Well, that sure was different!
Extant Season 2 Episode 1 attempts a complete reboot of the show, trying to cure the problems of the very flawed and busy Extant Season 1, with the goal of getting back to the show's promising roots and premise.
There were definitely some improvements in this premiere, but some of the underlying issues with the series were still coming through loud and clear.
The big problem I had with Extant's first season (a problem that I think many critics of the show were picking up on) was that it was far too busy and couldn't quite get a grip on which of its many plot threads were interesting and deserving of attention.
Molly's obsessive focus on her alien offspring, for one, wasn't interesting and was also logically problematic. The character of Ethan and the moral/legal/theological implications of a figure like him were much more interesting and could have used more attention.
"Change Scenario" employed all of the best show reboot tools: there was a time jump, a swift shedding of excess baggage (farewell, John!), and an injection of new blood to get the ball rolling in a new direction. I was prepared for all of these changes to feel hasty and clunky, but they were surprisingly well-administered.
JD, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, definitely has promise. Granted, a lot of that promise has to do with JDM's fantastic chemistry (the man could honestly exude sexual tension playing off of a cement wall, so it would have been hard for them to go wrong there).
JD: You are crazy.
Molly: Maybe a little. But crazy's all you got. Drive fast.
JD and Molly's chemistry was played up hard and fast, and already the two have way more appeal than the Molly/John coupling. The fact that JD's introductory scene featured him in the midst of sex definitely set up where they're going to take the JD/Molly relationship (I could be jumping the gun about that, but I'm probably not).
One thing I always enjoyed about the first season, despite all of its myriad difficulties, was the world-building that was done. It rarely felt heavy-handed, and the technology of Molly's future world always seemed realistic and interesting. Observing JD's bounty hunter system was one example of that – it was very nicely handled, and on top of that we got some characterization of our new male lead thrown in, too.
Computer: Would you like a partner?
JD: Heh. Kills me you still ask.
Computer: I'm a computer, I have to follow the rules.
JD: That is how fascism starts. No, no partner.
There was a lot going on in this hour, and the only thing that felt a bit rushed was John's exit. I had a huge problem with Julie's obvious infatuation with John all last season, and Molly largely ignoring it. It definitely needed to be dealt with, but their confrontation seemed very sudden.
I did cheer when she laid into him about the affair with Julie, though. Halle Berry's acting has been consistently top notch, even when the clunky writing didn't deserve her all, and the fight with John was a prime example of her stellar performances.
I was expecting John to be quietly ushered off stage as a result of the breakup of John and Molly's marriage – I definitely was NOT expecting them to kill him off on top of that. Although, we never did see his actual death or his body, so I suspect they are keeping that character in reserve, just in case they ever want to trot him out again to cause dramatic tension.
Julie's reaction to John's refusal to participate in upgrading Humanichs for national security defense was very suspicious, as was her random phone call after John left the room. Part of me believes she was somehow responsible for John's subsequent death – a death that was clearly rigged. Someone put a hit out on John and tampered with his car – my money is on his scorned lover, Julie.
I feel terrible that poor Ethan is stuck with fake-mommy Julie. The kid is clearly miserable, and even Julie can see that her "rabbit" is not enjoying living with her. Now that Molly has managed to escape Restwell, I hope she finds time between crime-solving and flirty banter with JD to go and reclaim her son from Julie the homewrecker.
Though I did appreciate the revitalized format they seem to be going with (JD and Molly, solving the mystery), and the way they've pared down excessive characters and storylines, the dialogue was still clunky as ever. Some moments were better than others (like Molly's back and forth as the Mental Health Board listed her offenses), but others (like the guard calling Ethan a robot, and Julie pleading with John to be a family with her and Ethan) were just cringe-worthy.
Mental Health Board: Several drunk and disorderlies.
Molly: Well, I call that a good time, but whatever.
MHB: Burning down your house.
Molly: Not the whole house. And I have learned my lesson about playing with matches. Never do that when you're angry.
MHB: Attacking a Ms. Julie Gelineau with a shovel?
Molly: She screwed my husband and then had the nerve to show up at his funeral. Now, I think I should be committed if I didn't smack her!
Finally, the installment ended on a return to Molly's alien offspring. As soon as the original offspring began twitching in front of that baby, I expected that he'd be changing form.
Toby confirmed that the offspring's deceased body was in government custody, meaning that (as expected) the alien body-jumped and is now a twenty- or thirty-something trolling a singles bar. Guessing that encountering her grown alien son will be an awkward moment for Molly.
What did you all think of the season premiere of Extant? How are you liking the introduction of JD? Did the attempted reboot work for you, or did it fall short of your expectations? Be sure to watch Extant online and let us know in the comments below whether you think the series' attempted overhaul is a hit or a miss so far!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.