Manifest: Reentry

"I'm trying to help you process the magnitude of changes in your life in the last five years."
"Last four days."

When you suffer a loss, whether that loss is the death of a loved one or some other life-changing event that takes something away from you, how do you let go of what you’ve lost?  How long should you take to do it?  Are there things you maybe shouldn’t let go of?  How do you tell which is which?

The second episode of Manifest deals with these questions while it also advances the series’ myth arc and introduces a new threat.

I’ll start with the spoiler I left out of the review of “Pilot.”  At the end of that episode, twenty of the passengers, including Ben and Michaela and Saanvi, felt a compulsion to go back to the airport in the middle of the night.  When they got there, the airplane spontaneously exploded.

"Reentry" picks up the very next morning. While firefighters are cleaning up the smoldering remains of the 737, Director Vance of the NSA and his staff are interviewing the passengers--none of whom can explain why they came back, or what caused the earth-shattering kaboom.  They are eventually released, with the admonition not to talk to anyone in the press, and exit the airport through a mob of reporters and paparazzi.

We follow our characters around for a day or two, through multiple story lines.  Ben finds himself helping out fellow passenger Radd, a Jamaican man who plays the violin, when he discovers that both of them have been hearing a strange tune in their heads.  Radd's son Adio has been framed for a jewelry store robbery, and he and Ben set out to discover what really happened.

Another fellow passenger, Kelly, defies Director Vance and gives an interview to one of the TV stations.  She's quite the hard-core conspiracy theorist, emphatic in her belief that the government knows more than it's telling, claiming that the box lunches the passengers were fed at the airport were drugged--and probably brought in the Trilateral Commission, fluoridated drinking water, the Mossad, and the Freemasons before the end of it.

Cal complains that he doesn't have his old Lego set and his favorite stuffed animal, Art the Dragon.  Grace take him out to the toy stores to get a replacement Lego.  On the street, they are accosted by a creepy lady who crouches down with Cal and keeps repeating "He is not here; He is risen."

Michaela has an encounter with Lourdes and, well, "awkward" doesn't begin to describe it.  By the end of the episode, she finds a way to reconcile herself with her friend and accept what happened in her absence.

During Ben's absence, Grace got romantically involved with . . . someone.  We haven't seen him yet, or even heard his voice or his name, so for now I'll refer to him as the "Unidentified Significant Other," or "USO" for short.  Grace knows she has to tell Ben about USO, and break it off with USO, but can't quite work up the nerve to do either.  Olive solves the problem for her: she takes Ben to a storage locker where she hid Cal's things after Grace threw them out.  The storage locker belongs to "a friend of Mom's."  Ben does the math and realizes that the "friend" is a little more than a friend.  Back at the house, after Cal is reunited with Art the Dragon, Ben lets Grace know that he doesn't hold anything against her.

Following these scenes of warm, fuzzy reconciliation, we see Kelly sitting in front of the TV, watching reruns of her interview with a self-satisfied smirk on her face.  We see the shadow of someone entering the room behind her, and then a shot rings out.  Kelly, we hardly knew ye.

"828" Watch

The sole appearance of the arc number this week is a brief glimpse of the cross-stitch pillow.

Also on the manifest...

What ties much of the episode together is a sort of variation on the law of unintended consequences.  The people who weren't on the flight all did things that were perfectly appropriate, given what they knew, but which ended up hurting the returnees to varying degrees.

That tune running through Ben and Radd's heads turned out to be the jewel thief's ringtone.

The phrase “He is not here; He is risen” appears in one form or another in all three synoptic Gospels: Matthew 28:6, Mark 16:6, and Luke 24:6.  Determining what mathematical relationship those chapter and verse numbers might have to “828” is left as an exercise for the student.

It occurs to me that USO is a bit selfish and inconsiderate.  Grace's husband has just come back from the dead.  The classy thing to do would be to bow out gracefully, but USO keeps pestering Grace with calls and text messages.

While waiting for a chemo treatment, Cal draws a "family portrait" of himself, Olive, his parents... and some shadowy ghost figure that Cal doesn't know who it is. At first, I thought it was a representation of USO, but by the end of the episode it's clear that it's whoever shot Kelly.

Speaking of Kelly, what was the deal with her anyway?  Was she really a "truther," or was she playing one on TV just to get attention and maybe a book deal? As for who killed her, I don't think it was the U.S. government.  Kelly talks to the press after a government official tells her not to, claims there's a conspiracy, and immediately winds up dead--naw, that's too predictable, too on-the-nose, it can't be that simple. It had to be someone else: another government, a non-state actor who wants to make the U.S. government look bad, some random psychopath who's obsessed with Flight 828--or maybe it was the Freemasons all along!

Oh, one more thing: Director Vance, you told the passengers not to talk to the press, then sent them out of the airport and into the waiting arms of the paparazzi.  You have at your disposal men in uniforms with guns.  Didn't it occur to you that the men with guns could escort the passengers out so the press couldn't get in their faces?

Quotes

Ben: “Who’s Alexa?”

Michaela: "No, Ben, not everything is a puzzle you have to solve."

Olive: "I knew Cal wasn't dead.  I don't know if it was some kind of twin thing, but I could--I could feel him.  Alive.  And the therapist, the counselors at school, Mom, everyone blew it off, blew me off--but I knew."

Conclusion

This was not a great episode, but it was a good one, and seems to have been a necessary one, in that it cued up some important story arcs and set them in motion.  We'll see where they take it from here.

Three out of four safely stored dragons.

Baby M will not be going on TV to talk about alleged government conspiracies anytime soon.

2 comments:

Patrick said...

It's clear this show is going to be a bit of a slow burn, and I'm ok with that. I'm enjoying these characters, and I'm enjoying that so far their choices all feel believable. I *hate* shows where characters made ridiculous choices for the sake keeping the writers' plans from falling apart.

I really liked the story about the kid framed for robbery. The actor playing his father was very good, it was easy to be invested in his plight.

Billie Doux said...

I liked a good bit of this episode, but I think I'm still torn. It feels like the writers have a plan. I certainly *hope* they have a plan. (And I hope it's not a religious plan!)

But sometimes it feels like they're throwing stuff in for the sake of manufacturing drama. Like Grace and her as yet unseen boyfriend, and Michaela on the plane sending her "yes" to Jared and having the wifi cut out and stop it.

So I guess I'm still on the fence?

Baby M, excellent review. I think that the government did kill Kelly, even though it's too obvious. :)

Patrick, I also really liked Radd. The actor did a marvelous job of projecting strong, understandable emotion about his plight and his son's. I hope Radd isn't a one-shot character.