Extant Season 1 Review “A New World”

Extant Season 1 Episode 11 A New World 1

Don’t you love it when a good plot comes together? In the latest episode of “Extant,” things finally did, but the question remains: if a good plot comes together and hardly anyone is watching anymore, does it matter? Well, yes and no. On the plus side, this is a summer show, so ratings aren’t as crucial as they would be during a “normal” season. Factor in the fact that, despite a sizable drop-off in viewership relatively early on, the numbers have remained relatively steady since August, which means that everyone still onboard after the first few shaky weeks of viewership basically stuck with the show from there on out. Those are really good things for a show to have going for it, and having a solid cast headlined by a big name doesn’t hurt matters, either.

On the negative side, the show is the very definition of a slow burn, and that clearly turned off some viewers early on. While I’ve maintained that the show will play much better with the binge-watch crowd, the thing is, will that be enough for CBS to keep the show going? With the presence of star Halle Berry and what would appear to be a decent-sized budget at hand, CBS has to ask itself: is it worth keeping the show around for potential future earnings on things like online streaming, services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, and DVD/Blu-Ray sales/rentals? Do the ends justify the means, in other words?

Hard to say, but when all is said and done, the essential question remains: is the show even worth keeping around? I think it is, and there are certain loyal viewers that I’ve no doubt would agree with me in that assessment. Mainly because, while “Extant” has taken its sweet time getting going, the pay-off has been well-earned and it has been proven that it’s essentially worth keeping the show around for another season. Not everyone needs their entertainment spoon-fed to them, and despite the popularity of the whole binge-watching thing as of late, not everyone necessarily wants to watch stuff in one fell swoop, even if they could, which not everyone has the luxury of doing, anyway. There’s something to be said for being able to savor a show from week to week, you know?

Obviously, the poster child for this approach is something like “Lost” or “Game of Thrones,” where the online community is just as a key part of the process as watching the show itself. Fans of shows like that watch it, then go online and discuss it with fellow fans, often puzzling over certain elements and sharing theories and having frank discussions about certain plot twists and character revelations and the like. To many, that element of the process is just as entertaining, if not more so, than watching the show itself. I know that, when “Lost” was in full swing, I savored going online to read various recaps about it and read other people’s crazy theories about the show and where it was all headed, as well as contributing my own. You don’t get that experience with binge-watching, plain and simple.

Now, don’t get me wrong, “Extant” isn’t quite as compelling as “Lost” or “Game of Thrones” and so forth. It certainly has its faults, and those faults are precisely what cost it viewers early on. Nor has it inspired the kind of slavish devotion and online discussion that those shows and others like them have in the past. But it’s still a reasonably worthy show, and has much to recommend about it. Notably a solid cast, imaginative ideas and a genuine idea of where it’s headed with the overarching plotlines. Not all shows, least of all, post-“Lost” and “X-Files” type shows, have that, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Take this episode, for instance. We finally got some big answers about the mysterious Yasumoto and how the alien was discovered in the first place. It seems that, some 140 years ago (!), he was a miner for Claypool Industries that stumbled across a mysterious fluid while digging at a meteor impact site. Trapped underground for over a month, he was kept alive by said fluid and had aided in looking for the original source ever since, eventually taking over the company, and finding the alien in the process via the Aruna spaceship. Yasumoto thinks that it is the “architect of eternal life” and that, with it, we will be able to live forever, which is obviously what he is aiming for.

I found all of this fascinating, but more importantly, it was logical as well. It explained a lot of the character’s motivations throughout the series, and even explained the motivations of other characters- in particular, Sparks- as well. Suddenly, all that shadowy activity by Yasumoto and Sparks early on in the show made perfect sense and will no doubt make a re-watch of the series after the fact even more logical and compelling. To me, the best shows (and movies, for that matter) are the ones that hold up to re-watching over and over again, with the viewer gaining something new about it with each reviewing. It’s precisely this quality that makes, say, “Twin Peaks” still essential after all these years, and it doesn’t even have a proper ending. (Some would say it’s because it doesn’t have a proper ending that it’s become such a cult favorite, but I digress.)

I think “Extant” is one of those shows, and that people will “get it” far more than they did after all is said and done than they ever did while watching it week-to-week. Of course, that does “Extant” no favors in the short term, as TV is still dependent on ratings to keep a given show up and running, but the one plus side is that, in this day and age, it doesn’t have to mean the end of the road for a show. “Buffy” was able to keep going a few more seasons on another network, while “The Killing” found new life on Netflix, so even if “Extant” does get cancelled by CBS, there are still options, and that’s a good thing.

“Extant” isn’t a perfect show, by any means. It took way too long to get going, and that cost it a lot of viewers in the process. It also has a bad habit of prolonging the inevitable. But ultimately, it does reward patient viewers and I do think it’s a show worth saving, especially since, with the initial and essential mythology well on its way to being out of the way, it can focus on the endgame more and the back-story less. That means it can pick up the pace more in keeping with current episodes and less like the pokier early ones, and that’s definitely a good thing moving forward. Here’s hoping it gets that chance.

What did you think of “Extant” this week? Were you happy with Yasumoto’s back-story and motivations for his actions? Were you surprised by the actual return of the adult Katie in space? Is she still possessed by the alien? (More than likely, I would say yes, given that the alien steered the space ship towards her via Molly on last week’s episode.) Is the alien’s plan to take over Earth? Or does it have something else in mind? Is Anya dead? Where is the “baby” headed? Can Molly stop it? Does she really even want to? What do you think will be the next big twist? Sound off below and see you next week!