[This review of Extant season 1, episodes 9 and 10 contains SPOILERS.]
Though there have been moments when Molly (Halle Berry) seemed as if she was detached from both John (Goran Visnjic) and Ethan (Pierce Gagnon) in the first half of this first season of Extant; for the most part, her family – and the relative normality that they represent – have very much felt like something that pushed Molly to make it through the horrors of what happened to her in space.
Over these last four episodes (which were condensed into two double episode events), though, we’ve seen Molly sprint away from John and Ethan despite John’s pleas. Last week, when Molly risked everything to simply “see” the alien baby that had been extracted from her – brazenly waving her pursuit in front of her pursuers and breaking into a heavily fortified lab – her actions seemed a bit extreme considering what she was risking. We could see that there was a strong maternal pull to the alien baby, but we didn’t know why. Now we do.
In a flashback scene, the sad truth about Marcus’ death and the loss of their sill in-utero baby came to light, as did Molly’s reveal to John that their life wasn’t “working” prior to her mission – which certainly explains the chill between the two when Molly came back from her 13 month mission in space. What isn’t working, though? Is Molly talking about John, Ethan or both? We don’t yet know, but we have to praise producers for the slow reveal of Molly’s past pain and how it brings so much into focus about Molly’s hazardous desire to see this baby, which in a way, represents hers and Marcus’ child all over again. Yes, Molly may be risking her life and 50 years of tranquility beside John and her son, but in some ways she died on the night of the accident with Marcus and their child. So, while Molly cares about John and Ethan, both seem to represent a coping mechanism whose value is somehow less tangible to her than what she feels for this alien creature. Molly isn’t crazy, she’s severely broken.
Sparks (Michael O’Neill) is also severely broken. It’s remarkable how, boiled down to their base components, Sparks and Molly are really quite similar in that both will jeopardize the things that they have constructed to wall off the pain – for a chance to undo the source of that pain. The difference is, Sparks is clearly under the influence of the alien (though, I still think Molly might be in a small way as well) and willing to spill blood to appease the perpetually hungry (for havoc and the minds of functionaries and craftsmen) alien creature, which is a line that Molly obviously hasn’t crossed.
Despite revelations about Molly’s past and the dismissal of any notion that the alien creature “came in peace,” this second consecutive double episode doesn’t really compare to the thrilling and packed event from last week- though, comparing any episode of Extant to last week’s episode is a bit unfair, since it seemed like a key turning point for the show.
Odin’s nefarious role became more clear last night to viewers as he earned Ethan’s confidence further, while also introducing a bit of rebellion into the boy. In a way, he’s re-programming Ethan – and making him more real in a way that is likely a comfort to John in this high tension moment. For John, a lot of that tension comes from not knowing where Molly is, but he’s also in the midst of being the world’s most comfortable kidnap victim in Yasumoto’s house (which is also nestled above John’s lab… which is a thing that I didn’t know). We’ve seen Yasumoto do plenty of “big bad” plotting this season, so we’re not surprised when he lays some of his cards on the table for Molly (or when John starts to realize that he’s in a snake’s lair, not the home of a trusted colleague); still, it would have been nice to see her react with a bit more shock and a lot more resistance. Desperation makes strange bedfellows, I suppose, but at least we got to meet Dr. Mason, who seems to be more than just another Yasumoto flunky.
The conclusion of this two-parter introduces a bit of action – a shootout that sees Sparks (and his ex-wife, who is now a believer thanks to the creature’s projections of their daughter, Katie, in an innocent form) escape with the alien and Kryger possibly come to a violent end. The overall point of this episode seems to be more about the character progressions; we get Molly now, we’re almost sympathetic to Sparks (almost), Yasumoto is just trying to keep the baby safe – and Ethan is close by to hedge his bets and insure that, somehow someway, he is able to chase off the grim reaper.
Through it all, John is something like a caged rat, but his character now has a sad cloud over his head – as he’s realized that, despite all his love and his effort, he is not enough for Molly. This may not be a popular thing to say, but it really is John’s character that is the most intriguing at this point; that’s a testament to the writers and an actor who never really got enough credit for the work that he did in the leaner years on ER (which is a show that seems to have a trivial legacy despite its longevity and value as a starmaker and deft human drama).
Will Extant earn any kind of real legacy when all is said and done? I honestly don’t know, but while tomorrow is shaped like a question mark, the producers should be praised for their confidence and faith in the often fickle TV audience. This show’s slow build wasn’t the safest bet, but it sure is providing us with the best possible result.
Extant airs on Wednesdays @10PM ET on CBS.