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Manifest: Fasten Your Seatbelts

Gabe Vasquez: “Zeke turned himself in, Michaela. He knows he's guilty. What am I missing here?”
Michaela: “Everything Zeke did, he did for me.”
Vasquez: “So did I.”

The first episode of Manifest’s second season opens with lots of turbulence, so strap on in!

Manifest is about the lives of passengers of an airplane that disappeared for about 5.5 years and reappeared later, with the passengers unchanged while the rest of the world moved on. Baby M’s reviews for season one were great; they gave me so much insight. Alas, he has stepped down, so I feel called to step up.

I’m attracted to these types of shows, Glitch, Lost, The 4400, etc. With Manifest, I am fascinated by several things. What is the point? Why are the Callings so vague – for example, why do they use pronouns instead of people’s names? If you’re channeling the divine, why doesn’t the divine make more sense? Are the Callings good, evil, or indifferent? Will our heroes survive the death date or not?

And overall, how well planned is this series? Will it, in the end, make sense? Will they tie up all the loose ends? Will they resolve the inconsistencies? What has been nice about Manifest is that it often acknowledges there are inconsistencies (I’ll point them out as we go along).

Anyway, the end of season one left us with a cliffhanger: a shot rang out, but we didn’t see who was shot. We can assume it was a human, and not just some piece of furniture, as the latter would be anti-climactic. In "Fasten Your Seatbelts," we discover it’s Michaela, who is experiencing her near-death (or perhaps actual death?) both literally – first-aid is being administered by Zeke then Jared and then the hospital – and figuratively as flight 828 is nose-diving.

One of the motifs we see in this episode is urgency with respect to time. Michaela has it when she’s refusing to spend her recovery binging on junk food and watching Netflix. It brings up a point, what do people do when they know they’re going to die fairly soon? Does that make them nicer or meaner to each other? In a way the question ought to be irrelevant; we should all know our time is finite, but we often act as if we have forever to achieve all we want to achieve, when we could be snuffed out any moment.

After getting out of the hospital – the show moves forward two months – Michaela goes in to work, despite being still on medical leave, because she knows how little time Zeke has left and she doesn't want him to have to spend it running from the law. She tells off Jared (who, in my opinion, really deserves it). She meets the new boss – Captain Bowers is set up as a no-nonsense lady and a potential source of conflict. Neither Jared nor Captain Bowers agree to stop hunting Zeke, who is still at large. Michaela glances at the names of missing persons on the board. Two of them, the Vasiks, are passengers. Michaela and brother Ben go off in search of them.

Cal, thanks to a Calling, knows where Zeke is. Cal goes over to Zeke’s mother’s house and insists on meeting with him. Zeke chooses, after his conversation with Cal, when he discovers his own death date, to turn himself in. Given how little time he has left, he is making the choice to come clean.

There are scenes back on the airplane. This makes me wonder about how many times had to shoot on the airplane. This could be an issue with Jack Messina, the actor who plays Cal, because at this point he’s at the age where kids grow fast. My belief, from watching the camera angles and Josh Dallas’s hair, is that they used old footage for some of the episode and spliced in new bits with Michaela.

I confess that I don’t understand Michaela’s attraction (at this point) to Zeke. I appreciate her zeal to keep him out of prison, as it really was an accident, but I’d hope that it wouldn’t take a physical attraction to fight for anyone wrongly imprisoned. Maybe sharing a couple of Callings is a source of attraction. Also, Michaela assumes they both have expiration dates in the not-so-distant future, so that would provide another connection.

Ben and Michaela track down the Vasiks, fearing they have been kidnapped by the evil Major. It turns out their Callings have bewildered and practically harassed them and they have been turning to the most terrifying verses in the Bible. This makes me wonder more again why the Callings are so confusing. Yes, it makes for great drama, but there should be good reasons why something that seems so powerful and so knowledgeable cannot communicate explicitly. Unless the point is to confuse the poor passengers; i.e., we are all lab rats in the Matrix. Anyway, I am hoping Manifest will tackle this eventually.

Since we locate the Vasiks, we know they were not taken by the Major. Instead she is playing evil psychiatrist to Saanvi. The Major hints that Saanvi is attracted to Ben, but Saanvi resists this interpretation. In my opinion, she likes being part of a group. Ben and Saanvi relate more intellectually than physically.

The big thing in the Stone family, besides Michaela getting out of the hospital, is Grace’s pregnancy, which is a happy thing, but also a question mark, because we don't know who the father is. The baby is fine, but then Ben learns Grace had a miscarriage when she was with Danny. The way Ben draws back is beautifully acted. He’s not angry – at least not long – but he feels left out. Then he rises to the occasion, as he realizes the pain and disappointment that Grace and Danny must have felt at her miscarriage, and he suggests they should test at once and determine if the baby’s father is Danny.

Title musings. “Fasten Your Seatbelts” is the title of the episode. I adore how Manifest’s episode titles all have something to do with airplanes and flying. Fasten your seatbelts is a phrase every passenger has heard at the beginning of a flight. It is also appropriate because Michaela, in her Callings, is back on the airplane as it is nosediving and experiencing severe turbulence. The phrase is useful advice for everyone in the car that rolled down the embankment near the G.W. Bridge. The title is also the promise of an exciting journey through season two. It's a great title.

Bits and pieces

This week’s vague Calling, apparently one that has been around for a while, is “Save the passengers.”

I enjoyed meeting the new precinct captain, Captain Bowers, who has a lot more character than the last captain. I also appreciated the revival of Robert Vance. It appears that Manifest has reached the point where it can afford a larger cast.

At the end of the third season of Dallas, J.R. Ewing was shot and everyone had to wait for the next season (and several additional episodes) to learn who pulled the trigger. This may have been the most talked about cliffhanger of all time (I have never watched an episode of Dallas). In Manifest, they reversed the trope and made people wait to learn which character was the victim.

Funnily enough, Gabe Vasquez is played by J.R. Ramirez.

I can understand only two people being allowed to see Michaela in the hospital. I can understand her not wanting to see Jared. What I can’t understand is why her father is not one of those first two people. Sure, Josh Dallas is cute, and he may be the lead, but her father is her father and he ought to be the first to see his daughter.

A guy should never contradict his partner with respect to her health. Ben may be an excellent mathematician, but Grace knows how many times she has been pregnant.

The Vasik kids all seem very young for kids who have to all have been born more than 5.5 years ago. Especially kids whom their parents would leave alone while they go for a vacation in Jamaica.

Speaking of 5.5 years, the passengers were gone a bit longer than that: 2037 days, which works out to 5 years and 210 days.

If I am reckoning correctly, and if Manifest is as well, we should be able to determine the time of this episode. Grace is 14 weeks pregnant. However, that is really only 12 weeks of pregnancy. 828 landed the 4th of November in 2018. So this episode should take place in the last week of January 2019.

My address in my early childhood was 828 South Woodlawn Avenue. I feel as if I fit right in with the passengers of Manifest.

Quotes

Jared: I came into Mick's place. Zeke had a gun. ... I tried to take it from him. There was... There was a scramble. I mean, if I knew she was there, I would've... A shot went off as I pulled the gun away. She went down.
In this conversation, Jared knows what happened and what didn’t.

Doctor: Bear with me. New record system. How many previous pregnancies?
Grace: Um, two.
Ben: Two kids... twins. One pregnancy.
Grace: It's two pregnancies. I had a miscarriage last year.

Olive: Why didn't you tell Danny you're pregnant? Is Danny the father?
Grace: I don't know.
Olive: Oh, my God.
Grace: Honey, if the baby turns out to be Danny's, of course we will tell him. You get that, don't you?
Olive: I just thought this baby would be something special... for our family.

Cal: You need to be with Michaela. She doesn’t have much time. And neither do you.

Ben: Well... the Vasiks clearly had trouble dealing with their Callings, and they were trying to make sense of them through Bible verses.
Grace: Romans 8:28? "All things come together for good"?
Ben: Revelation 20:14. "And death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."
Grace: Whoa.

Michaela: Zeke, you got to go right now.
Zeke: I called it in.
Michaela: What?
Zeke: This is what I need to do with what little time I have left... own up to my actions. For once in my life. No more excuses. No more running.

Ellen: Saanvi, I'm sorry to interrupt, but it's my ethical obligation to tell you I think I am wasting your time.
Saanvi: What? Why would you say that?
Ellen: You are paying out of pocket for psychiatric treatment, and yet I sense a reluctance to be treated.
Saanvi: Ellen, no, I'm a mess. I still have nightmares, constant anxiety. Of course I want the treatment.
Ellen: And yet our sessions still remain very much on the surface. I have been doing this a long time. It is clear to me that there is more going on with you than you are sharing. If you're not truly ready to heal yourself, save your money. You know where to find me. Meantime, here are some non-clinical support groups.

Cal: I don't want to do this anymore. I just want to be a kid.

Vance: You’re not the only one who can come back from the dead.

Overall rating

Oh, gosh, I have to rate this and I don’t want to because I enjoyed it too much and I don’t think I can be fair. You have my permission to like it less, but I’m giving it four out of four brochures for non-clinical support groups.

Victoria Grossack loves math, birds, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

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