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Extant: The Complete First Season

Paramount // Unrated // December 16, 2014
List Price: $69.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kyle Mills | posted December 30, 2014 | E-mail the Author
"I went to space on a 13-month solo mission. I didn't come home alone. My husband created a life-like android called a "Humanich". His name is Ethan: he's the prototype. This is a story about Earth, a story about family, a story about surviving." Produced by master filmmaker Steven Spielberg and backed with the star power of Oscar winner Halle Berry, along with a brilliant story concept, comes Extant, a series that questions the human race and extraterrestrial/artificial life.

Let's be honest here, the hook and reason you're here is Halle Berry in space, right? She's a mega star and quite honestly I thought I'd never see the day where she ended up on a "bridge" summer CBS program. If you're simply here for Halle Berry in space... well you're probably going to be somewhat disappointed, a very small fraction of this series actually takes place in space, unfortunately. Regardless, Halle Berry commands the role of Dr. Molly Woods. As we open the series, Molly's constantly sick to her stomach, is having difficulties with the simplest of tasks, like walking around. We quickly find out that this is supposedly due to the fact that she is re-customizing herself to the atmosphere and gravity of Earth. We learn that Molly works for a company called the International Space-Exploration Agency or ISEA and had been tasked for a solo mission to space, a mission she had been on for 13 solid months.

Those she left behind on her year long solo mission are her husband, Dr. John Woods (played by Goran Visjnic), a robotics engineer who created their son, Ethan (played by Looper's Pierce Gagnon), a robot known as a "humanich", and while they never say the term, Ethan is essentially an A.I. (Artificial Intelligence.) While Molly was away, John, along with Ethan's caretaker, Julie (playe by Grace Gummer) had started what is known as the "Humanichs project", of which Ethan is the prototype for, and has been funded by Hideki Yasumoto (played by Hiroyuki Sanada), the founder of the Yasumoto Corporation, which has an undisclosed partnership with the ISEA.

Due to the orders of ISEA Director Alan Sparks (played by one of my favorite character actors, Michael O'Neill, who in this same year was the primary antagonist of Nick Ford on Bates Motel's sophomore season), Molly must be tested to be able to be cleared for work, so she visits her friend Sam Barton (played by Camryn Manheim), the ISEA physician, and is rocked to learn that she is several months pregnant. Molly is in complete denial about this, with good reason. Ethan exists only due to past complications with infertility, and on top of that, the biggest head scratcher is that Molly had literally just returned from her 13 month solo mission mere days ago.

Over time, Molly seems to recall a mystifying encounter with her boyfriend Marcus, who had died some years prior, during the mission, and soon receives a visit from a man named Harmon Kryger (played by Brad Beyer), an astronaut from ISEA who was said to have gone crazy and committed suicide when he returned from a solo mission. Harmon tells her that while he was on his mission that he had visions of a lost loved one, tells her that Sparks is doing everything he can to cover it up and not to trust anyone at the ISEA, then disappears.

Due to Molly's increasing suspicions of ISEA and a warning from Sam, Molly decides to run with her husband and Ethan, while Sparks orders Molly to be brought in at all costs so they can extract the baby. Molly must find out what exactly happened to her on the Seraphim, why she's seeing visions of dead loved ones, and the mystery behind her "miraculous" pregnancy before Sparks and the ISEA catch up to her.

Extant is a bold, brash and unapologetic series that starts off in all honesty quite excellent, at the beginning I found myself not being able to click "next episode" fast enough when one ended, the series opens setting up the pieces for what could have been one of the best shows on TV, it brought up a lot of intriguing questions about humanity, the cast top to bottom was top notch with Halle Berry being captivating as the lead every time she was on screen... then the back half of the season happens. Somewhere around episode 6, the writers decide to pull the most absurd plot twist I've probably ever seen in television, which is not a good thing.

The same questions that could have made Extant a standout series also turns out to be its downfall. It throws one too many balls into the air and questions that were raised early on in the season mostly fall flat or are not entirely fleshed out. The acting in particular was jarring as it's blatantly obvious that the actors either became disinterested in the material or thought it to be too convoluted/absurd to take seriously. Around the halfway point, the series loses its original vision of what it seemed to want to be, it becomes more convoluted with every passing episode, and overall ends up as wasted potential and as a huge disappointment.

- Positives:

+ Unique plot and concept.

+ Halle Berry. In all honesty, I've never been a big fan of Berry's acting abilities. Look no further than her cracking cringe inducing "Yo Momma" jokes in Die Another Day, but here she is surprisingly captivating, delivering a layered and nuanced performance.

+ The first half of the series is legitimately captivating.

+ The production values are stunning.

+ Thank god for Pierce Gagnon, the excellent child actor from Looper. In a world where we must suffer through the "great" child actors that have portrayed Abel Teller in Sons of Anarchy, the worst child actor of all time, and Harrison from Dexter, we get a child actor who can emote the proper emotions and can actually bring life to a character who is not even human.

+ The acting in general is top notch. While I singled out Halle and Pierce, there are others that outshine them, most notably Michael O'Neill, who gets probably the most complicated character to play. However there are some problems with the acting as you'll read below...

- Negatives:

- Continuing on the acting, as the series moves along, it actually gets worse. I don't know if it's just the actors literally saying "do I really have to read the lines from this script"? But nearly every actor on the show seems to not care at a point.

- Doesn't fully capitalize on the stories it creates.

- The Harmon Kryger subplot is tepid to say the least.

- The god awful plot twist (which you can see coming, but pray it doesn't) with the baby sends the show into a nosedive.

- Season 2 is doing a cast overhaul. Neither Michael O'Neill and Hiroyuki Sanada, 2 of the most consistently strong performers, won't be returning. Goran Visjnic and Camryn Manheim both will only reprise their roles briefly.

Video and Audio:
The production values on Extant truly shine. Presented with a wonderful transfer in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a 1080p resolution. The color palette compliments the show perfectly, vivid and vibrant for the outdoor sequences or darker for the moodier or space scenes. The only problem throughout the entire release is the occasional spot of grain and noise. Otherwise, it's an excellent transfer.

Extant: The Complete First Season I presented with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that sounds stellar. The dialogue is crisp and clear throughout. The score of the series pops and shines with great clarity. There were no signs of any kind of dropouts or distortions throughout.


Disc 1:

- The Story of Extant (15:04) - Halle Berry, Steven Spielberg and various other members of the cast and crew discuss translating the series from page to screen, the basic outline and theme of the series, among other things.

- CBS launch promos (6:34) - Exactly what it sounds like, a collection of promos for the series.

- Deleted Scenes on episodes "Re-Entry", "Extinct", and Wish You Were Here" - (9:22.)

Disc 2:

- Deleted scene on the episode "What on Earth is Wrong?" - (:44)

Disc 3:

- Deleted Scenes for the episodes "More In Heaven and Earth/Incursion" and "Care and Feeding/A Pack of Cards." - (1:44) Disc 4:

- Extant: Filming Season 1 (20:48) - The process of filming the season, but mostly it's an extra praising Halle Berry, talking about her character's journey throughout the season, how the audience can relate to her, the visual effects, the various directors, and production values.

- Extant: The Cast (16:33) - A segment where the core cast talk about what their character adds to the show, the various storylines and themes.

- The Mythology of Extant (6:18) - A series overview that goes in depth to the themes of the show.

- The Offspring (7:26) - A segment that discusses how aliens fit into the world of Extant.

- The Future World of Extant (17:29) - A featurette discussing the various future elements of the series, the technology, the clothing, production design, etc.

- The Visual Effects of Extant - Exactly what it says, the segment takes a closer look at the visual effects and the aesthetics in the series. (9:14)

- Gag reel (6:18)

- Deleted scenes on the episodes "Before the Blood" and "Ascension." (2:00)

The first season of Extant showed a lot of potential for this series to build upon but sadly, it wastes a lot of that potential. The first half is phenomenal and captivating with great performances from the cast, however the second half becomes convoluted with each passing episode, gives us one of my the worst plot twists I've personally seen and the cast seems to become disinterested in the material. Now I will say, thanks to the first half, and a terrific cast headlined by a game Halle Berry, and the potential for it to become so much more in future seasons, not to mention that this release is jam packed full of extras, I'll say Extant is at least worth a look, especially if you're a sci-fi fan, however I can't outright recommend it due to its crippling second half, so I'll say rent it before purchasing, this series is definitely not for everyone.

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