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Manifest: Formation

Angelina: “So, why are you here?”
Adrian: “I'm here to make amends. I spent months tracking down everyone I can to apologize for the harm I caused. Families of victims from the nightclub fire, people from the compounds. [...] I told you to find your angel. You misunderstood my words.”
Angelina: “I don't need your apology. I'm an archangel sent by God.”

Cal needs to join with another sapphire to complete an important Calling, and finds it in an unlikely place. Eagan proves not to be husband material.

Cal, prodded by Olive, confesses the Calling that he should have brought up a month earlier. He is supposed to work with another sapphire. The idea of working with Angelina is nauseating, but Cal reaches out anyway. His attempt fails because she actually wants the world to end.

By pushing on the puzzle and by consulting others – especially Saanvi – our heroes decide to go to Stone Mountain, where Saanvi tossed the remnant of Noah’s Ark into the fissure of lava. A set of the passengers (our heroes) head out from the Detention Center and go to a patch of wilderness and the section of highway. It’s blocked off with warnings, but no one has tried to repair it. On the other hand, no one is guarding it, either. You’d think the powers would opt for one route or the other.

Cal knows the sapphire of the Ark is what he needs. This is a solution I did not see. I thought the gem in the necklace worn by Olive (previously by Grace) was a sapphire and that it would be used. I thought it would have been cool for the twins to work together. But the creators took another path, and that's OK.

At the end of the previous episode, Adrian knocked on the door belonging to Angelina (or, rather, to Michaela Stone, but it's the house where Angelina and her flock are squatting). Adrian tells us what he has been doing with his time, going out to make amends, not bothering to wait for a Calling to do the right thing. He talks to Angelina, but she declares she’s an archangel so she doesn’t need to listen to him. Adrian also talks to Eagan, bringing a message and a token from Eagan’s parents. Eagan’s first reaction is to say no, but Adrian's words sink in, and he leaves with Adrian, telling Angelina their marriage is annulled.

The word "annulled" means that Eagan and Angelina never consummated their marriage. In the prior episode, Angelina said they needed to wait until the Death Date had passed before sex, and Eagan did not press her as he dislikes her. This was a good way for Manifest to avoid having them go to bed together, something that would have made many viewers squeamish. Although many people can sluff off sex with a partner who turns out to be a mistake, it’s highly probable that Angelina is a virgin and it would matter too much to her. Sleeping with Angelina would also make Eagan unredeemable.

Another note: Eagan is not convinced immediately by Adrian, but is soon after. Too often persuaders want the gratification of instant conversion, but that’s not how it works. You need to make an argument, and then give it time to sink in.

The passengers already at Stone Mountain sit around a campfire. They all know there’s a good chance they'll die the following day, and they speculate on what it all means, and why they were chosen. Why 828? Why not flight 827 or flight 829? They don’t come up with satisfactory answers, just that they were being prodded by the Callings to do good. Here’s some of the discussion, without the usual attributions, because I don't think they're important:

My guess is there isn't anything special about us. We're just a bunch of random people. Some good, some bad. A statistical sample for a divine experiment. We always say it's all connected, but the truth is we are all connected to each other. Everyone on that plane. Everyone in the world. We just forget. Might've been easier to walk off the plane with a note that said, "Be good to each other, or else." I don't think the Callings forced us to do good. I think they gave us a chance to choose it.

It’s a rather wimpy response to all the questions Manifest has raised throughout its four seasons. Who or what is the divine consciousness? When did lava get to serve as a storage area? Why sapphire? Who or what has initiated the Callings?

On the other hand, I loved The Good Place, with its many attempts to determine how to be good, and how difficult it is to find or create rules that work in all circumstances. So, despite my feeling that the answers have not been given, I’m feeling rather friendly toward Manifest right now. These questions are pretty much impossible to answer. My major objection is that Manifest kept promising to answer them.

Michaela finally sends Jared to Drea. She should have done this before, within a day or two of learning that Drea was pregnant, but Manifest skipped ahead a month. And this explains why Manifest made Michaela so adamantly against kids, so that she would be able to break up with Jared. Also, as Michaela’s heart apparently belongs to Zeke, it is kinder to Jared.

Ben and Saanvi may have spent the night together, but they are not soul mates. They say they will always care about each other but they end their relationship.

There’s a sweet moment when Olive comes to say goodnight, and Ben has to confront the fact that his daughter will be spending the night with TJ – she’s more than 18 years old and the world is supposed to end the next day, so why not?

In the middle of the night, Cal realizes it’s time to meld with the sapphire in the Ark. Ben notices his son has left their tent and discovers his son is about to disappear again. They say goodbye, and Cal’s joining of his sapphire with the sapphire of the Ark creates a signal that the other passengers see.

Title musings: “Formation” is the title of the episode. In aviation, groups of airplanes fly in formation. The title reminds us that salvation, at least in Manifest, is a group effort.

The word formation also is about getting into shape, and I don’t mean just exercise and fitness but the actual form one wants to be. It can also refer to education. As we have the group getting ready for the Death Date, getting themselves into position but also looking for insights, the title works.

Bits and pieces

I find it amazing the Detention Center isn’t equipped with an English-Bulgarian dictionary. I guess that language was chosen because they do use the same word for coffin and for ark. I wonder if the Manifest creators just got lucky, or if it was planned. I bet it was planned.

In general it is hard on trees if you carve into them. The exception is on the scar of a missing branch, which is where young Ben and younger Michaela carved their initials. So, a point for Manifest for its environmental friendliness.

Young Ben and young Michaela seem too close to each other in age. I had reckoned a difference of about eight years.

The real reason it was flight 828 was so the Manifest creators could keep referring to Karen Stone’s favorite Bible verse, Romans 8:28.

I wonder how they got such an odd assortment of tents. Why would there be any in the Detention Center?

If the world was about to end, I would definitely take another cookie. I’d eat the whole box.

I love how Ben and Cal use American Sign Language to signal “I love you” at the end, recalling the episode in which Cal was kidnapped by the meth heads.


Olive: So, now do you wanna tell your twin what's going on?
Cal: It's – it's a Calling I had. Two sapphires come together, creating a star glowing so bright. I think it's how I'm supposed to help save the world.
Olive: What did Dad say?
Cal: I haven't told him, because I haven't exactly figured it out yet.

Ben: (to Marko) I know you can't understand this, but you could've had another cookie. This would be the day to indulge.

Ben: What are you still doing here?
Vance: Saving the world. What are you doing?
Ben: Don't think it's time to take a day off?
Vance: What the hell are you talking about?
Ben: Go to Florida. To Estelle, the boys. Hug them, jump in the pool with them. Just go be with them.

Eagan: I'd say, "It's not you. It's me." But it's totally you.
Angelina: No! Eagan! Eagan, you're my husband. You promised to be by my side. I – I can save you.
Eagan: Turns out I'm willing to take a risk that maybe I can save myself and a few others along the way. Consider this an annulment.

Michaela: I think you and I both know we envision different futures for ourselves.
Jared: Those are things we can compromise on.
Michaela: I would never ask you to compromise on your happiness, Jared. Especially when everything you need is one tent over.

Ben: Cal, what are you doing?
Cal: I have to go, Dad.
Ben: No, I'm not losing you again. No.
Cal: Thank you for being my dad.

Overall rating

Despite my general frustration with the lack of definitive answers I actually liked the discussion where they realized they were responsible for making their own decisions (in my opinion, that is the real answer). However, Cal should have brought up the two sapphires Calling before, and Michaela should have sent Jared to Drea within 24 hours of discovering her situation. Three out of four assorted pup tents.

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

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