CBS’ Extant Morphoses TV Show Review. Extant: Season 2, Episode 2: ‘Morphoses,’ continued our formal introduction to the series overhaul in progress. If episode 2.01 went to great lengths to break with season one, episode 2.02 went about the business of establishing what we should expect of the show’s new direction.
A tall order, considering that the episode opened with a demonstration of insanity, by definition. After a season of Starchild forcing anyone who crossed him into turning on each other, it occurred to Tobias Shepherd (David Morrissey) & Co. that taking on the adult model – in precisely the same way – would somehow go differently. Throw in a bit of awkward detail, with his Girl Friday, and the focus was back on Molly (Halle Berry) being a loose cannon on the loose, again.
Her new cop buddy, JD Richter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), was equal parts game, and skeptic, regarding Molly’s new unhinged character turn; making the episode’s lead that much easier to find & follow. Unfortunately, Molly’s new crazy took the matter too far – undermining the credentials she earned with JD. On a related note: you’d think a grizzled cop, having been hauling a crazy lady around, would know better than to accept unsealed drinks. While I understand that Molly had a deeply personal connection to their lead, and that the outcome was meant to add some perspective to both Molly’s actions, and JD’s reaction to those actions, the whole exercise seemed hollow. In any case, it really was just a way to reintroduce Molly to the Children of the Corneas (you try making a reference pun about glowing irises), and her own direct link to their alien origins.
With Molly exploring the boundaries of her new free chase, buddy cop dynamic, Ethan (Pierce Gagnon) has been serving as the latest reminder of Julie’s (Grace Gummer) primary role, as constantly biting off more than she can chew. This time around, it’s motherhood & running the Humanics project. I suppose Ethan going through another round of emotional instability is less distracting, this time around, when it’s Julie’s problem, instead of Molly’s.
Compounding Julie’s problem, was Guy Friday, Charlie (Tyler Hilton), starting to call her out on her efforts at multi-tasking. Between John, her toeing the company line, and her parenting skills, Julie has earned quite a bit of second guessing. It would all amount to a reason to write off her character, altogether; but, for the moment, Julie seems to be carrying the Humanics element of the series, while Molly goes full alien hunter.
Enter Lucy (Kiersey Clemons), season one’s potentially superior A.I., given form. No, I will not be commenting on that form (not here, anyway). With Julie’s handler going into full OCP mode, Lucy’s intended role seems crystal clear. Less clear is how Ethan’s second season existential crisis/ broken home issues will play out across from big sis Lucy’s rollout. If his solution, this time around, was any indication, it should only be a matter of time before Tobias & Co. remember that Ethan may be too big a responsibility for Julie. If I were to guess, I figure Julie’s likely short term solution will only make things worse. In any case, Tobias was fixated on another target.
While not quite reliving the visions of Desperate Housewife Molly, Mad Molly’s previous alien contact seems to have left her with a backdoor vulnerability to the Hybrid hive mind. While this did lead to the first major reunion of the season, I had to wonder if Tobias’ take away fix (to the episode’s opening misstep) might’ve spared us the trouble of Mad Molly picking back up where Desperate Housewife Molly left off. I’d just rather Extant stay away from the Momma Bear scenario for the most part.
I’ve frequently been a victim of my own lofty expectations; and I don’t do disappointment very well. I will no longer make the mistake of holding Extant to standards set by the likes of Asimov, Clarke, or Bradbury – even if it seemed like the series had originally hinted at such aspirations. The new Extant seems content to settle for more accessible, popcorn faves like Species, and Robocop; so I’ll treat it accordingly.
The new premise is shaping up to showing some promise, actually.
The Humanic army element, alone, stands to make Extant the heir apparent to Almost Human (the other Asimov meat), as one part futuristic cop procedural, one part futurist ethics watch, and one part mecha-messiah evolution chart. As long as it doesn’t go full Terminator/ Caprica anytime soon (or at all), there are any number of ways the show can go with this.
The Species angle seems a little more blatant, however; so the only way I can see that bearing out – without breaking down into a full-on bug hunt – would be to humanize the hybrids, in some way. As that likely means Molly having to reinvent her inter-species arbitrator role, I remain wary of the one element, left in place, likely to undermine the new show, as it did the old.
The Human melodrama element killed the first season, period. By midseason, all the gee-wizardry, and high-minded sci-fi concept, couldn’t carry the weight of Molly’s personal issues. The effort to add dimension to other key characters, by similar means, sort of backfired – turning the run up to the climax into a series of guilt trips, parental hang-ups, and emo tantrums. Molly, in particular, was made to constantly weigh her mission against her role as mother & wife.
Well, half of that problem has been ‘fixed;’ and while her attachment to Ethan has been momentarily severed, there indications that she may develop a whole new kind of attachment to the hybrids. There’s also the inherent risk of her new partner chemistry adding up to something. Having partners give in to their chemistry has been the kiss of death, for some of TV’s best; and Extant is in no position to buck that trend. Throw in signs of an impending love triangle, between Molly, Tobias, and Velez (Necar Zadegan), and I’m left wondering if the one area that truly needs a fix – reconciling Extant’s sci-fi with its attempts at character development – actually has a fix in place.
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