleged breakdown after her son Ethan was taken from her and her husband John (Goran Visnjic) was killed in a train accident. The fact that John’s vehicle was reprogrammed to stop on the train tracks and he was trapped inside is apparently a non-issue to the government. In John and Molly’s absence, Ethan has been remanded to the custody of Julie (Grace Gummer), who is only too elated to be Ethan’s primary custodian. Contributing to Molly’s fragile mental state was the fact that she found out her husband and Julie had an affair during her 13 months in space. But, if anything, Molly still seems to be the only one in her right mind. She is not wrong about the government conspiracy, or the fact that an alien life form has taken possession of her other “son,” or that Julie should never be trusted with Ethan’s well-being.
Fortunately, Molly’s time in captivity has given her time to rethink her strategy. Telling the truth and hoping for the best has been futile and only resulted in Molly being branded as a mental health risk. So, when Molly finally does find a way out, she uses her time wisely and seeks to prove she is of more value in the outside world than locked away in a mental institute. She also finds the only ally she could possibly have at this point: Detective JD Richter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The fact that JD oozes charm and charisma from every pore on his body certain doesn’t hurt, and perhaps does not go unnoticed by Molly, either. (Supernatural and Grey’s Anatomy fans know exactly what I’m talking about!) But for now, Molly is focused on proving her usefulness to JD’s investigation. JD is a bit of a rebel, as we can tell just from the first episode – particularly when he doesn’t flinch when Molly smashes and wails on that disgusting orderly’s car right before they left the facility. JD and Molly will surely have some time to compare war stories and perhaps commiserate during a few late nights this season. So there is that to look forward to.
Just what is going on at the Humanichs Project these days? Whatever experiments are being done with Ethan do not look good, and even Charlie (Tyler Hilton) looks worried and perturbed that Julie seems to be in charge of it all. But Charlie is wise enough to keep his head down following the death of Dr. John Woods and Molly’s incarceration. He knows that if he pokes his head around too much or asks the wrong questions, he just might be next to be killed or “disappeared” into a mental health facility.
The other player on the Extant board is newcomer General Tobias Shepherd (David Morrissey). Just how closely is he working with the International Space Exploration Agency and just what nefarious plans is the ISEA scheming this season? It is going to be interesting to watch as Tobias, JD, and Molly’s paths continue to cross and whether they can find a way to work together to track the alien entity that seems intent on invading the planet – one pregnant woman at a time.
Molly and JD may be on the right track, but can Molly truly distance her feelings from her half-alien son enough to truly want to kill him and destroy whatever new species he may represent? Molly’s strong maternal instincts have proven time and time again to be stronger than her loyalty to her fellow human beings. When pushed to choose, she has consistently chosen to protect both her robot son Ethan and her alien-hybrid son. That does not bode well for her fellow humans, as it seems like Molly’s loyalty and maternal instincts may be a problem in the future. JD should be forewarned of that conflict before he trusts her too much. Let’s just hope his Spidey-sense is finely tuned to the fact that, as beneficial and attractive as Molly may be, he should not put his trust in her entirely.
So, as Extant continues through its second season, there will be many tests of loyalty and questions about the future. Is the human species on the verge of extinction, or will it rise to a whole new level as the aliens continue to co-mingle with humankind? Additionally, there are questions of whether robots can truly be incorporated into our society and accepted as humans, or if they will simply remain as property. Extant does not shy away from the thorny and difficult questions of what it is to be human and what is to love. But if humankind’s entire existence is at stake, should there be any debate?
It will be intriguing to see what answers Extant provides and what questions it leaves us hanging with this season. Dare we wish to embrace an alien species and the possibility of witnessing the next step in humanity’s evolution? Either way, it is going to tickle the brain and send chills down our spines just contemplating and considering it.
Extant continues next Wednesday with ‘Morphoses’ @9:00pm on CBS.