The first thing we see in the pilot episode of the futuristic thriller Extant is Halle Berry throwing up. Is this too obvious of a joke regarding the show’s potential? It may take some time for me to get used to Berry’s presence on the small screen. The Oscar-winner is the latest actress to make the leap from big screen features to small screen endeavors. It’s no secret that there are better parts (especially for women) on television now, and the ambitious Steven Spielberg produced series definitely has me intrigued. I’m very curious as to where the show is going to go.
Berry plays Molly Woods, an astronaut who has recently returned home after a 13 month excursion in space. Shall we get the shallow “comparisons” to Gravity out of the way right now? They both have female Oscar-winners in space. Does that satisfy everyone?
Being in space must, you know, put a strain on the relationships with your spouse and children. Molly and her husband John’s son, Ethan, acts out at Molly’s welcome back party early on in the episode. He pushes down another boy because he wouldn’t play as Ethan saw fit. When John (Goran Visnjic) puts Ethan to bed that night, we learn that Ethan is actually an android when John changes his batteries. Whoa! Is Extant more progressive than we gave it credit for? Are we going to learn about acceptance and newfound prejudices in this Spielbergian future?! All I know is that Haley Joel Osment was probably pissed that he wasted his artificial intelligence performance in A.I.
Meanwhile, Molly takes a look at a photo album and stops at a picture of her and another man. I only make note of this because, apparently, pictures move in the future just like in Harry Potter (bet J. K. Rowling is somehow wording a lawsuit) and Molly has long hair in the picture. This is evidence that Berry should always have long, wavy hair. We learn that this guy is Marcus, Molly’s former beau. Molly tells John that she dreams of Marcus less and less, and John laments to Molly that if Marcus was alive, they wouldn’t be a family.
Molly visits her doctor to go over some routine, post-space test results. Her doctor, Sam, is played by Camryn fricking Manheim who doesn’t look like she’s aged a day since racking up Emmy Awards and stealing all of our hearts! Her presence is very comforting, but the news she has for Molly is quite the opposite. She tells Molly that she’s pregnant. Dun dun DUUUUNN!!! But Molly can’t get pregnant! She was in space for 13 months! Alone! It was a solo mission!
We are treated to a flashback of Molly working in space. She is taking a call from her family when the network tells her that there has been a solar flare. Molly’s call is interrupted, and her ship loses power. She floats around to try and fix it, and we see that CBS has spent all of its summer special effects on Extant and not Under the Dome. Spielberg’s name obviously pulls some strings. After Molly gets the power back on, she sees something rather alarming. Marcus floats up to a door, and he writes HELP ME in steam on the window. All right, Extant, you have my attention. I must share that all this happens in the first 15 minutes. That’s a LOT going on for a prologue before the title card is shown. Back on Earth, Molly asks Sam to not turn in Molly’s medical review so she can “find a way” to tell her husband. “Honey…remember my super sexy ex? You know the one that I’d probably still be with if he didn’t bite the big one? Yeah…well, I miiiight be carrying his space baby. What do you want for dinner?”
John is trying to receive more funding for Humanichs research from Yasumoto Corp., but that is a total bust. First of all, he uses Ethan as a model in his presentation. “I’m going to talk about how you were used for the original program, but that doesn’t mean you’re not real,” John tells Ethan. Ethan is fully aware of his own makeup, but, come on, John. Kids don’t even like learning they’re adopted let alone paraded in front of a large group of executives in big, leather chairs and told how they are robots (it’s seriously the comfiest-looking meeting ever). John’s presentation stresses they need to merge the human experience with robots to successfully create an artificial conscience, but he flips out on a woman when she asks him what the termination protocol is in the event of a Humanichs uprising.
That pesky solar flare is causing Molly a whole lot of grief. She has a meeting with International Space Exploration Agency (ISEA) deputy director Gordon Kern and director Alan Sparks to discuss some gaps in Molly’s reports. She explains that she accidentally deleted security footage when she went to go copy it resulting in a 13 hour gap with only her report to fill in the blanks (space Watergate). Sparks seems satisfied and considers Molly a model ISEA employee. Minutes later, Sparks watches Yasumoto arise from a goopy chamber and Sparks tells him that the solar flare has happened again. The lost footage concerns Sparks, especially since it happened quite recently with Harmon Kryger, another ISEA employee who died. Yasumoto tells him to keep watch, and Sparks convinces Yasumoto to grant John’s Humanichs funding in order to stay close to the family.
We get a glimpse of Ethan’s potential creepiness in a bonding moment gone horribly wrong. Molly and Ethan are enjoying ice cream in the park when a balloon salesman gives Molly a balloon from an unknown person. Attached is a note that says, “I know what happened to you. Contact soon.” Molly freaks out and tells Ethan they’re leaving. In the process, Ethan drops his ice cream and demands a new one. What a little, ungrateful bitch. He runs into the woods, and Molly finds him standing over a dead bird. “It was like this when I got here…your hair looks really pretty,” Ethan whispers. Ok. Full on creepy artificial intelligence. I’m already thinking Ethan will throw her from the second floor like Damian. Shut it down!!!
We flash back again to the Seraphim, and we see that Marcus not only asked for help, but he entered the same quadrant and become rather intimate with Ms. Molly. He stroked her face and then touched her stomach (so THAT’S the immaculate conception), resulting in, we presume, pregnancy. When she attends an ISEA-regulated psychology evaluation, she remembers that she woke up on the Seraphim and watches her own footage. She sees herself being manipulated by Marcus, but Marcus himself is nowhere to be seen. Molly then deletes her own footage, which, you know, can only lead to conspiracy and intrigue. That night, Molly takes the garbage out, and Harmon Kryger emerges from her bushes. He assures her that what she saw on the Seraphim was not a hallucination, and warns her that she should not trust anyone. Well, he stresses annnyone!
I’m intrigued by everything that’s happening in Extant, but I would say that have questions. Does everyone assume Yasumoto is dead? Do you have to buy a new artificial intelligence kid after so many years, or do they age? I shudder to imagine buying a new and improved adolescent puberty model son. Why have I never seen a balloon salesman until now? That’s what I’m looking forward to in the future. Will I EVER be able to differentiate between Grace Gummer (who plays John’s associate) and her sister, Mamie? Berry does really well as a woman in peril, so I think she will find a good home on the show. My biggest complaint is that Berry and Visjnic have absolutely no chemistry. Like…none. Remember the CGI cats that brought Berry back to life in Catwoman? They are more emotionally engaged with Berry than Visjnic is. There is a shower scene near the beginning of the show that should have been used for a 409 commercial, because there is no heat between them.
The promos for the rest of the season will make sure I tune in to see what happens, but it could fall on either way. It could be an escapist, summer thriller, but I feel it will begin to feel hokey.