A new returnee with a dark past brings more questions than answers and promises to upend the way we've come to understand and see these "callings" in action.
The penultimate episode of this first season of "Manifest" -- and we do believe the season's top-rated new drama will return -- dropped a huge bombshell about the callings and threw everything up in the air.
In a twist we didn't see coming, the episode opened with the brutal robbery of an armored car, and the murder of two guards who helped pull it off. The man behind all of this? The guy we last saw lunging out of a van toward Michaela, having just been pulled from the river.
That's right, the latest victim (is that the right word) of a vanishing and subsequent return is not a good dude at all. Zeke has been a little sketch from the beginning, but James Griffin is a career criminal and a real piece of work. The episode probably spent a little too long with Mick trying to break through to him, considering she failed, but maybe failure was the point and the lesson.
Grace, who is all in on this crazy adventure now, theorized that maybe it's not about the callings themselves, but what you do with them. This came when Ben despaired that their may not be a benevolent force behind them, after all. Or maybe it's about free will. Maybe it's a test to see what mankind does with such a gift.
For most of the returnees, they've done what they could to help. For an opportunistic scumbag like Griffin, he saw it as an opportunity for a "get-out-of-jail-free" card, and he jumped on that chance. Unfortunately, as it took the entire episode to find out, it totally worked, too. The calling was right and lives were saved, but because Micheala was too open with him, Griffin will now walk as a free man.
If he's the wolf in Michaela, Zeke and Cal's callings, you can bet we're not done with him yet. But what is the connection between all of these people? What is Zeke really up to and who was he? Is there a redeeming quality to Griffin or is he scum all the way through.
Next week is the season finale and we have so many questions, but here are the biggest ones we're grappling with right now:
There have been all kinds of cute Easter eggs of the numbers 828 throughout the season but Saanvi's realization that Griffin was underwater for 82 hours and 8 minutes is just one coincidence too many. It also proves she is extremely good at math, considering she was also struggling with some pretty severe PTSD at the time. Not gonna lie, we're worried about the good doctor.
But we also want to know the significance of this sequence of numbers. Is there some "Lost"-level meaning behind them, or are these just symbolic numbers to signify important events or things that the returnees should pay attention to? We can't see a connection to 828 in Zeke's disappearance, but if the number themselves matter, does that mean this plane was chosen because of its flight number?
It must have some meaning or it wouldn't keep coming back up. Here's hoping the writers have come up with a good one, or the claims of being a cheap "Lost" knockoff will keep coming fast and furious.
There has been a sense that the returnees have some hidden purpose and we've seen most of them try to do the right thing at every turn. Even the pilot, misguided and crazed as he became, was trying to prove something. And then there's Zeke, who seems to be trying to turn over a new leaf from whatever he was prior to his vanishing.
So why bring back a seemingly irredeemable murderer in Griffin? He immediately took an opportunistic approach to the callings and now looks like he's set to exploit them for further personal gain. If these callings are about doing good, then why would a man like this be one of the people chosen to come back?
We've so much yet to learn about Griffin, but in uncovering the story of how he framed his foster brother Devon for murder only to have him die in prison, we also got a brief exchange between Grace and the boys' foster mother, Angela. She didn't seem to have them for very long, but basically said Griffin was a bad apple from day one.
He lied about being able to swim, showing that lying is just in his nature, and yet Angela never saw him again after he and his brother wound up in juvie for two years. But then she said she basically wished he'd never come back, leading us to wonder if there's more to the story. What did Griffin do to her, or is it enough that he cost Devon his life?
All along we've had some sense that the callings were some force of good, whether spiritual or alien or whatever. Now, suddenly, we're not so sure. Perhaps they're just an extra sense that's being gifted to humanity through these disappearances and returns and it doesn't really matter what you do with them.
It's not like the callings have led to any rewards for the Stone family or anyone else who's been following them, that we know of, in a personal sense. Sure, lives have been saved and evil has been stopped a time or two, but is that enough? Not for everyone, obviously. And if there's a larger picture, no one is seeing it.
So maybe it isn't about doing the right thing for the right reasons. All the callings are doing is offering glimpses into the future. Why Griffin got such a clear one while Michaela and Zeke are left chasing a wolf is murky, too. The first guy to use a calling for evil gets a crystal clear image. Maybe good really doesn't matter at all.
One of Griffin's most cryptic lines was, "These callings are capable of so much more. I'm gonna take them to a whole new level." Mick seems to have made a huge mistake telling Griffin about the callings, but his warning seems even more cryptic and dangerous.
Is he going to continue to use them for personal gain on an individual level, as he did to beat a murder rap, or is he going to do something much larger. If he goes public with this ability and can prove what he's capable of doing as a returnee, that changes the game for everyone who's returned.
The Church of the Returned will go to a whole new level of worship, but so will those who are against 828 and think they're evil. Already, having Griffin tied to them has Cody -- the guy who threatened Cal when Ben confronted him -- spewing more hate at his followers. Add in the ability to see the future, and who knows how dark they'll go.
Zeke says he was going to see his mother, but wanted to break into her house first to make sure she was doing okay. Michaela believed this terrible story but she's the only one. Jared is right to do a DNA test on Zeke's cup, because the guy has been cryptic since we first met him. Being cute might work for Mick, but Jared sees through it.
And while he does genuinely seem to be trying to do the right thing now and maybe even atone for some of his past sins, we still don't know what they all are and how bad he was before he disappeared. Why won't he admit who he is? Why hasn't he tried to reconnect to his world (prior to tonight, if his story is to be believed)?
Perhaps most importantly, why is he connected to Michaela, both in their first calling they saw together through to this new one with the wolf that seems to be tying them to Griffin as well. What ties these three people together?
As we said, Griffin got a perfectly clear calling and Mick gets a cryptic growling wolf that made an appearance again to close out this hour after Griffin's bomb was deactivated. It backed away and took off running, so is it trying to lead her somewhere?
Is there another bomb? Another piece of Griffin's criminal story to uncover? Plus, Zeke saw this wolf, too, so maybe it's leading her to him. Maybe Griffin and the bomb were only one part of the story. Maybe Zeke and Griffin have history together and Zeke is way worse than we imagined.
Or maybe the wolf was about Zeke the whole time and whatever he's up to with this house is the real threat that Mick needs to take care of.
Will it all come together in next week's season finale? Oh surely not, as the producers want another season, too. But hopefully we get at least some answers to leave us satisfied that this first season told a complete story even as it left the door open for all the new questions we're sure to have.
"Manifest" wraps its first season next Monday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.