Welcome to the dream world of Extant.
Nothing is as it seems, dreams are real and they are not. People are dead and they are not. Beings are real and they are not.
Extant makes familiar use of tropes that we are accustomed to, the most familiar of which is the story of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. We also get the philosophical examination of what it is to be human. (Something Almost Human eagerly explored and then they didn't. I'm still a bit frustrated over that.) And we liberal use of book and cultural references.
Lets take a look at our star Halle Berry. One of the most beautiful women in the world and the first look we get of her is of her retching in the sink. Berry gets producer credit on the the show and I have a feeling she said something to the effect, "Please, let's not start with a glamor shot of me, how about we begin with a character study and what I have been through."
Agreed and it was a good move. It looks like the staff bought into her thinking too. We'll get plenty of glamor shots later. For now let's start her story arc with what she's been through and the after effects. One has only to think of the acting job Berry puts on when she panics in the space station and hurriedly deletes all the dreamscape footage. The urgency was indeed palable.
Berry's character is named Molly and she's a bit spaced out. Literally and figuratively.
Despite being in space for thirteen months Molly finds out she is pregnant. Her doctor reminds her of the impossibility of this and no one is more stunned than Molly. As Molly reiterates for her and her doctor's sake she in all probability, infertile. Any top secret visits her doctor inquires? Absolutely not she responds. At least none than she can confess. The only visitor she can remember is the one that apparently took place in her imagination and it was the one of her former beau, Marcus, and he is supposed to be dead. He sure seemed real at the time of his Seraphim visit!
While we are at it let's get to the picture above and the artwork in the background. It's a poster of Phrenology and Phrenology is a pseudoscience of the mapping of the human skull and the associated modules of specialty and brain functions. Why that is hanging in her doctor's office I have no idea. But it seems to suggest the power of the mind. Was Marcus' visit a conjugal one? Did the power of Molly's imagination get her pregnant? It seems the show would like us to think so. That would be a neat trick.
Alice in Wonderland
We may as well jump into all the "Wonderland" imagery while we are here. Marcus appears through a looking glass of sorts. We even get a "Help me" message that reminds us of all the "Drink Me" and "Eat Me" references that Alice experienced as she tumbles down the rabbit hole.
Do we have a rabbit? Indeed we do, young Ethan's nickname is "Rabbit" and he disappears down a rabbit hole when Molly gives chase to him in the park.
That's him disappearing into the trees where we later finding him standing next to a dead bird. Reader, Jim Reid, thinks this is portentous after Ethan exclaims he likes Molly's hair. Posessed with anothers thoughts perhaps?
We also have a "Mad Hatter" and he is throwing a little tea party for Molly's husband, John. (Goran Visnjic.) Hiroyuki Sanada returns to TV as Hideki Yasumoto. Helix fans know him as Dr. Hiroshi Hatake. The tea party is not what it seems as it's really a sell job meant to co-opt John and keep Molly close.
There are many other "looking glass" references such as the big brother scene when Yasumoto spies on Molly's not so private therapy session and the use of a modern day looking glass, a computer tablet. Doubtless there were many more references but we must move on.
The spooky little kid from "Looper" Pierce Gagnon makes his entry early on. He is so cute and has such soulful eyes. Just don't get him angry! In Looper, Gagnon's character had the power of telekinesis, which is another nice allusion here to Ethan's power of the mind here in this show. Ethan is artificial but perhaps he can channel the thoughts of the dead or those whom we thought were dead. Like Marcus the imaginary lover or spiritual/real alien presence.
BTW, check out the PJ's Ethan is wearing. Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are extinct. The sheets of Ethan's bed were covered in dinosaurs too. The credit entry to Extant likes to play with the words extinct and extant as they evolve into each other. A clue to humanity's extinction?
We learn that Ethan is an artificial life form or "Humantic" when claims he needs a "flip" This I take to mean a battery flip. So, I guess it wasn't much of a surprise that Ethan is a robot. Especially given his performance on Looper. What can I say the kid is spooky.
At least Ethan provides the vehicle to explore the human versus machine argument again. Extant has a slightly different take than Almost Human on artificial intelligence. AH brought us the artificial soul while Extant argues against it. Intelligence is more of a learning experience here. Nurture versus nature let's call it. The argument over having the power of death over the Humantic was a fascinating and emotionally powerful one. Imagine having a death plan for your kid. It was an amazing scene and it lent itself to humanity's eventual extinction should the artificials take over.
Time will tell if Almost Human or Extant gets these age old arguments right.
Dead or Alive?
So I guess Harmon Kryger is still alive. Kryger, an astronaut that preceded Molly aboard the Seraphim station, was presumed to have killed himself after his duty aboard the station. We learned he didn't adjust well to Earth life after his return and could have benefited from the psychological care that Molly was afforded upon her return. Having seen this "care" I'm not so sure about that.
Kryger did manage to pass along a note to Molly just before Ethan had his ice cream fit and disappeared down his rabbit hole. It seems he knows what happened to her and God knows what happened to him. Whatever it was it moved him to fake his own death and possibly search for those that had abused him and now Molly.
Too bad Molly didn't watch Fringe. She would have known things were just about to go sideways if she had spotted the red balloon amongst the rest. The red balloon is a total red flag. As I said we saw it on Fringe and it also appeared on Chris Carter's "The After". Here's a couple of pix from both series.
At least the spirit of Marcus didn't carry a bunch of red balloons when he appeared aboard the space station. He seem pretty real when he walked through the airlock and he also reached out and spoke to Molly. Yet when the footage was replayed he was nowhere to be seen. Is he dead? Was he digitally erased from the footage? What went on during Molly's three hour cat nap? Something arrived at the station and it wasn't long after that when Molly had her episode. Was she gassed into hallucinating or was there really something on that supply pod? An alien? The re-animated corpse of Marcus?
Odds and Ends
I spoke of cultural references and symbilism earlier so let's discuss those now in closing.
Books play a large part in sci-fi shows. One only has to go back to Lost for that. Above, Molly walks past a copy of "Genesis." I hope she had a chance to read it when she wasn't watching Fringe. Genesis will figure heavily into a show like Extant. It's thematic of things still in existence like dead friends or spirits of the same. Does it suggest something new has come into existence? Is it the "child" that Molly is carrying?
Later, Molly walks past the same area as she is stopped by John. Note the skeletal tree and the framed photo of John and Ethan. Those items also appeared in the Genesis scene.
The photo suggests how Ethan and John are apart from Molly. They are pictured together probably while Molly was in space. See how Molly stands behind them in this frame. Ethan and John walk together but Molly is headed out the door.
The "skeletal tree" is reminiscent of the trees Yasumoto has in his lair. He was trimming them when John went for his initial visit. The trees suggest Yasumoto's reach "branches" out into the lives of the Woods family. (I guess we should be looking for all things trees and woods also.)
Did we have an Orphan Black moment on Extant? Note the Castor and Pollux constellation on the night sky globe above. Ah, Project Leda you are everywhere. Of course this also suggests twins as in, two sides of every coin, doppelgangers, people that are either alive or dead. Or both.
Here's the glamor shot of Halle Berry you were all clamoring for. What? Just me? Whatever, I got it in. Ha. She is a fine actress and as I mentioned I thought her panic scene was terrific.
There is a big ol' conspiracy plot that is going to play out on Extant and that is worthy of mention. Are there Aliens involved or is it just Yasumoto and his machinations towards evolution and what is extant or extinct?
(Yasumoto should contact his twin, Hatake, maybe the Willis Hypothesis could help!)