TV REVIEW: Extant Loses Itself in its Own Conspiracy in “A New World”
BY The Screen Spy Team
Published 8 years ago
By Chelsea Hensley
How many times are people on Extant going to try to wrangle the offspring by force and getting the guns of their comrades turned against them in the process, before it catches on that it’s not a good idea?
Even before “A New World,” the offspring had displayed this particular ability several times, but for some reason Yasumoto (one of the bigger bads, ambitious and intelligent enough to maintain a conspiracy for this long) couldn’t grasp that the offspring would do the same when faced with yet another team of gun-toting mercenaries. He certainly has reason to be desperate, as his hair’s growing gray and his death day approaches with only a single vial of the substance left to sustain him (and only for a few weeks), but he’s been desperate all season, and he’s been much better at working under pressure before.
When Molly offers up the offspring she doesn’t have along with a repentant Sparks, Yasumoto comes to do the trade himself, which seems to be another glaring inconsistency because of the implication that Yasumoto suddenly ran out of minions to do his dirty work for him. He didn’t even bring anyone along, essentially forcing him to give in to John’s threats of destroying the last vial. It feels like a particularly cheap turn of events, to have Molly and John’s Yasumoto issue tied up with a neat little bow, not ascending to even a third of the heights the season’s promised in building up Yasumoto’s dangerous and self-centered ambitions.
This episode marks something that’s surely supposed to be affecting, as it includes Yasumoto’s story of how he came to be here: He was a miner when he was buried during a collapse and exposed to a meteor rock (very Smallville) housing a substance that sustained his life until he was withdrawn. He also had a wife, who despite appearing in a couple of five-second flashbacks, wasn’t actually important. But it all falls flat.
Extant hasn’t done the best job with any of their characters. It’s still hard to pin down Molly’s characterization, but the show has struggled the most with its antagonists. Like Yasumoto, Sparks has been hard to connect with. He’s only improved with the show’s devotion to exploring his singleminded pursuit of his imaginary daughter. It’s unfortunate that I actually believed Sparks would have a change of heart and attempt to make amends not because he would do that, but because the show would do that. Before this episode’s disastrous attempt at fleshing out Yasumoto, Sparks was Extant’s weakest attempt at characterization, which made a change of allegiance particularly plausible. But it was a major relief to find that it was all an act (the purpose of which is unknown) and Sparks is still looking to hang onto his daughter. Katie’s appearance about the present-day Serafin will surely provide an interesting story for Sparks and Anya, who will likely find Katie’s reappearance to be a fitting reward for their recent misdeeds. That’s assuming she is Katie and not some extraterrestrial copy.
While Sparks and Anya fool themselves into thinking the adolescent girl dragging them around is a flesh-and-blood reincarnation of their daughter, Molly’s fooling herself into thinking the offspring is nothing to be worried about. Molly has a better excuse than most of the characters about their misplaced assumptions about the offspring since she has a much stronger bond with it than anyone else and is, of course, not immediately inclined to think her son is sort-of evil. Despite Harmon’s deathbed desire that Molly stop her rapidly progressing offspring, and now Gordon’s suspicions, Molly remains adamant that the offspring is only out for survival, his and hers.
At least Molly being torn between the offspring and her established family has the potential for strong conflict. John has made clear what he thinks about the offspring, just as Molly has, and when Yasumoto threatens John and Ethan in the hopes of pushing Molly into giving up her baby, it seems to promise some meatier clash that never comes. Forcing Molly to choose between the offspring and Ethan and John would spice things up, especially considering Molly’s lingering desires to return to happier times with Marcus and their baby. She conceived the offspring with “Marcus” after all, so it is “their” baby, and seeing Molly have to grapple with choosing something resembling her ideal family with Marcus and the family she has now with John would be enjoyable. But that would require doing more character than conspiracy work, and Extant‘s seem to have lost itself among its many alien twists and turns.
Extant’s something of a skeletal framework. It’s plotline is strong, even if there’s nothing really holding it together. The characters should be the glue in the complicated conspiracy-addled storyline, but they seem to barely be there themselves. Their motivations may be explained to us (and are sometimes contradicted), but the emotional resonance is still lacking, as if the show’s been moving through an outline, from one planned bulletpoint to the next without sparing any time to fill in anything.
If I knew and cared more about John, I’m sure I’d have found his triumphant theft of Yasumoto’s last vial to be electrifying, just as I’d find Molly finally getting to demand answers from Yasumoto to be a welcome relief after watching her being manipulated to serve his own needs. If I’d cared about Harmon, I would have been sad at his death, and if he and Molly had seemed to develop anything of a genuine friendship I would have believed her tears over his death. Maybe I’d even care about Odin planting a bomb inside of Ethan.
Extant‘s asked a variety of questions in its season, laid the groundwork for a variety of storylines, and now that those answers are coming and those hints are coming to fruition, I wish I cared more about them. The curiosity is there certainly, but it would be better to care about those answers in relation to the characters who have been seeking them. Without them to humanize the struggle, all the big moments fall flat and even the conspiracy (first Yasumoto’s to gain immortality and now the offspring is to do … something) feels empty.
- Extant didn’t even try with Yasumoto’s wife. She appeared and said about five words before disappearing. He didn’t even mention what happened to her, and their baby, when he was finally rescued.
- I’m pretending Ryan Jackson didn’t exist because it annoyed me so much that he was name dropped and then brought on as if he was someone we were supposed to trust (in a conspiracy show!) and who actually appears to be nothing more than a plot device. He’ll probably go the same route as Dr. Mason, there one minute and pretending to be relevant to the plot and the next getting shot, dying and generally being a waste of time.
- But why did Sparks even need to do through this whole charade? He didn’t do anything once he was back at ISEA. He just…was.
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