Sunday, August 24, 2014

Extant - Heaven and Earth





Hamlet:
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

With this quote, Shakespeare opens the argument that ponders the very core of our existence.  Who are we?  What is our place in the world?  And most importantly, how much do we really know and what are our limits?

To be truthful, Hamlet's response to Horatio begs the question, "Can we really trust what we see?"

There are many interpetations to what Shakespeare's Hamlet is trying to tell us.  For the purpose of this examination we'll stick with the philosophical and religious aspects as they seem to heave closer to the questions posed by Extant.


 Alien visitation makes for strange bedfellows eh?  Who'd a thunk that Kern and Kryger were of the same philosophy?  It took a visit from Kern's mother to jog loose the memories of Kern's father and his own troubled past.  We learned that Kern's father was once a pilot that landed an airliner in the middle of a corn field because he heard the voice of god.  It seems that Kern's absolom addiction is meant to quiet these same voices.

Now that Kern has come face to face with something that is "more than is dreamt of in his philosphy"  it represents a sea change in his thinking.  He no longer needs to fear the ghost of his father and what was once thought as an illness as voiced by his mother. 

Hamlet was visited by the ghost of his father and it set him on a path of revenge and made him ponder his very existence.  "To be or not to be" he questioned.  Should he follow the difficult path of life or seek solace in the quietude of death?


Fortunately for Kern, his Horatio sits prisoner in his basement.  Kryger knows what it is like to be visited by something that shakes the very foundation of his existence.  The ancient Greeks thought early on that there is no absolute truth in everything because what we see has a different meaning to those that perceive it.  (Sophistry.)   During Shakespeare's time it was argued there was only relative truth as opposed to absolute truth.  

Kryger senses the inner turmoil going in Kern and appeals to his conscience.  In this, Kern comes to realize what was percieved as madness in his fathers actions was probably a deeper truth as his father saw it and it probably saved the lives of all the passengers aboard his plane by avoiding a greater fate.

Ghosts can be helpful.

Many spirits have walked amongst the living in Extant.  From Marcus to Katie and to Kryger's mother.  All represent a different truth to each of those visited.  It is up to those individuals to make sense of these apparitions and whether it will lead them down the path to a higher truth, revenge or even murder.


Speaking of ghosts, what a clever piece of casting to add Jobeth Williams to the mix as Gorden Kern's mother.  Williams signature role was from the movie "Poltergeist" where the restless dead come back to haunt those who would disturb their peace. 


 As with Hamlet there was a religious angle to "More In Heaven and Earth."  I have to say this left me a little unsettled.  Not that there isn't room for the religious side to bringing in an artificial life to our world and it's ramifications over whether we are playing God or not.  It just seemed a little late in the game for Extant to ponder this weighty argument.  There are only four episodes left, do we really want to go there?


At least, as in Hamlet, we'll get a hefty dose of palace intrigue.  Yasumoto's bed partner, Femi Dodd, has been revealed to be the leader of a religious order that is at odds with introducing an artificial life into our world.  Her chief henchman is none other than Julie's paramour, Odin.  Now, both of them are in the unique position to sabotage the inner working of those that would play God.

As for religion, during the time of Shakespeare and his Hamlet, the world was in the midst of religious upheaval.   Hamlet the play is mostly seen as a Catholic device yet oddly it was set in a predominantly Protestant country, Denmark.   It's been thought that Shakespeare did this deliberately to give voice to the two opposing points of view.  The Catholic view where the taking of a life, even your own, meant eternal damnation.  Duty to God and family was paramount.  The Protestant Reformation embraced in Denmark called into question the underpinnings of Catholicism wherein you are more responsible to your own life and the path you choose instead leaving your fate in the hands of God.

For Extant, the opposing parties are varied.  There are those who take the visitations as literal and follow the path of revenge and redemption.  Think Sparks and Katie.  Others, like Kryger and Dodd, see such visitations and the act playing God as heretical and seek to eliminate them as apostate.  Such as Yasumoto and Ethan.  Molly and seemingly Kern, embrace a new world one that is open to new life.  Existance and life in any form must be given the chance to follow it's own path.  Think Ethan and the "Entity."   (BTW, "A New World" is the title to the penultimate episode of Extant.)

Can Extant answer these questions?  Probably not.  After all, humanity as a whole still struggles with these very truths.  It will interesting to see who will be left standing by the end and I have no doubt that those survivors will question whether they have done the right thing or not.

Hamlet is seen as a tragedy and many were left for dead by it's end including and foremost the Prince of Denmark himself.  So who will play Hamlet as Extant draws to a close?  Will this player set the course of truth in his or her own death?  Will the plans of an evil Claudius be foiled?  What of a reconciliation with a dying Laertes or the sacrifice of an Ophelia?  

I guess we'll have to see how Extant "plays" out.

Odds and Ends

 
You know, I don't think we got one "toaster" sighting during "More In Heaven and Earth" despite the many kitchen scenes.  They usually invoke Ethan.




 Not to worry, by the end of the episode Ethan was front and center and we find out that he in charge of his own fate despite the good intentions of his father.


Earlier, I thought it humorous to see Ethan  run circles around his human dad.   Who's the more evolved being now?  Note the ubiquitous trees to frame this ominous scene.


Also note the well placed dinosaur as John tries to lay down the parental law with Ethan.  The extinct T-Rex seems to be parroting John and the newer form of life in Ethan is lending a deaf ear to his woe begotten predecessor.



Kryger spying the means of his escape made me think of this quote from Benjamin Franklin.

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.” 

Kryger's gaining of "the nail" portends greater urgency in the next episode, "Incursion."  It seems he and Molly aren't exactly on the same path!  Where goes the battle now?

My take on "Incursion" is up next!




 

 

 

 

 






 

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