Overnight, an island appears off the California coast. The team of ecologists tasked with its exploration must face the danger of the island's mysterious and dangerous ecosystem while evading a team of corporate mercenaries trying to sabotage their mission and drain the island’s resources.
The appearance of an island
An island suddenly appears off the coast of Los Angeles. Though evidence of the island is found in photography and maps dating back decades, no one has any memory of it being there and satellite imagery shows no trace of human influence. FEMA blocks off the island and the government is tight-lipped about anything they discover. The island is christened ‘Manifest’ by the scientific community and grabs the popular imagination, becoming the subject of a media frenzy. Corporations elbow each other out of the way for rights to Manifest‘s natural resources. Everyone is clamoring to know what’s on the island.
A team of ecologists is assembled to explore Manifest — a pair of married ecologists, a gung-ho explorer, a documentarian, and a social influencer. They find a bevy of undiscovered species on the island, including evolutionary missing links and organisms with immense scientific promise. They eagerly collect samples and document their experience, sending thrilling reports back to the mainland. But as they delve deeper into the island, a sense of foreboding looms. The ecological rules are different than the ones they're used to, more parasitic, more brutal. The island is divided into distinct biomes, each more intense and threatening than the last. They encounter cryptic signs and warnings — evidence of something ominous on the island. Fear and paranoia creates rifts between the explorers.
Back at headquarters, a conspiracy emerges — before being shown to the public, the team’s dispatches are swapped out with scenes shot on a sound stage . The masterminds of the expedition discover imaging that shows a mysterious mineral deposit under the island and they send in a team of corporate mercenaries disguised as ‘reinforcements.’ On the island, the two teams clash and tension ramps up. As madness sets in, they begin to realize the mysterious life force behind the island is a dangerous and valuable one, and that a war is coming — whether the war is between the scientists and mercenaries or between the explorers and the island itself remains to be seen.
The first season of EXTRACTION is divided into eight hour-long episodes, each packed with action and containing several twists and turns as layers of the conspiracy are revealed and new parties are introduced. The tension and stakes ramp up as each episode progresses, always ending in a cliffhanger. There’s a time jump between each episode to build complexity and create a disorienting effect reflective of the island’s nature.
Tone & Style
EXTRACTION is a comedy at heart. Over-the-top personalities and attitudes toward the natural world are skewered as they fumble through this strange environment. The comedy is satirical with elaborate visual gags derived from the grotesqueness of nature. With the creepiness of the unfamiliar lurking around every corner — and with the ugliness of humanity emerging as they’re pushed further and ulterior motives are introduced — horror inevitably creeps in.
EXTRACTION also contains a healthy dose of social and political commentary as we explore the motivations behind exploration. Each character has a different reason for their mission — personality flaws, life experiences, financial stakes, and more. The sinister forces at play are reminiscent of those in the real world (the United States government, corporate entities like Blackwater, SpaceX, and Lockheed Martin), but there is no ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ The lines are blurred, the pawns switch sides, and allegiances shift. Special care should be taken to avoid heavy-handed political commentary, instead focusing on the individuals involved.
ANTHONY (28) and CHLOE GREEN (32), a pair of newlyweds who recently completed post-docs at a prestigious ecology program. Their research is already drawing attention from the academic community. Hot, smart, and in love, they feel ready for anything.
KLAUS LUDWIG (71), a world-renowned German documentarian in the vein of Werner Herzog. With a worldview bordering on fatalistic, he turns the camera on his fellow explorers almost as often as the natural world.
PARIS TURAN (25), a self-branded ‘hot ecologist’ with a million Instagram followers. Though his work speaks for itself, he constantly battles the impression his good looks and spacey demeanor give people (while simultaneously benefitting from it).
RICKY PALOMINO (40), a gung-ho explorer who wears a signature tie dye bucket hat and carries a bowie knife on expeditions. She was the first to summit K2 without oxygen and makes a game of ticking off accomplishments. Her enthusiasm is increasigly at odds with her aging body.
DOCTOR CARLYLE SPINK (79), an eccentric scientist in charge of the base camp. Unkempt white hair, Coke bottle glasses, and hand tremors disguise his immense, calculating intellect. He's ruthless and will do anything to procure funding, including working with shady corporations and government agencies.
TOPHER HERMANN (34), a 'profitability specialist' hired to assess the island’s natural resources. Also the heir to a huge agriculture company, he's a handsome, charming, slick- talking trust fund kid who's able to win someone's allegiance and exploit it in one fell swoop.
NIGEL HARGROVE (41), one of Topher's security specialists. A hard-ass who served in Afghanistan with the British Special Air Service, he's got a bevy of haunting war stories he’ll never tell.
ANGELICA REYES (42), the 'Filipina Rattlesnake,' another of Topher's security specialists. Kicked out of UFC for biting, Angel has a temper and a chip on her shoulder. She's a raving fan of a micro-genre of metal music called ‘pornogrind.’
Manifest appears 10 miles off the coast of Los Angeles between Catalina Island and the Channel Islands, a little smaller than both — roughly six miles across and perfectly circular. The island is divided into concentric rings, each separated by a 50-foot barrier of lifeless salt and containing completely distinct biomes that grow more unfamiliar as the explorers move inland.
Throughout the island are small, iridescent metallic spheres roughly six inches in diameter. These appear with increasing frequency as the teams move deeper into the island, first appearing as lone spheres and later in piles. These spheres have a magnetic power over those who encounter them, compelling explorers to collect them and squirrel them away in secret.
A chaparral environment almost identical to the California coast. Environmental aberrations: Nearly-extinct California flora and packs of wild Pomeranians.
A tropical jungle similar to those in Borneo. Environmental aberrations: Plants with cross- species genetic mutations —lilies with bilateral petals, plants with animal tendencies, ‘charismatic megaflora’ like giant bug-eating orchids and palms with mirrored leaves, and giant insects like rhino-sized beetles and eagle-sized dragonflies.
A swamp featuring floating islands of vegetation, quicksand, and abnormally-deep channels. Environmental aberrations: Familiar species like elephants, giraffes, and whales at miniscule proportions. The inverse also exists — whale-sized alligators and snapping turtles capable of swallowing a man whole.
A sandy terrestrial reef featuring birds that resemble tropical fish and outcroppings of a coral-like organism that poisons anything it touches, absorbing it into the reef and covering it with a colorful toxic film.
A hostile environment that identifies the most powerful and resonant memory of the intruder and manifests it into reality, forcing you to relive intense or even traumatic experiences. For example, Angel — an Iraq war veteran — sees this biome a a war-torn Fallujah.
Annihilation, Evoltion, Ash vs. Evil Dead
At the end of the pilot, a few key things happen that point toward the rest of the season:
The red slugs from the island start showing up on beaches in California, then on sidewalks in Los Angeles. In future episodes, the slugs spread quickly across the city, indicating the beginning of a massive invasive species problem.
Crash encounters Operative Alpha’s team and suspects something suspicious is happening on the island. He leaves Paris a message telling him he’ll come to the island if he doesn’t hear back. In future episodes, Crash shows up on Manifest’s shore, hears gunfire, and makes his way inland, eventually getting the ecologists out of a tight jam.
Operative Alpha and his men arrive on Manifest and have a threatening encounter with the ecologists and Topher’s team. In future episodes, the teams continue to evade each other and clash, resulting in small skirmishes. There are double agents on both sides, sabotaging their respective teams and trading intel.
The explorers enter the ‘refraction’ biome and are encountered with their respective personal traumas. Chloe’s reveals to her cryptic information about the silver spheres on the island. In future episodes, Chloe pieces together memories to discover the meaning of the silver material.
Chloe discovers a new biome surrounded by a tall, trimmed hedge. In future episodes, this biome is shown to contain organisms that mimic the appearance and behavior of the intruders, magnifying their worst qualities as a form of psychological ‘poison’ defense mechanism.
Doctor Spink is revealed to be working with both Topher’s team and Operative Alpha’s team, pitting them against each other to manipulate who has access to the island and its resources. In future episodes, her allegiances and motivations are called into question as she continues to play both sides.
The dispatches from the ecological team are being swapped for dispatches shot on a sound stage before they go public to ‘control the narrative.’ In future episodes, Paris’ double is overwhelmed by curiosity and goes to the island, culminating in the strange confrontation between Paris and the fake Paris.