Extant, the new series that finds Halle Berry's character inexplicably pregnant after a solo space mission, may not be the smartest series on television, but it could prove a fun summer mystery show. And fortunately, there's more to it than Berry gazing at her not-yet-expanding navel.
Halle Berry is Molly Woods, our freshly returned astronaut who experienced something very weird during her mission for the private International Space Exploration Agency. Molly lives culturally in our present but technologically farther into our future, during a time of private spaceflight and service robots in the home. She has returned to her husband, John (Goran Visnjic), a TED Talk in human form, and their son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon), an advanced AI known as a humanic who was built by John and looks like an eight-year-old serial killer.
Naturally, not all is well in ISEA or in the Woods household. While she was in space, a solar flare knocked out the power aboard the Seraphim, during which she seemed to have a phantom encounter with her dead former lover, Marcus. When she sees herself on the footage, apparently mesmerized by nothing, she panics and deletes it. Her greatest shock, however, comes when she returns to Earth and learns that she somehow became pregnant during the mission. Of course, this is after years of Molly struggling with infertility, because pregnancy tropes dictate that an unnatural pregnancy needs to be doubly unlikely.
Then there's the matter of Harmon Kryger, the last astronaut who attempted the solo mission and allegedly killed himself after his return—but then shows up babbling on Molly's doorstep. Her superior, Alan Sparks (Michael O'Neill), and the mysterious entrepreneur Hideki Yasumoto (Hiroyuki Sanada) seem to know—or at least suspect—something about the solar flare, and they're spying on Molly during her therapy sessions.
A more immediate problem may be Ethan, whom John, whether due to love or hubris, believes is as human as any other child, but who suffers from a disturbing lack of empathy. Molly is chilled to discover that her strange child has become even more detached and violent in her absence, but John is charging forward to bring humanics to the mainstream market. After the board of the Yasumoto Corporation turns down John's request for funding—seeing a potential robot uprising in this child—Yasumoto himself, hoping to keep tabs on Molly, agrees to fund John's research as a private individual, something that may come with very unintended consequences.
The pilot makes some nice reveals, especially as it uncovers Ethan's true robotic nature and lays out what Molly thinks she saw aboard the Seraphim. And the show is at its best when it delves into Molly and John's professional lives. But it's also plagued by moments so head-bangingly unbelievable that it takes us straight out of the story. Early on in the episode, Molly's physician Sam (Camryn Manheim) asks if an international crew docked at the Seraphim without Sam's knowledge, something that creates a moment of "Wait, what?" The fact that Molly was able to erase the security footage so easily after something odd happened during Harmon's earlier mission seems implausible given how surveillance-happy ISEA is. Plus, there's the question of why Harmon and Molly were sent on solo missions in the first place. Perhaps with Molly, ISEA was hoping to replicate Harmon's experiences with a woman, but why send Harmon alone in the first place? And what did they tell the astronauts about their solo missions?
So far, Extant is asking us to watch with our brains switched off—or at least dimmed slightly. And perhaps all it wants to be is fizzy summer entertainment with a conspiracy at its heart. It's just hard to tell at this stage if it will be enough to make a compelling show.