This Manifest review contains spoilers.
Manifest Season 2 Episode 1
Back in season one of Manifest, the family drama outdid the sci-fi elements of the show in the early episodes, mostly because of well-written dialogue and believable reactions to an impossible situation. The characters’ callings to do good in the world may have felt like a narrative tool that felt disconnected from Flight 828’s five year time jump, but the trauma that the missing time brought to relationships felt real. With this season 2 premiere, the opposite is true: the mystery of the flashback visions of the fateful flight is far more compelling than the predictable jealousy of Jared or Grace’s awkward pregnancy news. However, this over-correction could indicate that a balance between the two elements will be coming this season, which is a good sign.
It’s doubtful very many viewers had their money on Michaela being the one to take the bullet from the struggle between Zeke and Jared in last season’s finale, but her injuries are less about slowing her down and more about creating guilt for the two men vying for her affection. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing Jared get the cold shoulder, but he’s still useful in helping Mick navigate the complexities of conducting investigations related to the callings under the watchful eye of a new scrutinizing captain, Kate Bowers, played with wonderfully understated frankness by Andrene Ward-Hammond.
Zeke’s guilt, on the other hand, has placed him in a very interesting position for Manifest season 2. Once Cal presents him with the idea of the death date, he could have reacted in many different ways, but his decision to turn himself in for shooting Michaela is both noble and fatalistic. Cal puts it so well when he asks his aunt, “Why does he think he’s not important?” Zeke may only have a year or so left based on his time jump in the cave, but he has plenty to offer, both to the other characters in the show and to us in the audience. Although Michaela giving him credit for the vision of the suicidal Vasiks in their car may be a bit generous, it’s clear that his presence on the plane during the shared flashback to Flight 828 means something.
And that vision, quite honestly, is one of the most intriguing things Manifest has given us, even though it’s completely baffling as to what it all means. Why in this altered memory of the unexplained turbulence do Michaela, Cal, and now Zeke, who was not even on the flight, see the passenger jet plummet precipitously? This calling might end up spanning the entire season with its insistence that the Stones “save the passengers,” and the many interpretations of that command will set up some interesting conflicts, even within the core group.
The idea that there are passengers out there who don’t know how to interpret the voices in their head seems all too realistic, and the twist that revealed a different family inside their car hanging by a thread from the cliff instead of the Vasiks’ own children was a perfect wake up call for the distraught parents. Hopefully, this new awareness will transfer to Ben, who seems to be taking the entreaty to “save the passengers” a bit too seriously. By now, he should realize that the first interpretation of the calling is usually misguided at best.
Fortunately, Ben has a better handle on how to work with Grace and her pregnancy with a child that could either be his or Danny’s, and his tender understanding is right in line with what we’ve come to expect from this character. However, the dilemma presented by Grace deciding to keep the child a secret from Danny, a ploy that understandably displeases Olive, is as unwelcome as some of her other ill-advised reactions in season one. Frankly, the pregnancy would be fairly mundane if it weren’t for the fact that the Major seemed very interested by the prospect of another Stone child when Saanvi let slip that Grace was expecting.
As for Saanvi, her trauma that carries over from the final episodes of last season provides a nice bit of tension here at the start of Manifest season 2. The Major, posing as her psychiatrist, is a master chess player, willing to bide her time to strike. Her use of reverse psychology to get Saanvi to open up more about her experience on Flight 828 and the callings that followed was expertly done, and her effectiveness as an antagonist is greatly heightened now that her manipulative genius is on display rather than hiding in the shadows. We may still not know her reasons for calling Cal “the holy grail,” but any speculation takes us down a deliciously dark path.
So Manifest season 2 is off to a strong start despite some continued difficulty weaving together its family drama with the underlying mythology. Perhaps the two don’t need to mesh; they simply provide different entry points for the various audiences the show hopes to appeal to. Between the death date and the new visions of the plane, however, the story is on the right track to please all kinds of fans. And, of course, there’s that wonderful surprise ending featuring Agent Vance, whose resurrection is perhaps the single greatest decision the series has made in the new season. We may have no idea what’s going on or what’s in store, but we are very much here for it.