Molly Woods returns from a thirteen month solo mission in space to find that she’s mysteriously pregnant. Meanwhile, a conspiracy seems to be weaving around her and her experience on the space station. John Woods tries to get funding for his Humanic robot program, while his robotic son Ethan expresses some violent tendencies.
Molly Woods (Halle Berry) throws up in her bathroom as her son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon) plays in the hallway. He asks if she’s too sick to come to the party and she says her body is just readjusting to being back. After the party Ethan talks to his father John (Gore Visnjic) about how Molly is different now that she’s back. He reassures him that she’s just adjusting to being back on Earth after spending 13 months alone in space. Ethan says he needs a flip and it is revealed that he is an android of some kind. Molly takes out the trash and sees a shadowy figure down the pathway, but when she turns back it is gone. Later she reminisces with some picture of her old dead boyfriend Marcus (Sergio Harford).
The next day John takes Ethan to present to the Yasumoto Corporation Board of Investors to request funding for the Humanics Project – a program to bring the human connection back into technology. The investors are worried about what programming ensures their proper behavior and what contingencies are put in place in case of wrong behavior. John is adamant that these Humanic robots are just like people and are free to choose their own path based on what they learn from their own experiences, and that no plan is put in place for termination. The investors are uncomfortable with this and funding is denied.
Molly finds out that she’s pregnant even though she just spent thirteen months completely alone. Molly thinks back to her time on the space station where she works with plant samples and talks with an onboard computer. A solar flare passes and disrupts the systems on the station. Molly restarts the systems manually, then sees Marcus in the airlock. He writes “Help Me” in the condensation. We also learn that Molly has been trying to years to get pregnant with no success. Molly begs Sam (Camryn Manheim) to give her some time to figure it out before turning in the report. Molly meets with Director Sparks and tells them about the thirteen hour black out in her logs and claims that she accidentally deleted the camera footage.
Sparks goes to meet with a guy named Yasumoto (Hiroyuki Sanada) and reports to him about Molly. Sparks doesn’t believe she accidentally deleted the footage during the solar flare incident. He tells her to keep an eye on her. Sparks suggests that he accept to fund John’s program to make it easier to get close to the family. John gets a call from Yasumoto who tells him that he can’t reverse the board’s decision, but that he’d be happy to invest as a private citizen. Molly takes Ethan out for ice cream in the park when she is given a balloon with a note attached that says “I know what happened to you. Contact soon.” She gets freaked out and grabs Ethan to leave in a hurry. Ethan drops his ice cream and gets bratty about it and runs off. When Molly finds him in the woods he’s standing in front of a dead pigeon and says it was like that when he found it, and then creepily tells her that her hair is pretty.
Molly tells John that Ethan is different from when she left, but he just says he’s a year older and needs time to reconnect. Molly thinks back to the space station where she lets Marcus into the ship. He seems to mimic her speech rather than actually communicate with her. He touches her face and runs his finger down the front of her zipper to her stomach, then takes her face in his hands and seems to put her to sleep while repeating “Its okay.” The next day John and Molly apologize to each other and Molly goes for her psych eval. The psychiatrist says she wants her office to be a sanctuary where she can be completely open. Meanwhile, their session is being monitored remotely by Sparks and Yasumoto. Molly thinks back to the space station where she wakes up on the floor and then reviews the camera footage of the event. No one but her appears in the footage, so she panics and deletes it.
At home Molly takes out the trash and is approached by the shadowy figure, who turns out to be Harmon Kryger (Brad Beyer), an old co-worker who everyone thinks committed suicide. He promises to her that he’s real, that its not like the hallucination she had on the space station. He tells her that he’ll be in contact with her and that in the meantime not to trust anyone.
For such a seemingly simple and obvious premise, Extant had a surprisingly strong start. There are so many ways this could have gone south so quickly, so many cliches and overused plot devices that could have been incorporated, but the premiere of the Steven Spielberg and Halle Berry co-produced science fiction drama was surprisingly unique, suspenseful, and smart. While it explores a lot of common topics of the future – such as artificial intelligence, space travel, extraterrestrial life, technology – it does so intelligently and thoughtfully, while also maintaining a constant air of mystery and intensity.
Already the conspiracy is weaving its web around Molly Woods and her frightening and impossible pregnancy. What is the secret about her seemingly dead co-worker that no one is telling her, and what does her experience on the space station Seraphim have to do with what happened to him? How in the world did she get pregnant? Does what’s happening with her AI son have any connection to the conspiracy or is it a separate, unconnected occurrence? How did Marcus die and how was he connected to John? Will John go Rosemary’s Baby and spy on Molly in order to pursue his ambitions with the Humanic program? So many early questions, such a quick start. One thing you can say is that Extant does not move slowly.
And while Halle Berry is beautiful, compelling, smart, and witty as astronaut Molly Woods, she seems to have this mysterious pregnancy thing remarkably under control. While she expressed disbelief at the news, I feel like neither her nor her friend/doctor Sam reacted to the degree that would be natural in such circumstances. I mean, you spend over a year alone on a space station – in space – and you come back inexplicably, impossibly pregnant. That is a freak out moment, not a hands on hips, head scratching, “Hmm, well that’s sure peculiar” kind of moment. I think a bit more concern and alarm was called for in that moment – and also emergency medical attention. Just saying.