Diversity Hit and Miss on the Manifest TV Series

by Cathy Munson-Klein | Metawitches.com
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Dec 1, 2018

Although NBC’s Manifest TV show frequently hires diverse actors, the characters die or leave the show again just as quickly. In episode 9, we  say goodbye to NSA Director Robert “Bobby” Vance, at least for now. When the building collapsed, he was standing next to Jared, but we didn’t see him lying unconscious in the rubble. We saw Jared and Belson, and weren’t told whether Belson survived.

Whether Vance is gone for good or for a few episodes, he’ll be missed. He was the everyman, with no personal stake in the game, who could look at events with an unbiased eye. And he had NSA access and training. He was an amazing asset to the team and a decent man. He was the only regular black character, who went from evil, to good, to sidekick, to dead(ish). Vance appears to be replaced with Powell and/or Belson, and Fiona has taken Saanvi’s screentime in the last two episodes. We’ve only seen Daniel Sunjata sparingly.

Moment of silence for the interesting characters who came into the Manifest world in the first half of the season, and were quickly disposed of:

The positions of power in Manifest are generally filled by men—although only one person of color, JR Ramirez, seems to have made it through the first half of the season with his screentime and plotline intact.

The three lead women, Michaela, Grace and Olive, are emotionally compromised in ways that the men are not. They rely on their emotions to make decisions to an unhealthy extent. They have unspoken agreements with the men in their lives that they’ll prop up the women’s emotions and save them when their emotional recklessness backfires. They have also skated the edge of mental illness.

None of the men are or have been mentally ill. They have not succumbed to deep depression because of Flight 828, the way Grace, Karen and Olive did.

  • Although Jared spent some time drinking in bars, he was made detective, and moved on with his life.
  • Steve Stone, Ben and Michaela’s dad, appears to have come out of the 5 1/2 years as simply older and wiser.  This despite the fact, that he had suffered the loss of his wife, the mother of his children. He’s rarely seen, but he’s a rock when he is.

As far as the other women in the series are concerned:

  • Lourdes, of all people, is the most well-rounded and functional woman, but we rarely see her.
  • Saanvi spends so much time on exposition that she hardly gets to have her own storylines, and none of them are about her. The character, herself, notes that she doesn’t have a personal life.
  • Fiona is likely a cloaked villain, which always gives a character complexity, but we don’t know much about her for sure yet. She’s basically Tasteful Scientist Barbie™. And she had to leave the normal power structure to gain any success.
  • Evie’s mom, Bev, pops up occasionally, as does Michaela and Ben’s mom, Karen. Both do little more than be mothers or be ill.
  • Dr. Williams does nothing but be Cal’s doctor.
This article was originally published at metawitches.com.

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One thought on “Diversity Hit and Miss on the Manifest TV Series

  1. I am struck by the diversity of the characters. Those not the main characters get a smaller amount of air time, true. BUT the time they get is riveting! Each one has a distinct problem and solve it even though emotions run high. Ongoing Vance with more air time “sees the light” and joins the search. Saanvi gets a bit more much time, but when she speaks, better listen up.

    Lastly, most of the caucasians are villains with lots of ground troops. Ben, Michaela, Olive are barely keeping from becoming unhinged. Grace? She is psychotic, which is to say, divorced from reality. Only the little guy seems to wade through his problems rationally.

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