The verdict is in on Extrapolations’ finale [Apple TV+ recap] ★★☆☆☆
Extrapolations creator Scott Z. Burns brings his wildly misguided and ambitious Apple TV+ show about global warming, to a close this week the only way he possibly could: with a lengthy, boring courtroom drama
The cast comes out for a bow to sum up, loudly and with no subtext, all of Burns’ findings and thoughts about global climate change and how people need to do something about it. The Extrapolations finale, entitled “2070: Ecocide,” proves just as thrilling as it sounds.
Extrapolations finale recap: ‘2070: Ecocide’
Season 1, episode 6: Nick Bilton (played by Kit Harington) has been arrested, leaving his second-in-command Martha Russell (Diane Lane) in charge of his billion-dollar empire and his tech company, Alpha. Arrested by an international criminal court, Nick faces a trial for crimes against the planet.
The charge is “eco-side” (hah! Sorry, sorry … it’s very serious), or the deliberate hastening of global warming. The trial is being simulcast around the world because everyone in the world is invested, especially his daughter, Decima (Lily Buchanan, though the charcter’s played by Waverly Corinne Meier in flashbacks).
Famous human rights lawyer Lucy Adobo (MaameYaa Boafo) has gathered a passel of expert witnesses to testify. First up, Rebecca Haddad Shearer (Sienna Miller, now buried under old-age makeup) talks about the destruction of whales so Bilton can make people pay money to see clones of them.
Bilton’s defense attorney (Murray Bartlett) brings up the fact that her son, Ezra (Tahar Rahim), deleted his mother from his memory by accident, through the use of Alpha technology. How he knows this is anyone’s guess. However, he tries to use it as plausible cause for her to falsify her testimony. Either way, Rebecca’s dead 12 hours later — either thrown or jumped off a skyscraper.
It’s the overheated trial of the overheated century!
Next, witness Jonathan Chopin (Edward Burns) talks about working on a machine for Alpha designed to take carbon out of the air. Flawed from the start, the system never worked properly. So, Bilton fired Chopin and put Martha Russell in charge. Bilton viewed an imperfect, short-term solution as more profitable.
Bilton’s lawyer makes a compelling enough case that Chopin is testifying so that the same international court will take pity on Chopin’s son, Rowan (Michael Gandolfini), who was arrested after he and his stepmom released calcium carbonate into the atmosphere. His testimony is omitted.
Then we hear from Arden Miller (Anna Deavere Smith), a bank worker who resigned when she discovered her company was working with Alpha. The reason for her outrage involves a woman named Matafele Kabua from the Marshall Islands who went to M.I.T. to study climate change. Kabua was going to make a device that would make the planet carbon neutral. That device’s name? The Decima … named after her daughter … the one who is watching the trial and is just putting together that Bilton killed her and adopted her daughter.
Betrayals all around
Decima’s not the only one watching the trial and feeling betrayed. Martha Russell has been approached by Lucy Adobo and asked to testify, but she knows only too well what happens when you try to bring down Nick Bilton.
No one is shocked much when Bilton beats the charges and is set free. When he goes to Lucy’s office to gloat, he brings up the death of her lover, Tyrone Downs (Ben Harper), and offers to let her know who killed him in exchange for a friendlier attitude from her law firm. He brings her footage of Martha talking about killing Tyrone. Lucy confronts Martha about this, and finally offers up her last bit of leverage: Decima. She knows enough to bring Nick down, and she’s in the mood to do it.
Let it all out, Johnny Boy!
It was a risky thing putting Kit Harington at the center of the Extrapolations universe. He did an OK job in the first episode, where he played a spoiled playboy with the looks to hide his evil intentions, sort of a young Terence Stamp figure. By the finale, however, they’re asking quite a bit more of the actor. Now he’s being kept eternally young by mad science, so has a bizarre sheen over him. He looks like he’s encased in plastic, his eye skin pulled taut.
The model here is a cross between Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch. And Harington certainly plays petulant and evil fine enough. It’s just that this is such an inhuman caricature of those people it’s difficult to take seriously. Watching Harington cackling and braying during the testimony (“Let it all out, Johnny Boy!” he screams at Edward Norton, which got a laugh out of me), and mumbling miserably at home, is just an awful lot.
Of course, even if Harington’s performance weren’t so weird, the Extrapolations finale wouldn’t have become magically less lopsided. People do like a trial sequence, as evinced by Dick Wolf‘s whole career, but there is a trick to pulling them off effectively. Director Michael Morris limits the trial to people talking flatly at each other in a mostly empty room while a laminated Kit Harington stares on in disgust. (To be fair, Morris’ directing isn’t bad here. His images split the difference between sterile and inviting in a very accurate reflection of nouveau-riche corporate aesthetics.)
Extrapolations‘ ridiculous finale won’t change anything
Not quite the finale I’d have chosen, but again, we have to remember that show creator Scott Z. Burns means this to be his magnum opus, his The Lathe of Heaven–meets-Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. So he simply must put the most evil man alive on trial for doing global warming.
Extrapolations just had to end this way … which is to say: the most ridiculously over-cranked fashion possible. The whole season I’ve been writing that there are better ways to effect change than a TV show on a niche streaming service. But then this is the height of LA activism.
People have to believe their chosen medium can change things. If you stop believing that then what are we doing here? Just making TV? Yes … yes you are. I, too, would like if it a TV show could fix our real-world problems. But it cannot.
Watch Extrapolations on Apple TV+
New episodes of Extrapolations arrive each Friday on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.