Extant is a show that loves its cliches. After all, this is a show centered around a mysterious alien pregnancy. But even as it has backed away from Molly's uterus, it has doubled down on the trope of a little robot boy becoming human.
Here's my big beef with Extant: every time that it ventures into what life might be like in the future, it's actually quite interesting. I'd be a lot more interested in a show about the roboticists who work with John. The conversation that Julie and Odin had about their cyborg parts felt like a moment between two people standing in the future—one of them a little more comfortably than the other.
And printing someone else's fingerprints onto your hand? Yeah, that's pretty cool.
But the show itself seems so flung together, with characters forced across the chess board for the convenience of narrative. ISEA's security continues to be the worst in the known universe. Last week, Sparks was thwarted by Molly placing a speaker too close to a microphone, and this week, Kryger, a man that nearly everyone in ISEA believes is dead, waltzed into the facility undisguised and stole some data. Sure, he was wearing the head of security's fingerprints, but you'd think that someone might notice a dead guy wandering around. And while ISEA's surveillance is limited to cameras and microphones, John's is practically magical. Now granted, John is part of a team of brilliant roboticists, but shouldn't ISEA have technology that at least approaches what's in Ethan's body? And shouldn't Yasumoto, as an investor, have reports on that technology?
The big drama this week is that Molly's half-alien fetus apparently took control of one of the ISEA scientists, as aliens are wont to do, and got him to kill his coworker. Why? Is this just the fetus wiggling his fingers? Did he dislike the other scientist?
Handily, the possessed scientist develops a rash in the same tangent circle pattern that appeared on Molly's belly a while back, but there's a bit of confusion as to why he killed his colleague. He claims that he had a vision of another dead colleague—like Molly had a vision of Marcus—and that she told him to kill his coworker. So he just killed him because this dead lady told him? Okay. But when the guys with guns finally get inside the lab to stop him, our possessed scientist says, "Shh, he's sleeping." So which is it? Is he hallucinating, or under the control of the fetus?
But there isn't time to decide exactly what is happening with the fetus, because we have to turn out attention to Ethan, our little robot savior. I was initially glad that Extant dropped the robotic child serial killer storyline, but since I suspect the show is setting us up for some sort of aliens vs. Ethan showdown, I wonder if it wouldn't be more interesting for a sociopath to be regarded as the future of humanity. Oh well, that ship has sailed. Now Ethan is one of those robots who is becoming improbably human, which is indicated by his having nightmares. (I was having The Next Generation Commander Data flashbacks, sans the surreal bits about Counselor Troi turning into a cake.)
Oh, and apparently him playing all those games throughout the show was just a setup for the moment when he decrypts the data Kryger stole. So we get to combine the robot-learning-to-become-human story with the intuitive boy genius. Okay.
The payoff is a nice bit of backstory, albeit one that I feel should have been at least teased earlier. It turns out that Sparks' daughter had an encounter with the same aliens while on a crewed mission (not a solo mission like Molly's and Kryger's) and she was similarly impregnated before she shot herself into deep space to prevent further contamination. So Sparks is bringing back the same "contaminant" that his daughter sacrificed herself to contain and we're left to wonder at his motives. Does he believe that the aliens, who give people visions of the dead, can bring the dead back?
And, hey, Enver Gjokaj is aboard the Seraphim now. Hi, Enver! I imagine something rather bad is going to happen to you.