July 2, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Extant”


EXTANT:  Wednesday 10PM on CBS

Although EXTANT survived to a second season (due at least in part to its lucrative Amazon streaming deal), no one involved fooled themselves that it was going very well, as critical response was poor and the ratings steadily fell through the summer.  Season 2 has brought, if not a total reboot, a thorough housecleaning, starting with new showrunners Liz Kruger and Craig Shapiro (of Necessary Roughness) to work with series creator Mickey Fisher, and the jettisoning of some cast members.  What remains is different, but it isn’t yet clear that the result is better.

The Season 2 premiere, written by Kruger & Shapiro and directed by Dan Lerner, brought the problems of astronaut Molly Woods (Halle Berry) down to earth.  The episode swiftly disposed of Molly’s husband John (Goran Visnjic), seemingly in a permanent way (Camryn Manheim’s character was dismissed in a couple of lines of dialogue), and introduced a new leading man in the person of JD Richter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), some kind of near-future cross between a cop and a bounty hunter.  He’s investigating a series of mysterious deaths in which women were found with their stomachs ripped open from the inside, a sign Molly recognizes as meaning that part-ali like the son she gave birth to after her last visit to space, are being born, meaning that her bouncing boy-creature has had enough of an otherworldly growth spurt to become a deadly womanizer, rather than being dead as she’d been told.  The B story involves Molly’s android other son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon), now being raised by John’s former assistant/mistress Julie (Grace Gummer), who’s involved in a secret government project (aren’t they all?) to turn the androids into super-soldiers, run by a general Molly considers a friend, but who almost certainly isn’t, since he’s played by David Morrissey, the evil Governor from The Walking Dead.

The upshot of all this is that Molly is much more of a bad-ass than she was in Season 1.  We see her break out of the psychiatric hospital where she’s being kept, and hear about her burning down her house and attacking Julie at John’s funeral with a shovel.  It’s clear that the new producers plan to raise the action quotient of the show.  Morgan has a likably grizzled presence, and clearly sparks are meant to fly between Molly and JD.  Whether or not that ends up making sense, at least Berry and Morgan share some star charisma.

None of these changes are necessarily bad, and the show seems faster moving than before, and less concerned with creating a dense (and rarely understandable) mythology.  It’s still beset, though, by tinny dialogue and unimaginative plotting.  Berry may be more fun to watch in her more active mode, but Extant looks like it may now be a familiar cop story with some futuristic notes.  Whether that will be enough to reverse or at least stop last summer’s ratings decline will depend on the execution, and the amount of patience viewers have for a show that was deeply flawed the last time they watched.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."