This review contains spoilers for Manifest.
Manifest Season 1 Episode 15
Manifest had better have one amazing ace up its sleeve for the finale. After the death of Vance and the rise of the Major, the show has introduced so many different conflicts that tying them together or bring resolution to enough of them to satisfy the audience leading into the hiatus would seem an impossible task. Adding James Griffin to the mix brings a new wrinkle to an already crowded field of antagonists. That being said, his negative use of the callings is vastly more interesting than the Believers or Cody’s group of haters even though the receding importance of the Major is frustrating. “Hard Landing” is an appropriately named episode given what appears to be ahead for the final descent onto the finale runway.
As an amendment to the “too many conflicts” concern, character arcs that take them through personal difficulties are perfectly fine, and there were a few of these this week. Saanvi, for example, has had far too little to do this season, and the fact that she’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder promises more involvement for her character. It’s an odd choice of problem for a penultimate episode, especially one in which she performs yet another blood test (that’s all she seems to do), but at least it adds something to Saanvi’s story besides the mysterious missing companion from the seat next to hers on Flight 828.
As character arcs go, Jared’s has seen better days. Ever since that cathartic moment when he and Michaela indulged in a moment of passion, the detective has been blinded by his reignited love, and now he has taken that emotion and stoked it into a fire of jealousy over Zeke, a man who has made no romantic overtures toward Michaela. Obviously, the fact that he’s staying in Mick’s apartment and that he clearly expresses concern for her well-being as a new friend rubs Jared the wrong way, but his manly posturing doesn’t win him many points with Michaela or the audience. Perhaps something will come of his DNA test of Zeke’s coffee cup to give his resentment more justification.
Zeke himself is obviously up to something , and again, this character arc doesn’t muddy the waters of the warring major conflicts (pun intended). There’s clearly more to the story of his family problems, but Jared’s doubts about the hiker play believably into the surprising turn of events with Griffin. Although our instinct is to trust Zeke, there’s no way of knowing how bad his past was, no matter how on board we are with his present reformation. On the other hand, no one forced him to return to his mother’s home and ring the bell as Michaela suggested. Anticipation is high for the payoff to that cliffhanger.
So many intriguing character moments are what makes it so difficult to focus on which larger conflict we should care about in Manifest. The fact that Griffin can use his callings for evil is obviously a concern for the passenger team of investigators, but what about for the FBI, which agreed to leniency with no clear idea of how Griffin knew the details of where the bomb was hidden? Is the Major pulling some strings to gain access to a more amenable target for her plans for weaponization? Or is the wolf, as a depiction of the dangers of using the callings for personal gain, a warning to all of those gifted with premonition? It’s doubtful with all these questions that anyone even is focused on what the Believers or Haters will do.
Thankfully, we now have the full Stone family on board with the investigation, and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Olive come up with the breakthrough. There’s still Ben’s peacock to work into the equation (perhaps the opposing symbol to the wolf), and although Cal may put on a good show of working on school projects (seems a bit old for popsicle stick dragons), he’s clearly not finished with his part in the story. But even Grace’s participation was welcome as she questioned Griffin’s foster mother to try to gain leverage over the murderer, and her telling Ben that she was happy they were a family again helped somewhat defuse a season’s worth of negative viewer opinion of her character.
But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, what about the Major? Why show us Cody’s message to his hateful followers about there being a murderer among the passengers? Do any of the team’s enemies actually realize that Zeke jumped forward a year and Griffin jumped forward a numerologically significant 82 hours and 8 minutes? It certainly seems like Cody was able to put two and two together from news reports about the latter. Creating suspense is all well and good, but this seems more like creating a scrambled picture that invites confusion rather than excited speculation. There’s very little we can put together because the pieces of the puzzle don’t have well-defined edges.
Therefore, to say it once again, the Manifest season finale had better have an amazing magic trick that it’s preparing to pull off next week. If it does as showrunner Jeff Rake promises, mea culpas will be forthcoming. With cliffhangers being a near certainty, which conflicts will the show choose to resolve? Or which answers to long held mysteries will it decide to reveal to keep audiences discussing the series during its hiatus? Ratings seem to indicate that a Manifest season 2 is a near certainty, so viewers can likely look forward to more metaphysical quandaries to come, but whether the finale sticks the “Hard Landing” portended by this episode’s title is to be determined.
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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.