We’re three episodes into the ten-episode summer run of “Extant,’’ about that time for the drama to start living up to its potential. After a scattershot but watchable premiere episode and a snoozer of a follow-up, the show is still trying to smash together it’s high-concept premise and higher-profile star with some of the standard trappings of a conventional network drama. Episode three, “Wish You Were Here’’ (sadly, no Syd Barrett references here), is at least an improvement on episode two, and hopefully starts to set up a promising track for the show’s future. Optimising in “Extant’’ is rising like a ghost-packed spaceship to the heavens.
“Wish You Were Here’’ opens with the conspiracy contingent at the ISEA now fully aware of Molly’s pregnancy, as anonymous right-hand man (I’ll call him Kurt Russell hair) sneaks in to the veterinarian where the ultrasound took place and sees the proof, in all the “annoying and relatively creepy Facebook post from that kid you didn’t really know too well in high school’’ glory. They plot to give a cover story to Molly. “Something more believable than the truth,’’ Sparks says. One of the better lines of the show so far.
This episode also gives us some insight into the genesis – or, well, installation – of Ethan as the Woods’ child. It turns out that Molly is infertile, a result of a long-ago car accident that ended one of her pregnancies and took the life of that space ghost boyfriend (he gets a name – Marcus Dawkins). John convinced Molly to take his kid robot into the house as one of his own in place of 100% organic, home-grown child, over her objections. “You can’t just plug and play a family!’’ She says. A line of dialogue for the iPod world.
She might have reconsidered the decision to take in Ethan if she could have seen what he does while left unsupervised. As Molly’s out jogging, Ethan is McGyvering the hell out of a bird trap constructed out of a mop and lamp. He snares a bird on his first try – for what purposes, who knows. He’d do well in the “Hatchet’’ universe. Trapping small animals, though? That’s how Jeffrey Dahmer got started. Robot cannibals. That’s terrifying to think about.
Post-run, Molly gets an explanation into her pregnancy from Sparks, who spins it as a covert, internal agency pregnancy experiment that mixed up just the right frozen ingredients from John and Molly. He plays mortified, but it’s not quite convincing enough. Sam vows to get to the bottom of the pregnancy at her lab, while Molly goes to track down the thought-dead, non-crazy Kryger at his “Lethal Weapon’’-like Martin Riggs beach trailer. All Molly finds is a bunch of weird symbols, so it’s either an alien presence or the Blair Witch. The former would be a lot more entertaining.
Animal-trapping robot kid has his first day of school, which only seems to be marred by some anti-robot sentiment from a rednecky fellow parent. He calls Ethan a “toaster with hair,’’ which just brings up thoughts of the far superior “Battlestar Galactica’’ (please, watch that show). Aside from that, there were no unexpected bird interruptions, and Ethan even made a new little female friend. That’s more than I could say for most of my elementary school career.
The Woods have another damn party, apparently taking Eddie Murphy and Slurms McKenzie’s advice. This one’s the makeup birthday party for Molly’s time on the space station, and it’s crazy busy. Ethan goes and does the robot. Sam stops by to take some of Molly’s blood down to her lab. Marcus’ brother Tim comes to visit. John uncovers Ethan’s trapped bird in his workshop. There’s even time for a space ghost flashback, a brief one on board Molly’s space station. No time for charades at this shindig.
The tension between Molly and John – prompted by Ethan’s admission about mom’s secrets – finally seems to be broken when she spills the beans on her pregnancy. John takes it well. Is all right with the family? Well, no. Not at all. Turns out Tim was a ghost too. The Hawkins family is straight out of “Poltergeist.’’ This revelation is enough to send Molly straight over the edge and out to a hospital visit with Sparks. Party RUINED.
Meanwhile, Sam manages to sneak around in her lock-down lab to get some results from Molly’s blood. They’re enough to freak her out, and she sends a warning to Molly, right before the suits at the ISEA capture her. Molly (quite unconvincingly) manages to knock out Sparks and make her own escape. When Sparks recovers and treks back to the Woods household, the family is plain gone. Are we going to get a fugitive Woods family, complete with a growing-in-maliciousness Ethan? Now this kind of show twist I can get behind. Now I’m starting to get excited for the weeks to come.
Other thoughts, as I wonder how long we really have until Molly’s wafer-thin phone becomes a reality:
– Two of the characters I’ve really liked over the first two episodes – Yasumoto, the malicious CEO, and Annie Wersching’s Femi Dodd – are both absent this week. They were missed. They’re probably off in one of their love shacks somewhere.
– No Louis Gossett Jr., slated to play Molly’s father, this week. I’m just going to assume that’s their eventual hideout spot.
– This is the only CBS drama not to have any murders, right? The promos for all of these CBS dramas during Extant’s commercial breaks are just blood-soaked. I guess you can’t argue with ratings.
– By the way, Halle Berry is 47. I really can’t believe it. I don’t think she’s aged since the first “X-Men.’’