This Manifest review contains spoilers.
Manifest Season 2 Episode 3
Manifest has done the seemingly impossible with “False Horizon.” It has delved deeper into the back story of Saanvi, a much underutilized character last season, and set her up as a capable spy; it made the persistently vague Red X’er and Believer groups more relevant by potentially adding principal characters to their number; and it has finally started to crack through the impenetrable cloak surrounding the Major, a character whose motivations were inscrutably centered around the somewhat clichéd “military applications” of the callings. This episode defines a clear direction for the season that hopefully will continue unabated.
Saanvi, in fact, has become even more interesting in general now that we have hints that Alex, her missing companion on Flight 828, was a married man she was having an affair with. Or was the email she kept revising not the old one in her drafts folder, but a new message to Ben Stone? It’s hard to tell, and in this case the lack of a clear answer, which invites juicy speculation, is actually better than a more pointed approach. For some reason, the fact that Saanvi initially suspects Troy of being her mole, a man who clearly is also suffering from an unrequited infatuation, fits the narrative nicely as well.
As for the mole plot, it’s interesting that Vance and Ben talk about the Major wanting to control the callings since the motivation before now has been left rather mysterious. The idea that the military could send these compulsions to people to make them do things at their behest like some sort of Manchurian Candidate assassin — or, as Vance calls them, “toy soldiers” — is quite frightening albeit a bit ambitious as evil plans go. One would assume that the Major’s people had something to do with Zeke’s transfer and subsequent sedation to keep him from participating in the vision with Michaela and Cal. But why? Clearly there’s still more to learn, but at least Vance has “turned the tables” with Saanvi’s help.
Thankfully, Zeke has been released from prison by Michaela’s willingness to deceive her fellow law enforcement officers to gain access, but if there’s anything that this episode of Manifest proves, it’s that Michaela is willing to burn plenty of bridges to see an innocent man, and a man she has feelings for besides, go free. Jared certainly has lost a lot of points for not telling the whole truth about what happened the night Mick got shot, but the fact that Michaela took the bold step to get Zeke a lawyer so that she could testify about Jared’s wrongdoing showed her determination, painting her in a positive light while giving us hope that we can now learn more about this strange shared vision of the crashing plane between the couple and Cal.
But the other bit of parallel narrative that it cleverly introduces is the possibility that Jared could end up fraternizing with the Red X’ers in the same episode that Olive proclaims her commitment to the ideals of the opposing group, the Believers. Given the fact that the cult of 828 is almost blandly generic in its portrayal of lost teens finding their way to happiness through feelings of connection, it’s difficult to swallow Olive’s newfound belief in the “miracle” of her family’s return on the face of it. Placed opposite Jared in the Red X’er bar at the end, however, things get more interesting. And that’s before we even talk about the Red X’er professor and his pregnant wife!
If this were any other show, we’d be suspicious of a coincidence such as Ben’s new job hinging on the approval of a man who just happens to have a spouse in the same yoga class as Grace, but this is Manifest we’re talking about! In another fortuitous turn, it seems likely that Ben’s study of combinatorics will at some point be applicable to unraveling the mystery of Flight 828, as TJ helpfully suggests. We’ve come to accept such convenient serendipity, but we have to give the show credit for, in the face of such luck, allowing Grace to fail in her first mission to “open the eyes” of the woman who sees her son as an abomination. It lends a certain amount of realism to a show that often stretches credibility.
One could almost say the the Red X’er Astoria professor who hired Ben to keep his enemy close was a bit more savvy than the Major and her insider at the hospital, who had no idea they were walking into Saanvi’s surveillance trap with the fake blood samples. Manifest did a great job of deceiving us as well, making us think she smashed her phone out of anger rather than with the understanding that it could be traced or bugged. As a result of Saanvi’s good work, the team now knows the Major’s real name: Kathryn Fitz. After such an excellent episode, we can only hope more of the same is yet to come in season 2.
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