This review contains spoilers for Manifest.
Manifest Season 1 Episode 12
This week’s Manifest episode removes a conflict that many shows use perhaps too often to create drama: it admirably eliminates Ben’s annoyingly male need to keep everything secret from his wife in order to protect her. In this case, there was perhaps the superstition based on another passenger’s experience that telling loved ones could be a death sentence, but thankfully that fear appears to have been laid to rest. The new mystery surrounding the hiker combined with the introduction of the Major in the flesh has “Vanishing Point” feeling like the exciting penultimate episode of the season that it originally was before NBC gave Manifest a full order.
With Cal at the center of things this week, it was important that the audience get a clear picture of how special his particular abilities really were, and “Vanishing Point” accomplished that masterfully. The treasure-map feel to this week’s adventure was exciting every step of the way, starting with the crisis at the house with the police thinking Ben might be responsible for his missing son as a result of marital strife. The fact that Ben couldn’t involve the police not only added to the clandestine nature of the caper; it also forced him to brief Grace on the specifics of Cal’s callings. The drawing of Grace, Ben, and Michaela holding the sketchbook was particularly eerie and effective in communicating the necessary message about Cal’s precognitive powers.
So thankfully, as Grace puts it, “The era of you protecting me – that’s over.” Thank goodness! The fact that she and Ben must use Danny’s truck to avoid detection reminds us that there are still issues between the two of them, but Grace being on board gives us hope that her days of blindness are behind her. On the flip side of that, it was hard to watch Michaela use Jared to get rid of the police — “No biggie, just my career” — and then dismiss him with a lame explanation about having to do the rest alone. She may not want to be the other woman in competition with Lourdes, but Jared’s presence at the cabin would hardly have been a hindrance.
Meanwhile, it’s a good thing that Olive was similarly left behind, although that snub was bothersome at first as well. Her discovery of the “I left” note flipped our expectations about what really happened to Cal upside down. Even after seeing the Major’s operatives in their headquarters keeping track of events like Michaela bringing Autumn in for questioning, it wasn’t entirely clear that they didn’t have Cal themselves until after Olive’s discovery. As the episode went on, the sheer amount of planning and foreknowledge Cal had to coordinate to leave on his own made it shockingly apparent how powerful his callings really are.
And that wasn’t the only clever misdirection. Although we certainly knew that Autumn wasn’t willingly acting on behalf of the major, her removal of the page from Cal’s sketchbook and her initial denials to Michaela’s accusations were troubling at first. But it’s as if Cal knew that she would need persuading to go against her government handlers, and putting the picture of the cabin where he’s hiding on the back of the portrait of Autumn and her daughter was without a doubt intentional. Even the “I left” message carried a crucial bit of instruction when Ben and Grace found themselves at a crossroads — quite a fun twist!
There was one last bit of deception with Autumn supposedly giving up Cal’s location to Jensen, but the fact that Michaela was able to find her daughter should reassure viewers that the former identity thief has reformed. It was an interesting choice to reveal the face of the Major just at the moment when her group was thrown off the scent of the Stone family, but the added detail of her moving into a penthouse overlooking New York will surely be crucial to learning more about this heretofore mysterious antagonist.
There’s still the question of how it all ties in with the dark lightning and what the Major knows that we don’t. With Zeke revealing that his two-week hike skipped an entire year of his life, a situation that seemed contrived (why would he have a picture of Michaela uttering “find her”?) becomes a very clear calling that he was completely oblivious that he was following. So are these time jumps and subsequent mental powers a natural phenomenon? How else do we explain the separate instances that resulted in different amounts of lost time? This new detail adds an interesting wrinkle for sure.
In the meantime, we can hope that the Stone family will come back together now that Grace has insisted to Ben, “From now on, everything!” If the Major is about to take the gloves off, they’ll need every weapon in their arsenal to combat the enemy as it emerges from hiding. Manifest definitely won some points with “Vanishing Point,” both because of its unexpected twists and its dismantling of frustrating secrets. As we head into what was originally to be the season finale, it will be interesting to see where this new storyline goes in the remaining episodes and what cliffhangers may be in store.
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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.