This Manifest review contains spoilers.
Manifest Season 2 Episode 8
This week’s Manifest episode poses an interesting dilemma for fans of the show. Is it enough that “Carry On” has all of the suspense and emotion that we’ve come to expect from the series even though the focus has shifted to new enemies without resolving the old? The X’er storyline has been a thrill a minute, but it effectively ignores the Major as a more effective antagonist. With Saanvi’s self-experimentation and Zeke’s frostbite taking a back seat to Jared’s supposed duplicity, Al-Zuras’ journal, and the fall of the Church of Believers, the death date and the government conspiracy have receded alarmingly from the spotlight.
It didn’t help that the calling of the week, which worked beautifully with TJ’s Buddhist family background, was undermined by such silly theories relating to the Al-Zuras drawing. The tendency for our heroes to initially misinterpret their callings has become a familiar way for the show to invite speculation, but sometimes the characters come across as self-aware fictional constructs reacting to their own narrative manipulation. So when Grace told Ben with a straight face, “Maybe the calling wants you to carry her through her grief,” it was an eye-rolling moment to be sure.
Granted, the fact that Ben and his daughter followed the chanting to a meditation center provided a convenient setting for them to heal bad feelings about Olive’s involvement with the Believers while mourning TJ at the same time. TJ performed a DIY ceremony for his mother when he returned from Flight 828 to find her gone, so the Stones do the same for him, and even though they (and we) haven’t known him that long, the pain was real. Luna Blaise has become a real star player for Manifest, and her reunion with TJ at the end of their journey was strongly felt.
Okay, so maybe TJ’s death wasn’t all that believable to begin with. It wouldn’t be surprising if half of the audience realized that the burnt body clutching Olive’s bracelet was actually Isaiah, and it’s not all that credible that the police would confirm the identity with such a small detail, even in the context of a TV show. But the anger Olive felt on TJ’s behalf when the Astoria campus displayed such an insincere outpouring of grief allowed us to target Simon as a scapegoat for her indignation, and his casing of the Stone household and Ben’s investigation wall took on another level of villainy.
He could use a boost in that regard because regardless of how well he organizes the X’ers, the idea that someone like Billy would follow an egghead like Simon is implausible at best. Similarly, Manifest still expects us to believe that, just because he got a haircut, Jared is really in bed with the hate group rather than playing them like a fiddle. Captain Bowers is actually more suspicious with her uncharacteristically calm acceptance of the off-the-books investigative work of Michaela and Drea. Mick’s partner meanwhile continues to win points with viewers by going along with the shenanigans even as we shake our heads at their belief that Jared is up to no good.
Off to one side are the underlying mythology stories we really care about: is Zeke going to freeze to death before Saanvi can effect a cure for the blood anomaly? Zeke’s newfound devotion to Michaela is certainly inspiring enough to encourage Saanvi to show her love to Alex despite all the heartache she expressed in the previous episode, and that was great to see. But the fact that Saanvi doesn’t even remember kissing Alex ups the stakes considerably. We may have expected some side effects to the doctor’s serum, but certainly not memory loss! Obviously Manifest is still quite capable of surprising us.
It’s true that the Believers and their opposites were owed a main story arc given how peripheral they were for most of Manifest season one, but hopefully the show won’t overcompensate by keeping them center stage for too much longer. With many other mysteries lingering over our heads, we’d love to see a return to the government plot and more focus on the death date, which the Al-Zuras journal can clearly shed some light on beyond the prophetic drawing of Ben and Olive. There’s little doubt that at least partial answers are in store; let’s just hope the show focuses more on the elements that make it great.