Jan 10, 2019
One uninterrupted tilt shot
Manifest’s montages are pleasureable to watch although a challenge to digest and comprehend. This is especially true of the latest one. Before looking at the lyrics of Mansionair’s “Easier”, let’s check the context.
Episode 110’s montage begins after the Major’s men detain Deputy Powell and escort him into an SUV. As the music starts playing, a single tilt shot of the camera smoothly takes the viewer from the street, seemingly down through “the ceiling” of Lourdes’ bedroom where she is sleeping (while Jared stands at the door watching), then down through “the ceiling” of Cal’s bedroom where he and Olive are sleeping (while Grace stands at a door watching), and finally into a coffee shop where the music stops and one of the Major’s men is about to take Autumn to a vehicle (110.29).
Tilt shots have many uses and generall consist of a single up or down track movement of a single object. By combining different scenes into a single shot, a sense of psychological depth is being shown. In episode 110, Jared and Grace are weighed down with the burden of what is happening in their lives. Jared has had sex with Michaela (110.24). Grace has seen a brawl between Ben and Danny (110.23). Both are anxious of what might happen next. Conflicted, they are struggling.
The opening and closing
The opening and closing of the montage, using Powell and Autumn as bookends, gives context. In doing so, they draw attention to what is happening in between. Since Powell and Autumn have the common element of being taken for a ride by the Major, one can interpret a similar thing happening to Lourdes, and the children. While Jared/Michaela and Grace/Ben are struggling to sort out their relationships, Lourdes and the children are being taken for a ride: Lourdes is being deceived by Jared (Michaela); the children are being cheated by Grace/Ben.
Jared and Grace in the doorway
The fact that Jared and Grace are standing in a doorway of their loved ones’ bedrooms while the tilt shot occurs, is also highly symbolic, and explains how and what is happening not only in the episode but throughout the whole first half of the season. The Roman god Janus, the god of doorways, is often depicted as having two faces. One face is looking to the future, the other to the past.
But in Manifest it’s not simply a matter of past and present, although this element does exist. The time anomoly presents a more complicated picture. It’s one of measuring time either in years or days (cf. 101.20, 102.6, 102.11, 108.4, etc.) While Jared and Grace stand in the doorway (without any noticeable camera transitions, e.g. fade to black or cuts), the montage reminds the viewer that each will have to decide what kind of transition they want.
In other words, will Jared and Grace move forward by looking at all that has happened in the 5 1/2 years since the plane disappeared, or will they have an attitude that those years now really do not matter, and ignore it? For Jared and Grace, who were not on Flight 828, and did not experience a time-jump, one would think the former would be easier. However, as the name of the episode suggests, there are “crosswinds” affecting their judgement: 828ers, like Michaela and Ben, who have been “untouched” by what has happened in what they view as missing years. It makes sense they would gravitate to the latter.
The songs lyrics
Although only the beginning lyrics of the song are used (most likely due to time restraints), it is helpful to look at the complete lyrics. Click on the first banner above to see the lyrics which were used in Episode 110’s montage. Click on the second to view the entire lyrics.
In the song, notice there is a line that keeps repeating itself, “Tell me it gets easier, that I’ll figure it out.”
Here is what Mansionair has said about the song, “Easier is written for the moments you find yourself lying on your bed staring at the ceiling and wondering if things will change. It explores the endless piles of questions we can find ourselves asking those around us and the frustration of feeling like you’re going nowhere. – Jack, Mansionair”1
Except here instead of staring at the ceiling, Jared is staring at his wife; and Grace is staring at her children. But what about Lourdes and the children? Could the song’s words about staring refer to them? One has to wonder, what they were thinking about before falling asleep. Were they as the lyrics state, “Carving for some feeling? some healing?”
The Official Music Video
Everytime a song is used in a Manifest script it is significant. Looking at the song’s lyrics often helps interpret a scene. A song’s official music video, however, is often less helpful (since the episode scene itself serves as a stand in). Yet this song’s cryptic video may be an exception. It has two computer-generated humans dancing through anxiety and pain. At the end of the video the couple turns to dust.
As one music video critic puts it, “[There] comes moments of despair between the couple as they are seen in torment, distancing one another due to their own confusion of self and mind, echoing the track’s lyrics “I’m stuck here in my skin, I’m stuck with you”.2
All the more reason why it is imperative that Michaela and Ben do not let their personal misgivings with Lourdes and Danny, respectively, get in the way of making advances on the Major in finding answers to what is happening. By owning their own truths, without distorting the already fragile personal dynamics of their newfound space-time continuum, they might succeed. The last thing most fans of the series (who have an emotional connection with them) want to see is to have them make poor choices in their personal life which might have an impact on the larger picture.
Just as Michaela’s tug on Paul Santoni’s shirt awakened him (110.7), we can only hope that there is a tug on Jared and Michaela’s consciences to reconsider what they are doing by increasing the level of intensity in their relationship. If they are unable to meet this challenge and work for the good of all involved, they may very well find their relationship in the dust when they are taken for a ride (or worse) by the Major. The same can be said for Ben and Grace.