This review contains spoilers for Manifest.
Manifest Season 1 Episode 13
This week’s Manifest episode reminded us that a major part of this show’s initial draw was in its character drama, and even though not all viewers are tuning in for that sort of story, no one can accuse the writers of executing such scenes poorly. “Cleared for Approach” gave us plenty of deeply emotional dialogues and allowed us and the characters to pause and reflect on what these callings are doing to the passengers of Flight 828. The problem is that the show has ramped up its action and mystery so well that this episode feels like slamming on the brakes rather than a slow deceleration into contemplation.
Plus there’s the jarring introduction of a new radical faction of the public that considers the passengers to be less than human. Besides coming out of nowhere, the intolerance of Cody Weber and his cronies existing alongside the well-established group of worshipful fanatics is particularly puzzling. That being said, the fact that Ben reacts to getting a brick through his window with his usual need to take matters into his own hands was somehow reassuringly consistent with what we know about his character, even though it didn’t turn out so well for him this time. There was even a cop who had to tell Ben, “Let the police handle this,” eliciting a small chuckle.
Along with Ben’s hot-headedness (which will no doubt come back to haunt him in future episodes) came the healing of the relationship between him and Grace. Because his wife now knows about the callings, she has a better understanding of why he’s being so protective, and the scene of the two of them scrubbing the painted red X on their door was quite symbolic in its show of unity. Thank God Manifest decided not to allow them to keep the secret from Olive, although Grace’s glib talk of waiting to see if she dies from the supposed curse was a nice justification.
The most successful bit of reflection came from Cal who up until now has accepted his callings as if they were the most natural thing in the world. For him to ask Grace, “Am I a freak? How do you know I’m still me?” was quite an introspective bit of philosophy for a boy his age. Grace hasn’t always been the most likable character, but Athena Karkanis has done a fabulous job with her more heartfelt family scenes. When she reassures her son telling him, “A mom would know,” we believe it, just like we do when she tells Ben in a show of reconciliation, “I need you here.”
Some might still be wishing for Ben and Saanvi to get together instead, and the mysterious talk of the person in 8B that was supposed to go to Jamaica with her was a subtle bit of interplay between them. Ben’s talk of peacocks and mythology with Olive was equally intriguing. Besides having the red X painted on her lab door as well, Saanvi provides us with what feels like a logical way of looking at the incident with Flight 828: it was an earthquake, and the one year jump for Zeke in the cave was an aftershock. Does that mean there are more shorter time jumps to come as the ripples push further out? Perhaps that’s what we saw just before the end credits.
The interaction between Michaela and Zeke was obviously the main story this week, and with Mick determined to leave Jared to Lourdes, it doesn’t take too much imagination to see chemistry brewing between the hiker and the cop. The only problem with the “Go back” calling that the two of them follow in this episode is that it really only leads to back story for Zeke, which might not be enough payoff for some viewers. Both in the cave and at the ravine, we expected something more to happen, and perhaps they did, too. The dark lightning surprise ending with the petrograph, although enticing on its own, was too brief and abrupt to give a sense of completion. All it did was encourage us to watch the previews for next week’s episode, a spoiler-fest not always desired.
Again, the Manifest writers excel at emotional scenes, and the story of Chloe and the parallels with Michaela’s guilt over Eva play out beautifully, but for viewers used to more action in recent weeks, this bonding story may have felt a bit slow. That may be unfair to say, especially since the gentle ribbing over the pork rinds and the talk about step 5 of AA really served to bring these two characters closer together in a believable way. The slow pace also creates a realistic path for Zeke to realize that Mick understands him and that if she wishes she could redo her own re-entry into society, perhaps she can help him do his.
So if you were rooting for an emotionally heartfelt episode of Manifest, you definitely got that. However, if you were caught up in the conspiracy and the identity of the Major and all the rest of it, you may have left “Cleared for Approach” disappointed. This change in pace may be attributed to the extended season order with scripts already written, but instead of a finale feel that this episode originally would have had, we got a pivot to an interesting new angle with lots of reflection and emotion along the way. Take it as you will.