Manifest Season 2 Episode 4 Review: Black Box

Manifest heats up as the Major makes a definitive move and a strange wrinkle in the death date callings gives Ben cause for hope.

TJ and Olive in Manifest

This Manifest review contains spoilers.

Manifest Season 2 Episode 4

Manifest is certainly making the most of its strong central conflict between the passengers with powers and those who would exploit it like the Major, who is proving to be a formidable opponent. Other potential conundrums are still in the set-up phase, such as Olive’s involvement with the Believers and Jared’s new bartender friend. But although the death date mystery and the bank robbery storyline do seem to be building towards something important as well, the string of coincidences harkens back to the more contrived callings of season 1, making this plot thread less effective in pushing things forward. But much of that is forgiven with the welcome kiss between Michaela and Zeke this week.

It might just be a matter of Manifest relying too heavily at times on meaningless number gimmicks. Just as when Michaela followed her first calling in the series premiere to the address 828, mirroring the fated flight number, or in the third episode when the clock in the mall read 8:28, Logan Strickland takes extreme measures in this episode to access safety deposit box 6224, reflecting the death date of June 2, 2024. While it does bring home the fact that Logan is the first passenger our heroes have encountered who has had a death date calling, the narrative contrivance feels cheap, especially given how quickly Frank Strickland snaps out of his long-held denial about his brother’s return as a result.

The good that comes out of the story-of-the-week is that, like TJ, it’s likely that Logan will need to be involved in the story beyond this single episode. Giving the other passengers more relevance could be a secret weapon not only for audience enjoyment of Manifest but for the fight against the Major as well. Saanvi’s work on eliminating the 828 anomaly in mice might have been geared towards avoiding the death date, but isolating the marker could also be what helps the DOD weaponize the callings. Vance aptly compares their efforts to bluff the Major to a David and Goliath scenario, effectively cementing the Major’s status as an intelligent villain, whom we kind of admire but whose downfall we’d love to see. But how can our small group surrounding the Stones do it alone?

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further reading: Manifest Season 2: Cast Teases Details

Perhaps Zeke and Michaela’s bond could create a “love conquers all” scenario. Their shared “bring him back” calling was typical enough for a Manifest episode, but the way they worked together with Zeke refusing to leave Michaela’s side, trusting her instincts with Logan even after he misguidedly attacked the gunman, was something to behold. The couple’s chemistry is undeniable even to Jared, whose body language indicates he may have acquiesced to the inevitable. Jared’s decision to take the bartender up on her offer of a no-strings-attached rendezvous transpired naturally enough, but there’s still that lingering possibility that the bar’s Red X’er clientele will come into play — a detail enticingly and expertly teased.

Hopefully, that journey will pay off around the same time as Olive’s involvement with the Believers; these parallel arcs with the two opposing groups has really been an impressive bit of storytelling in Manifest season 2. Olive’s brief infatuation with TJ in the flashback to Flight 828’s initial departure has the masterful subtlety that the number coincidences lack, and using A Wrinkle in Time as the link between the reunited teenagers holds a nice bit of symbolism as well. Olive already impressed TJ with her Gramercy Club logo assistance, and it’s completely believable that she could convince him to find more meaning to his newfound powers by hearing Adrian speak, creepy references to resurrection and reincarnation notwithstanding.

And there is hope in the situation! In the weeks that apparently passed between the occurrences of the previous episode and this one, Ben has had no new leads in his quest to save the passengers. We may not even blame him the way Grace does for making a recording for Olive in the event he is not alive for her wedding. But the powerful symbol of the compass with the bullet in it coming from a passenger with a death date calling — especially given that it has a peacock symbol on it — is enough to encourage Ben to keep fighting even as it has us wondering how this object could possibly help.

This hope is desperately needed since we still know so little about the altered vision of the nosediving Flight 828 that Cal, Michaela, and Zeke share, and it seems almost certain that either the Red X’ers (remember the professor who hired Ben?) or the Believers will cause trouble for the Returned. Because the Major has been such a patient manipulator, the danger she poses tends to overshadow the many looming threats, but they’re still there. Manifest is juggling all these plots fairly skillfully, and without the distraction of people like Lourdes or Danny in the mix, the story hangs together admirably well and keeps us anticipating the next episode.

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Listen to our interview with Manifest‘s DP Sarah Cawley on the Sci Fi Fidelity podcast:

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Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter (@mikescifi). He co-hosts our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast.

Rating:

4 out of 5