Space ghosts, scheming CEOs, robot children, resurrected astronauts … the first episode of “Extant’’ might not have been groundbreaking television, but at least it threw a lot of stuff at the wall hoping it would stick. The second installment? Well … it slows down. A lot. Not for the better, either.
As episode two begins, a snoozing Molly (Berry) is woken up by a weird, throbbing swooshing sound hammering through her house. Aliens landing? Excited heartbeat? Space ghosts conversing? Nah. Nothing that exciting. Just a sneaker smacking around a washing machine. That’s the least scary thing possible. Zzzzzzz..
What’s even more boring? The morning routine in the Woods household. For an astronaut/kid robot designer couple, they’re about as interesting as a loaf of white bread. There’s coffee made and eggs cracked (nice futuristic touch, with eggs that stand on their own) and the day is discussed.
An enthusiastic John is starting work for Yasumoto’s robot production line research facility and Molly and Ethan are off to some museum, and then the husband and wife plan to have a nice romantic lunch. Just like any normal couple with a robot kid would do. Again, boring, and the “chemistry’’ between the two leads is non-existent, not helping matters. I want a space ghost to come in, damn it.
Sigh. No space ghosts yet. Okay, we’re off to John Woods’ super-fancy new robot kid lab, complete with something called a “flesh printer’’ (insert joke here) and a super-annoying hipster scientist running around playing with the robot arms. They also get a Debbie Downer in the form of Femi Dodd, the objecting scientist from last week (played, again, by Annie Wersching, one of Jack Bauer’s murdered loves in “24’’). She’s there to throw cold water on their happy robot fire, but John’s got the financial backing of Yasumoto. Money talks.
Before heading off to their museum, Ethan and Molly get in some stereotypical bonding time with what looks like the future’s version of Jenga. After they get home, the lady of the house gets some sort of weird cramp while hanging out in the kitchen and passes out. Perfect time for the first earthbound space ghost appearance.
Molly’s paranormal thought-dead ex-boyfriend shows up on earth, repeating “it’s OK’’ and “it’s OK’’ over and over again. Insert Pearl Jam song reference here. Anytime I can link to the band in one of these, I’m going to take the opportunity. Shout out to the space ghosts. After she passes out, there’s some freaky stuff happening to her stomach, looking like a bunch of beer cans pressing right up against the skin. Creepy.
She recovers in enough time to get Ethan over to his science museum party. I’ll say it — the Boston Science Museum of the future sure better look like this one. Everything comes to holographic life here, including an elephant that charges out from its exhibit to be stared down by Ethan. Actually, Ethan the robot could probably stare down “Star Trek’’ legend Captain Pike and win.
As Molly is learning from Sam that she’s got the same kind of freaky abnormalities that caused Harmon (the astronaut who showed up on her driveway in the last episode) to get some kind of space madness, Ethan wanders away. He goes to visit a neanderthal exhibit where another helpful robot gives him a not-at-all-foreshadowing brief on extinction and Darwinism. I’m guessing the Creation Museum never really reached any lofty heights in this future.
Speaking of Harmon, he’s been stalking the Woods family in their adventures … and we get another space flashback! This time, Harmon (who looks exactly like he’d play the a-hole boyfriend of the sweet female lead in your average romantic comedy) is gardening away up in his space station when his dead mom comes a-hauntin’. Freaky. Then, Molly pokes around the video of Harmon’s mission to find footage of him, freaked out, frantically blocking a door inside the space station. I guess the ISEA doesn’t like her poking around; they freak out as much as Harmon did, and she’s got to make a break for it.
Luckily, the stalking Harmon’s actually there to whisk her away to a little trailer on the Cali beach, where we get some more exposition into his flashback story. Apparently, ghost dead space mom freaked him out enough that he blew her out an airlock. Good job, good effort, Harmon, but an alien is a lot tougher to flush into space than a ghost mom. “We were the experiments!’’ Harmon yells at Molly. He’s clearly figured out the ISEA’s overarching guinea pig machinations with their poor astronauts.
That’s enough for Molly to confront the ISEA guy, Sparks (who’s a total That Guy actor). He’s a duplicitous one, professing his friendship to Molly and promising to uncover the mystery while plotting behind the scenes with Yasumoto. They seem to think that Molly holds some kind of Leeloo-like key to the future. Sneaky ones, these ISEA brass. Yasumoto seems to have his charms, though. Enough to get hot and heavy with Femi Dodd, who is playing her own games behind the scenes. Now this is interesting. Give me these twists before another boring scene with the Woods family.
Oh, great. That’s what ends the episode, a nice sit-down Woods evening with a few extinction hints built in. Honestly, this second installment – aside from the creepy ghost pop-ups – was kind of a snoozer. Too much Leave it to Beaver, not enough freakiness. We’re here for sci-fi, “Extant.’’ I really hope that it gets back to some of the stuff that made the first episode so breezily entertaining. Otherwise, this is going to be a long season.
Other thoughts, as I wonder what other shapes breakfast food comes in in the future:
•I had no idea that Rotten Tomatoes did TV reviews. It’s a nice little collection of talk and opinion about the show, so take a look. It doesn’t look like it’s built up the same type of cult-ish following a show like Thrones or Breaking Bad has – yet.
•Really enjoyed the Halle Berry voiceover recap to start the episode … very Quantum Leap-ish. How has there not been a new Quantum Leap on television? It’s a lot more worthy of a remake than Hawaii Five-O.
•About Quantum Leap, I really can’t think of too many worse things on television than Scott Bakula’s N’Awleans accent in those new NCIS promos. This will be a laughed-at YouTube staple for eons.