Suddenly, everyone seems to be facing their "trial by fire," but it's not going great for Ben or Angelina, who nearly kills Eden -- there's a lot of near-death going around.
Things are taking a dark turn on "Manifest," and it's coming from a lot of different directions -- including some of our heroes!
Ben has been our everyman way into the mysteries surrounding the return of Flight 828 and its aftermath, but he's not doing a great job of fulfilling that role anymore. In fact, he may be on his way to becoming one of the Passengers biggest problems.
This week, we learned the limitations of Zeke's new powers, even if we still don't understand how or why he has them, as well as just how far whatever (entity/intelligence/alien/deity) is behind all of this is willing to go to keep its secrets.
We also saw a very unfortunately simplistic portrayal of anxiety in the form of the latest case-of-the-week. The latest Passenger to receive a Calling was Astrid, and when we first meet her, she's a veritable shut-in, talking passionately to Ben about how panic attacks and her anxiety have made it to where she cannot work, and she even suggests she may hardly (if ever) leave her house due to it.
And yet, Ben's impassioned speech about how he'll do anything to save his son, Cal, was enough for her to just shrug all of that off and grab her purse? And aside from a few moments where she's temporarily frozen, it seems to take little more than Ben shouting at her or a quick pep talk to get her moving again.
The episode even ends with her suddenly going to visit the young boy she had a hand in saving at the hospital. Perhaps her anxiety was not as serious as she presented it to Ben in their first meeting.
It's a little disingenuous to present it as something that can be so easily overcome time and time again; especially considering the stress and fear she was experiencing at almost every turn.
We were thrilled to see the show embrace a Passenger with this kind of challenge when considering Callings, but you can't just bully or encourage people with anxiety and everything goes smoothly every single time. Maybe Astrid was having a really good day, despite everything, but then that should have been acknowledged somewhere.
While we had some concerns with Astrid's portrayal, we still enjoyed the character and think she makes a fine addition to the growing "Manifest" family. But her Calling this week also started us down a long list of even more questions.
Are Fire Photos a New Calling Format or Something New?
The cast keeps calling what's been happening in recent weeks "trials by fire," but is this some new development, or have the Callings just decided to be lazy. Since Ben went through all this trouble of making his wall of Passenger photos, it's a lot easier to just light one up and boom, there's your latest subject.
This week, we saw both Astrid and Ben's pictures light up. But in the case of Astrid, her "trial by fire" seemed to just be a fairly standard Calling. Sure it wound up having all sorts of connections to the Stones -- doesn't everything -- but from her perspective it was nothing special.
Maybe her "trial" was overcoming her anxiety enough to be able to follow through on the Calling at all. Ben's "trial" seemed obvious after he basically went postal on Cody -- the anti-828er we met previously. It also seems like he's failing at his.
But have all of the Callings been "trial by fire" or is this a new development? And if so, why is it happening now? It's not like the Passengers are closing in on their Death Dates, so why the "trial" now? Is there something else coming before that date they have to be ready to deal with?
Have Some Passengers Had No Callings?
Astrid certainly seemed to be dealing with her first Calling when Ben knocked on her door. She certainly didn't indicate she'd experienced anything like this before, and she had no idea about following and fulfilling them. If this is her first, how is that possible?
How would it be that the Stones and some others have had tons of Callings by this point while other Passengers have had none at all? Even the meth-head trio had several callings in the few months they were Returnees? Why would whatever is behind all of this choose some to receive Callings right away and others not to?
Are there Passengers who've received no Callings and will receive no Callings? Is this something that happens to all Returnees eventually, or is it possible to come back and just not be on that list to get a Calling? Perhaps not all of the Passengers need to be tested? Could Astrid's anxiety have increased to the point she needed a "trial" to get a better handle on it for whatever is to come?
Can Zeke Learn to Interpret His Power Better, or Is It Limited?
This week, Zeke learned that there is a limit to what his "Shimmer" empath powers can do. He was able to see that Sarah genuinely cares about Jared last week, but what does that really mean? This week, he was able to see that Angelina really cares about Eden, and vice-versa.
At the same time, he totally missed that Angelina seems to be increasingly unhinged, this time actually endangering Eden's life with her own attempt to "test" her after Beverly called her Angelina's guardian angel. Angelina's genuine love for Eden did nothing to reveal that she was actually a threat to the baby.
Does that mean that Sarah may actually be a threat to Jared in some way, even if her feelings for him are real? Is it possible that Zeke could develop a better understanding of his power to detect nuances like that, or is he limited to just feeling how people feel?
Why Would a Real Volcano Form in New York?
Like last week, the earthquakes and the volcanic rupture in New York were real phenomena that everyone experienced, putting them on a level with the actual disappearance and reappearance of Flight 828. This is miracle-type stuff, but the kind that could have killed people.
It nearly killed that little boy that Astrid helped save and it shook everyone in the cast. And it was a result of the tests being done on the driftwood. The new epicenter was located exactly in the center of where three return incidents occurred (Zeke's cave, meth-head's lake, and Griffin's river). So was it a message?
If so, why did this message manifest physically rather than just as a Calling? Was a volcano forming below New York? How could things progress to the point of a magma-filled rupture without other serious issues going on. What was happening beneath the ground for magma to be that close to the surface?
The epicenter location raises another question about Returns. If that location wasn't just a way to get Saanvi's attention, then might it have some other significance? Could it be that the location where people disappear determines if they come back or not.
Everyone keeps saying it's about Redemption now, but that would mean all the Passengers are in need of Redemption for past sins or misdeeds ... including Cal? That would also mean none of them were on that plane by accident. We know stand-bys and the like did cause some last-minute Passenger shuffling, but it still seems far-fetched the entire Passenger manifest was orchestrated by whatever is behind all of this.
The alternative could be that it's as much, if not more so, about the location. Maybe it wasn't about Zeke but about the Cave. That could explain why such unsavory types as Griffin and the meth-head trio were also given a chance to come back. Otherwise, why would they be chosen for Redemption? And why would Griffen be given such a short span of time to try and achieve it?
Will Cody Change His Views on 828ers?
Cody is part of the group we've not seen in a while that thinks Passengers all died and there are an abomination and threat to everyone else. Based on recent theories, they may be at least half right. But they also hate all of them.
And yet, Cody witnessed Astrid knowing details about his son's whereabouts and what he was wearing and even that he had orange powder from chips on his fingers. The fact that Astrid and Michaela were subsequently able to go and rescue Robin from an earthquake-triggered collapse means that her powers were real.
Will knowing this change Cody's attitude about them, or will he go even deeper into his hatred of them, despite the fact one of them ultimately saved his son? If he's deep into his fanaticism against them, he could turn just as fanatically for them.
We know that Eden is the product of Ben and Grace, and that means that Eden may well have some of whatever Ben has as a Returnee. At Michaela's house, Eden began to cry moments before the earthquake. When Angelina moved to pick her up, a light fixture crashed down where she was.
This led to Beverly calling Eden Angelina's guardian angel, which led to Angelina deciding to test her with fire. A burning candle resulted in the accidental lighting of the curtains behind Angelina, but even this she saw as a test. Surely her guardian angel wouldn't let her burn.
This is a fanatical belief for Eden's powers, should she have any. Clearly it is just as dangerous a Cody's fanatical hatred of 828ers. And now that Grace has followed Olive's lead and kicked Angelina out of the house (much to Cal's dismay), she may go on to become an even bigger threat.
Why Was Driftwood Test So Dangerous?
Vance and his team have been investigating the plane, the Passengers and everything else to do with Flight 828, and even the meth-heads and Zeke and all other Returnee situations they know about and there have been no seismic moments.
So why is the testing of the driftwood believed to be a part of Noah's Ark so dangerous that whatever's behind all of this would trigger earthquakes and threaten to engulf New York in a volcano? Why was this so much more serious as to cause actual danger, rather than just trigger Callings to deal with it?
If Saanvi is not experiencing Callings, what made her decide that she needed to drop the driftwood in the fissure of magma to stop everything? It absolutely worked, but how could she know that it would? And why did it take that measure? The driftwood has been with the Vatican forever and that seemed okay. Why not just force it to be returned?
As we said at the top, we're starting to worry that Ben is becoming as unhinged as Angelina and Cody and ... kind of a lot of others. We get that today was the anniversary of the day he and Grace were told Cal was going to die, but that doesn't justify his increasing aggression of late.
Cal saw fire around his picture, suggesting he was undergoing a "trial by fire," and by all accounts, Ben failed this one hard. He better hope for second chances. Michaela had to step up and help Astrid fulfill her Calling after Ben nearly killed Cody.
He's out of control and obsessing and believes that all of his behavior is justified because he'll do "anything" to protect his family. That speech may have been enough to convince Astrid she didn't have anxiety, but it wasn't cute or inspiration. It was frightening. Ben's losing his mind and he's convinced himself he isn't losing his mind.
He nearly killed a man to protect his family. What he's proving is that there is almost no line he won't cross to protect his family, and now the whole Lifeboat as he believes he needs to do that to save Cal.
This means bullying a woman with anxiety, nearly killing a man and who knows what else if he doesn't get himself in check right here and right now. We're glad arrested him for his assault on Cody and threw him in a cell, just as we're glad Michaela did not have "everything is going to be okay" words for him. He needs to know it might not be, and it might just be his fault if it isn't.
With only three episodes left this season, "Manifest" returns Thursday, June 3 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.