This review contains spoilers for Manifest.
Manifest Season 1 Episode 3
Manifest is an interesting hybrid in that its human drama, which has been likened to This Is Us, may very well appeal to a completely different audience than that which typically tunes in for the puzzle-box mystery of the time jump and the mysterious precognitive powers of those aboard Flight 828. The crime of the week was straight out of the pages of any police procedural, but fortunately this week’s divine intervention in solving the crime made more sense in the context of the central story. Individual aspects of “Turbulence” shine while the overall concept still has the potential for ups and downs depending on how well the disparate story structures fit together.
At least the show understands that it must come up with an explanation for Ben’s involvement in police investigations, which was a troubling characteristic of last week’s installment. The fact that the murder that starts this episode involves a passenger of Flight 828 gives him a believable excuse to insist upon helping Michaela, and the fact that he has to drive her because of her phobia related to the accident with her friend Evie also puts him in the position to force the issue.
Speaking of which, Manifest has done a good job of letting the story of Evie and her tragic death come out organically, and involving the mother with dementia in the coincidental run-in with the perpetrator of this week’s crime was much more effective than last week’s too-convenient contrivance. It made more sense that Michaela would interpret the phrase “own your truth” in a more personal way that steered her in a fateful direction as part of the story, and perhaps Michaela playing cards with Evie’s mother at the end of the episode can help her heal that particular wound.
As mentioned in the previous review, the shadowy figure who killed Kelly Taylor turned out not to be tied in with Cal’s mysterious drawing as we were being led to believe, but it wasn’t a clandestine government assassin either. Kelly’s misinterpretation of her “own your truth” compulsion that forced her to share the secrets of Flight 828 with the media was a nice callback to Michaela’s similar confusion with “set them free” in the premiere. Her openness with the media also helps explain the rise of the fanatics who attach religious importance to the mysterious return of the passengers, which will be an interesting development to watch unfold. The candle-holding bystanders and the red-herring vagrant suspect were admirable illustrations of the devotee phenomenon beyond the woman who stopped Cal on the street last week.
The reforging of the relationship between Cal and Olive was a nice subplot, especially since Cal’s character has been pretty understated considering he’s an affected passenger, too. The whole awkwardness surrounding Cal’s friend Kevin having grown up and begun a teenage romance with Olive was another great example of how a time jump would actually affect everyday existence. Thankfully, the twins seem to have come out of the situation stronger than they were before as Olive asserts, “It’s us against the world – twins rule!” More of these two, please!
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The trouble between Ben and Grace, as expected, still needs to be repaired despite Grace’s insistence that she has made her choice, and the turmoil with this couple in particular continues to be a big part of Manifest’s emotional core. The expression on Grace’s face when she and Ben hug it out proves that she’s still not entirely sure what to do, and even her co-worker springs to the defense of Danny, the “other man” who we discover is someone Ben has never met. Similar doubts can been seen with Jared, who wisely tells Michaela, “Don’t waste your miracle on your pain,” and tears up the card offered to him by Agent Vance to keep tabs on his former girlfriend. Manifest excels at these emotional journeys.
But does it do enough to address the central mystery even as it continues to show us how the powers of premonition work? Saanvi is beginning to delve into a more scientific explanation with her discovery of a marker in their blood that is consistent with a near-death experience, and the growing familiarity between her and Ben is a suitable way to broaden the supernatural investigation beyond the Stone family. Her inability to get a brain sample from Kelly’s body because of government intervention bridges the larger story with the crime of the week as well. Overall, an adequate amount of plot progression… this week at least.
Manifest still has a thing or two to prove when it comes to keeping the sci-fi elements relevant for fans of genre serials while attempting to engage viewers of conventional dramas with the personal stories of the characters. The concept has the potential to perform inconsistently week-to-week, and it’s unclear if the very different audiences being targeted will embrace both halves of this mixed-genre show. “Turbulence” worked as a tightly written story with heartfelt dialogue and compelling developments, but the formula’s staying power remains in doubt.