‘Extant’ Review: Halle Berry Embraces Absurdity as Spielberg’s Alien-Invasion Returns to Earth

Oscar winner’s CBS series loses some of first season’s mystery in Season 2 premiere

Halle Berry, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Robert Voets/CBS)
Robert Voets/CBS

The Season 2 premiere of Halle Berry space thriller “Extant” on CBS seems to set up the Oscar winner to tell a more Earth-bound tale of government conspiracies and pedestrian alien threats.

Berry’s formerly high-flying astronaut Molly Woods, the victim of an alien sexual assault in Season 1, saved the planet along with her advanced-artificial intelligence son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon) in the first season finale.

What goes up must come down Molly learns after returning to Earth. Ethan safely tucked his consciousness away in a cloud — the hackers’ delight, not the fluffy, sky-bunny type — after he blew up the alien microbe-infected space station at the end of the first season. But he spared his flesh-and-blood mom and along with her, the alien microbes that hitched a ride in her circulatory system — or nervous system. One never knows just how alien microbes might claim the shotgun seat in a human host.

At least not yet.

Halle Berry, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Robert Voets/CBS)
Robert Voets/CBS

Answers to the hows and whys of this alien race are to come, as promised by Molly’s psych-ward breakout and new partner-in-sleuthing JD Richter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who establishes his studly male charms immediately upon introduction in the series. The two are burdened with solving mysterious murders that Molly ties to her otherworldly attackers.

Molly’s extraterrestrial and emotional challenges threaten to overwhelm both the character and the actress, but Berry rallies in the second half of the premiere, seeming to finally embrace the absurdity of the space-invader plot with a “if we’re doing this, let’s do this” determination. It coincides with the character giving up on fighting the powers that be and being given permission to fully own her crazy.

Richter’s swaggering lone-wolf lawman has been drawn and redrawn so many times throughout literary and filmed-entertainment history that it’s a good thing for “Extant” that Morgan is generally such a likable performer (see: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Supernatural”), because in the season’s first episode, not much suggests that new trails will be blazed in this sketch of the roguish cop. A warm smile and the promise to look after broken Molly married with their uneasy partnership provide enough amiable uncertainty to be intriguing.

Grace Gummer returns as jealous and manipulative lab assistant Julie Gelineau, while Goran Visnjic guests as Molly’s husband John.

The episode was written by executive producers Liz Kruger and Craig Shapiro, and directed by Dan Lerner.

“Extant” Season 2 premieres Wednesday, July 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS