Apple TV+ climate disaster show Extrapolations takes a road trip this week to the sweltering underbelly of a continent in crisis. Across two long days, unlikely allies will transport a secret package that many other interested parties are gunning for.
Extrapolations is essentially an omnibus series about the future, as seen through the eyes of people affected by climate change. That means every episode bears a distinct identity. In this week’s installment, entitled “2059 Part II: Nightbirds,” the creative team hits upon something partly neo-realist, partly Bourne-inspired action and party speculative fiction. It’s the most consistent and engrossing episode of the very patchy show so far.
Extrapolations recap: ‘2059 Part II: Nightbirds’
Season 1, episodes 5: We’ve seen Gaurav (played by Adarsh Gourav) before. He was on the street when the private security fleet owned by Nicholas Bilton (Kit Harington) blew up the plane of would-be environmental terrorist Gita (Indira Varma). She had threatened to release calcium carbonate all over the world, forcing the hands of millions to combat climate change.
Gaurav had no idea about any of that, of course. He’s a small-time hood in Mumbai. He’s on a job now, and he’s been paired with the foul-mouthed, short-tempered, sarcastic Neel (Gaz Choudhry), who immediately proves a thorn in Gaurav’s side. They have to get to Varanasi, which is 12 hours by truck, so they need to leave now.
Neel’s nursing a breakup. His girlfriend left him after he lost his leg, and he wants to talk about it, along with everything else in his life. Gaurav usually works alone and does not want to talk. Mumbai is a dangerous place to live, even if you don’t factor in Gaurav’s criminal side hustles. The air isn’t breathable, and everyone has to fight for hits of oxygen on the street. Birds can’t fly during the day anymore, so they crash into cars a lot more often.
Gaurav turned to crime when his family’s farm collapsed and his father killed himself. He doesn’t have a lot of hope for the future. Neel does, though, and he tries desperately to get his new companion to get some.
And the contraband cargo is …
They don’t get too far before the police shake them down, beating them pretty badly, but they’ve got a pretty good cover story for the stolen goods in the back. Unfortunately, the cops don’t want to hear it. Somehow, Neel manages to get the drop on the police and shoot his way out.
They make it to the first checkpoint, then trade cars and pick up a new passenger, a genetic scientist (played by Waris Ahluwalia, always a welcome sight) who was hit by a burst of radiation sickness. Now he’s only lucid a few minutes a day. They also learn what kind of contraband they’re carrying: seeds. The trouble is, someone else (Keri Russell) is looking for them. And she doesn’t seem like she’ll be as careless as the corrupt cops.
Neel makes a foolhardy decision to help a little boy (Dhruv Jagan Badireddy) in danger of dying from intense sun poisoning — and almost dies for his altruism. The boy’s family takes in the three travelers for the night. That’s when Ms. Someone Else shows up and a bloody gunfight ensues. The seeds are safe … at great cost. The question is, will it have been worth it?
Solid directing and writing trump a preachy cli-fi message
I didn’t know the name Richie Mehta before it showed up under the “directed by” credit in this week’s episode of Extrapolations, and that made for a pleasant surprise. Mehta’s been making what sound like dependable, solid movies in a number of genres for the last two decades. And I think his not having the ego of some other directors means that he really just tells this story with as little nonsense as possible.
Prolific playwright Rajiv Joseph scripts this week’s episode. And though he occasionally reaches for theatrical devices and over-enunciates his themes, compared to the previous entries in this series, he might as well be Samuel Beckett. Together, the two men make something that just flies to its violent outcome.
The touchstones were likely not simply show creator Scott Z. Burns’ Bourne movie script, but that’s basically the territory we’re in, with a little neo-neo-realism thrown in. (It gets nowhere near as dark, but the idea of a nighttime odyssey into darkness and violence reminded of Brillante Mendoza’s Kinatay, a movie I’m sure at least nine other people have seen.)
All hail Keri Russell
The violence was quite effectively utilized as well. Keri Russell (who you might have seen in Felicity or The Americans) showing up and just laying waste to folks was quite unexpected. Extrapolations isn’t necessarily afraid of going dark, but there’s metaphorical bleakness (which could very easily have been the title of this show) and then there’s the sight of people bleeding to death in an impoverished village.
The key to this episode working while the others flail and drown is that it’s tangentially related to the show’s broader themes at best. Yes, Neel’s optimism is meant to be a kind of stand-in for the creators’ worldview (and spoiler alert: he isn’t rewarded for it). But the global climate change stuff this week acts merely as set dressing. The protagonists could have been hauling gold or radium or something. Doesn’t matter.
Admittedly, this dilutes the moral of the story. But I’ll take it over being hit in the head with the least-subtle version of “Hey people, we’re doomed! Do something!” like I am every other week by Extrapolations.
Watch Extrapolations on Apple TV+
New episodes of Extrapolations arrive each Friday on Apple TV+.
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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.