Saturday, 31 December 2016

TV Shows #12

Extant (2014-15)
Developed By: Mickey Fisher Starring: Halle Berry, Goran Visnjic, Pierce Gagnon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Hiroyuki Sanada, Grace Gummer, Michael O'Neill, Tyler Hilton, Camryn Manheim, David Morrissey, Brad Beyer, Jeannetta Arnette

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 40-44 Minutes (per episode)

One trend I've noticed in the last ten years or so is that a lot of film actors/actresses have moved on to the small screen as stars of new TV shows. One of the first instances of this I remember is Kiefer Sutherland in the super-awesome 24 - a casting choice that surprised me a bit in the day, even if Mr. Sutherland was no longer the draw he had once been - but it must have worked as the show was a smash hit with his performances regularly singled out. Soon, other former and current movie actors were doing the same, but one recent example that still surprised me a little when I first saw it advertised was Extant. How on earth did they manage to get an Oscar winning actress like Halle Berry to appear in what was apparently a sci-fi TV show? By giving her an executive producer credit? I'm not sure if that's what did the trick but who cares? It's never exactly a hardship to see the lovely Ms. Berry again, and a new sci-fi show is always welcome around these parts. Surely the two combined will result in a show of true majesty?

It's set in the near future and stars Ms. Berry as Molly Woods, an ISEA (International Space Exploration Agency) astronaut, Goran Visnjic as her husband John, a robotics engineer heading the Humanichs Project, and Pierce Gagnon, an advanced prototype Humanich (ultra-lifelike android) who lives with them as their son. Other characters include Julie (Gummer) and Charlie (Hilton), John's main assistants on the Humanichs project, Sam Barton (Manheim), ISEA doctor and Molly's friend and confidante, Alan Sparks (O'Neill), director of ISEA and Molly's boss, and Hideki Yasumoto (Sanada), owner of the Yasumoto Corp who takes over funding of the Humanichs project.

This is ostensibly due to the promise shown by their amazing work but his main (and secret) agenda is to 'keep an eye on' Molly who has just returned from a 13 month solo ISEA mission aboard the Seraphim space station. While there she suffered a brief power outage during which she had a mysterious, near-wordless encounter with what appeared to be her dead boyfriend, Marcus. Understandably keen to keep this to herself, she deletes the camera footage, claiming it was accident, but Sparks is suspicious, most likely because her predecessor had a similar outage/encounter and his own daughter Kate (Arnette), another astronaut, was killed in space under mysterious circumstances. It doesn't take long before most other people around her realise at least something isn't quite right though...

Spoiler Alert: I'll try not to reveal any major plot twists or cliffhangers with these posts but they may contain a few spoilers so if you haven't seen them and don't want to know anything, don't read!

Season One (13 episodes)

The show begins immediately after Molly's return to earth where, after reconnecting with her family, she soon returns to work where she is debriefed. During a routine medical, however, she's shocked to find she is now pregnant which should be impossible. Naturally, her attempts to keep this secret don't last long, with the government taking a great deal of interest in her unborn child. This comes soon after Molly's friend and fellow astronaut, Kryger (Beyer), who had supposedly killed himself shortly after his own spooky Seraphim mission, turns up warning her not to trust 'them', and indeed, their behaviour does little to reassure her. Meanwhile, John and his team are growing concerned about Ethan's development which is progressing much faster than expected. Molly's plight is the main focus of the story though, at least at first, and it quickly becomes clear what sort of show it is as the larger conspiracy is revealed and Molly has to go on the run. It's definitely intriguing though, and remains so as more details of Molly's pregnancy and the mysterious events surrounding it become known. It's not super original I suppose but it's nicely-paced for a first season with great performances and will soon have you hooked... 8/10

Season Two (13 episodes)

After thwarting the scary plans of her 'offspring' with the help of the brave Ethan at the climax of the first season, we pick things up six months later and find that Molly's fortunes have dipped somewhat. She is now in a psychiatric hospital while John has been killed in an apparent accident. Of course, she is soon out, under the supervision of JD Richter (Morgan), a cop who wants her help in a recent series of murders which might be the work of her 'son' and/or his associates. She has soon roped him into her conspiracy though, which naturally he doesn't believe. At first. Meanwhile, Ethan is now living with Julie who is the new head of the Humanichs project which is now under the control of the Global Security Commission headed by General Tobias Shepherd (Morrissey). Their goal, unsurprisingly, is to weaponise the project with the immediate target being Adhu (Molly's self-christened son) and the other 'hybrids' he is now apparently the leader of, as Humanichs are not susceptible to their abilities. Admittedly, it isn't always clear which side the hybrids are on, or if they even have a side, but the sense of mystery is largely gone now, leaving instead an exciting but slightly more predictable 'race against time' type thriller... 7/10

Final Thought:

Two slightly different styles for the only two seasons of Extant then (which means the opposite of 'extinct' in case you were wondering) - the first is a slower-paced mystery which has you wondering just what happened to Molly and her predecessors and what is going to happen to her, and the second is a tautly-paced thriller that keeps you guessing as to which, if any, of the parties involved will succeed in their now-mostly-revealed and in some cases dastardly plans!

Central to all it is the always-lovely Halle Berry who is unsurprisingly superb. She was a great choice for Molly and puts in a typically compelling performance, and she has strong support too. Only a few characters feature in both seasons - Molly, Ethan, Julie, Charlie - but pretty much everyone does a great job. Standouts for me include Goran Visnjic as John who makes compelling cases for his sometimes-questionable ethical decisions, and the wonderful Pierce Gagnon as Ethan who is as watchable as he always seems to be, though he's not as scary as he was in Looper! I expect Jeffrey Dean Morgan was a popular addition for the second season too. I don't think I've seen him in anything before but if his outing here is any indication, he's a pretty charismatic and watchable guy.

The story is worthy of their collective talents too, I'd say. I have been trying not to give away spoilers but there's at least a strong suspicion right from the start that an alien intelligence is lurking nearby. The big question is what are their intentions? Do they come in peace, to conquer, or for something else entirely? I'm definitely not going to give that away but I imagine you will be just as keen to find out as I was. Some of the ideas here seem to have been inspired by other sci-fi works but the producers have succeeded in building a believable and distinct world to house their show. The technology in particular (touchscreen computer displays on mirrors and tabletops, self-driving cars, more advanced robotics, artificial intelligence, etc) is very likely a sign of things to come in our own near futures.

It's a well-rounded package of a show really - the productions, casting, story, script, effects, and everything else are all pretty great. There are a few silly things here and there, sure, but overall I'd say it's well worth a watch, especially as it's quite trim in terms of episodes/duration. There's is no real cliffhanger at the end of season two either, don't worry. It might've been cancelled, technically, and it could've been continued in one way or another, but it was wrapped up at a satisfactory point in the story for me. Not an all-time great but engrossing enough while it lasts.



  1. Loved this! It's frightening how quickly we get overtaken by The Cloud intelligence. Are we running with eyes wide shut...?

  2. Yeah, it was definitely a cool show and headed by a very watchable actress. It would've been nice to have a season three but I guess they've gone about as far as they can with the story :)