Extant Episode 2: Extinct
“Extinct” starts off with Molly Woods waking up to the ominous sound of sneakers being kicked around in a clothes dryer. In a future where humanoid robots walk the Earth and trash compactors look like Apple products, doing laundry is still a pain. Can win them all, right?
Meanwhile, her husband John walks into his brand new humanics laboratory, courtesy of the suspiciously generous Mr. Yasumoto. It’s not all roses, though–before he gets a chance to admire his new playground, John gets a surprise visit from the same board member who headed the rejection of his initial proposal. She isn’t convinced that the humanics work is safe, even after John gives her a tour of the facilities, and makes it clear that she will push back. John is unphased–“I’ve already won,” he responds. It’s the second time these two have duked it out, so this dynamic will probably be revisited later on in Extant.
The second episode of Extant is loaded with a slew of interesting questions, some of them may even be clues as to what is really going on. During the laboratory tour, John provides a little insight as to how the humanics are developed. Instead of programming a “person” right away, the engineers allow the program to take three years and “learn,” allowing their “brains” to develop in a fashion similar to that of a human child. There is also a scene where a lab tech shows robo-child Ethan his new arm, addressing the question of physical growth.
The robots in Extant are fascinating. Ethan, in particular, is a subject that begs for deeper analysis. He’s clearly an artificial intelligence, but he behaves exactly like a human child. He’s got it all–tantrums, curiosity, joy. He even seems to fear his mother’s disapproval. Ethan is also self aware. He know’s he’s not human, even as a machine, he recognizes the fact that he doesn’t have all the answers. During a party at what is probably the coolest museum ever, he asks a curator robot to explain natural selection and the concept of survival of the fittest. Near the end of the episode, he repeats this information back to Molly–“it’s where the stronger, smarter species survive.” Suddenly all that talk in John’s board room presentation of a “robot uprising” doesn’t seem so far out place.
But there is a much bigger mystery at play within Extant. How, again, is Molly pregnant after spending 13-months in deep space isolation? Her doctor friend, Sam, agrees to perform an “off the books” ultrasound to confirm any doubts, but not before revealing another little tidbit. Molly’s brain functionality is abnormal. Harmon, the runaway astronaut thought to be dead, had the exact same brain anomalies when he returned from an identical mission.
Surprise surprise–we learn in one of Harmon’s flashbacks that his tenure in deep space was met with similar events, as well. A solar flare knocks out power to his ship, and he sees his dead mother waiting for him behind a door. After failing to isolate her from his general vicinity, he sends the poor ghost out of an airlock.
Something else to note about this particular exchange–when Harmon encounters his mother, she only says two words: “mother,” and “no.” The ghost of Marcus past similarly only said a few words–“it’s okay.” This is not a coincidence. The ghosts/hallucinations/whatever are clearly learning speech from these encounters. They repeat back what they’re hearing, but strangely enough, understand the definitions of their limited vocabulary.
Molly isn’t going to sit tight throughout this ordeal. Something is wrong, and she decides to take action by removing a “tether” from her mouth that records her health history–likely among other things, as well. She storms out of her workplace and drives away with Harmon. During a discussion about what’s going on with them, Harmon exclaims his belief that they are experiments in of themselves–a way to test the effects of human body in deep space. Harmon seems incredibly paranoid–rightfully so, given the circumstances–but his ideas suggest something very interesting: in this particular future, deep space travel is still new. In other words, they are being experimented on, even if that wasn’t really the intention in the first place.
But who is doing the experimenting? After her meetup with Harmon (and confirming that she is indeed carrying a child), Molly confronts her boss, Stark, in front of his home and demands answers. Stark promises that there is nothing fishy going on. They’re all friends–family, even–and he wouldn’t allow anything bad to happen to Molly.
Stark is lying, of course. After his uncomfortable exchange with Molly, he goes right to Yasumoto to discuss the implications of this information. The two of them speak in ambiguous terms, their conversation ending with Yasumoto suggesting “they’re already here.”
Who are they? It must be something sinister, because Stark seems completely flabbergasted. “What have we done?” he asks.
Yasumoto answers, “we’re honoring Katies sacrifice.” Katie, it’s implied, was Stark’s daughter. Her sacrifice, though, is still a mystery.
The episode ends with Yasumoto sticking his finger into a machine that informs him that his life expectancy is 102 days. This explains as to why he was being thawed from an apparent cryogenic state in the pilot episode–they’re trying to prolong his days on the Earth. What, though, could be so important that he must spend several days out of a freezing state? What is he waiting for/hoping for? It’s just another mystery in a show full of them, and the way things are going, it looks as if answers will be arriving sooner rather than later.