by Billie Doux
Molly Woods (Halle Berry) is an astronaut who just spent thirteen months alone on a space station called Seraphim, and has returned home to her husband John (Goran Visnjic) and their son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon from the exceptional sci-fi movie Looper). Molly and John make an astonishingly gorgeous couple, and Ethan looks like the perfect blend of the two of them. And yet, we learn almost immediately that the Woods are childless and Ethan is artificial, a "humanich" prototype created by John.
Little Pierce Gagnon was awesome. He was cute and normal, believably naughty, and then, he was super creepy. When he told Molly how pretty her hair was, I immediately flashed to Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed -- "I've got the prettiest mother! I've got the nicest mother!"
I found John Woods to be somewhat creepy too (something Goran Visnjic does so well) although maybe he's just so passionate about his creation that he refuses to consider the obvious Frankensteinian possibilities. The presentation where he was refusing to even consider a kill switch in case his little robot got out of hand was chilling because he was talking about it in front of Ethan. Does John really believe there is no chance of a robot turning on a human? Has he never seen Blade Runner or Battlestar Galactica?
Later, John and Molly had an argument about their artificial child while surrounded by bits and pieces of earlier versions of Ethan. Wow. Message received. The exploration of "what is human" is one of my favorite science fiction themes. Is John correct that raising Ethan as a normal child will actually make him human? Ethan's behavior was ambiguous enough that I couldn't tell. Was he just acting out earlier in the episode like any child would? Did he find the bird dead, or did he kill it?
Or is Molly hallucinating problems with Ethan, as well as what happened on the Seraphim? She remembers that her late husband Marcus showed up at the airlock and that she let him in. (Just like John has never seen Battlestar Galactica, Molly has obviously never seen a horror movie.) "Marcus" acted exactly like an alien in her husband's form (very Starman) by staring at her and parroting her words. But when he touched her face and she passed out, I actually got seriously creeped. After she woke, Molly checked the video feed to see what happened while she was unconscious, and "Marcus" wasn't there. Freaked, she deleted the log. And of course, now she's pregnant. Again, very Starman. Except Starman was sweet. This most certainly didn't come off as sweet.
Because Molly doesn't have enough problems, she was also visited by Harmon Kreiger, a workmate who committed suicide. "Kreiger" told her, "Don't trust them." Don't trust who? We can assume "Kreiger" was referring to the Yasumoto Corporation, who controls the ISEA space program and whose CEO just woke up in a puddle of organic goo. Extinction was mentioned, and of course, the word "extant" is formed from the word "extinction" in the credits. Extinction, to be replaced by what? Artificial people like Ethan? Creatures like "Marcus", "Kreiger", and possibly Yasumoto?
It may be one sci-fi trope after another, but there's something about the quality of the production and Halle Berry's performance that is attracting me to this series. I won't commit yet to reviewing all thirteen episodes, but if they're all as good as this pilot, I just might.
Note from later: In case you're thinking you might try Extant at some point, let me add this postscript. I got bored halfway through the season and just stopped watching. After reading this recap of Extant's final episode at TV Line, I'm glad I stopped when I did. Please note that the link itself is spoilery.
Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.