Manifest: Estimated Time of Departure

"The answer was right in front of us all the time."

As an astute observer of the human condition (known to us today only by his pseudonym "Kohelet") wrote about two and a half millennia ago, everyone knows we're all going to die, but (with rare exceptions) nobody can know when death will "falleth suddenly upon them."

But what if you have it in writing, signed by God Himself and properly notarized, exactly when your curtain will ring down and your mortal coil will get shuffled off? If you know, to an absolute certainty, that if you don't get bitten by rattlesnake or hit by a bus or something random like that, you will depart this life on a date certain in the future, what do you do with that information? With the rest of your allotted time? How would that knowledge change you, make you different from the people around you that don't have an explicit expiration date?

If you're looking for answers to these questions, you might start by asking Ben, Michaela, or Cal Stone, as it look like they are going to be thinking about it quite a bit for the next five years.

Fresh from using his calling to weasel his way out of a double murder charge, Griffin wrangles himself an interview on one of the morning news-talk shows, where he intends to tell the whole world about the callings and his status as one of the "returned." Michaela and Ben continue trying to appeal to Griffin's conscience, but as we know from the previous episode, he doesn't have one. He's strolling up to the building where the TV show (which, I assure you, is not NBC's Today Show) has its street-level studio (which bears absolutely no resemblance to the Today Show set) and crowds of Believers and conspiracy theorists (referred to by Ben as "the X-ers") are gathered in a state of agitation. Somewhere in the crowd, Zeke is lurking with an illegally-purchased revolver, ready to persuade Griffin not to go on TV in a somewhat more forceful manner.

Though the various attempts to stop Griffin fail, he never makes it to the studio. When he gets about six feet away from Michaela, and not quite into pistol range of Zeke, he starts convulsing and coughing up water--significantly more water than his lungs and stomach could possibly have held. He drops dead right there on the street in the middle of a puddle--death by drowning, on dry land.

Everyone's first impression is that this was divine retribution for sociopath Griffin's misuse of the callings, but there's this disturbing little detail: Griffin's death occurred 82 hours and 8 minutes after he was pulled out of the river--where he was submerged for 82 hours and 8 minutes. That's just a little too symmetrical to be a coincidence.

Cal has had another calling and draws a scene of three headstones: his, his father's, and Aunt Michaela's, all displaying the date June 2, 2024. Olive dives into her mythology textbook and interprets some of the visions that Ben and Michaela have had, while Ben does some quick math. Both lines of inquiry reach the same conclusion as Cal's drawing: the 828 passengers will die on June 2, 2024, which is precisely five years, six months, and twenty-eight days after 828 landed.

Saanvi is still suffering from PTSD, and her colleague finally convinces her to see a psychologist--except that that's no psychologist, it's The Major.

Jared, for his part, has convinced himself that Zeke is his romantic rival, and goes full creepy stalker, having Zeke tailed and haranguing Michaela with details from Zeke's criminal record. This comes to a climax when he goes to Michaela's apartment to confront Zeke. "Confront" is something of an understatement: Jared starts beating the crap out of Zeke, demolishing much of the furniture in the process. (Trashing your ex's home and its contents is not a course of action that has any realistic possibility of winning her back, but Jared isn't thinking.) Zeke's revolver becomes a point of contention, and just as Michaela arrives home to the ongoing mayhem a shot rings out. Fade to black.

"828" Watch

As a contributor to IMdB noted, the characters' "estimated time of departure", June 2, 2024, is an "828" reference, but it requires a little math to see it. June 2 can be written "6/2", and 6 + 2 = 8 The first two digits of the year 2024, "2" and "0", add up to 2. Multiply the last two digits (2 x 4), and you get the other numeral 8.

Also on the manifest....

There's one other cliffhanger element to be resolved next season: Grace is pregnant, but unsure whether it's by Ben or by Danny.

If you're one of the "returned," and the situation you've returned from will be your eventual cause of death, as happened to Griffin, then Zeke (if he doesn't die from getting shot by the cliffhanger ending) is going to die of hypothermia, and the 828 passengers by the blunt-force trauma of being smacked into the ocean at a couple hundred knots. Not a happy thought.

If Captain Daly was correct, and he flew himself and Fiona into the future instead of being blown out of the sky by the Air National Guard, would they get the duration of their second disappearance tacked on to the five years, six months, and twenty-eight days they have from Flight 828?

Conclusion

Manifest is nothing if not ambitious, taking on some rather heavy philosophical questions. Though the magical realist premise of the show is what initially draws you in, the actors and writers have done an extraordinary job in developing the main characters into real people who react to extraordinary events in thoroughly believable fashion.

While the characters and character interactions are the show's strong point, the plot developments are often rushed. This is probably a consequence of the show having a truncated season instead of a "full" order. Trying to fit 23 episodes' worth of material into only 16 episodes means that plot arcs sometimes develop a little too fast, interesting subsidiary characters (like Aaron the podcaster from "Crosswinds") don't get used to the fullest, and certain puzzles have to be solved on the spot instead of playing out over a more realistic duration.

Still, on the whole, when Manifest is on top of its game--like in "Vanishing Point"--its as good as anything else on the airwaves. It's certainly good enough that I'll be back for season two.

Three out of four illegally-procured firearms for the episode. Three out of four missing airplanes for the entire season.

Baby M has never missed an airplane, though there was that one time in Boston in 1982 when he had to run from one end of the Logan Airport terminal to the other to make his connection.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

I think the first paragraph of your conclusion really nailed it in terms of why the show works so well. The sci-fi premise is certainly intriguing, and I think they did a pretty good job with the pacing of how much we learned about the Big Mystery. But what really made the show work was how the writers and the actors created compelling characters whose behavior felt natural given their circumstances. I was every bit as invested in the simple human stories of these people trying to find their place in a world that moved on without them as I was in watching them try to figure out the weird stuff.

Some of the storylines could've used a little more fleshing out than they had time for in 16 episodes, but I think 23 would've been too many. I think 18-20 is probably the sweet spot for this show. I'm sure part of it was due to them not knowing up front how many episodes they were going to get for their first season. I'm thrilled that it's getting a second season, hopefully knowing up front how many episodes they have will let them map things out more effectively.

Thank you Baby M for your excellent reviews of this show, I hope you continue next season!