New American sci-fi series Extant, with executive producer Steven Spielberg, was recommended to me by a few sources, and it had been a while since I’d really got into a series (probably the last one was Orange Is The New Black). So I went to the effort of borrowing my friends amazon prime login so I could watch this new program.
The trailer didn’t reveal to me the futuristic side to the program, although maybe I wasn’t watching closely enough because I suppose a sci-fi TV series involving a solo mission to space isn’t likely to be filmed in the present day. Since I’m not used to all this future-y type stuff I was pretty amazed at the first unordinary thing I saw, which was a bin.
Moving on through the first episode I began to dislike the world they had created to base this program in. The technology was advanced but not exciting, and it is noticeable that there isn’t a friendly atmosphere when the characters are in public, instead everything feels kind of creepy. This did scare me a bit to begin with along with the shots that spring up on you of people that may-or-may-not be dead. The son, Ethan (Pierce Gagnon) is a ‘humanic’ or a robot in more simple terms, and he is what I initially identified to be a weird guy. He is arguably a difficult character to warm to, but he brings philosophical plots into the series on whether he is a ‘real boy’ or not. Seeing this new medium of discrimination is interesting, and provoked to me some interesting thoughts and opinions on when technology may go too far.
The program itself was rather slow paced until the last 2 or 3 episodes. It has a high rating on sites such as rotten tomatoes and IMDB but I am not sure it quite deserved this. Each episode leaves you on a big cliff hanger, which kept me watching until the end of the series, but had those episode endings been as mundane as some of the other scenes in the bulk I’m not sure I would have persevered.
Some scenes are unrealistic, such as the sheer amount of death of innocent people (usually guards etc) that occurs especially towards the end and doesn’t seem to be touched on with any emotion, people seem so focussed on their own individual goals that they don’t notice that they’re in a room with half a dozen dead men (ahem Molly). Sometimes it is also rather cheesy, for example (slight spoiler alert?) when Yasumoto (Hiroyuki Sanada) is in the mine. His back story, which is the basis of the events in the whole series seems quite unrealistic, but perhaps this is again trying to raise concerns to viewers how wealth and technology can go too far and make us selfish.
I’m not a lover of sci-fi. The furthest I’ve ventured into the genre before would be Doctor Who or Gravity, so I’m not the best judge of the future that the Extant team created. But to me it seems pretty well done and they clearly had a very large budget to work with. One touch I loved in this future universe is the smashed up Toyota Prius that Kryger (Brad Beyer) drives – which to us would be a very modern and expensive car. The cast play their roles well also. Not many of them make me feel particularly sympathetic towards as they’re just not characters I connected to (apart from Kryger as he seems to have perhaps more ‘normal’ emotions to me) but the acting was pretty on point.
One major complaint about the program is where have the worlds environmental worries gone?! No explanation of this whatsoever which isn’t very realistic seeing as environmental concerns are in the news and internet 24/7 in the present day. You can’t fix all the pollution you’re causing from your weird skyscrapers, robots on every corner and excessive missions to space with a few swanky electric cars!!
The program touched on every day household tiffs as well as deep questions about the corrupt world main character Molly (Halle Berry) lives in, which was a clever way to appeal to multiple audiences. The story was enjoyable, thrilling and gripping in the way I wanted to watch more, although this could have been in annoyance of the huge suspense left when the credits started rolling. I don’t feel compelled to recommend this to friends, however after finishing the series I am pleased I didn’t give up on it. I do feel encouraged to explore the genre more and see if I feel similarly about other shows, or whether I like them more or less and see if these themes I noticed in Extant follow through to other programs.