Manifest: Dead Reckoning

"How is that even possible?"
"How is any of this possible?

The last couple of episodes set up a tense ticking-clock situation, and the promos promised us an exciting, explosive, slam-bang "fall finale."

Manifest delivered on that promise. This episode was exciting, and featured a lot of slamming and banging and stuff blowing up.

We pick up right where we left off last time, with Ben and Michaela at Vance's house showing him the location in Brooklyn where they think the missing passengers are.  Ben is all for going right in, but Vance wants to be a little more professional about it and take his time figuring out what to do.  He tells Ben to go home and be with his family.

Grace is planning a surprise cookout with Ben's old friends, and enlists Cal and Olive to keep him distracted until 4:30.  Ben dodges a phone call from work and goes out to shoot some hoops with Cal.  He notices a semi-familiar woman coming up the sidewalk; she's got two nice red electrode burns on her forehead and isn't walking too steadily.  She identifies herself as Autumn Cox, and tells Ben that she escaped from the secret lab and a calling led her to him.

Ben tells Grace he has to go in to work, but will be back by 4:30, then takes Autumn to a secure location (the boiler room of a building owned by the late Kelly Taylor, same place where they hid Thomas a few episodes ago) and meet up with Michaela, Saanvi, and Fiona.  Fiona is horrified to learn what the bad guys have been doing based on her research.  Ben decides to bring Vance in to see and talk to Autumn.

Meanwhile, the Singularity Project head guy, Laurence Belson--I didn't catch his name last episode, and so I just started thinking of him as "Mr. Weasel," which is a good description--is conducting a webinar for some group of someones which includes "The Major."  They have ten of the passengers strapped down and wired up, and they are streaming live video as they zap them.  When they crank Marko's voltage up to double the normal charge, the other passengers feel it--as do Ben, Michaela, Saanvi, Fiona, Autumn, and Cal.

Which makes rather a great impression on Director Vance.  Ben reads him in on the callings.  Vance decides to whistle up a "tactical team" and raid the warehouse.  He tells everyone to shut off their personal cell phones so they can't be tracked; he'll call them on cheap burner phones and tell them where to go to meet up.

Unfortunately, Vance's good operational security means that when Grace calls Ben, it goes straight to voicemail.  She's got a houseful of guests, she's increasingly worried that he's going to miss his own surprise party, when two smartly-dressed men appear, asking to talk to Ben "or his attorney" and demanding the return of his work ID.  They tell Grace that Ben was terminated as of 8:00 Friday evening.  Grace is understandably upset--if Ben had been fired, why didn't he tell her?  (Of course, Ben didn't know he'd been fired either, but she doesn't know that.)  Why would he say he was going to work?  And where is he, if he's not there?

And it doesn't help Grace's emotional state when Cal, who is getting a calling and working on a crayon drawing of the Brooklyn warehouse, takes off in search of his father, leaving behind a note.

Vance and his "tactical team," accompanied by Ben, Michaela, Fiona, and Jared (who insisted on going with Michaela), have searched the warehouse and come up empty.  Just then, Cal appears with his crayon drawing, pointing to a retaining wall next to the warehouse.  "They're right here!"  The tactical guys find an old coal chute door that leads to a basement of some kind.  Vance and company start moving in.  Cal is also quite adamant that Ben needs to go with them because "You're the only one who can see them."

They soon come across the secret torture lab and start blasting their way in.  Belson turns the brain-zapping equipment up to full--presumably, to kill off the test subjects--smashes the controls, gathers up as much of the project records as he can, and then sets the place on fire for good measure before making a run for it.  Despite the crushing headaches they have as a reaction to their fellow passengers' distress, Ben and Fiona get them disconnected and start leading them out.  They get turned around some, but then Ben has a vision of path lights (from the airplane's aisle) that point the way out--and yes, you guessed it, Ben is the only one who can see them.

Vance, Jared, and the rest of the men with guns catch Belson and company and take them into custody.  (Admit it, you cheered when Jared punched out Belson Mr. Weasel.  I know I did.)  They, too get disoriented in the tunnels.

The secret lab had a nice fire going when our heroes left it.  What always happens when a villain's secret laboratory catches fire?  You guessed it--an Earth-shattering KABOOM.

Michaela, who was outside helping Fiona get the passengers onto an ambulance, goes back into the tunnels to find Jared and the others.  We next see her at his bedside in the hospital.  Captain Rijos informs her that several good people were killed, including Director Vance.  In a moment of despair and desperation, she asks the callings to let Jared live.  Her prayer is answered and he wakes up.

Ben arrives at home with Cal in a blast-damaged family car.  Grace has been emotionally brittle ever since Cal first started channeling Marko, and now she breaks completely.  Ben told her about the callings, but not enough for her to fully appreciate what they were, and he didn't let her know what was going on with the missing passengers.  Grace doesn't fully comprehend what is going on, and the perception that she was being deliberately deceived and almost lost her son again is too much for her.  She throws Ben (and Michaela) out of the house.

Ben and Michaela end up in the boiler room with Autumn.  They go out to get something for them all to eat, leaving Autumn by herself.  As soon as they are gone, Autumn pulls out a hidden phone and sends a text message: "What now?"  In a flashback, we see that she didn't escape from the torture chamber, she was sent by Belson to spy on Ben Stone.

"828" Watch

Lots of dialog, but no visual sightings that I caught.

Also on the manifest...

"Dead reckoning" is a method of navigation, sometimes also called "deduced reckoning."  You start from your last known location, and calculate where you are now based on what direction and how long and how fast you've been traveling.  Your car's GPS unit uses "inertial navigation"--the fancy automated flavor of this--as a backup if it loses its lock on the satellites.

Explosions can kill you in one of two ways: either by sending debris flying into you at unhealthy velocities, or by the pure blunt-force trauma of the blast overpressure shock wave.  Overpressures of as little as 2 pounds per square inch can cause injury.  4 psi will injure you, and easily could kill you.  An explosion in a confined space will create more overpressure than one in open air because the energy of the blast has less room to spread out and dissipate.  (If you want extra credit on your math homework, the formula for calculating confined space overpressures is here.)  On the other hand, as Mythbusters once demonstrated, putting something solid between you and the oncoming shock wave, even something as light as a wooden table, can save your life by deflecting that overpressure away.  In a complex maze such as our heroes were stumbling through, these effects would both be in play.  The blast wave would be focused and intensified in some places, and directed away from others.  Jared may have survived because he just happened to be behind a wall that deflected some of the blast, while someone a few feet away and around the corner from him didn't because he caught the full wallop.

If your only experience with firearms is watching popular entertainment, or plinking with BBs or .22s at summer camp, you probably don't appreciate just how LOUD full-power rifles and handguns are.  We're talking 150-170 dB--in comparison, a police siren is 120 dB, and a jackhammer is "only" 90.  (And remember, it's a logarithmic scale: every 10 dB represents a doubling of the sound energy.)  That's why people on shooting ranges wear hearing protection--even on outdoor shooting ranges where the sound is going off in all directions.  In a confined space with hard stone and brick walls that reflect sound back in on you, the wallop to your eardrums is much worse.  Anyone who got out alive after the gunfight is going to be having tinnitus for a while, and anyone who also got caught in the underground blast, such as Jared, could easily need to be fitted for a hearing aid.

Unified Dynamic Systems' "Blackwater wannabees" didn't last very long against trained professional soldiers.

If the now-deceased Belson Mr. Weasel was Autumn's contact/handler, is there anyone on the other end of her text message?

Did Jar-Jar Binks Ronnie Wilcox get canned along with Ben?  Or meet a worse fate?

Call me crazy for saying this, but is Director Vance really dead?  I rather liked the character, and the actor, and I'd prefer to keep both around.  It's apparently been announced in the media in-universe that he died, but we didn't see a body.  From the scenes at his house with Michaela and Ben, it appears that he has no family, so it would be relatively easy to fake his death.  If he did survive, it's quite possible that The Major (or whoever's behind The Major) has him.

Just after the explosion, Ben has a vision of a peacock strutting its stuff.  What does that signify?  (Besides the NBC logo, that is.)

Am I the only one who thinks it's funny that the fall finale emphasized a character named Autumn?

Quotes

Saanvi: "Your research is wildly unethical."
Fiona:  "It was theoretical.  A way to increase human connection.  I never intended for it to be used this way."
You forgot, Fiona: knowledge is a tool, just like a hammer.  A hammer can be used to build a house, or break kneecaps.  It all depends on the intentions of whoever is holding it.

Michaela, to Jared: "Next time I see your mom, remind me to ask her why her son is so stubborn."

Vance: "I followed a headache.  I may as well follow a crayon drawing."

Grace, to Ben:  "Seven hundred and sixty-eight.  That's how many days I watched cancer consume my little boy.  Eight months.  That's how long it took me to file the death certificate after the plane disappeared.  One thousand four hundred and thirty.  You know what that was?  The cost of my son's gravestone. . . . So please don't tell me that I don't understand, because you don't know what it's like to have your child die."

Conclusion

Manifest has done a good job of building its characters and building its mystery over nine episodes.  As for what the next seven episodes hold in store for us, well, so far it looks like we're on a steady course to an interesting destination.  However, I can see a couple of storm cells on the weather radar:
  • General Electric UDS and its subsidiary, Mr. Weasel Belson's Singularity Project, were the "disc one final boss."  Who's behind them?   The evidence so far is that it's another government agency, probably military.  It need not be the U.S. military--other governments, some of them not at all benevolent, would certainly be interested in weaponizing the mirror neuron research.  Given what's been established so far, it would be disappointing if the "man behind the man" turned out to be a stock villain with a cat and a secret base in a volcano, or an expy of some present-day domestic political figure.  We deserve a better payoff than that.
  • The promo they ran at the end of the episode suggests that Michaela and Jared will be getting back together.  The first few episodes established that Michaela accepts the fact of Jared and Lourdes being married, even though she doesn't like it and still has feelings for him.  Is it believable that she might change her mind, and make an attempt to win him back?  Sure--but if that happens, please, showrunners, don't make it a calling.  Up to this point, the callings have been portrayed as, well, not quite God, per se, but certainly a benevolent force with good intentions.  Does it make sense that an entity like that would call Michaela to be a homewrecker?  To her own best friend, no less?
So, showrunners, watch your navigation.  We'll see you in January.

Three and a half out of four secret underground laboratories.

Baby M does not work in a secret underground law office.

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