[This review of Extant season 1, episode 6 contains SPOILERS.]
At times during this season on Extant, Ethan's story has seemed like an afterthought, lost in the haze while we followed the breadcrumbs that led to the revelations about Molly's waning sanity and the conspiracy that was and is being perpetrated by the sinister ISEA. Right now, we're at a good mid-point for that story - Molly (Halle Berry) and John (Goran Visnjic) are united and she has Sparks and the ISEA seemingly convinced that she is unaware that they went in and extracted the alien baby that was growing inside of her. Perhaps that's why this episode seemed like a good point to give us a little bit more about Ethan.
As a Humanech, Ethan (Pierce Gagnon) is unmistakable from other boys that are his age, at first glance. When Julie brings Odin, her new friend from the gym, to the lab to fix his arm (and there's something going on there beneath the surface with him and his intentions, right? Corporate spy, maybe?) he marvels at Ethan when Julie reveals that he isn't "real", but that's both the point and the predicament: Ethan looks like an upgrade over us.
As Odin puts it, "That's the future." This notion can prompt wonder and it can also clearly prompt paranoia and fears of inadequacy in those that resist Ethan. John's blunt approach doesn't help; point being, like any father he wants his son to fit in and not be an outcast because of something that he can't help. We've never really seen John look at Ethan as anything more than that - his son. Last night, though, there was a bit of horror in his eyes because, for the second week in a row, something was happening to Ethan, his creation, that he did not understand.
Ethan had a dream last night. A nightmare, to be specific, and it pushed John to rush him to the lab to run tests because the boy wasn't programmed to dream. Throughout last night's episode, we saw more things that could become troubling down the road - Ethan's ability to recall and draw the pattern that was on Molly's stomach and Harmon's wall, a rapidly evolving aptitude for a computer game and his ability to decrypt a secret file - and we really didn't get any answers. But while that can be frustrating, we also feel like these two separate stories - Ethan's story and Molly's space pregnancy - are now joined, and that's a key change going forward.
As for Molly's story, the conspiracy only deepened this week as she reconnected with Harmon Kryger (Brad Beyer) after he stole Gordon's handprint, accessed the ISEA and took a transmission from the other ship that the ISEA had sent into space, the Aruna. Before her meeting with Harmon to get the transmission, Molly uses Sam (Camryn Manheim) - whom she is both reestablishing a relationship with and spying on thanks to a high-tech skin graft/bug that John gave her - to throw Sparks and Gordon off the scent. Unfortunately, Harmon is caught and knocked out by Gordon before Molly can share with him what she and John will see on the transmission, leaving his future in doubt - though, with Gordon, we suddenly don't know what to think.
Presented as little more than a flunkee for Sparks, Gordon (Maury Sterling) has a sudden fit of humanity this week as his character strongly urges Sparks (Michael O'Neill) to pull the latest Seraphim astronaut (Enver Gjokaj) down to Earth since they have what they needed from Molly - and also because those in close proximity to the baby seem to be going insane, like the Doctor who snaps after the mysterious symbol appears on his bald scalp. Unsurprisingly, Sparks rejects this request; while it's a complete 180, it's nice to see Gordon get fleshed out a little. Not only is he defiant and suddenly moral in his dealings with Sparks, but he's also some kind of addict who is a physical wreck and someone who maybe isn't working the angle that we think he's working.
Sparks, on the other hand, is most certainly on the side of bad, but we understand his motivations a bit more thanks to the contents of the transmission - a goodbye note from Sparks' ISEA astronaut daughter (who is clearly pregnant with the virus) as she tells him to never recover her ship and lets him know that the virus has infected the entire crew and driven them mad. Is Sparks determined to stay the course so that he can find out exactly what killed his daughter, or is it something else? Sparks' willingness to expose himself to the apparently madness inducing powers of the alien baby so that he can hallucinate that he is seeing his daughter again as a little girl throw us off the scent a little.
Extant has gotten very good at giving us big shocking moments as it moves along. These give each episode value in a way that we weren't seeing when the show began, and they are adding up to a rather interesting and unique conspiracy that started large and now seems to be shrinking into focus.
Extant airs on Wednesdays @10PM ET on CBS.