'Extant': Reinventing the Sci-Fi Show With Craziness and Romance

·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment

Extant’s new second season wastes no time in convincing you it’s not going to be the carefully overwrought showcase for Halle Berry it was last year. The plot jumps ahead six months, and the action is jumpier — faster, bumpier, more fun. So is Berry’s astronaut Molly Woods, who’s referred to in the Wednesday night season premiere as “an arsonist and an escape artist,” which at the very least is a novel hook for an Oscar-winner trying to revitalize and hang onto a weekly TV series. Not for nothing is the new episode titled “Change Scenario.”

In the new, satisfyingly Earth-bound Extant, Molly is both a hero (hailed by a Congressional committee and finding an ally in The Walking Dead’s David Morrissey, playing the head of an ominous government off-shoot, the Global Security Commission) and a dangerous maverick (let’s put it this way: she spends a chunk of the premiere in a mental hospital — er, rest home).

Her marriage is in crisis (don’t expect to see much of Goran Visnjic) and she forms a new alliance with a combo cop/bounty-hunter played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Although he’s the type of rugged dude whose idea of complimenting Molly is to say things like, “Why is it all the good women are crazy?,” he’s not a complete a-hole. Indeed, Extant’s new showrunners, Liz Kruger and Craig Shapiro, are banking on you finding the chemistry between Molly and Morgan’s JD Richter compelling.

Related: ‘Extant’: 5 Ways the Show Plans to Be Better

It is, to some extant. I mean, extent. Extant gets the season moving with Molly and JD teaming up to investigate a series of deaths of women who were pregnant with… what? The hour implies a lot of alien invasion/government conspiracy plot lines that can always prove troublesome if they’re not handled with clarity and originality: If we wanted a show that calls back elements of The X-Files, well, we already know we’re getting an X-Files reboot in a few months.
No, it looks as though Kruger and Shapiro have a handle on how to make Extant more engaging, and Berry’s performance certainly seems liberated by the new changes.

Extant airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.