Thursday, August 21, 2014

In Which I Review Extant (1x7) and (1x8)

I don't understand. Those are my first and final thoughts for the two hour, two episode, Extant event. I hate two hour episodes. One episode always feels like filler and another one stretches my ability to sit still and focus for any length of time. Nevertheless, Extant did a two hour/two episode special this week, "More in Heaven and Earth" and "Incursion." And once again, so many plot lines! More were introduced this week and it's frustrating to have to keep track of people I didn't think mattered. Why is there suddenly an anti-machine terrorist organization that has decided Ethan should be their first target? Too much, Extant! The main thrust of the episode was more or less revving up for some conclusion that is, I think, two weeks away. A lot of big plot points were developed this week, though I still find the alien baby plot to be among the weakest and dullest of the series. I think instead of going episode by episode, I'm going to tackle each person and give an overview of where they are by the end of the two hours. 

John: trying to find Molly, worried about Ethan, questioning his own work.

I like that John and Molly are very much a team when it comes to the alien baby. He's by her side, giving Molly the kind of support she needs in a crisis like this. Apart from being the support system, John is rather detached from the alien baby plot line. His center, as it has always been, is Ethan and the work John does with humanics. John is beginning to question if Ethan is advancing too far for Ethan to even be considered human anymore. Humans develop, to be sure, but at a so-called natural rate. I did not wake up this morning with the ability to speak Japanese, for instance. Ethan, however, did. And that's terrifying for John. This rapid fire development might prove his critics right: the humanic cannot be a human because it is fundamentally a machine and even if it becomes self-aware, it is self-awareness of being a machine and thus more than human. How long before the self-aware machine decides it is better than self-aware humans? The worry John has is to the point where he wants to turn off Ethan and try to fix this rapid development so that Ethan develops at a more normal rate. Essentially: kill the kid and remake him in my image. You are not God, John. Various people around John are opposed to this, like Julia and Molly. Just because Ethan is advancing quickly doesn't mean he's not human; you can argue that people develop at different rates as well. It is said that one of the hallmarks of humanity is self-preservation; it's a trait we hold dear, that our lives are important and need to be protected. Well, Ethan seems to developing that trait as well. When John decides to go through with turning Ethan off, he is locked out of Ethan's computer system by Ethan himself.

Ethan: finding his function

Machine or human? The lines are very blurry when it comes to Ethan right now. He has advanced development like the ability to suddenly speak Japanese and ride a bike, despite never having been on one. But at the the same time, Ethan is displaying traits that are at the core of what it means to be human. He's self-aware and has been from the start of the show; he has a sense of self-preservation, as shown by shutting John out of his computer system so he cannot be turned off; Ethan has a compassionate streak in him. In the second hour, Ethan is attacked by some bullies after he witnesses them blowing up another machine, a non self-aware one at that. Ethan insists that John bring the machine home with them because, "it needs our help." John sees this machine as just that--a machine. It doesn't have a higher function or life and is not self-aware. But Ethan sees a peer, another machine just like him who cannot be left out in the cold, because if this machine can be, then so can he. And finally, Ethan questions his own existence. When Julia tries to explain that the non self-aware machine no longer has a function, Ethan's response is "what is my function?" It's probably the most basic human question of them all: what is my purpose, why am I here, why was I created? (Side note but the writers of Extant are clearly big fans of the first Star Trek movie and the idea of Veeger) John is actually getting exactly what he set out to create: a machine that could go beyond mimicking humans to being human. But be careful what you wish for.

Sparks and Hidecki: unhinged and creepy.

I don't know what to make of these two. They are working together but are they at cross purposes? Hidecki is clearly the one in charge but Sparks seems have his own personal agenda, which revolves around his dead daughter. Sparks has come to the conclusion that he must eliminate Molly who has finally uncovered the truth (most of it anyway) about Katie's death. Sparks does feel guilty about this since he was always fond of Molly, but the project is more important. Which I don't understand. The project in question seems to stem from Hidecki and the fact that his time on this earth is running out. He is clearly much older than we've been told and has been keeping himself alive with "the substance." Now, the substance, we are told, was found out in space and Sparks sent his daughter and her team out there to mine it in secret. But what they found was alien life and that changed everything. The substance Hidecki uses is only temporary and is running low, but apparently he thinks that the alien life they found is more important? I think what Hidecki intends is to transplant his brain, his higher functions, into this alien body and live forever. I find this problematic because it implies that the aliens are immoral but what we've seen of them so far suggests that they grow and develop like any other creature. So how does this ultimately save Hidecki from certain death? I am so confused about the alien plot overall. The final moments of the show this week show Sparks shooting Molly, but it turns out to be an manifestation of Katie who cryptically says, "he needs our help." Is "Katie" referring to the alien baby or...someone else?

Molly: becoming a mother.

There has always been a question in the back of my mind about how Molly would view the baby that she had carried. As Kryger (who is not dead) tells her, "you're not its mother, you're its host." But that's not how it works with Molly or with other mothers, I guess. The baby is partly hers, it has her DNA. So wouldn't Molly feel some sort of maternal instinct toward the alien baby boy? The answer is yes. Molly, Kryger and the body guard who switched sides apparently, come up with an elaborate plan to get Molly inside the secret chamber and see Except of course it has gone missing but the important part is that Alien Baby also seems to recognize that Molly is "mom." When it appears that Molly is in danger, the baby transplants its consciousness (or something) into another man and opens fire, killing everyone who is about tho hurt Molly.
Molly's journey outside of becoming a mother was more focused on getting answers. She is taking the fight to Sparks instead of sitting on the sidelines and waiting for things to come to her. There was a lot of information that was given out in this episode that was delivered at such a rapid pace that I missed some of it but Molly is the one who learns about the secret mining operation in space that discovered alien life; she's the one who tracks down a payload specialist to talk about what happened on the doomed mission (the guy kills himself before Molly can talk to him, but she get credit for trying.) At the end of this episode, I'm not sure what's next for Molly except that she is probably going to become very protective Momma Bear over Alien Baby.

Miscellaneous Notes in More in Heaven and Earth/ Incursion

--So there's an anti-machine group who is going after Ethan. And it's lead by Julia's new boy toy and Hidecki's lover. The group believes that humanity is outsourcing themselves to machines and that they've lost their souls to machines. Have these writers seen Battlestar Galactica? I think they have....

--"He needs a normal life." "What is that?"

--"He's not the baby Jesus!" This is my new favorite line.

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