Manifest Episode 5 Review: Connecting Flights

Cal gets his father to trust the callings, but the marital unrest in this week’s Manifest challenges viewers to choose sides.

This review contains spoilers for Manifest.

Manifest Season 1 Episode 5

In “Connecting Flights,” Manifest finally lends some cohesion to the callings and the sense of fate or divine intervention that drives the passengers of Flight 828. Despite relying on a somewhat unhelpful, Marvel-associated phrase, “It’s all connected,” the fact that Cal is now fully in the mix is reassuring given that we all knew he would be special in some way. The flashbacks continue to be a strong part of the show, serving not only to fill in the five year gap but also to reinforce the turmoil the characters are currently going through. And although Vance is still a nuisance, every move he makes is logical and justified given the choices he has, providing a compelling danger underlying the narrative.

This was the exact right point to introduce an attempt on Ben’s part to foil or ignore the callings, since, like us, he still doesn’t know what’s causing them or whether they should be trusted. The Coney Island adventure had a surprising amount of worry mixed in with the fun as Ben continued to be bombarded by “It’s all connected,” giving the whole bonding experience between father and son an oddly appropriate tense atmosphere. The sense of inevitability and danger as Cal led Ben through the subway really makes the callings seem manipulative, robbing the passengers of free will in some ways and introducing an interesting thematic question: should they be forced to do good no matter the cost?

It’s especially problematic given that Cal doesn’t even appear to know he’s following an inner compulsion. After all, he’s a kid who’s used to being guided, as he tells his father when asked if he ever feels like his life is being controlled: “Only, like, all the time!” Ben seems to think Cal’s calling is unique because he can sense things before they happen, but is it really so different from what he and Michaela experience? The boy brought his father to Thomas, but Bethany’s wife, Georgia, would have rescued him whether they were there or not. The child being more receptive to great power is a familiar sci-fi trope, but Cal hasn’t quite earned that special status yet. He supposedly learns games super-fast — why not show more of that?

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Despite these nitpicks, Cal’s involvement in the story was welcome as were the consequences for Michaela ruining the ATF operation last week. Jared taking the fall for his ex-fiancee fits in nicely with the additional detail of how Jared and Lourdes came to be a couple (although those two seriously lack chemistry). With Michaela feeling the awkwardness of seeing the life she could have had with one of her mom’s signature afghans adorning Lourdes’ sofa, the discussion with her father about how she should fight for Jared if she still loves him took on the same pleasant complexity as the troubled dynamic between Grace and Ben.

further reading: Manifest Gets Full-Season Extension By NBC

Grace’s story is getting more and more uncomfortable (in a good way) and tragic, and the more the audience finds out about Danny, the more difficult it is to take a side, which is exactly where Manifest wants us. We realize very quickly how long five years really is in the life of, for example, Olive, who initially rejects Danny in early flashbacks but who comes to see him as a father — one who understands better than Ben what Olive has been through in her formative teenage years. As mentioned many times before, the time jump and its emotional fallout have been consistently more engaging and more deftly related to the audience than the mystery of why and how the callings exist.

Meanwhile, the Vance plot continues to unfold in a deliberate and believable manner, and thank goodness for that! It may be a bit of a stretch to conclude that, because Thomas was in the cargo hold, he is crucial to the NSA’s understanding of what happened to Flight 828, but what other investigative threads does Vance have to pull on really? His interrogation of Bethany and his manipulation of Jared by getting him off the hook for the botched ATF raid may be a bit underhanded, but we have to admire the agent’s tenacity in grasping at whatever straws are within reach.

And speaking of tenacious, Ben’s eventual conversion to the cause gives viewers hope that he can make sense of what’s going on with the passengers on that fateful flight more efficiently than Agent Vance likely ever will. The “spiderweb” of connections on his investigation wall gives “it’s all connected” further meaning, and the flashback to Cal seeing the bright light outside the plane in flight portends possible answers (or a deeper, more compelling mystery) to come. There’s continued optimism that Manifest can somehow pull it together and make all of its parts equally well-crafted.

With the flashbacks and airplane setting being reminiscent of Lost, we have to wonder if there’s only so much material to mine from the actual flight itself, but it appears that Manifest has plenty to expand upon from the intervening five years. Although both Michaela’s parents and Grace and Danny exhibit more chemistry than Jared and Lourdes, the relationship drama entices us to choose sides while understanding the impossibility of definitively doing so. Cautious optimism springs from the added details in the unraveling mystery of the callings, resulting in the most successful episode of Manifest to date.

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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.

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4 out of 5