In the first two episodes of Manifest, the mystery behind Montego Air Flight 828’s disappearance/reappearance starts to take shape, as the Stone family and other passengers struggle to deal with the aftermath. Our review of Season 1’s pilot and Episode 2 “Reentry”.
In our interviews with Josh Dallas, Melissa Roxburgh, and Jeff Rake at San Diego Comic-Con this summer, they describe Manifest as LOST meets This Is Us. As a massive LOST fan (who, TBH, was really disappointed in the way the series ended) I found this statement to be particularly interesting. It led me to expect from Manifest a puzzling, psychological thriller mystery, coupled with emotional, character-driven stories. And friends, after two episodes of the series, that’s exactly what we’ve been getting. I’m all in!
We start with the Stone Family as they’re returning from vacation in Montego Bay, Jamaica on April 7, 2013. Michaela, a NYPD detective is our narrator. Though the Stones are a loving group, they each have challenges. Michaela, herself, struggles with her faith in the aftermath of a car accident that she survives, but takes her friend’s life. This causes Michaela to call into question her other relationships–with God, with her Mother, and with her boyfriend/fiance, Jared. Ben, Michaela’s older brother, and his wife, Grace, have 10-year old twins, Olive and Cal. For the last several years, the family has been trying to manage Cal’s leukemia diagnosis and pay for his treatment. So when the airline announces that their flight home is oversold, it’s the incentive for additional funds that convinces Ben to accept the offer for cash and vouchers to take a later flight. Cal and Michaela stay with him… and it is a fateful decision. What starts as a normal flight is anything but. In the middle of the flight, the plane experiences some unexpected and very serious turbulence. When things go back to normal, the passengers believe all is well. However, when the pilot tries to land, they get redirected my air traffic control. Ultimately, the passengers are allowed to de-plane on the tarmac, but they’re surrounded by police.
“Today is November 4, 2018.”
So somehow, a 4 hour flight has suddenly become five and a half years. WHATTTTT?!
Ben, Cal, and Michaela are exactly as they are, yet their whole world has changed…
Cal’s twin sister Olive is now 16-years old.
Ben and Michaela’s mom has passed away.
Michaela comes back to her old job, sees her former boyfriend/fiance, who is now married to her best friend.
There is some good news… one of the women on the flight, Saanvi, is actually a medical researcher who developed a treatment for the form of leukemia that Cal has. Despite pushback from colleagues who don’t want to compromise the medical trial, Saanvi is able to successfully advocate for Cal to be included.
Oh… also, Michaela, Ben, and the other passengers are hearing voices. WELPS!
So far, the voices have shown themselves to be positive influences. The voice helps Michaela to stop a bus driver from accidentally running over a child and eventually leads her to expose a pedophile and save two kidnapped children. Perhaps, the flight turned them all into superheroes? But the fact that the episode ends with the voices luring back 20+ passengers back to the plane that then BLOWS ITSELF UP to prevent the police from furthering their investigations leads me to believe that their might be some evil machinations involved…
The second episode “Reentry” begins in the aftermath of the plane exploding itself. Michaela, Ben, and the other passengers are being detained and questioned by the police. None of them can explain why they had the urge to come back to the plane and they all deny perpetrating the explosion themselves. Curious…
The police eventually let them go with a warning to keep things quiet, because this is a matter of national security. Ben is actually quite suspicious of the press because he believes the government will be keeping tabs on them all. And he’s right.
Michaela goes back to the police precinct to see about shortening her leave and coming back to work. She’s told that she’ll have to jump through the hoops to get the all-clear, including a psych-evaluation. But then Michaela’s confronted by Lourdes, AKA her former BFF who is now with Michaela’s former boyfriend/fiance, Jared. Yep, that’s enough to drive someone to their therapist’s office.
It doesn’t help that Jared keeps saying things to Michaela like, “She never replaced you. I could never replace you.” As I’ve said, Jared is fine, but I need him to stop messing with Michaela’s emotions. HE IS UNAVAILABLE.
Meanwhile, Ben is on an adventure of his own. He keeps hearing a melody in his mind, music that no one else hears. When on a walk through Times Square, he hears the music again and searches for the source. This brings him to Radd, one of the other passengers on the plane, who is playing the violin. He’s also been hearing that melody… In any event, Radd is desperate for Ben’s help. In the last five and a half years he’s been missing, Radd’s son, Adio, has gotten into trouble. So Radd needs help proving Adio is innocent of theft from a jewelry store where he was working. This is particularly heartbreaking because it’s clear that the young man is being threatened and beat up in Rikers. Adio is desperate to get out of jail.
Cal is having a difficult time settling back in, especially since all his things are gone. Grace promises to buy Cal some new toys and takes him into the city to do so. On their way home, Cal gets waylaid by a random woman who essentially prays to him, saying “He is risen. He is not here.” If you’re familiar with the Bible (Matthew 28), you might recall that on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion, when the two Marys go to visit the tomb, an Angel says “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
Interesting… especially because in repeated conversations between Michaela and Ben, she is sure that the situation with the plane and voices is a miracle from God. On the other hand, Ben is skeptical. He believes that there’s a scientific, Earthbound explanation. It doesn’t help that Cal is drawing pictures of his family with a mysterious shadow person in the background…
In other relationship drama, in the last few years, Grace has started another relationship. While she’s happy to have Ben back, she doesn’t quite know how to break things off with this other person. Through the back and forth texts, we see that Grace clearly loves this person. And even Olive seems to have a soft-spot for that individual. However, Olive maintains that he mother has to tell her father the truth. Things get even more complicated when Michaela overhears a conversation between Grace and her other lover. This situation is totally heart-wrenching and complicated. I really feel bad for Grace, but the longer she keeps this secret from Ben, the less we can give her the benefit of the doubt, KWIM?
Towards the end of the episode, Olive decides to let her dad in on a secret. When her mom got rid of Ben’s and Cal’s things, she secretly had them moved to a storage unit. Who helped her with that project? Hmmmm… Olive confesses to Ben that she knew all along that Cal wasn’t dead. She just had this feeling. And now, she’ll be able to give Cal his belongings and favorite toys.
While at the storage space, Ben hears the violin music again, and it leads him to another unit… the son of the jewelry store owner is there and has store all the things he’s stolen from his father’s store. Radd’s son is innocent! The guy tries to offer Ben a deal to keep quiet, but Ben knocks him out with a jab to the face. When the police arrive, with Michaela in tow, Ben knows he helped to solve the mystery… but he’s still not convinced that this is a miracle. It’s a joyful moment when Radd is reunited with Adio and they walk out of Rikers, arm in arm.
As far as Michaela, when looking at posts from her Facebook page while she was gone, she comes to realize that Lourdes has always been sincere in their friendship. Michaela shares her ambivalent feelings with her therapist. The therapist encourages Michaela to share her feelings and agrees to approve her reinstatement at work, as long as she keeps coming to sessions.
Michaela is also tired of being estranged from her friends and family, and she decides to smooth her relationship with Lourdes by telling her that she was planning to break off her engagement to Jared after the Jamaica trip. In a flashback, we see this isn’t true. Michaela sent a text to Jared on the plane accepting his proposal, but because there was no signal, it never went through. Michaela is a very big person… telling this lie to spare her friend’s feelings. WOW.
During the episode, we’ve seen that one of the passengers has gone to the press to express her suspicions about being manipulated by the government. At the end, we see her at home, watching her interview on TV. Then we hear a gunshot and see blood and brain matter splattered on the screen. SHE WAS SHOT IN THE HEAD BY A SHADOW PERSON.
Now this is a mystery that’s really starting to shape up!
Manifest airs Mondays at 10:00pm ET|PT on NBC.