There’s no way I wasn’t going to give Extant a shot. Brushing aside the show’s awkward title (Extant is apparently the opposite of Extinct), I was intrigued by Halle Berry and Steven Spielberg’s involvement. After all, Berry is an Academy Award winner and the latter is a bonafide sci-fi God. After giving the show’s opener a chance, I’m pleased to report that it has enough potential to warrant a 13-episode commitment.
Extant tells the story of Molly Woods, an astronaut who has just returned to Earth following a year-long mission in space. Naturally, there’s a complication: she’s pregnant, despite the fact that her mission was a solo one. The central mystery is a compelling one, and the pilot is peppered with a multitude of tantalizing questions that further complicate the narrative. Of course there’s no way of predicting if the payoff will be a satisfying one, but Mickey Fisher’s script paints a fascinating futuristic world that’s both subtle and believable (check out the super-nifty garbage cans). There’s the requisite shadowy conspiracies and government cover-ups, but they’re surprisingly nowhere near as annoying as they could have been.
Berry is undeniably likable and effective as our protagonist, although the actress feels a bit too larger-than-life at times. However, I will give her the benefit of the doubt as I’m probably not used to seeing her on the small screen. Her husband played by Goran Visnjic is less impressive, which could prove troublesome as his robotic business ventures look like they’ll be playing an integral part in the story going forward. It would do the show good to give Camryn Manheim some juicy material in the coming episodes. Manheim is a fantastic actor, and having her play Molly’s doctor and confidante just might make her the show’s secret weapon.
Thankfully, the show’s production values are worthy of Spielberg’s legacy. The CGI touches interspersed throughout transcend the television medium, and the sequences set in space (on the Seraphim) are a highlight. Thank you Gravity for making space cool again.
I have to be honest, I’m a tad weary of falling for Extant. I’m particularly concerned over the character of Ethan (Molly’s robot son), but I’ll try not to judge before seeing what the writers have in store for the rest of the season. Still, the last summer series CBS produced (Under The Dome) certainly caught my attention at first with its gripping premise, but soon devolved into a mess of a show which I eventually chucked aside. Here’s hoping Spielberg’s involvement will be enough to stop the show from crumbling beneath its own ambitions.
An engaging pilot with fine performances and an absorbing mystery. Definite potential here ladies and gents.