Extant episode 6 review: Nightmares

Review Holly Hogan 14 Aug 2014 - 16:15

It's still finding its way, but Extant proves itself to be well worth your time this week. Here's Holly's review of Nightmares...

This review contains spoilers.

1.6 Nightmares

This week, Extant officially became a show that I can actually recommend to people I like. I’ve been on board this whole time, as you know, but often more as a sort of advocate than a bona fide fan. I’ve often seen more potential good than actual greatness, and I’ve asked myself more than once if this is something I’d watch if I didn’t have to review it.

When this week’s episode ended and I couldn’t believe the hour had already gone by, I realized I’d been sucked in, really for the first time since I started watching. The writing for this episode was really solid - nothing felt directionless or disjointed, and the storylines were nicely streamlined with an economy of characters and well-placed intersections of the two.

The belly circles are back, and they’re not just belly circles anymore. We know Harmon Kryger had them on his trailer wall a few episodes back, but they emerged again this week in the most unfriendly of ways. They surfaced on the bald head of one of the doctors monitoring the extracted half-alien baby moments before a hallucination drove him to murder. He, like Molly on the Seraphim, swore a dead colleague appeared to him during the moments he was blacked out.

Ethan, too, encountered the circles, for him in the form of a nightmare; oddly enough, though, little droid boys aren’t programmed to experience dreams. They showed up as a test pattern for Harmon during his time on the Seraphim, and in a significant reveal at the end of the episode, we see that Molly wasn’t the first to be marked with them on her belly. These menacing little circular portents are manifesting in different ways, and more often than before, but we still don’t know what they are.

Speaking of Harmon, he’s back! Or he was, anyway. I’ve been worried about him and, well, with good reason. While we leave him in indeterminately bad shape, he manages to do some significant damage to ISEA’s cover-up during his time out of hiding. His behaviour is now making much more sense, and I hope the show isn’t through with him yet. His flashbacks provide vital links connecting the disparate elements of a confusing story.

The enigmatic Deputy Director Gordon Kern emerged into the forefront this week. Up to now, he’s been a sort of stoic henchman for Alan Sparks, but now we’re seeing more motivation on his part, which begs the question of whether he might have his own motives. But what are they? And what in the world is Absalom XR (and how can I get some)? Maury Sterling has created a nice little film-noiresque niche in the show for Kern’s character, and I’m anxious to see him develop further.

Meanwhile, Alan Sparks (Michael O’Neill) is developing in a different direction, and it’s one that could prove lethal for other key players, most notably Sam Barton. He seems to get more and more cold-blooded each week, and in light of what we learn about his evident involvement in the so-called “oxygen fire” that killed his daughter Katie and crew, we have to echo Molly’s bewilderment - what in the world is justifying his repeated endangerment of colleagues, friends, even loved ones? His one moment of pathos this week was actually quite effective, his brief moment of remorse as the visual manifestation of Katie as a little girl stares back at him, a minute shadow of disappointment in her otherwise emotionless gaze.

Julie is showing more signs that she’s near her breaking point with John. What form that will take is still to be determined; John is completely oblivious given his preoccupation with Molly and Ethan’s respective predicaments. Julie is not a likeable or especially well-written character, what with the one-dimensional unappreciated-smart-girl chip on her shoulder. It’s almost certain, though, that she’s about to play a key role in someone’s downfall, whether it’s ISEA’s or John’s or whoever else’s. Will she do so with the help of her new hottie gym pal, Odin? And why oh why does she not see how adorable her geeky colleague, Charlie, is? Yeah, he’s also a stereotype, but a cute one who provides some endearing, out-of-place comic relief.

Some plotlines and characters unfortunately still seem to be stalling out, or have even disappeared altogether at this point. I still need more from Ethan’s arc, as at this point he just seems to be a diminutive reminder that OH NOES THE ROBOTS COULD RISE UP SOMEDAY. Where’s the little (alleged) pigeon-killer we knew and loved? And where has Yasumoto stashed Femi Dodd?

Other stories we’ve been waiting for are about to be told, however, and this week, one of them provided us with some rare suspense. The decrypted footage of Katie’s doomed voyage was a revelation from beyond the grave, and its implications could be staggering. There are promises of much more to come, and I’m sticking with it. Extant is still finding its way, but it’s still worth watching.

Read Holly's review of the previous episode, What On Earth Is Wrong?, here.

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