This review contains spoilers for the most recent episode.
It doesn’t seem to matter how outlandish Extant gets with either its premise or its ongoing narrative, the delivery of answers to viewer questions has been consistent all season. Is there a limit to audience acceptance of odd circumstances like the hybrids naming themselves after gods or the “triple helix” psuedoscience? Perhaps. Nevertheless, Extant is damn fine entertainment and expertly explores some deeper themes without getting bogged down by its own message, and that is something to admire.
Some of the convenient circumstances do bother me a little, I’ll admit. Molly deciding to contact her son by using the same message that was encoded in the DNA, for example, left me wrinkling an eyebrow, as did JD’s secret vault of weapons. This double episode moved the story forward by leaps and bounds, but sometimes I wanted to say, “Wait, hold up a minute – what?” But by the time I could catch my breath it was on to the next development, and since lots of itches were being scratched, I got distracted by the satisfying reveals enough to ignore these shortcomings.
One revelation that was easy to get caught up in was the now benign hybrids seeking peaceful co-existence with humans. Aliens are often treated as a collective organism in science fiction, and it’s a relief to see that’s not the case here. I like that Ares, aptly named after the Greek god of war, is a rabble rouser hindering Adhu’s mission. Humans have plenty of bad apples working against the common good; why shouldn’t the hybrids as well? The fact that these aliens fled a dying planet is not a surprise, but it does make them more sympathetic, almost to the point where the audience forgets about the resurrected loved ones and the mind control and the dead mother-hosts.
Toby hasn’t forgotten, though, and good for him. As much as I might root for Molly to succeed, it’s hard not to approve of General Shepherd’s focus on the important mission of keeping humanity safe. The wonderful irony, of course, is that he has put his complete trust in an AI, TAALR, in a show which has encouraged the audience to Lucy and her motives. It’s so true that humans trust their technology to a fault, and Toby’s trust in his “advisor,” or at the very least the Humanichs, might be his undoing. I have the feeling Extant might just have an allegory to share in this regard by the end of the season.
And what about Molly? Is her quick trust of her alien son and his new age commune naive on her part? Are she and JD being blinded by being branded as terrorists? JD pointed out that Molly stopped mentioning ridding herself of her alien DNA awfully quickly. Molly seems to think the humans will benefit from their quick healing and intelligence, and she certainly benefited by escaping the GSC labs by using mind control on the guards. But is that what humanity wants? To slowly be transformed, at least in part, by these space spores in need of a new home? I’m not convinced.
Perhaps I’m not supposed to be. Maybe I’m meant to cheer on the Humanichs as they infiltrate the compound. Nah, Lucy is super-manipulative with Ethan; no good can come of that. Perhaps I’m supposed to hope the virus works; I actually do want to see what will happen with that. The more I think about it the more I realize there’s only one person I trust, just like last season: Ethan. Once he sees past Lucy’s exclusion (“You’ll never be like us”) he’s the most likely candidate to be the instrument of compromise.
And that’s why this show succeeds. Extant plays on our fears, our human truths, and the realization of our own imperfection to fuel our enjoyment of the story. It may not be perfectly believable all the time, and frankly, it can be on the ridiculous side at least once or twice each week. But that’s okay! When the aliens and robots battle, we’ll be on the sideline enjoying both the crazy circumstances and the satisfying conclusions to each plot thread.