The True Meaning of Manifest and What Lies Ahead

by Don Kincaid |
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Dec 5, 2018

It’s about time

After the first nine episodes of Manifest, it remains one of the top new shows of the television season. Although some people quit watching because they wanted a simple procedural show week in and week out, what the writers want to accomplish and where the series is headed is much more complex.  Refusing to acknowledge this, some viewers nonetheless tried to fit it into that format (after all, some of the first episodes seemed to support this view). No wonder the series disappointed them.

However, for anyone who can see the big picture, there is more to Manifest than what the episodes let on. Its like young Olive looking out the window of the airplane and seeing nothing interesting. With the plane over the ocean far from New York, she could only see darkness. After telling her grandpa that this is the longest she has ever been away from Call,  Steve tells her that as a twin she shares a special relationship with Cal, and they will always feel connected, no matter where they are. Thus, even though viewers now might not see everything that lies in the episodes, we should trust Jeff Rake and the other writers. Not only does each episode build upon another (and offer up a lot of red herrings), contained therein is a complex interwoven thread of connectivity.

Manifest is not just a mystery about a plane that disappeared and landed at its destination  5 1/2 years later. It’s the journey of every man and woman on that plane—not just for the time it takes to fly from Jamaica to New York, but between the time one is born and when one dies, and perhaps beyond. What we are dealing with is not just the ordinary, but the extraordinary; not just the natural, but supernatural. For this reason, every character and plot detail matters. Presumably, by the time the series ends, we will learn all about the relationships between the main characters, and it’s all connected.

Some viewers criticize the show for moving too slow; others too fast. Ironically, they may be on to something since the show has a time dimension  (i.e. the missing 5 1/2 years). Some would prefer to have the gap be 10 or 20 years. Interesting in the first episode, one of Michaela’s first callings was the voice she heard inside her head, “Slower! Slower! Slower!” had her say to the bus driver, “Can you slow down? ….Slow down! Now!” (101.11).  Another calling, several episodes later, (i.e. the heartbeat) had her yelling “Go faster! Go faster!  (107.22) These callings saved someone in both instances:  a small boy from being run over by a bus, and an elderly man from  being stabbed by a robber.

The universe has given the characters a miraculous second chance. No one can deny that. It will just not happen as slow or as fast as some people may like, and on the way, chances are, not everyone will be saved.

It’s about do-overs

In the first episode, Grace tells Michaela that “the universe just gave all of us a do-over. Everything that happened before goes out the window” (101.6).  One has to ask what window is she talking about?  The idiom “to go out the window” means taking some thing (i.e. a plan or pattern of behavior) and forgetting or disregarding it. Treating it as it does not matter anymore. There are a whole new set of circumstances. The rules have changed. In the first-half season finale, only things which we have seen literally go out of a window is fire.

In the last episode of the first half of the first season, we have a dramatic, although not obvious, metaphor of living through hell—i.e. the explosion at the Red Hook warehouse (109.17). Okay, so it’s not exactly a window. It’s some kind of latch door (similar to the air duct tunnel  that Cal took his dad through in the subway station, but this time, it is the tunnels of an abandoned warehouse.) This is where Michaela goes in search of Jared. Just as Ben went into the air duct (105.16)  and came out the other end inside a boiler room where he was “blown away” having been led there by Cal to Thomas, what will to happen to Michaela and Jared? Just as Ben saw things in a whole new light afterwards, what will Michaela and Jared find? How will they now see things differently?  How will this affect Lourdes and others?

Although this suggests that the experiments on the missing passengers do not matter anymore (i.e. Cal saved the day, all is well), things do not work out that simple. The passengers may have just been given a do-over, but what about them has changed, what kind of state have they been left in?  Are they really any better off, or are they about to feel a different kind of pain (i.e. if not electrocution, then psychological torture)?

And what about Olive? She goes out a window to spend the night with Kevin (103.3). In the next episode, we get a better understanding of what is going on inside Olive’s head.  While Olive looks out the window on the drive home from the cosmetic store after her shoplifting incident, we have a flashback to a time when her dad could make everything better (104.18). It was an innocent time. Perhaps she was wishing for a do over—to make up for the fact that although she views herself as “a total screw up,” and whereas “Danny knows I’m a mess,” her dad still sees her “as this sweet 10-year-old little girl” (104.20).

When Grace looks out the window while on the phone. We don’t know who it is, but can speculate that it is Danny or someone who knows about Grace’s relationship. After Michaela confronts her, Grace says,  “This is an impossible situation.”  (102.14). But how many times are we reminded that what some people call impossible, other people call a miracle (cf. 101.1).

It’s about tragedies

So far, Michaela has been grieving the death of her friend, Evie, and the fact that Jared had married her best friend.  Ben is trying to bring life back into this marriage, despite feeling like a stranger in his own home. Although Cal’s cancer treatments prove promising, his son is now experiencing a new kind of threat. How to keep Cal safe has become Ben’s new obsession. Although much to the credit of the callings, our main characters have experienced some successes, and saved some people, they have also experienced failures and near misses. People have been lost, too.

Just as all one’s hangups and misgivings can leave by the window, things can also come through the window, too.  At the crime scene, the police were dusting a window sill for fingerprints. Whoever killed Kelly entered through that window, and then went out the back door. (103.6) The psyche is not all clean or pristine. There is. a dark side, a shadow, if you will, that lurks inside us, or if not already present, be allowed to enter unknowingly and destroy us. This is what happened to Kelly.  It can happen to Ben, Michaela, and maybe even Cal, too, if they are not careful. Every person, every family, every institution has a “shadow” lurking somewhere. Everyone has something to hide. If Ben, Michaela, and maybe even Cal, are not careful, a similar fate could happen to them or a loved one.

It’s about owning one’s truth

Yet these situations seem to be setting them up for something far better and brighter than they have ever experienced. As the series continues, we will hopefully recognize that what is expected of Michaela, Ben, and Cal is progress, not perfection. The only way out of the depths of despair (i.e. hell) is to own one’s  truth. Sound familiar (cf. 103.2). Of course, that will take time. Moreover, once they discover each truth, that will lead to other truths (cf. 103.2), and before we know it, we’ll really get a sense of how it’s all connected.

Even Cal who when he looked out the window on Flight 828 discovered that he doesn’t have to be afraid of returning to New York, that dreaded place where he has cancer; he can have a do over. In other words, he doesn’t have to die. We don’t know (at least not yet) exactly what happened on that plane but metaphorically, at least, we can surmise that something happened inside Cal. He found a glimmer of hope—that small light which appeared outside his window which intensified. For six months, Cal (as well as Ben and Grace) had experienced the pain of defeat, and he did not want to just go back to New York and die. No. He found something far more meaningful than simply counting the days. We don’t know what he found, only that whatever it was, it propelled Cal to say, “It’s all connected

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One thought on “The True Meaning of Manifest and What Lies Ahead

  1. Excellent thought-provoking reminder as to why we as fans love Manifest.

    It’s about time.

    When it comes fans and viewers, it’s definitely “all about time.” You’re correct about the show being a journey. But in fairness to some critics, it’s not all about going slow or fast, it’s about pacing and payoff. It’s about the little things. For example, very little is known about some of the characters, i.e., Saanvi Bahl is a main character.Yet, Fiona Clarke, a recurring character, has a faster paced storyline. And to this point, the payoff for Clarke’s character has been more intriguing than that of Saanvi’s character. Some critics think it’s time to know more about Saanvi.

    It’s about do-overs.

    This is what makes the story so intriguing. Some do-overs can be beneficial. Some can be detrimental. Reconciling the difference is what makes the story compelling. All of the characters are undergoing do-overs. Grace’s character epitomizes the turmoil centered within conflict when it comes to a do-over, where her do-over is highlighted by an internalized battle between the past and present.

    It’s about tragedies.

    Kelly. Harvey. Belson. Vance. All tragedies. Except for Belson. Not mourning Belson. And hopefully, Vance hasn’t entered Valhalla. Not only are the tragedies about death, they’re also about broken lives, and fractured souls. The love triangles and family relationships represent those broken lives, and fractured souls.

    It’s about owning one’s truth.

    For me, this is a phrase that’s relevant for each of the show’s main characters. For Michaela, it’s Evie and Jared. For Ben, it’s Grace. For Grace, it’s Danny. For Olive, it’s Ben. For Cal, it’s not wanting to die. For Jared, it’s Michaela. For Saanvi, it’s having no personal life.

    Thanks for the well-written, in-depth analysis. I look forward to more of them.

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