Wednesday, September 17, 2014

REVIEW: 'Extant' - Molly Returns to Space, John Makes a Promise & Ethan's Bomb Detonates in 'Ascension'

CBS' Extant - Episode 1.13 "Ascension"

Molly returns to space in an attempt to redirect the Seraphim away from Earth and protect the world's population from the deadly spores. Also, John discovers that Odin's plan has put Ethan in terrible danger.

I'm just gonna say it. I genuinely enjoyed Extant this summer. I know that may not be a popular critical opinion - and the ratings would indicate not much of America thought so as well. However, I had a good time delving into this futuristic landscape. Sure, there were moments that didn't work. The split this season was basically 50/50 between the mystery of what happened in space and Ethan the robot kid when I personally would have wanted a 70/30 split. But Extant was a solidly executed piece of science fiction television. It's a genre that is difficult to get right and doesn't often see commercial success without some soap opera twist. Extant did have melodrama. But I'll also think of it fondly as posing some big world questions as well as all of its futuristic technology.

"Ascension" certainly has a lot more action than the average episode this season. And yet, that leant itself to the life and death stakes of Molly returning to space in order to keep the spores from entering Earth's atmosphere. It is exciting. I fully bought into the emotional climax where Molly fears she'll never be able to return to her family and the later loss of Ethan in an explosion to ultimately save the mission. The two major plot threads of the season finally came together in a big way. That was the thing that puzzled me the most this season. Why are these two separate stories and ideas being told alongside each other in the same show? They paid off well here. Do I think they could have come to the same conclusion without as much focus of importance on Ethan throughout the summer? Of course! He really was just another in the long line of "special kid with the world's most important power" trope. The big resolution to this whole story is because of him. Quite frankly I wish the finale focused more on Molly and how she was the one - and only one - to beat the odds and get this mission to ultimately succeed. That probably would have been a better use of Halle Berry. However, I don't think the end result is a waste of her talents either. It was a role she slowly had to get more comfortable in but ultimately I think she did a good job.

The whole structure of the finale does concern me a bit because it's building to this big moment of tremendous sacrifice and loss. And that is powerful as both Molly and John have to deal with the loss of their child as a result of protecting the greater good. But in the end, it's revealed that Ethan is still alive because his programming has created a backup for himself - that only took five days to reboot. That unfortunately does undercut that prior moment a bit. We didn't have the time to mourn him. It's a very uplifting ending for Molly and John. They've been through so much this season. They faced loss. But now, their family is together again by some miracle.

But the hour couldn't end on that moment. No. It had to then cut to Molly's actual supernatural offspring walking across a bridge still alive. It's a tease that this journey is not over for all involved. There was enough of an ending in this finale that it could potentially serve as a series finale. I don't think I would be too upset if CBS chose not to continue - the ratings again have not been great. However, I would gladly watch more if they were produced.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Ascension" was written by Mickey Fisher and directed by Miguel Sapochnik.
  • So, Ben turns off the power because the likelihood of success is miniscule and because Molly and Glass were infected by the spores. And yet, no consequences come from those infections once Molly is back on the ground? Guess that's a season two plot thread. Maybe.
  • How in the world do John and Gordon know each other? Gordon showed up at John's work place and I was confused as to how that pairing was possible.
  • So, Katie's offspring grew up to look exactly like her? I was confused by that part too.
  • Also, they could have been more playful with Molly slowly loosing her mind in space. Some jittering camerawork was just not enough.
  • Michael O'Neill and Hiroyuki Sanada don't appear in the finale at all. Were you satisfied with their endings last week being the final resting places for their characters? To me, just meh.
  • Also, what was the point of Annie Wersching being on the show. She was important in the pilot and then she basically ceased to exist. Was it the show not knowing what to do with that character? Or was Wersching simply not available as much later in the season and the Odin character had to come in and pick up the slack? I don't know.