Subtle hints of Michaela and Ben’s “living hell” in Manifest

How the Manifest Writers are using both subtle and not so subtle hints

by Don Kincaid |
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Dec 9, 2018

In the article “Manifest Writers: “What the hell is going on?“, I introduced how the writer’s of Manifest are using the word “hell” and the color red to help focus our attention on the “living hell” that the characters are experiencing since their return.

The writers are using the color red to point to the “living hell” experience (i.e. their suffering and tragedies) that the main characters are undergoing. There pain  is not as obvious as the torture the missing passengers’ are experiencing in the “Red” Hook experiments  (109.15).

But what about Michaela and Ben? The writers’ have been more subtle and slow with revealing their pain. We have seen glimpses of Michaela’s pain in trying to rebuild her life following Evie’s death. She is able to connect with Carlos’ pain who had just lost his uncle, saying that she feels “destroyed, like a building imploded” (107.11). Ben, too, has suffered a lot with having to endure Cal’s cancer, and the stress that has had on his marriage. Grace speaks of wanting to “rebuild [her] marriage” (105.21).

In all their suffering and tragedy, Ben and Michaela have at least their mom’s mantra to give them hope, “All things work together for good” (101.1). But it’s not just the dialogue of the script which is at play here. The writer’s are also giving us subtle hints of how they are using certain red props with the dialogue to remind the viewer of the “living hell” experience of the characters. Although having passengers escaping the flames at Red Hook was a great way to accent the “hell” motif, it can’t be used in every scene. So the writers have come up with some very creative ways to show it. In the previous article mentioned above, I give a more extensive list. Here are two examples:

  • Michaela comments on Grace’s use of “Le Rouge” saying that it “goes with her smokin’ hot eyes (108.19).
  • We are given a close up of the American flag with its prominent red stripes at the 129th police precinct just as Jared says, “That’s a hell of a story,” after learning about the dog’s being set free (101.16).

Red attracts attention. It is also the international color of stop signs and stop lights on highways and intersections. Perhaps the color red is some sort of signal to the viewer to stop and think what really is going on in a scene.

When Michaela returns “home” to Ben’s house for the first time, she is unable to contact Jared on the phone. As she sits on the bed, she notices the pillow that her mom made with the mantra written on it (101.6). Michaela and Grace then talk about how its meaning. Yet all the while, underneath this rather obvious exchange (which includes the voice of Michaela’s calling echoing “ALL THINGS” to underscore what Grace is telling her) is something much more subtle.

Notice the red walls in the room.   Michaela for all practical purposes, who is unable to get a hold of Jared, sits alone. On the bed is her dark maroon jacket that we saw her wearing on the tarmac, and which she continues to wear the entire first episode. Except in this scene we see that it inner lining is bright red.

Michaela’s hell:  Previously, while Vance was telling the passengers that they have been missing for 5 1/2 years, there is a shot of a boy in the crowd with a red jacket. From the viewer’s perspective, he stands in the background while Vance faces the passengers. Although Michaela’s jacket is a dark maroon, we hardly notice it. In other words, at first glance, Michaela appears to have her act together, but underneath she is experiencing a lot of trauma and psychological pain from Evie’s accident. The bright red lining of her jacket symbolizes this.

Ben’s hell In comparison, notice the bright red light behind Ben’s left shoulder. His “living hell” is akin to him wearing it as a “chip on his shoulder”. Therefore, we expect that his pain (i.e. marriage difficulties, etc.) will be more public.


Of course, Ben and Michaela are not the only characters where the writers are using the color red to make a point.

What about Olive? In a future article, I will look at Olive’s pain in more depth. But for now, did you notice in the rock climbing scene how the higher she went the rocks on the wall changed from blue to red? Another subtle hint of what is to come.

Honorable mentions:  This may be stretching it, but let it be noted:

  • the letters “red” appear in Jared (similarly, have you noticed the connections between “callings” and Cal’s name?)
  • the series has had a lot of “red” herrings, which have disappointed some viewers. Although these clues appear to be misleading and distracting, there may still be some overarching purpose that the writers intend.

Stay tuned. In the end, this show will not disappoint its viewers. It is well written. Realize, too, that “everything is connected.”

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One thought on “Subtle hints of Michaela and Ben’s “living hell” in Manifest

  1. Although we can’t (yet) know whether the repetitive use of the word “Hell” is just a tick of the main writer or deliberately placed, now that you mention it, it certainly does serve to point out that the 828ers of the show have returned to a kind of hell.

    I think the use of red might just be to draw the viewer to the focus of the scene, which, while simplistic, is at least effective.

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