Thursday, August 14, 2014

In Which I Review Extant (1x6)

Things are getting decidedly more freaky on this weeks episode, "Nightmares." This show has a tendency to run a little dull in the middle and then leave you with something intriguing to draw you back in the following week. For example, the sub-B plot for this week was totally unnecessary. I don't care about Julia or robotic limbs or her romantic exploits. None of that matters in the grand scheme of this alien baby drama. I am also confused as to why I am now getting some sort of attempt at world building. This show is six episodes in and now they begin to dedicate some time to world building? That's backwards. A few blog posts ago, I talked about how the show wasn't interested in showing me the world in which Molly and John live because of limited time constraints. It's obviously set in some distant future because the technology is quite progressive, but the fashion is very 2014, and people's bigotry has simply moved to artificial intelligence rather than flesh and blood humankind. But this week, we learned that many people have robotic limbs and that there are cafe's where someone can go to get "juiced" by, what I assume has to be, some sort of drug paraphernalia. This last little bit reeks of A Clockwork Orange and its only purpose was to figure out a way for one character to move back into the plot. But now I'm left with "world questions." The overall thrust of this episode was to answer questions, and to an extent it did to do that, but it raised ones that I don't think needed raising. "Nightmares" tried to tie most of our storylines back together since the show is now halfway through. 

The episode picks up where last week's left off; John and Molly are trying to figure out what the bizarre light particles are that somehow impregnated Molly. However, their ponderings are interrupted when Ethan begins to scream. The little robot-boy is having a nightmare. How...fascinating. Once again, I am more interested in the robot-boy turning into a human story than the alien one, but at least this episode tried to tie it all together. Ethan is not programed for any sort of dream ability--positive or negative. John tells us that they are years and years away from replicating the REM cycle. But there's Ethan, screaming and clutching his mom and asking her to sleep next to him. It's very sweet and for a moment I think we all forget that he's really a bunch of wires and code. In Ethan's dream, something bad was happening to Molly, who tries to explain that dreams are just part of our subconscious. When Ethan asks what that means, Molly tells him that the subconscious is the secret part of you. Now, do we really think that somehow Ethan has magically progressed to the point where he has an actual subconscious? That is incredibly human; in fact, I'd argue that a subconscious--or if you like, soul--is the very essence of humanity. How did Ethan advance so far overnight? No one knows, not even his father. John takes Ethan into the lab the next morning to see if he can find the record of the dreams inside Ethan (how inhuman!) and figure out how the code got Ethan to dream, but when they open the little boy up (again with the incredible inhumanity while trying to explain something that is human) there is no record. It's as if it didn't happen at all. But dreaming isn't the only thing that's different about the robot-boy; his reflexes are also much faster than they were a week ago. So, on the one hand, Ethan is Pinocchio and is becoming a real boy, but on the other hand, he's advancing past the stage of his robotic structure to become some sort of ubermensch? Why am I almost more worried about Ethan than the alien baby?

I say almost because it turns out that the alien baby is kind of mean. While inside the box, and growing, it (he?) somehow manages to infect a doctor who was working and observing it (him?). Those weird circle symbols that keep cropping up everywhere were almost burned into his skull. Within a short time afterwards, the infected doctor was raving, and ended up killing a cohort. When he was finally calmed down (somehow) he explained that he killed his fellow doctor under orders from a woman who was appearing to him. This woman was an old friend or lover...but the catch here is that she's been dead for some time. This actually fits neatly with what we know so far. Molly saw her dead ex-boyfriend Marcus and then Marcus' brother, Tim; Harmon saw his dead mother. The alien baby manifests as a dead loved one. This means that somehow the alien baby is able to tap into your memories, weed out what your weak point is and then use it against you. Now you could argue that it first must come into contact with you, but that's not how it happened with Molly and Harmon who saw their ghosts before the alien ever touched them. Or did they?

This is where we get some pretty hefty plot development, though it's weighted by exposition galore and characters suddenly remembering vital information (which is annoying). We've known for awhile now that this all has something to do with Sparks' daughter, Katie. Until this point, Molly and Harmon haven't discussed the strange circle formations that keep showing up. When they finally meet and do so, Harmon recalls a time when he was in space during his year long solo mission and a message came through to the station. It was encoded but it was the circle pattern. He was told by the computer to ignore it and dismiss the message, but not before learning that it was a "distress" test call. Harmon explains this was months before he met his ghost mother on board and so he never connected the two. Harmon, previously, has broken into the space company (it has an acronym but I can't remember it...) and stole some files from a mission that occurred even before his own. On this mission was Katie Sparks, the daughter of the chief guy who's trying to bring Molly to heel. Sadly, the information on this file is heavily encrypted and John can't break it. Well, do we know anyone who is far advanced and can help us out? Yes, Ethan saves the day by breaking the code and we get to see the final transmission from Katie before her death. She is in a lot of distress, she has the crazy circle symbols on her stomach, and her fellow cohorts have gone crazy from the infection and become murderous. Katie very clearly tells the people back home, "don't recover the ship!" In other words, do not send people back out to these stations because they will become infected and die just like me. Katie gets into an escape pod and dies out in space. So, yes, Katie is dead but she did not die in the manner that Sparks has been telling people.

To bring this back to Molly, this means that Sparks knew all along what was up in space and chose to send Molly anyway, hoping to make contact. She was the bait, in other words. Rather terrible business practice if you ask me. But the question is, why? What does he hope to gain by bringing the clearly angry light/alien/thing down to earth? Is it just scientific progress? Curiosity? Does he hope to somehow bring back his daughter? We know that Sparks visits the baby alien and asks to see his dead daughter, which the alien baby happily provides. But yet Sparks doesn't become infected or crazed like the others. And what about Harmon? He was infected as well, saw his dead mom, but he clearly can't become pregnant like Molly. So why was he sent up? Lots of questions that need to be answered. To bring this back to Ethan, it turns out that not only is he seeing Molly in distress in his nightmares, he's also seeing the crazy circle patterns. The ends up drawing them much to Molly's horror. We only have 7 more episodes to go, and apparently there is a big break before the series finale, so I hope we manage to get more answers and less questions.

Miscellaneous Notes on Nightmares

--Did they kill Harmon? I can't tell. One moment he was standing, the next not so much.

--I really and truly do not care about Julia and whatever is going on with this robotic limb thing. However, I did pity her when she's trying to express her feelings toward John as caring for him and Ethan, and he literally just blows her off.

--John wasn't shirtless in this episode. Tragic.

--Molly spied on Sam quite a bit this episode and learned that Sam is on her side but being bribed. Glad we got that out of the way.

--Where is Hidecki? What role does he play in all this?

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