This review contains spoilers for Manifest.
Manifest Season 1 Episode 9
It’s good to know that Manifest is not afraid of tweaking its own formula as the show progresses. Although “Dead Reckoning” took out one of the show’s most relatable characters in Agent Vance, it also introduced the idea of dissent within the ranks of the Flight 828 passengers by giving us Autumn Cox, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The secret of the callings is now more out in the open, for better or worse, and the fissure that has opened up in the Stone family really gives viewers something to stew on while they wait for the show to return in January.
This might be a good time to mention that the electroshock torture of the missing passengers has never really felt credible as a method for the Singularity Project to manipulate the neural connection between their subjects. The experimentation seemed cartoonishly villainous and reckless, and as a result, Saanvi’s reprimand of Fiona for coming up with the procedure for activating mirror neurons was refreshing. Hopefully, with the destruction of the lab and the possible death of Laurence, this chapter of the government conspiracy has ended.
Which leads to the question of how it will continue without its key player, Robert “Bobby” Vance. Ben has pushed the limits of playing the father-protecting-his-child card to carry on his investigation, and without an actual government contact to help, it will be interesting to see how he and Michaela and their cohorts continue. The loss of Vance was a hard one given how well his character development unfolded this season, and despite his skepticism and caution upon hearing the truth in this episode, he was always true to himself.
Is his death the result of the “Angel of Death” curse which seems to kill those who learn the truth about the callings? Manifest has done a wonderful job of maintaining the subtlety of the faith versus science debate between Michaela and Ben, but here its implications are felt quite strongly. Michaela’s insistence that she saved Jared’s life by praying for him to be spared is a powerful argument that Ben’s protestations don’t fully refute. Regardless, it’s perhaps best that Ben is now free of family constraints so that Grace and Olive are not put in danger.
Not that Grace would believe him anyway! The surprise barbecue was a nice idea that predictably went horribly wrong, but the gesture illustrated the striking contrast between Grace’s reignited love for her husband and her blindness to the inexplicable facts of their reunion. For her to ignore the fact that Cal wrote the note to join his father rather than Ben purposefully choosing to endanger their son is puzzling, and even though Ben isn’t sharing details of what’s really going on, isn’t she the slightest bit curious about why her son didn’t age these past five years and what metaphysical baggage he and Ben might have because of their ordeal?
It’s quickly becoming clear that although Grace is a great character when it comes to the family drama aspect of Manifest, she’s a thorn in the side of the science fiction plot. Much more interesting is Olive’s reaction both when her father asks her to check in on Cal after they all get a burst of psychic pain and when he tells Grace he needs to take his son with him if she wants him to leave. Her feelings are of much greater concern and elicit more audience sympathy than anything Grace could come up with. Yes, the grieving mother had to buy a gravestone and all that, but she doesn’t seemed very attuned to what Cal is going through and is dismissive of any residual trauma they might have because of their missing time.
Grace should take her cue from Jared with his dogged determination to involve himself in whatever Michaela is wrapped up in despite the fact that, with Lourdes in his life, he has a better excuse than Grace to keep his distance. Jared is a breath of fresh air sometimes despite his lack of chemistry with his actual wife, and in this episode his moment comes when he punches Laurence before he can start his Bond villain speech. The fact that Jared tells Michaela to stay at his bedside in the hospital instead of going to get Lourdes really says it all about this couple, and no one should feel guilty for advocating adulterous romance to bloom.
Despite their setback in this episode, UDS and the Singularity Project should not be considered down for the count, even if the duplicitous Autumn was texting “Now what?” to an unresponsive Laurence. Ben and Michaela’s job just got a whole lot more difficult without the backing of Agent Vance, but presumably the NSA won’t take his death lying down. The prospect of more cat-and-mouse conspiracy thriller in the back half of the season is welcome even if the possible return of Grace-and-Danny drama is not. Manifest delivered an exciting fall finale by anyone’s reckoning, and the hiatus will leave viewers anxiously awaiting the show’s return on January 7.