[This review of Extant season 1, episode 12 contains SPOILERS.]
In Extant's penultimate episode, producers could have set the table for next week and left nothing on our plates but instead, they chose to - at long last - course correct Molly and also reveal Odin's techno-terrorist side to Julie and expose a few revelations about the aliens and the "Ones without blood."
Speaking about revelations, all of our questions about the once lost and now found Katie Sparks are answered quickly in this episode, thanks to a bit of exposition heavy dialogue between the almost certain alien and Seraphim astronaut Shawn Glass - who (predictably) have a fling and then a bit of a surprising moment (to Shawn) when Katie's actual body is discovered in the final moments. On paper, we know something is afoot as we see the fungus swell on the windows as Katie and Shawn go well above the Mile High Club's earthly bounds. We also saw her almost certainly die on that video that Molly waved in front of Sparks' face when she was a bit more brazen a few episodes back. The dance between Shawn and Katie is filler while the space station's diverted course causes panic on the ground - and the birth of the idea that Molly will have to go up into space again to fix things.
It's mildly interesting that Molly was made into a puppet to screw with the ship from the cabin unbeknownst to us, but this episode really hinges on the continuing mind games played on various humans by the alien. Sparks seems faith drunk after being in close proximity to the alien, essentially discounting the lasting effect of death because of the promise of the alien race. His spine gets steel straight after he sees video of Katie - seemingly still alive and in space - but for the most part, his character is a ketchup packet without any ketchup. That's a less boring way of saying that he really doesn't have anything to offer us anymore. I hope it worked.
John also gets to feel the alien's power first-hand for the first time. This show has done a really nice job of portraying John as a divided man with one foot on the continent of uncertainties about Ethan's supercharged mental development, and another with Molly - or rather, in the space where Molly used to be. This relationship could have been offered to the Gods of cliche as tribute on this summer genre show, but it's proven itself to be a key piston and this week all things came to a head and then cruelly went back into their box as John confronted Molly about his and Ethan's fading place in her peripheral (as she chased this all encompassing, complicated and dangerous alien mystery). Apparently, John was always willing to compete with a dead man (Marcus), so long as he stayed dead.
"Isn't there someone that you would give anything to see again?" asks Molly of John, "Yeah, you." he says quickly before walking away. Though it seems for a moment that the gravity of those words cause a sea change in Molly, it all seems too perfect and we're quickly tipped off to the fact that the alien has John in its grasp and that he is hallucinating. It's a bit interesting that Ethan seems unaffected. I wonder if that will come up next week.
I also wonder if Ethan will make it through next week. The robot boy is an explosion-filled pinata right now thanks to Julie's lapsed dreamboat Odin, who gives the boy more bad thoughts about his parents intentions - and a signal that Ethan is supposed to press when he is in the lab. Upon probing the boy on his fears and wicked recent attitude - while in the lab for tests following the discovery that he had been turned off for 87 minutes while in Odin's care the day prior - Ethan and Julie's connection finally delivers a yield as he tells her all that Odin put into his head. Julie goes into super sleuth mode and quickly discovers Odin's real identity and a pre-recorded video message about the explosion that he's using Ethan to unleash on the Yasumoto tower and the Humanech lab. It should be interesting to see how that sub-plot resolves itself next week, though it's hard to imagine that the producers are going to be able to give it more than a passing few moments amidst the sprint to resolve the alien threat and Molly's involvement with it.
That Molly is now suddenly driven to go into space and save the earth after a trippy interaction with the alien and the revelation about "the ones before the blood" and their voracious appetites is a bit of a switch. Molly is gearing up to go into hero mode next week, but there are now questions about her fate.
For these last few years, we've seen the line between TV star and movie star blur to the point of irrelevancy thanks to limited series' like True Detective, Fargo and American Horror Story. In that time, there have been few bigger names migrating over to television (specifically broadcast) than Halle Berry. You can say that the Oscar winning actress has had more misses than hits over the years on the big screen, but a star is a star and Berry was a massive get for CBS with Extant. The question is: was it a long term get or is Berry just stopping by?
Doesn't Extant's story feel a bit too vast and complex for a clean resolution? Doesn't it seem like Molly has no place to go but away now that she has rejected the fantasy and the seeming nirvana where all of her loved ones are safe and alive? Her alien child (who was revealed to be a conflicted creation with a childlike innocence despite its horrible deeds) has gone after warning her about his race and how they are trying to stave off their own extinction. Molly wants to keep everyone safe, she's alive again and her protective instincts are firing on all cylinders and she's just trying to protect everyone now. We'll find out if she can do that and get a different kind of nirvana down on earth with John and Ethan next week - one that they've all earned - when Extant wraps up its season, but if that doesn't happen (and we see this story continue with someone else leading the charge), we won't be surprised.
Extant's season premiere will air on CBS Wednesday September 17th @10PM ET.