[This is a review of Extant season 1, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
While the third episode of Extant's first season, 'Wish You Were Here', concludes on a key pivot point for the series, the journey to get there feels comparatively sedate. That's not to say that fans of the show should fast forward their DVRs to the last five minutes, but the episode lacks the tension of the previous two. With that said, though, there may be a method to the madness of highlighting the normal aspects of John and Molly's life - a jog, a party and Ethan's first day of school - before upending it.
We know that Ethan, John and Molly's robotic child, has not been widely accepted by society. We've seen John verbally tussle with people before, demanding that his "son" be treated in the same way that a human child would. So when, on Ethan's first day of school, John is once again confronted by people's fears of the unknown as a group of parents voice their concern, the response is predictable - right down to John's snide remark about Ethan making friends with one of the parents' children. I like that John has a bit of an edge. That he's a bit of a jerk when it comes to people's responses to Ethan - it feels real and it helps to establish his paternal instincts and, perhaps, his pride of craftsmanship.
Even Julie is the victim of that attitude in this episode when she oversteps and tries to push John away from his aggressive approach with Ethan's integration into a normal life at school. With that that said, though, we got another hint that normality may not be in the cards for Ethan when John finds a trapped bird in his workshop that Ethan had placed there. John's lecture to Ethan about not doing strange things like that was stern and almost panicked; it's as if John was trying to convince Ethan to be normal so that all of his efforts and boasts would not be for naught. The best part of the scene, however, was the creepy vibe that John's workshop gives off with its dangling spare humanesque robot parts - a vibe that was punctuated by the lack of light and the glow of John's flashlight.
Normal is, for Molly, a fading concept unfortunately. At her birthday party - a nice contrast to what the couple's life will soon become - she watches on as John plays a video that recaps many of the moments that she missed while doubtlessly obsessing over her secret pregnancy and Sparks' explanation (a rogue nanotech experiment initiated by the ISEA that used Molly's and John's stored samples to impregnate her). Unsurprisingly, though, a bit quicker than I anticipated, that secret falls by the wayside, but while John is shocked at first, that ultimately recedes in favor of tenderness and support.
As I said last week, if John and Molly are going to get through this odd and frightening thing together, we need to be reminded of their bond. This episode accomplished that, but the producers were smart to keep some secrets between the two, should they need to add some conflict down the road when the pair are more reliant on each other than ever - as John and Molly are now, seemingly, fugitives from the ISEA, after having taken Ethan and run away after Molly sees hallucinations of Marcus' brother Tim- thus bringing us to the previously mentioned pivot point for this series.
A simmering sci-fi drama with seeming horror elements, Extant is entering a brand new phase that will push aside many of the subplots that the show has worked to establish so far. Is this a forever change? Right now, we don't know, but it seems likely that we won't focus too much on John's lab, his work with Yasumoto, or either Julie or Ethan's integration into normal life in the coming weeks.
Will Sam be used as a pawn to re-establish a connection between Sparks? Will Harmon make another appearance in the present as Molly tries to find out what's going on? These are questions with less obvious answers, as the conspiracy behind what is inside of Molly - and how it got there - steps up to the forefront, while John and Molly live on the lamb and try to protect their son (as well as what we presume they feel is their unborn child).
All in all, it's a bold change in direction that is made all the more surprising in that it seems so abrupt and contrary to the slower nature of the show, but that may be the point - and that may be reason - to commend showrunner Greg Walker, as we head towards a second act without our bearings.
Extant airs on Wednesdays @9PM ET on CBS.