Extant: Reentry

Posted on July 10, 2014

Halle-Berry-CBS-TV-Show-Extant-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOHalle Berry in CBS’ “Extant”

 

We should start off by admitting that, when a new Halle Berry Revlon commercial is unveiled, we take great glee in skewering the fact that, for the most part, all she ever has to do is turn to the camera and say “Revlon” – and even then, her line readings are usually flat. We were never enthralled with her acting style, to put it kindly. We don’t think she’s a bad actress particularly, but she comes off as a lazy one at times. In recent years, it seems to have become difficult for her to turn the dials up to eleven when a scene called for it. She seemed content to turn herself into a beautiful cipher onscreen; demanding that you look at her, but not offering much else.

We say this not to be nasty, but to point out that she may have found her niche with CBS’ new Extant. What comes across as monotone and bored on a big screen (or in a 15-second cosmetic ad) seems to fit perfectly within the parameters of a TV show. As Molly, a recently returned-to-earth astronaut in the near future, she brings an intensity to the role we haven’t seen since Monster’s Ball. There’s a scene in this episode where she – for reasons unknown to us – frantically tries to erase some security footage before anyone can discover it and even though we can’t tell what’s going on or why she’s doing what she’s doing, her panic and fear come pouring out of the screen, elevating the material and forcing you to wonder what’s going on. We don’t want to overstate things here. This is not likely to be an Emmy-nominated role for her (although it’s not impossible, if the material gives her something to work with down the line); just that she’s more watchable and interesting in this story than in anything we’ve seen her do for over a decade. And we give both her and the show a lot of credit because when you cast world famous beauty Halle Berry in your TV show, there’s an expectation that she’s going to look stunning in every scene. Instead, her introduction to the audience is a close-up on her face, post-vomiting, with a string of snot hanging off her mouth. Way to subvert expectations there.

Unfortunately, that’s probably the only time the show subverts expectations. The story has a pretty intriguing hook, but we sense the unpacking of a lot of cliches down the line. Having spent thirteen months alone on a space station, Molly is shocked to find, upon coming back to earth, that she somehow managed to get pregnant. That’s not a bad way to start off a sci-fi mystery show, especially when you’ve got an actress willing to make the material work. But let’s face it: the mysterious pregnancy is a pretty huge cliche in science fiction. It’s not helped by the fact that the secondary plot is another huge cliche in science fiction: the creepy, dangerous, robot child. The show is working hard to keep both of these elements aloft and tied together, mostly by offering us a lot of mysterious, shadowy people who know more than they’re letting on and have secret agendas (which is a third cliche). That’s a lot of plates for the story to be spinning and we suspect they’ll come crashing down eventually, but for now, we’re interested enough to see where things are going.

But the real problem here is in the show’s style. The production design is mostly pretty great; futuristic without being off-putting. But the directing left a lot to be desired. Lots of silly transitions, an overuse of a circle motif and some really clunky exposition scenes all serve to remind us that, as much star power as the lead has, and as interesting as the story might become, it still reads like a CBS summer series in a lot of way. Which is a shame, because we think they have an opportunity here to be more than that. There are some genuinely creepy scenes and a juicy mystery to bite into. We’d hate to see it all devolve into another “Under the Dome” or “Falling Skies;” largely disposable shows that you wind up forgetting ten minutes after an episode ends.

We don’t normally give grades in our reviews, but we’d call this one a solid B, with the potential to go either way. We’re interested enough to keep watching, but there are an awful lot of red flags.

 

 

 

[Photo Credit: CBS]

    • decormaven

      Thanks for the review! There’s been a lot of drumming up for this show, which makes me a bit nervous. May give it a watch, but right now, we’re plowing through early seasons of Game of Thrones. It’s taking all my summer mental faculties to keep all the characters and plotlines straight in that one.

      • http://angrynerdgirl.net/ Jessi03

        Ooo, hold on tight, because you’re in for an awesome ride!

      • Margaret Grace

        Oh, to be young and innocent again :)

    • Alyssa

      Sounds like one to add to my husband’s watch list…he really enjoys Under the Dome and Falling Skies, so it should be right up his alley, even if it does devolve.

      • OffToSeeHim

        I feel like Under the Dome went downhill so fast…

        • Alyssa

          I agree, but he’s still watching now that Season 2 has started. I’m mildly considering reading the book it’s based on, but I’m not usually a Stephen King fan.

          • mjude

            I am watching both shows & hoping for the best. huge fan of under the dome book & also king. but so much is different in the tv show when it did. not. end. last season.

        • MilaXX

          I think I stopped watching after episode 3

          • marlie

            Same here. I caught up on the storyline and started watching the beginning of this season, and I’m over it, again.

    • Leslie Streeter

      I actually said out loud “This is so good!” That ex-boyfriend is so, so hot. And Goran’s not bad either. I’ll give this a shot.

    • Eclectic Mayhem

      So she’s pregnant after 13 months alone on a space station? We’re looking at a reworking of Demon Seed (1977) then aren’t we?

    • BigShamu

      I thought she was pretty good in Cloud Atlas.

      • fiddlecub

        She was OK–but she doesn’t have a lot of presence. It’s hard not to look at someone that pretty, but she’s never had any other “look at me” factor to me. She doesn’t have Cameron Diaz’s glow, or Sandra Bullock’s natural sincerity. No intensity or passion, and no everywoman character that makes me want to know her. She always seems to just be there.

    • acevedob

      I absolutely loved this show. Thanks for the review guys :)

    • In_Stitches

      I hope this is more Penny Dreadful and less American Horror Story: Coven. Something tells me it’s going to be more Battlestar Gallactica, but we’ll have to see. I love the idea of a 10 episode ‘event series’, but in practice, I haven’t loved them very much. Couldn’t finish the first episode of Under the Done.

      • http://Reneesance.etsy.com Reneesance

        I’m still waiting for a sci fi series that I’ll love as much as the BSG reboot. If someone finds one please send up the bat signal for me.

      • fromanotherplanet

        Love Penny Dreadful. Eva Green just OWNS that show: OMG!!! Gutted about not seeing her name on the Emmy nominations list, but I read somewhere that the show wasn’t eligible because it aired past consideration deadline.

      • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

        I also couldn’t finish the first episode of Under the Dome.

    • NinjaCate

      I wasn’t sure if I should give this a chance yet mainly because when you tell me a woman is having a mythical pregnancy and she just got back from space, my next thought is “alien rape” and I didn’t want to watch a show that went there, but this review makes me think I should give it a chance. Maybe stick it out for a season and see where it goes.

    • Kate Andrews

      I watched last night — I LOVED the backwards-self-driven car and just Goran Visnjic in general back on my TV screen (he is still hot!), and Halle was good too. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next episodes.

    • Daktari100

      I give the show less credit for casting “world famous beauty Halle Berry” knowing there’d be an expectation that she’s going to look stunning in every scene. Introducing the audience to the character with a close-up on her face, post-vomiting, with a string of snot hanging off her mouth just seemed like an obvious way to subvert expectations. Audiences are becoming more sophististicated and plot savy, so I’m guessing a lot of viewers were probably already expecting the unexpected here; at least I was.

    • mjude

      I thought this episode was good. I watch so much trash tv that I am looking forward to this, a sci-fi fan I am.

    • Alanna

      I went in expecting another disposable summer series and wasn’t even all that interested in the premise… but damned if I didn’t find myself riveted.

      That said, between this and Orphan Black, can we please finish out 2014 without women’s ovaries becoming a crucial plot point in a television series? (Yeah, yeah, I know. They’re dealing with themes of reproductive rights and control over our bodies, etc. I’m just so freakin’ tired of so many multidimensional female characters’ arcs revolving around pregnancy.)

    • MilaXX

      I can’t disagree with anything but so far I’m interested enough to keep watching. It helps that beside Halle, who I personally think is only as good as the material/director surrounding her. It helps that I like a lot of this cast; Goren Visnjic. Hiroyuki Sanada (any Helix fans?), and Camryn Manheim.

      • mjude

        helix fan! :)

    • aahlife

      I am of the opinion that Halle gives good face, but falls flat in her acting. So very bugged by her huge hair fringe, often clumsily across her forehead into her eye. A futuristic hair style? Everyone else’s hair was standard current styles. Why not be consistent?

    • http://www.bertkeeter.com Bert Keeter

      Not only Hallie, but ALL the actors were terrible in this….. This production gave a new meaning to tedious! Don’t directors, writers, etc see this or get this? Boggles the mind!

    • JauntyJohn

      Your reaction to Ms. Berry’s work is identical to mine, so based on your review here I’m going to give this a try.

    • BobStPaul

      After the show was over, I said to my friend that I’d be very surprised I’d it lasts more than a season. Personally, I was not very impressed by Halle’s characterization.

    • Gatto Nero

      She killed me in “Monster’s Ball.”
      Then — what happened?

      • Sly

        I don’t think directors/produces/her agent gave her those kind of roles after Monsters Ball. I don’t like to say it’s because shes a Black actress, but I sometimes feel like its a contributing factor. I don’t Know… I’m glad to see her in something that utilizes her great acting though.

    • http://www.ericabunker.com Erica Bunker

      I don’t know anything about the technical aspect of directing. Nor am I a sci-fi fan. But hey, Halle is in it… it’s summertime and I’m watching. It seems like a good summertime tv show that you can escape the humidity to watch.

    • GeoDiva

      It’s hard for pilots of Sci-Fi shows to flow well since they have to jam so much info into the first episode. That being said, I was intrigued enough to watch a few more times to see if it can hook me. The production design was beautiful (can I live at her house?) and all the knit wear she wore was gorgeous. I love a good global conspiracy theme, so we have to see if this show can pull it off.

    • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

      OK – so I felt like I was channel surfing between AI and Solaris. I’ll give it another episode.

    • starzzguitar

      Where to begin? Molly=Halle. That’s because the actors kept calling Halle Berry “Halle”. (Oh, we can fix it in edit!). Big eyed GQ black guy stares at Molly in the spaceship and she gets pregnant. Oh please! The Virgin Mary would be proud. (Nobody believes my angel got me pregnant story!) Her nut-job scientist husband wants to throw the robot boy a birthday party! Yeah, whatever says Molly. (She wants to scream, he’s a machine, fool!) The “dead” astronaut in flashback confronts his dead wet mom in the spaceship. She points at his stomach like she want to get HIM pregnant! No can do. If she was imaginary, she would have stayed right where she was when he opened the airlock instead of getting sucked out into space. I did like that though, as she was really creepy. Another thing that bothered me was Molly looks JUST LIKE HALLE BERRY and her weird hair. Note to makeup: Was it too hard to give her a different hair style? Or is it in her contract that she has to look like herself all the time? And her name, how about Sharon or Liz? I love science fiction, too bad they messed this up.