One episode was provided for review purposes prior to broadcast.
Picking up six months after the events of last year’s finale, CBS’ Extant decides one thing within the first few moments of its second year: do everything again. Revisit the strife between Molly (Halle Berry) and husband John Woods (Goran Visnjic), but make it bigger; re-do the we-may-lose-Ethan plot, but make it permanent; re-establish Molly as a brilliant scientist, but bring back the slight frayed edges of her psyche lost once the first season cemented her fears as reality. Season 2 succeeds in some departments with this redux angle — especially in a character that gets offed from nearly word go — but it doesn’t fix the show’s most glaring issue: it’s just not intriguing enough.
Season 1 started on such a high point, introducing a near-future full of weird trash cans and talking homes alongside two dueling plots that seemed destined to crash in a tragically beautiful way, that its subsequent devolution into a barely passable sci-fi version of Days of Our Lives was endlessly perplexing. Year 2 doesn’t fix much on that front: the future is still cool, the characters are still flat, and the mystery is still under-baked. For a show about a possible human-level extinction event, it remains confidently ho-hum.
The premiere jumps around in a timeline in a more-than-slightly confusing nature. It shows Molly’s current status as a mental patient taking virtual reality treatments, then her discovery of John’s affair with lab assistant Julie (Grace Gummer) while she was originally in space, and, of course, it throws in a scene explaining the return of boy robot wonder Ethan (Pierce Gagnon) after his tragic sacrifice to save the earth from Molly’s other maybe evil “Offspring” (Shannon Merrill Brown) in the season 1 finale.
While Molly virtually vacations in the cuckoo’s nest, we’re introduced to J.D. Richter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a cop who works on a freelance, first-come-first-serve basis and battles internally with accepting a high-payout job while a hot brunette lies half-naked on his dingy motel room bed. He’s scruffy, hyper-masculine, and a complete walking-talking piece of cliched cheese. He’s also, it turns out, exactly what Extant needs.
The show is too perennially clean-cut, all fluorescent lit-labs and Ikea-filled homes. Morgan — while playing to type — brings a sort of goofy irreverence to the boringly serious world of the show, and while he is far from saving it on his own heavily-tattooed back, he at least alleviates some of the omnipresent sameness when he shows up.