This Manifest review contains spoilers.
Manifest Season 3 Episodes 7 and 8
“Destination Unknown” is an apt title for the latest episode of Manifest because where in the hell are we headed with all this? As nice as it is to have major developments in the investigation into the callings and their origin and purpose, the introduction of sapphire residue may have been a bridge too far. It’s difficult to say with sci-fi dramas how much made-up stuff is too much; for example, the lifeboat idea was a great twist that raised the stakes considerably. But sapphire dust as an indication of a divine touch? Not so much.
At least with the piece of Noah’s Ark, there’s some feeling of consistency with the ancient Egyptian art from Al-Zuras, the many earlier angel-related callings, and the mythological importance of the peacock to the Greek pantheon. There’s a certain Indiana Jones or Da Vinci Code feel to the varied religious references that holy sapphire dust just can’t measure up to, perhaps because it brings a feeling of fantasy into the quasi-metaphysical, sci-fi mix.
That being said, the imagery of the volcano that ties these two episodes of Manifest together was a great way to start off the new “lifeboat” arc, and it was gratifying to see the other passengers enter the picture just as the importance of passing the trial as a group was revealed. The storm clouds that guided Egan and the others to the Eureka facility evolved into the ash emitting from the reawakened Mt. Ararat or the World card from the Al-Zuras Tarot deck, and Cal even saw his own version in Tarik’s snow globe. It’s an effective visual symbol that could foreshadow a more explosive eruption in the future.
While the story of Rachel and her abusive husband could have easily held its own as an episode-of-the-week in earlier seasons, here it stands as an example of what could go wrong if any 828er makes the wrong decision in the eyes of God, Ma’at, or whomever. Setting up Egan as a potential leader within the group is also a great way to remind Manifest viewers that, as Mick points out, Ben doesn’t need to be the only one trying to find answers.
On the flip side of that, Zeke emphasizes to Cal that using the callings for personal gain, which Egan has admitted to doing, is not cool. In that sense, Manifest uses its side plots to great effect, setting up a love interest for Jared (and maybe even Cal) while simultaneously showing us the downside to Zeke’s empathy as he realizes Mick is jealous. Similarly, we are reassured by Angelina’s ability to calm Eden even as the series creeps us out with her forging a new identity through Olive’s clothes and makeup. It’s not always easy to seed smaller conflicts without distracting from the main one.
Witness also the new direction for Saanvi, who went from persona non grata with Dr. Patel to the hero of the team. On the one hand it created a dispassionate rationale for using Ben as a test subject, and on the other, the flip-flop placed Saanvi in the position of keeping secrets. Not to mention Dr. Patel’s goal of “creating miracles” sounds dangerously similar to the exploits proposed by the Major, who surely would have known about the Ark planks that surfaced seven years ago.
This juxtaposition of religious artifacts and scientific study works well with Ben’s return to cynicism; he has faith in the callings but doesn’t trust that everyone on Flight 828 will follow them responsibly. Perhaps, then, it should be easier to accept the “fairy dust” of the sapphire theory given the way it’s presented as a chemical residue. But it’s not. If a Manifest fan tried to describe what was happening in this show to the uninitiated, they’d sound like a lunatic. It’s still an enjoyable roller coaster ride, but one or two loop-de-loops is fine. Any more than that upsets the equilibrium.