“Extant” started with high hopes in outer space, before reentering the Earth’s atmosphere and, creatively speaking, gradually crashing and burning. Still, CBS had a sci-fi drama starring Halle Berry and a nifty Amazon deal to help defray the cost, which likely explains the second-season attempt to continue the project while undertaking a pretty dramatic makeover. As a result, much of the show has been jettisoned, leaving behind the bones of the original, while introducing Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a surly cop/bounty hunter who grudgingly gets involved. It’s a courageous effort, but still looks like a failure to launch.
Without giving too much away, the new season picks up six months after the first, when Berry’s Molly Woods discovered that the inexplicable pregnancy she experienced while on a space mission left her carrying an alien-human hybrid, one with strange powers and nefarious if ill-defined objectives. Back at home, she has managed to fake her way through congressional hearings, and her husband (Goran Visnjic) has even rebuilt their android son (Pierce Gagnon), who sacrificed himself to save mom in the first go-round.
Still, Molly’s problems are just beginning, with a major personal loss and an attempt to confine her, presumably to keep her quiet. Although she’s been told her space baby perished, there’s also evidence that suggests he not only might be ambulatory, but deadly — and aging rapidly, leaving the threat posed to humankind very much alive.
That inadvertently puts Molly in contact with Morgan’s JD Richter, a mid-20th-century-style private eye in a modern package, who initially thinks she’s more loony than moony. Bringing the two together and setting them on the run doesn’t just give the show a more CBS-friendly formula, it should introduce more action to a series that, its frequent flashbacks notwithstanding, at times felt static and lab-bound.
It would be better if the new elements were more exciting than they feel here, but it’s hard to recover from a show that underwent as many odd contortions as “Extant” did in its maiden voyage. That Berry manages to escape with her dignity intact despite how thinly written her character continues to be and the absurdity of the situations she must face is a testament to the actress’s abilities.
“Extant” was introduced alongside “Under the Dome,” another sci-fi-tinged concept that took off with promise and subsequently under-delivered. It’s possible the Berry-Morgan pairing will produce the right DNA to justify CBS’ decision to give this show about possible human extinction a second shot at life, but based on the available evidence, these recombinations might have birthed a different sort of series, but not a measurably improved one.