SKIP
gtgof-logo

Loading...

Skip Navigation

TV Reviews

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Cast
Halle Berry as Molly Woods; Goran Visnjic as John Woods; Pierce Gagnon as Ethan Woods; Brad Beyer as Harmon Kryger; Camryn Manheim as Sam Barton; Tyler Hilton as Charlie Arthurs; Sergio Harford as Marcus Dawkins; Grace Gummer as Julie Gelineau; Michael O'Neill as Alan Sparks
Channel
CBS
Reviewer
Paul Asay
Extant

After years of trying, Molly Woods is finally pregnant. Cause for celebration, right?

Well, not so much. See, she's been away from her husband, John, for 13 months.

On a solo mission.

In the vacuum of space.

If just one of those factors had been in play during Molly's conception, the whole situation would've been, at the very least, awkward. But all three? Houston, we have a problem.

Extant, a CBS summer sci-fi series from executive producer Steven Spielberg, is a surprisingly daring show for a network that has thrived for years on a regimen of crime procedurals and salacious comedies. Starring Oscar-winner Halle Berry, it has the flavor of Lost in space—a freaky, futuristic vision that contemplates nothing less than the meaning of life, both human and otherwise. And it's not just Molly's impending bundle of ... well, whatever ... that's ratcheting up the tension.

Back when Molly and John discovered they couldn't make babies the traditional way, John took matters into his own hands and built them one—and the magical-mech result is now a lovable, albeit sometimes creepy 8-year-old named Ethan. This is a big deal, of course, and not just for the Woods family. Their futuristic world has been filled for a while now with lots of labor-saving machines and computers, but no one's been able to create something that can not only look human, but act it, too. John believes that to get a machine to think like a person you have to "raise" it like one, where it (he) can learn the complexities of right and wrong just like a real kid would. To John, Ethan represents the next step forward in artificial intelligence, and possibly even evolution.

'Course, this method of raising the next generation of computers does have its perils. Prospective investors want him to install safeguards to make sure humanity isn't someday crushed by a horde of self-aware and potentially self-aggrandizing Ethans. John refuses to do so. In fact, he'd consider it monstrous, given that Ethan isn't just a bit of sophisticated AI to him: Ethan's his son, as loved and as loving as a flesh-and-blood boy. As such, John wants Ethan and all these future creations (he calls them humanixes) to be "free to choose their own path."

In short, the Woods—what with their astronaut mother, AI geneticist father, fabricated son and who knows what growing in utero—are probably one of the most interesting families on the block. So perhaps it's not surprising that they're drawing quite a bit of interest from various ... entities. ISEA, a privatized version of NASA that employs Molly, is spying on her. John's primary investor—a mysterious man named Hideki Yasumoto—seems to also be very interested in Molly's, um, delicate condition. Molly's being visited by a fellow astronaut, too—one who supposedly committed suicide after his own strange solo mission. And just wait 'til the baby's daddy stops by for a visit!

It's very early in the series at this writing, but we've already seen some sexually charged scenes. Violence and peril are clearly to be expected, too. But it may be the ethical and spiritual themes that either ground Extant or allow it to blast off. And the battle lines are already being drawn. John doesn't believe in a soul and suggests any who do are idiots. Molly has said she was "meant" to be where she is, suggesting a belief in some sort of divine providence. And perhaps it's telling that Molly's controversial mission took place aboard a station called the Seraphim, a reference to a hierarchy of angels.

It seems Extant will have to grow and develop a bit—much like little AI Ethan—before we know what it's really all about.

Episode Reviews

"Re-Entry"

Molly returns from a 13-month solo space mission and is told by her doctor that she's pregnant. It's a mystery that's colored by a flashback to her being visited in space by someone (something) looking a whole lot like an old (dead) flame of hers.

There's talk about humans having souls—and AIs not having them. But John's not buying the distinction, recoiling from the idea of installing a kill switch in Ethan. "What you call a soul I call the cumulative effect of a lifetime of experience," he says before labeling his intellectual opponent an idiot.

Marcus runs his finger down the front of Molly's spacesuit, and we see images of her looking like she's experiencing sexual arousal … by herself. Back on Earth, John and Molly are shown showering together and kissing. (Steam shields most of the nudity.) Ethan wrestles down a kid who won't give him a ball. And when the young AI drops his ice cream cone, he throws a fit and runs away; Molly finds him beside a dead bird.

We see Molly throw up. Characters drink wine and talk about doing shots. Molly's doctor jokes that she'll write Molly a prescription for margaritas. We see someone in a loincloth (lying still on a table). We hear one "d--n."

More