This review contains spoilers for Manifest.
Manifest Season 1 Episode 8
Manifest has now gone deep into serialized territory, and it will be interesting to see if those who have tuned in for the episodic relationship drama, which was originally more compelling, will stay engaged through the fall finale next week. “Point of No Return” didn’t really have a resolution to its investigation, but progress was made in tracking down the missing passengers, which should be enough for viewers whose principal interest is in the mystery of the callings. But do people still care about developments like Lourdes starting a family with Jared now that Michaela has bigger, less personal problems to worry about?
It’s not that family drama is incompatible with science fiction; it’s just that the two are increasingly disconnected in Manifest. On the one hand we have Cal readjusting to school life while being friends with the older kids he remembers from before, and this interesting dissonance ties directly into what happened to Flight 828. Olive’s compassion is touching, and Cal’s worry that it could all end is heart wrenching. On the other hand, there’s Grace’s date night and her awkward encounter with Lourdes. Sure, we’re happy for the Stone family, but Grace telling Michaela about the pregnancy kit felt like an unnecessary reminder during a time when Michaela and Jared were working well together.
There was an attempt to disrupt the closeness being re-forged between the two detectives by introducing the idea of people dying who had been told about the callings, so that may be the tie-in there, tenuous though it may be. The passenger Harvey, who decided he was the angel of death, could have stumbled upon a more compelling reason not to talk about the premonitions, but Ben, for one, was already reluctant to share his experience with anyone anyway. One has to wonder if Harvey’s experience was unique to his callings alone, though the reason why that would be is unclear.
Except there’s the very clear warning of Michaela’s inner voice, which tells her, “Don’t lose him.” She’s likely as annoyed with the Field of Dreams riddles as we are, but since the phrase is repeated even after Harvey has jumped from the roof of the synagogue, we can only assume the calling is telling her to keep Jared from going too far down the rabbit hole, endangering his life. Perhaps Michaela feels if she pushes Jared to focus on starting a family with Lourdes, she won’t become his angel of death. In some ways, the open interpretation is satisfying, but it might also cause some confusion among viewers.
Meanwhile, Ben continues to solidify his role as the principal investigator even as Vance, an actual field agent, enters the picture. Amazingly, this dynamic works quite well and leaves the audience hoping for more team-ups between these two. Establishing Ben’s boss, Ronnie, as a bit of a douchebag brosky was a great way to make the infiltration more believable. The search through UDS assets to find the correct property may not have been the most exciting pursuit, but it was a believable way to track down the secretive operation.
Using Fiona in place of Saanvi as the confidante who reveals what the Singularity Project is really up to was a bit jarring at first, but of course she’s the only one who could get into UDS to plant the bug. Her revelation that UDS is trying to artificially re-create the powers of premonition is perhaps not all that surprising, but the fact that Ben and Michaela now have another ally is certainly useful. What Manifest will need to do moving forward, however, is distinguish Fiona and Saanvi a bit more, especially since the latter has been an under-developed character from the very start.
With the introduction of Lawrence, the UDS baddie who accelerates the Singularity Project timeline, we have a more specific target for the ongoing investigation, which makes it that much more puzzling that this week’s story is left somewhat unresolved. Ben had perhaps too easy of a time getting into UDS records to find the chemical plant, but with the tests starting up again, immediately affecting Cal, and with the Harvey storyline resulting in nothing but tragedy, “Point of No Return” had an unfinished feel to it.
Maybe Manifest should have added a “To Be Continued” title to make this week’s episode the first of a two-parter to really sell their idea of a fall finale next week and make the lack of resolution more palatable. As it is, this week’s episode was good, but not great. Satisfying, but not all that exciting. This may come across as “damning with faint praise,” and that’s not the intent here. Manifest has been an enjoyable ride this season, and once it settles into a rhythm and focuses a bit, it has the potential to be a really great series.