Last night's Extant slowly and clunkily peeled back some of the layers of its mystery, offering some hints as to why Molly Woods went into space alone in the first place. But the biggest clue to the show's purpose came from a character who has little idea what's going on.
First off, I just want to say that I really want to visit that natural history museum. Schools of projected fish swimming over your heads to lead you to the next exhibit? I'm there. Actually, the whole museum sequence was quite nice, especially when we got a robot-on-robot conversation between Ethan and the robot in the evolution exhibit.
I'm glad we're seeing Ethan out of child serial killer mode, but he's been replaced by another trope: the uncanny child who knows more about the plot than he has any right to. In Ethan's case, it partially makes sense. He witnesses a strange pattern emerge on Molly's abdomen after she passes out, but just as it doesn't occur to be afraid of the digital elephant, it doesn't occur to him to panic at the sight of the pattern. Still, something in his robot child's brain is processing the things around him as "wrong," and he communicates them in a very child-like way: by drawing.
I realize that John wants to view Molly and Ethan as mother and child, but Molly is so terrible at talking to Ethan that I wonder why John leaves the two of them alone together at all. When Molly tells Ethan about keeping secrets to keep people from worrying, there's practically a neon "Bad Idea" sign flashing over her head. And really, you would think that a scientist take the opportunity to gently correct a child's oversimplified idea of extinction. But no, we're going with the survival of stronger and smarter species (and the eradication of weaker species) because that's what our show is about.
John's story felt like a rehash this week. Sure, he's got a fancy new lab, but he's still having debates about artificial humanity with Femi Dodd and her weirdly distracting dress. I suppose that humanics will, at some point, come into play in this stronger and smarter species business, but for now, John is treading narrative water.
We get a few specific revelations this episode, but they happen in a sort of clumsy way. Harmon decides to show up or run away depending on whether the plot demands it, and this episode, he shows up and reveals that he saw something with the form of his long-dead mother aboard the Seraphim...something he flushed out an airlock. Dude's got issues. But anyway, he suggests that he and Molly were experiment subjects aboard the Seraphim, and he's probably right. We also learn something of Yasumoto's motives thanks to his magical exposition box, which reveals that he has less than six months to live. And Molly decides it's time to reveal to Sparks that she's pregnant in hopes of getting more answers. Good luck with that before the end of the season.
It's a shame that Extant is focusing so much on these interpersonal tensions and reveals, because it's not the show's strong suit. Extant is more interesting when we're watching beings in space stalk people around the Seraphim and repeating their words back to them, or visiting dazzling museums. Extant may want to feel like it's almost in our present, but it's more interesting when it ventures into a more fantastical future.