Thursday, July 17, 2014

In Which I Review Extant (1x2)

The hardest thing about being in space? The coffee. Goodness know I can't start my day without a cup (or three) of coffee either. Why am I talking about coffee? Because the main thrust of this episode is the attempt at normalcy while a whole lot of not-so-normal things are happening around you. You've come back from a year long mission in space but there is still coffee to be made, kids to dress, eggs to cook, parties to go to, business meetings to attend, friends to see. Of course in the midst of all this, you have a robotic son, a mysterious pregnancy, and a conspiracy in which you've become a lab rat in a space-maze. So, drink the coffee because things get weird. I think I've discovered a fatal flaw in the paradigm of the show. It is trying to be all the things. When it comes to science fiction, there are slews upon slews of topics from which to choose: good old faith vs science, the ethics of humanity in relation to their scientific achievements and development, the nature of humanity as it relates to each other in overwhelming progress, straight up Jungian archetypes existing in a scientific world, the unceasing scientific progress that doesn't care about humanity morality or culture, eugenics. Take your pick. However, do limit yourself to just a few, especially on a 13 episode summer show. Unless you have Gene Roddenberry somewhere in your title, you may want to pull back on the throttle. Extant is trying to have its cake and eat it too. The pregnancy storyline, which was what the show was pitched as, isn't as compelling as the philosophical musings about human connectivity in the face of the new robotics. Why have a character who is creating life from un-life and a robot who is trying to be more child than machine if your main storyline is actually this alien pregnancy meets government and wealthy business coverup? They may all connect, but for the moment I am far more interested in the storyline that is probably supposed to be second tier. 

This weeks episode, "Extinct," (creative title, no?) is basically a-day-in-the-life of. It is book-ended by a family over meals, keeping secrets from each other but putting on their "we are totally normal" face. Molly is having a bit of a hard day. She's with Ethan and having some mommy-robotic son bonding time over games and conversation. However, Molly seems to be troubled by a constant drumming sound; at first it's the washing machine thudding (the sound of normalcy that invokes a supernatural fear) but later, the thudding continues and this time the washer cannot be blamed. The freaky-ex-alien guy from the space ship is in her kitchen telling her "it's okay." Yes, everything is normal here in this bizarre trippy world where your ex has come back to life only as, most likely, an alien that has impregnated you. I'm convinced the aliens don't know human language but instead are mimicking human language. Molly ends up fainting and some bizarre symbols are burned into her skin. I'm sure those are totally normal (lies). Ethan and Molly go to the natural history museum and there is some very heavy handed evolution/extinction/survival of the fittest motifs going on. I get that the pregnancy storyline is probably leading to the inevitable "race to save a dying species" trope mixed in with "aliens are friends not enemies" but this was a bit too on the nose. I find that I'm also confused about Ethan's level of intelligence. Is he smarter than the average bear? And if yes, shouldn't he have a basic understanding of extinction? He is self aware to the point where he knows he's not a homo sapien and "not real" but basic evolution concepts are unfamiliar to him? It's possible, but let's just say that this was obvious exposition for the audience.

Molly and Sam, the doctor who is currently keeping Molly's secrets, meet to discuss the situation. Previously the missing astronaut, Harmon, told Molly not to trust anyone but like many protagonists on TV, Molly didn't listen. She tells Sam that Harmon is alive, to which Sam reveals that Molly and Harmon have identical brain abnormalities. We get a flashback of Harmon's time on the space station and his encounter with his dead mother--which was all sorts of horror show creepy. Harmon flushed his mom out into space, but not before creepy mom touched him. I'm guessing touch is a key factor here, which again relates back to the human connectivity question when it comes to something inhuman. With the information that Harmon and Molly share a brain abnormality, Molly attempts to dig up the mission reports from Harmon's time in space only to be denied access by her workplace. Bells should be going off in your head, Molly. Now super paranoid about the coverup, Molly and Harmon meet and discuss what is going on. Harmon seems to think that while he and Molly went into space to do their own experiments, they themselves were being experimented upon. Rats in a maze, dancing and running for cheese. This is backed up later when Alan, Molly's boss, and Hideki, John's new boss, meet and do the whole "vague lines that will tantalize the audience so they keep watching while simultaneously revealing that we are in the know and have all the answers." The dialogue exchange fits perfect with this "You found them" "They're already here." And then you add in that this whole thing began with another woman, a daughter, and that Hideki has only 102 days to live before, I assume, he must go back into the macaroni-and-cheese colored pod of goo and be "healed" and we've got more plot lines than I know what to do with. I said this last week, but everything right now is rather nebulous. There's a pregnancy mystery, a larger mystery with various high powered individuals, debates on science and life, oh and it looks like we've got a potential love triangle/affair going on. Gotta have one of those. There is a lot to unpack still but I hope they stop adding layers.

Miscellaneous Notes on Extinct

--Looking sharp is looking like Goran Visnjic. I agree.

--Julia, John's assistant, is so clearly in love with him and obviously got to used to being his "wife" while Molly was away. Is John aware of this? Nope.

--Molly appears to be carrying a perfectly normal human child. 

--Hideki and and our resident religion-still-matters board member are a couple. I wonder if she knows that her lover is dying in 102 days.

--How old is Hideki? He seems to have a fondness for history. Not unusual, but with shows like this there might be something more to it. Something, dare I say, very-old-super-human-looking-for-a-way-to-live-forever sort of deal.

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