Extant is a good show. Actually, let me take that back; Extant is a GREAT show. It’s not just another sci-fi program about the future where people fly around in their cars and talk with aliens; it’s much more than that. Extant is a unique show that explores a variety of themes such as first contact with extraterrestrial life, reintroduction into society after a long period of isolation, and the ethics of artificial intelligence. And that’s just in one season! I wasn’t too optimistic about this show in the beginning since I had barely heard of it, but once I started plowing through the episodes, I learned that this was a hidden gem that deserved way more recognition. (minor spoilers ahead!)
I’m a little shocked that I hadn’t heard of the show until recently. Not only is the leading star Halle Berry, but one of the executive producers is none other than Steven Spielberg himself. This show should’ve exploded onto the scene. Maybe I’m just not watching as much TV as I used to? I probably wouldn’t even have heard of Extant if it wasn’t for a random ad I saw on Amazon.com. Either way, I think it still deserves a little more appreciation due to the big names attached to the project AND the overall quality of the program.
After spending 13 months conducting experiments in space, astronaut Molly Walker returns home and attempts to reconnect with her husband John and her son Ethan. At first, this premise doesn’t sound too thrilling. It feels like a sci-fi melodrama that you’d stumble upon Netflix late at night. But once you get into the first episode, you find out that there is a lot more to Extant than you can imagine.
Despite her complete isolation in space, Molly somehow became pregnant during her voyage. What’s especially weird about this situation is the fact that Molly is infertile, and that she and her husband have been unsuccessfully trying to have a baby for years. But then where did the Walkers’ son Ethan come from? First major twist of the show: Ethan is an android. John built him in an attempt to create an artificially intelligent child that can successfully integrate into society like a normal human being. Of course, it’s not that easy for Ethan, who faces prejudice from parents and children alike. John also sees some difficulty when he attempts to get funding for his project due to people questioning the ethics of humanoid robots with free will.
Most of the performances were fantastic, especially with the Walker family. It comes as no surprise that Berry was the shining actress through the first season. She does a phenomenal job as a troubled astronaut questioning her own sanity after spending such a long time in isolation. Her relationships with other characters felt organic, and out of everyone in the cast, it seemed like she was the one who was the most committed to her role.
Pierce Gagnon also did a great job as Ethan, which came as a surprise to me since I’m normally very critical of child actors. Gagnon breathes life into the role (no pun intended) and uses the right tone of voice and subtle mannerisms to convey a confused android that wants to learn more about his place in society. Seeing Ethan/Gagnon evolve throughout the season was one of the best parts of the show, and I can’t wait to see more of it in Season 2.
Now, just because I really liked the show doesn’t mean it was perfect. There were instances where Extant really slowed down and became a tedious soap opera. I can’t stand filler at all, and there were times where I wished I could instantly fast-forward past all the BS. Most of it barely made any contribution to the story at all. It was like they had to pad the episodes for run time. Word to producers: don’t insult viewers like that. I understand that a lot of shows love to hit that hour mark nowadays, but if you can’t do it without filler, then don’t do it at all. We can settle for half-hour-long shows.
Another aspect I wasn’t fond of was concerning Molly’s baby, known as “the Offspring”. For most of the season, we didn’t get to see the Offspring at all; we only saw the world from its point of view. Then, when we finally did see the Offspring, it was rather anticlimactic. It reminded me of what Lost did with the Smoke Monster. If you’re going to dangle something so mysterious in front of us, at least make it worthwhile.
Despite these minor annoyances, I still liked the show overall because it did something different. While other shows in the genre may focus on the superficial aspects of science-fiction, Extant looks at the more complex themes and concepts and how they relate to our reality. In a way, the show can be seen as a commentary about society, possibly foreshadowing what our own future will look like. I’m just glad that we have a show that dares to be different and that doesn’t rely on too much tedious exposition or flashy action sequences to keep us entertained. If you want a sci-fi show that will make you think, then you should watch Extant.
Final Grade: B +
+ Great performances by most of the cast, especially Berry and Gagnon.
+ There were some genuinely creepy moments that gave me chills.
+ I liked the subtle futuristic aspects like the self-driving cars and the household monitors.
– There were some instances where the show went full-blown soap opera and slowed the story down.
– I got annoyed by how the Offspring was hidden for most of the season.
– Some major characters had very anti-climactic deaths.
– What’s going to happen with Ethan and the Offspring? Will they clash once again in the future?
What were your thoughts on the first season of Extant? What do you think of Ethan’s fate? What about the Offspring? Sound off in the comments or on Twitter!