Extant episode 5 review: What On Earth Is Wrong?

Sticking with Extant pays off this week, as the show really starts to deliver. Here's Holly's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.5 What On Earth Is Wrong?

This week, Extant starts getting back around to the show that was promised in the first episode, and not a moment too soon. There are still way too many loose threads out there, but this week had direction, action, even some answers!

Last week, in the first non-repetitive words we’ve heard from his apparition, Marcus told Molly not to let go. This week, we start to see why – she might be the only one holding on to the truth right now. In the wake of her and Ethan’s abduction, she learns she is no longer pregnant – and that this was no miscarriage.

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I like that Molly (and, by extension, Halle) has engaged and is finally showing some drive. It’s a welcome change from the disconnection she’s shown while floating through her scenes (and I’m not talking about the space flashbacks), stopping only to fret and make scared, though pretty, faces. Now she’s furious – they’ve taken her baby, her closest confidante is under ISEA’s thumb, everyone thinks she’s crazy, and even John is having his doubts.

Her angry persistence does pay off, though, thankfully. After testing the one bit of DNA from when she was pregnant that ISEA hasn’t confiscated – the bloody towel she used to clean the wound after her dad’s dog bit her – she’s validated once and for all. Not only was she indeed pregnant, but the baby’s father (whom we now know for sure is not John, sadly) has some decidedly extra-terrestrial-looking DNA.

Though it brings up more questions, I’m glad we finally have that answer confirmed. I’m not at all sure how much more of the hysterical-pregnancy plotline the show (or we as viewers) could have sustained. We still have the who’s-the-daddy plotline to deal with, but we’re at least starting to see some inklings as to that as well, as long as Molly can keep forging on. Given her smirk walking away from Sparks after convincing him to let her come back to ISEA (under the pretense that she knows she was wrong), it looks like she will.

Meanwhile, Ethan is still in whatever the robot equivalent of a coma would be after pulling his systems down in self-preservation during the abduction. Ethan’s arc (or lack of) is something that is still unsatisfying for me, but he does have a couple of interesting moments in an episode the majority of which finds him virtually corpse-like. The situation itself forces John to admit that Ethan is more advanced than their abilities to repair him, which begs the question of what other areas Ethan might be too complex for them to handle.

Though Ethan looks angelic in his dormant state, the creepy side we’ve not seen in a couple of weeks does briefly emerge when John prematurely tries to stimulate him into waking. Sitting straight up, he Regan MacNeils the line “who are you?” over and over until Julie shuts him back down. I admit I enjoyed that, jarring as it was, though some head-spinning might have been a nice touch.

Still, his demonic turn is short-lived, and the Woodses are back to their smiling, precariously happy family unit once he finally wakes up for real. I’ve talked before about Ethan’s ambiguity; I’m not sure I’m feeling it anymore. Taking into account that he is a robot, and minus hints that he and his kind might be a problem in the future, I’m still concerned that he’s becoming less intriguingly ambiguous and more just directionless. I’m going to hold out hope for some hardcore, cataclysmic insurrection, though, or at least a different facial expression.

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Bookending Molly’s story were her two cryptic visions involving Marcus and tilting orange juice. The first seems to be a flashback to the day they were in the car wreck that killed both him and their unborn baby. In the wreck, just before impact, restraining cuffs appear on Molly’s wrists. What of this really happened? Were the cuffs just part of the anesthetized dream she was in while tied down in the operating room, or was this a clue about Marcus himself? In the second, she has another flashback to seeing Marcus in the spaceship Seraphim, reminding us of his touching her belly, and leading her to ask, “where did it come from?”

Whatever these visions are, wherever they come from, they both provoke and partially answer questions and seem to give clues. In the first, “EARTH IS AWESOME” is spelled out on the fridge door; in the second, it’s “ETHAN IS AWESOME.” So…Earth or Ethan? What’s it going to be? (And, perhaps this is quibbling, but who did the drawings in the first one if it’s a flashback and there’s no Ethan yet?) The second vision of Marcus also spurs Molly to go back over her film with the D5 filter (D for Danny, who came up with the filter and thus will most likely die soon), which reveals that what she thought was Marcus was actually some spore/energy tentacle-like things swooping toward her and, it seems, impregnating her.

The show is still dealing with what is and isn’t real, and this episode is a good examination of the theme. We’re not quite halfway through the season, but I do still have some wishes for the near future. A slow build is good, suspense-wise, but the pacing still struggles at balancing with character development. There’s very little questioning of characters’ loyalties anymore, and I thought that mystery (such as with John in the beginning) was one of the show’s strong suits. Indeed, some characters don’t even seem to be on the map anymore – where are you, Harmon? – and thus we’re not invested enough for any big reveals to be significantly meaningful, at least right now. I also hope to see something more interesting to happen with Julie, though the bionic legs reveal this week was pretty neat. There has been obvious tension between her and John from the beginning; it’s now taken a resentful turn, and I think there is potential for some good double-crossing action there.

But, we did get a look at the baby, who is apparently doing well at whatever half-alien babies are here to do. There’s just not much more, if any, time to streamline everything the show is trying to do. I still think there’s a good story being told here, and episodes like this week’s provide some momentum; echoing John’s pleading with Molly, I want to believe, Extant – please help me see.

Read Holly’s review of the previous episode, Shelter, here.

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