Manifest Episode 11 Review: Contrails
The pilot of Flight 828 may have given us some enticing answers, but this week’s Manifest wanders a bit along the way.
This review contains spoilers for Manifest.
Manifest Season 1 Episode 11
When last week’s previews showed us the first hints of the “dark lightning” we’d be seeing in this week’s episode of Manifest, the promise of some answers as to what caused Flight 828 to jump forward five years, however outlandish, found us giddy with anticipation. The focus on the callings has until now ignored the time travel aspect of the passengers’ experience, which only seemed to serve as a disruption of people’s families for dramatic reasons. The story of Captain Bill Daly delivered on the promise of those previews, but unfortunately, most everyone else just sort of milled about on screen around the central story, killing the momentum and most of the excitement.
The one exception to that stagnation was Autumn, who carried her own bit of chaos with her this week. She certainly was in the right place at the right time to get some key information to deliver to her government friends, and although there was little surprise about her duplicity, the consequences of her actions were shocking enough on their own. Given that we know Autumn wanted to rid herself of her obligation to the Major, the fact that she caused the death of the weatherman and the possible kidnapping of Cal was definitely more than we thought she was capable of.
For awhile, Captain Daly’s enlightening investigation sustained our interest with his book full of flight data, doctored or not, and the flight simulation. Seeing the storm from the cockpit complete with flash of light in the initial flashback was a nice reminder of what strangeness we’re dealing with. It was a bit of a stretch to believe that adding a weatherman’s ground data to the flight simulator would help considering the phenomenon probably wouldn’t be understood by the computer; did Daly think the machine would duplicate the time jump, even if just on the screens? Ben came to help the captain at his request, but it’s not clear how much his presence helped other than to provide an observer and a counterargument about Fiona’s involvement.
Fiona’s theories are an enigma as well. She talks about Daly “losing sight of the horizon,” and the captain does appear to have been emotionally affected by the blame he has felt from his family and others. But her idea that they went through some sort of evolutionary leap is no more believable than Daly’s theory that Fiona somehow controlled the phenomenon that caused the dark lightning to affect them this way. For audience members that watch sci-fi and read comic books, electricity causing time jumps or special powers is par for the course, but Fiona and Daly both seem misguided in their misinterpretations, even viewed through the lens of science fiction credibility.
And speaking of misguided, how disappointing was it to see Jared trying to cozy up to Michaela at work? Although on the one hand the awkwardness helped make Michaela’s about face more acceptable, the show lost the cathartic moment it gave us last week between the couple. Similarly, Manifest visits familiar territory this week with Grace and Ben, and the emotional turmoil has lost all of its little remaining edge. Although the moment when Ben sees Captain Daly’s investigation board and asks, “Is that what Grace sees when she looks at me?” was a nice bit of reflection, the relationship drama needs a lot of help staying relevant.
So what really happened to Daly’s plane? It’s hard to tell if Manifest expects anyone to believe the National Guard shot down the plane with the captain and Fiona on board, but Ben obviously buys it. But we saw the flash of light, both from the point of view of the cockpit and from the ground looking up at the clouds. That was no missile strike! That being said, it’s not as if we can just wait around until 2024 to find out what really happened, so where are we going with this? Regardless of the answer, that one second of action was worth more than most of the longer scenes in the episode.
Other than that, all we get is an all-too-brief moment with Vance, a moment of pause when Cal predicts Ben will have to help a fellow passenger that day, a torn page from Cal’s sketchbook, and more vague references to how and when the government knew about what would happen to Flight 828. It’s all a bit murkier than we’d hope for at this point in the season. Manifest has turned up the anticipation quite high these past few weeks, and if it doesn’t meet expectations with whatever is revealed, the build-up will lose its impact. Like Daly did with the storm, let’s hope the writers head full speed right through the middle of our misgivings.
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Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter (@mikescifi). He co-hosts our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast and voices much of our video content.