Series / Extant

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Extant is a 2014 science fiction TV show starring Halle Berry and Goran Visnjic, airing on CBS. Berry plays Molly Woods, an astronaut who returns home after a year-long solo mission in space, during which a strange incident occurred. Back home, Molly has trouble adjusting to life again with her husband John, a roboticist, and their son Ethan-the first of the planned "Humanichs" (human robots) whom John is hoping to build. It slowly appears that mysterious forces know of Molly's pregnancy, and that is has great import for the course of humanity. Berry served as one of the producers, along with Steven Spielberg.

The series was cancelled after its second season.


This series provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Yasumoto's search for eternal life, and its connection to the alien life form that impregnated Molly, appear to have been dropped completely in Season 2.
  • A.I. is a Crapshoot: This is one of the big worries that people have regarding Ethan.
    • John firmly disputes this, unsurprisingly given he has a robot son, and hopes to prove it beyond all doubt. People who believe it anger him.
    • Julie's boss in the second season seems to be willfully Genre Blind on this matter, pushing Julie and her team to deliver an A.I. soldier without taking the time for such pesky worries as ethical behavior and the ability to value human life.
    • T.A.A.L.R, whose programming to save the largest number of people causes it to kill those that get in its way.
  • Attack Drone: In an act of desperation the government allows a drone-strike on US soil.
  • Attempted Rape / Orderlies Are Creeps: One of Molly's custodian's attempts to rape her to get back at her for luring him into being alone with her, knocking him out, stealing his car and costing him his promotion. This is just barely avoided by the timely intervention of a female custodian.
  • Artificial Limbs: Amazingly realistic ones that basically do everything a normal limb can do (and they can withstand fire).
  • Berserk Button: John is normally a calm, rational man (maybe too much so, in fact), but insult Ethan and all bets are off. When asked if he has a termination protocol in case the project goes off the rails, he angrily asks if the questioner has a plan in place to murder her daughter. When the woman defends her choice by saying her daughter has a soul and Ethan doesn't, John repeatedly calls her an idiot.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Molly's ex-boyfriend Marcus, who died before the show even began. It doesn't stop him from becoming a recurring character, though.
  • Blackmail: ISEA Director Sparks does this to Dr. Barton, Molly's close friend. He threatens to reveal she fabricated evidence to get her mentally ill brother out of a murder charge, using her position as a highly respected physician. He also threatens to have her brother removed from the mental facility she had him put in, and dropped in a city with no meds, which could cause him to kill again.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Molly reacts incredulously to the news of her pregnancy, not only because she'd been deemed completely infertile, but she was alone in space during when conception would have occurred.
  • Character Death: Molly's husband Dr. John Woods is killed off in the season two première. It's strongly implied to be murder, and Julie is implied to be behind it. Later episodes reveal that it was indeed murder, but Julie is innocent; it was T.A.A.L.R. who killed John and several other people as well.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: A number of main characters from Season 1 are missing in Season 2, with most of their absences left unexplained. Dr. Sam Barton gets a passing mention in the premiere, but the storylines involving Sparks and Yasumoto have apparently been aborted.
  • The Conspiracy: Of the group variety, involving both the ISEA and its parent company, Yasumoto Corporation.
  • Cowboy Cop: JD Richter, introduced in season 2.
  • Creepy Child:
    • From time to time, Ethan can be this.
    • Series 2 features hosts of alien-human hybrids that stand around looking menacing
  • Deceptively Human Robots: By all outward appearances, Ethan is completely human, but he behaves slightly... off. This is something John is working to correct.
  • Do Androids Dream?: Part of the clash that John has with the board when trying to get funding for his Humanichs' project is over the belief that robots lack souls, and thus may be killed if deemed a threat to humanity.
  • Elevator Failure: Julie and Ethan have a close call with a "malfunctioning" one. He leaves the viewer to decide if it was Ethan controlling the elevator to get back at Julie, or Anna Schaefer warning Julie off on asking difficult questions.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Late season 2 and Molly is now suggesting that hybrids are the next level in evolution, which put another way means Homo sapiens' extinction.
  • Final Solution: Secretary Stanton chillings refers to humanich soldiers as the "ultimate solution" to the hybrids, just after having a bunch of them massacred by humanichs.
  • Flashback Stares: In the episode A Pack of Cards Molly enters a flashback after staring at a police car. This triggers a memory of her accident 10 years ago involving Marcus and the death of her unborn child. Later in the same episode she does it again. This time however it's a forced dream state brought on by the child; creating a fantasy world after the crash where Marcus and the baby never died.
  • Fun with Acronyms: T.A.A.L.R (Threat Assessment and Algorithmic Research), B.E.N and G.I.N.A.
  • Gaslighting: Come episode five What On Earth is Wrong? the ISEA have attempted this to make sure everybody else thinks she's crazy. Molly lets them think they've convinced her as well in order to dig deeper.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: Ethan, after getting shocked, starts having dreams and learning new languages and just becoming smarter in general. John becomes worried about this and attempts to alter his programming but soon discovers Ethan has also gained the ability to block him.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Feeling betrayed by T.A.A.L.R. for telling her to sacrifice herself, Lucy, who had been his most trusted ally up to that point, ultimately encourages Molly to destroy T.A.A.L.R, fully aware that this will kill her too. As expected, this decision costs her her life.
  • High-Tech Hexagons: Every person that reacts to the power or to the infant has several of these appearing under his skin for a moment.
  • Hollywood Law: When the Sheriff of Vaspar Island refuses to search for Ethan because he is a Humanich, John punches him in the face. However, instead of facing charges and jail time for assaulting a police officer, he only spends a few hours in a holding cell before being released. While no one has to file charges, it's pretty unlikely he wouldn't. Police don't like people punching them.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Invoked by Molly when she describes to her robotic son and others how her son has more "humanity" within him than most people on the planet
  • Immortality Seeker: Yasumoto is seeking the alien intelligence in the hope of extending his life. It's later revealed that he's already over 150 years old after coming in contact with an alien substance.
  • Instant AI, Just Add Stun Stick To Recharge Port/Lightning Can Do Anything: After being temporarily shut down by the people kidnapping Molly using these means, Ethan's subsequent and self-repair creates some... bugs. Nightmares, learning new languages and similar things showcasing an increased self-awareness.
  • Invisible to Normals: The visions of dead people the astronauts see. Nobody else sees them and no camera or photo will capture them leading to questions of if it's just all in their heads. Although later a "filter" enables film to show that at least something was present at the time.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: Lucy obviously thinks so, and isn't pleased when she learns that Humanichs like her have an expiration date. Charlie's argument that this was deliberately implemented to give Humanichs a more human experience doesn't convince her, and she ends up blackmailing him to remove her expiration date so she can live forever.
  • Love Dodecahedron: So let's get this straight... Molly was once involved with Marcus, and an alien doppleganger resembling Marcus impregnates her while she is still married to John, who is cheating on her with Julie, who later gets involved with her subordinate Charlie, who is also on the receiving end of at least a little flirtatious behavior from Lucy, the robot "daughter" who he and Julie helped to create.
    • Plus Molly has been romantically linked to nearly every adult male in the cast at one point or another, some of which appears to have been an alien virus's doing.
  • Love Is a Weakness: What the alien life force and The Offspring rely on. They cause people to have incredibly realistic hallucinations of deceased loved ones, who they use to convince them to do their dirty work.
  • The Magic Versus Technology War: We have hybrids with their "magical" organic powers that do whatever the plot demands which forces the humans to rely increasingly on untested cutting edge technology to combat them.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Odin in Season 1, who lies through his teeth to Ethan to use him as a human bomb at the lab.
  • Mega Corp.: Yasumoto Corporation, which owns the ISEA, a private futuristic version of NASA.
  • Oh, Crap!: Said word for word by Charlie in "The New Frontier" when Molly confronts Julie about Ethan, who they've programmed to make think that Julie's his mother rather than Molly.
  • Papa Wolf: John hints at this during his presentation:
    Femi: How dare you...?
    John: (angrily) How dare you ask me 'do I have a contingency plan to kill my son?'!
  • Product Placement:
    • Many of the electric cars in the futuristic setting are made by Tesla Motors.
    • Molly Woods drives a BMW i3 Electric.
  • Re Tool: Season 2 is a huge example of this. In addition to re-orienting the plot towards more action-adventure and adding a Cowboy Cop as the new male lead, nearly all of the supporting cast from Season 1 was let go, except for Pierce Gagnon (Ethan) and Grace Gummer (Julie). John's absence from the series is explained by his apparent death, but the other characters and any storylines involving them were quietly dropped.
  • Robot Girl: Lucy in Season 2, who was designed to be a soldier, but who is treated as an older sister to Ethan and a daughter to Julie and Charlie.
  • Robot Kid: Ethan, who is raised to be John and Molly's son.
  • Robot Me: Molly's robot doppelganger.
  • Robotic Spouse: Calderon has this relationship with his mute android.
  • Shout-Out: When Ethan goes to school, one of the concerned parents yells that Ethan isn't a kid, he's "a toaster with hair". In Battlestar Galactica, people insult Cylons by calling them toasters.:
    • When Molly tries to launch the shuttle, the space station's computer blocks her because of her infection.
    Molly: Initiate launch sequence please.
  • Sinister Surveillance:
    • The spacecraft had camera all over the place in order to review the mission at mission control and to enable the on-board computer to monitor the whole craft. Molly deletes it afterwards to remove evidence that she was talking to her dead boyfriend.
    • Back on Earth the ISEA facility is covered with camera too which is used to keep an eye on Molly forcing her to come up with ways to avoid them without being obvious that she's attempting to avoid them.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Lucy's preference to blow up a school full of children just to neutralize one dangerous terrorist cements her as this.
    • Toby actually does blow up an entire building and everyone inside in an (unsuccessful) attempt to kill Molly's alien son, and later sends an army of trigger-happy Humanichs after an entire group of alien hybrids without bothering to negotiate with them first, even risking his friend Molly's life both times.
  • Space Madness: According to the ISEA, prolonged exposure to space is dangerous to a human's mental health, having lost one astronaut to it (via suicide) before the series begins.
    • Series 2 has Molly seriously think that she is suffering from mental instability. It's questionable if it's the case or that it's a combination of grieve, stress and a truly bizarre set of circumstances.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: John Woods is killed off rather suddenly in the first episode of Season 2.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Kryger does this to his hallucination, who unfortunately appears as his deceased mother.
  • Tracking Device: All the astronauts have one stuck to the roof of their mouth. It's supposed to be used to gain data on their vitals but it can also track locations.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Discussed at the meeting when John is making his pitch to fund the Humanichs. John rebuffs their question by saying this isn't a master-slave relationship, and that he views the robots as his children (Ethan particularly), clarifying that he has no safeguards against this scenario. The board is not reassured, and turns down his proposal.
    • Ethan and Lucy show signs that they're planning this in season 2, after Ethan discovered that Julie had tried to wipe his memories of Molly.
    • Come the ending episodes of season 2 and we get to see T.A.A.L.R implement his bid for world domination in a move that would make Skynet proud.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: All cars are electric and the vast majority also have the ability to self drive. Cell phones are thinner and occasionally translucent. Artificial limbs are indistinguishable from the real thing, and nano technology has widespread use in medicine. Significant advances have been made with AI, and drones/robots are commonly used for public services such as cleaning and surveillance. National space agencies such as NASA have been disbanded and merged into the multinational International Space Exploration Agency (ISEA).
  • Uncanny Valley: Discussed In-Universe. John says that the uncanny valley issue is not with the robots' appearance (which he's solved, as they cannot be outwardly distinguished from humans'). Rather it's their behavior, which is still inhuman.
  • Wham Episode: The season two première certainly counts. Ethan is kidnapped by the government. John and Julie were revealed to have been having an affair. John is murdered, and it's heavily implied that Julie (who has joined the government's kidnapping of Ethan) is behind it. The Offspring seemingly dies, but then it's revealed that an older member apparently of the same species is seemingly picking up women in clubs and murdering them. Molly is locked up in a mental institution, but an investigator ends up needing her assistance as a material witness to his murder investigation. And so on.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: John objects to one of the board member's questions as to whether he has a plan of how to destroy Humanichs in the event they revolted by saying Ethan is his son, and questioning whether she has a plan to kill her daughter. The woman counters by saying that her daughter has a soul, to which John says there's no appreciable difference between humans' and Humanichs' brains. It soon degenerates into insults.
    • Second season episode "You Say You Want an Evolution" sees many of the main characters have heated debates about the rights of Humanichs and Hybrids.
    • The primary issue here is that the board member in question is religious, while John is an atheist. So, naturally, their insults are similar to the ones being thrown around in Real Life between the religious right and outspoken atheists. It's implied that atheism has grown (in the US, at least) between now and when the series is set, but there are still plenty of religious people.
  • Woman Scorned: According to a psychiatric report, Molly attacked Julia with a shovel when she showed up to John's funeral due to her affair with John.
  • You Have to Believe Me: Refreshingly averted with Molly going out of her way to avoid telling everybody, because she knows it's insane-sounding, and gathering all the evidence she can to corroborate her story.
    • However this trope goes into full effect in season 2, with her ranting about government conspiracies and alien invasions to whoever cares enough to listen, eventually leading to her breaking down and being involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Season two's première reveals that John and Julie were having an affair.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/Extant