Extant - The Second Season

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday December 29, 2015

Extant - The Second Season

If you were left unconvinced, or even cold, by the first season of the sci-fi Halle Berry action-adventure drama "Extant," there's both good news and bad.

First, the bad news: The show won't be seeing a third season. But given what a wild, compelling ride "Extant - The Second Season" is, that might not be such a bad thing. The series goes out on a high, after a second season of twists, turns, and surprises.

The core storyline develops from what was established in Season One: Molly Woods (Berry) is an astronaut whose year-long stint on a solo mission aboard an orbiting space lab ended with her return to Earth... by which time she had mysteriously become impregnated despite being alone all that time. As Season One unfolded, Molly's pregnancy progressed at warp speed and resulted in the birth of a fast-growing child with unsettling powers and an unknown agenda.

While Molly was in space, her husband John (Goran Visjnic) spent that same year perfecting an artificial intelligence engineered to look (and mature) like a human being. This new creation isn't a mere robot, or even a crude android. It's so human-like in its capacities that its name reflects its nature: It's called a "humanich." The first humanich is, in fact, John and Molly's adopted son, Ethan, who heroically sacrificed himself at the end of Season One and saved his half-alien brother in the process.

Aliens. Artificial intelligence. A power couple right in the middle of it. Just looking at the setup, you dread the stale machinations that Season Two might serve up. Some of the obvious plot points do arise, but by and large "Extant" avoids those pitfalls in its sophomore season. In fact, the series practically reinvents itself, starting with some casting changes. Goodbye, Viscjnic -- and hello Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who played The Comedian in "The Watchmen" and now appears here as James Daniel "JD" Richter, a sort of law enforcement independent contractor. (I guess the anti-tax crowd succeeded in wiping out the nation's police forces in this version of the future, though somehow America's space program got some major upgrades in terms of funding.)

JD and Molly cross paths thanks to a rash of mysterious deaths suffered by pregnant women whose fast-growing fetuses tore their way out of the mothers' bodies, "Alien"-style - and Molly's half-alien son (now grown and going by the name Ahdu; he's played by Henderson Wade) is the father. In fact, Ahdu has created an entire community of half-alien hybrids, and their numbers are growing quickly.

Once this threat comes to light, the military seizes John's humanichs program and starts preparing an army of militarized A.I.s. Foremost among them is Lucy (Kiersey Clemons), regarded by Ethan as an older sister. Lucy doesn't have Ethan's ethical development, but she has learned a few things about humans - like how to manipulate them to her own ends. As it happens, there's yet another party involved here - someone who is manipulating Lucy, and also taking advantage of the government's fear and aggression in light of what the aliens are doing. Will the humanichs protect Earth, or turn into an even bigger threat than the swiftly-multiplying hybrids?

This four-disc Blu-ray set includes all 13 Season 2 episodes, which includes two double episodes ("You Say You Want An Evolution/The Other" and series finale "Double Vision / The Greater Good" are both two-hour installments).

There are also plenty of extras, many of them brief promotional featurettes such as "A Look at Season Two," "A Tour of the Sets" (with Director of Photography Kenneth Hardy serving as guide), "Chemistry: Molly & JD" and "Two Humanichs: Ethan & Lucy." A couple extras focus on specific episodes; "The Carnival of the Mind" explores the setting and theme of Molly's near-death experience from the ninth episode, "The Other Side," and "The Season Finale" - well, that's self-explanatory. There's also a gag reel and a scattering of deleted scenes. (The deleted scenes are included as an option with the individual episodes.)

In some ways, "Extant" is standard television; it cuts corners when it comes to plotting and narrative logic, it has a habit of pulling new characters and new threats out of its writers' ever-ready bag of tricks, and you can't help noticing that a lot of the world (especially automobiles and commercial airliners) don't much look like they come from thirty or fifty years hence. But it also takes some outrageous chances (Molly starts the season locked up in an asylum, and she really seems to need to be there; even when she regains her sanity she doesn't seem like the same person) and the show goes so far as to make some sharp social and political comments. Above all that, the storyline's breakneck pacing and constantly unfolding complications, reversals, and left turns more often than not feel reasonable and nuanced, and more realistic than something of this genre should feel. Season Two is a full-steam fun-ride that's perfect for binging on.


"Extant - Season Two"
Blu-ray
$76.99
http://www.cbsstore.com/detail.php?p=921650&icid=mybuys&green=0C5DB6E4-7E2A-5E45-ADF6-DEBC593432AA

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.