"Manifest" takes a major step into its future this week with a desperate attempt to see if lightning can strike twice.
This week, NBC's "Manifest" conducted a bold experiment that either resulted in catastrophic death or another miracle, and only time will tell which it was.
The story picked up on Captain William Daly, who stormed off last week after accusing Dr. Fiona Clarke of being behind the whole disappearance, since her combined consciousness theory seems to have been proven true with the passengers.
This week, Ben learned how difficult it's been for Daly with the whole world blaming him for the disappearance of the passengers. And so, he decided it was time to prove his innocence once and for all. But what he mostly proved was that he had become dangerously obsessed, which also proved a warning to Ben's own growing obsession.
By the end of the hour, Daly had seemingly pulled off the impossible and either died in the process, or actually managed to disappear just as Flight 828 had five-and-a-half years ago (or is it six yet?). Unfortunately, he took a hostage along with him because, well, did we cover how obsessed and dangerous he'd become?
And danger proved to be even close to home for the Stone family as Micheala naively invited the Major's mole into her home while she was babysitting Cal. Now Autumn is a reluctant mole, but that was still dangerously close proximity, considering what Cal can do and how important he clearly is.
With all of that said, of course we have questions, and we're sure you do, too. Let's see if we get answers to any of them:
Who Is the Major?
There's a decent chance this is no one we've seen before, but so much emphasis has been made on keeping the Major's identity secret, we wouldn't be surprised if she did turn out to be a face we recognized. Vindication for Captain Daly would be for it to be Fiona Clarke, though he put a wrinkle in that reveal with his impromptu flight ... or did he?
The bottom line is that the Major seems to be the force behind everything that's been going on to the survivors of Flight 828, so perhaps the better question is why? What is she hoping to gain by controlling the narrative around the flight, experimenting on the shared consciousness and seeking out her "Holy Grail," which is apparently the person most sensitive to the Callings ... poor Cal.
But while the Major is on the hunt for the Holy Grail, who is on the hunt for Mick, and where the hell are they? This latest calling has covered two episodes now with no resolution in sight, and notably it isn't even her calling. Meanwhile, there have been no new callings, so it must be important, right?
All we know is that it's someone -- sounds like a man to us -- in blizzard-like conditions with no globes and frostbite settling into his(?) hands. Oh, and he's carrying around a picture of Micheala. But who is he and why is he looking for her? And why is he absolutely nowhere near where she is, so far as we can tell.
We're assuming this is not from the past, so there is someone on the hunt for her now or in the near future. But why let her tap into his psyche for this moment? And is it his calling that she's seeing, or is she seeing his actual actions and thoughts? He doesn't seem to have any connection to the Major, who would use a much more sophisticated method of dealing with Mick should she choose to do so, so is he an ally? A new threat?
What Did the Gov't Know in 2013?
Whether or not black lightning had anything to do with the disappearance of Flight 828, it is interesting that the government was apparently falsifying data surrounding the flight all the way back to 2013. Were they just covering their butts because they knew nothing, or was it perhaps because they knew something?
If so, did they know the plane was going to come back? Has this been a coordinated five-and-a-half year experiment this whole time? If so, we have to imagine some elements went beyond their control, as they'd never want the plane's return to be so highly publicized that their subjects are now world-famous.
That's now how you control an experiment. Or if they didn't know what was going on, what was their motivation in duping the public about what they did know or did see or did experience?
As an example, what did Dr. Mencin see? He was disappeared in 2014 before he was set to appear before Congress about what he saw when the plane disappeared as he was nearby conducting experimental work on coastal erosion. He told Ben and Daly it was black lightning, a theoretical weather phenomenon that can apparently erupt spontaneously like that.
But what did he see that he had to keep hush? Is black lightning enough? Or did he see something more deliberate? Was he able to see the plane -- either with his naked eye or through instruments -- as it flew into the storm? Could he have seen it disappear? Did it disappear?
Did Daly Do It Again?
For that matter, did it disappear again after Daly kidnapped Fiona and flew into a similar storm? The black lightning erupted just as it had before, though from what we could see neither he nor Fiona did anything to trigger it. Daly was certain Fiona was involved in the disappearance and the whole conspiracy, and she may well still be. We've had our suspicions as well.
She was pretty convincing in being terrified as they flew into the storm with the military hot on their tails. But when the military said their plane was neutralized and it disappeared from radar, we're skeptical that they shot it down. After all, the bright lights again flashed into the cockpit, and that seemed to be more about style than anything else.
So if this was an unauthorized flight, how was Daly able to recreate events of the past and possibly do it again? Did he jump to 2024, as he surmised? Perhaps the past? And if so, did he really stumble on the trick to time travel in an airborne capacity? If so, how would the government know that, or is that what happened?
We've still got the shared consciousness thing to deal with, so it was more than simple time travel. But if he was able to do it again, it makes it seem less likely that the government orchestrated everything from the start, unless Daly was right from the start. One thing's for sure, we don't believe either of them are dead, and we're pretty sure we'll see them again.
This one is more minor curiosity than anything essential to the plot, but what drawing did Autumn see that was so powerful she stole it and managed to get Cal kidnapped by the Major's people that night. Also, her waffling back and forth in our sympathy went way downhill this week by letting the boy get kidnapped.
He will forever now be on the Major's radar, which really begs the questions: why haven't Mick and Ben been paying more attention to what he's been drawing and talking more to him about his callings and experiences. Cal doesn't really open up about these things naturally, but we know he shared Mick's vision of the man searching for her.
They also know he's more intuitive than any passenger, so you'd think regular visits/interviews/interrogations of Cal would just be a part of the daily routine. Oh dad can't watch me tomorrow night, he's gotta help that man from the plane.
Okay, bud, sounds good. Have a good night.
What? No follow-up? No, how do you know that? What did you find? They've been back weeks and Ben is so worried about protecting Cal he hasn't even realized that by working with Cal and what Cal knows, he'll probably do a lot better. Cal's more connected than anyone, but let's just skip that resource. That's Research 101, right?
Who Is Clarissa Ford -- Really?
Another probably throwaway line, but we couldn't let go of the fact that Autumn wants Micheala and Ben to help her find Clarissa Ford, who she says framed her for all kinds of stuff while they were gone for five-and-a-half years. Was it just a misdirect that won't come to anything, or is that name significant?
Autumn is a reluctant mole for the Major, so is that maybe the Major's name? Or a hint of some kind they should decipher? Or is it perhaps nothing because the writers just aren't that clever?
"Manifest" continues to be far better than the sum of its parts. It's ideas are lofty and intriguing and some of the side characters have been really compelling. But there are still some problems with fleshing out the characters of Ben and Michaela (just our lead characters) and don't even get us started on the worst character on the show, Grace.
On top of that, the dialogue and overall writing has been borderline atrocious at times. They speak like this is a bad 1940s cop movie half the time, and the emotions are never earned through narrative. Plus, the dialogue serves the plot too heavily, eliminating anything resembling natural speech exchanges.
We keep hoping it will get better in these regards, but it doesn't look like this is that kind of show. It's not "Lost" with the same level of character depth. It's just trying to match it in overwhelmingly complex ideas and some massive time-traveling covert experimental conspiracy story behind the whole thing.
At least it's fun to watch and speculate what the hell is going on