This Manifest review contains spoilers.
Manifest Season 2 Episode 2
This week’s episode of Manifest began with some worrisomely stilted dialogue and built through a satisfying, self-contained passenger storyline to a conclusion that left us worried for Zeke, Olive, and Saanvi for completely different but equally compelling reasons. Upon reflection, the artificial-sounding conversations about callings at the start may have been strategically designed to make us wonder, as certain characters do in the episode, whether too much faith was being placed in the good intentions of the passengers of Flight 828 and their visions, and we’re left feeling that the callings, although still completely mysterious in origin, appear to work towards a greater good.
Of course, with Vance’s triumphant return from the dead last week, we’re confronted with the fact that his investigations are uncovering what we already know rather than shedding new light on why the passengers of Flight 828 are so important to the shadow elements of the government. However, Zeke’s predicament at the end of the episode admirably foreshadows the possible necessity for further infiltration by Vance’s group. The audience’s unique knowledge that the suddenly larger budget that Agent Vance has discovered is likely tied to Grace’s pregnancy adds a significant amount of suspense as well.
And the fact that the genetic marker for callings has been passed on to the unborn Stone child is quite remarkable, although Ben certainly does jump to that conclusion rather quickly in a way that stretches credibility. Luckily, the voice inside Grace implies she should get her paternity test from Saanvi instead, even though her experience all but proves that Ben is the father. However, that decision sets up a domino effect that leads directly from Saanvi’s discussion of the DNA sequencer with the Major to Vance’s discovery of the existence of the leak, however inadvertent, in their inner circle. It’s a nicely woven tale!
Even more compelling is the effect that Grace’s calling has on Olive, who’s now the only Stone not receiving visions or hearing voices. Viewers could be forgiven for drawing the same initial conclusion about Olive’s reaction that Grace did: surely she just feels left out by not having special abilities. The writers even baited us a bit with Cal’s insistence that his sister “wouldn’t understand” his latest calling-induced compulsion, which sends her off in tears. What a nice reversal of expectations, then, to center Olive’s worry around the death date, which, if it applies to Grace and the unborn child, could leave the teenager completely alone.
Manifest then skillfully reminds us that the returnees not only have to worry about the death date and the antagonistic “red X-ers;” there’s also the misguided devotion of the Believers to contend with, and now Olive appears to be seeking solace among the Flight 828 devotees. Between this new spiritual crisis and the fact that Vance is operating out of a travel agency, this episode shares certain similarities with early episodes of The Americans. Not a bad comparison to elicit!
As for the “passenger of the week” plotline, which often remains incidental to the underlying mythology of Manifest, the story of Astoria College student TJ served a number of purposes. First, it introduced us to Michaela’s new partner, Drea Mikami, who instead of inspiring suspicion among viewers somehow manages to win us over with her keen insight and willingness to trust Michaela where Captain Bowers and even Jared won’t. Second, the circumstantial evidence pointing to TJ for the murder of the young artist brought into question whether all passengers are well-intentioned by default. And finally, it increased pressure on Michaela to go beyond the simple “anonymous tip” explanation for her suddenly stellar arrest record. That’s quite a nice display of narrative multi-tasking!
So in spite of a rough start, this episode of Manifest manages to be quite an amazing set up for the season to come. We may not fully understand why Zeke appears in the flashback vision to Flight 828 or why he is being sedated in captivity. We may not know how Ben’s fortuitous new employment opportunity at Astoria will play into his continuing investigations or whether Drea Mikami being from a wealthy family matters. We may not even know if Olive’s visit with the Believers will result in new allies or dangerous fanaticism. Nevertheless, we have plenty of interesting threads to follow without a weak one in the bunch.