Jan 30, 2019
In season one, episode 13, “Cleared for Approach,” Ben, Cal and Saanvi are targets of an anti-828 group. Presumably, they are not the only passengers being targeted, but these are our main characters so the focus is on them. But some fans are wondering why? They haven’t personally done anything wrong to deserve the threats. Aren’t they the victims of Flight 828?
The Letter “X”
Ben, Cal, and Grace are on their way back home when they stop at a red light. A question on a billboard from an 828 hate group asks, “Are the 828 passengers human? Demand an investigation.” A giant red “X” is stamped on the Flight 828 Montego Airplane (113.4).
The billboard is part of a new campaign that aims to draw negative attention to the returning passengers. The letter “X” in this context is intended to indicate wrongness. It is a means of criticism and judgement. It carries the stigma that the passengers are outcasts, that they are not accepted.
The faith and science debate
Although appearing unrelated, the writers have taken the faith and science debate to a whole new level. Throughout the series, we have had Ben and Michael debate faith and science.
- Michaela, who believes in miracles, thinks that the callings have a spiritual component.
- Ben looks at things from a mathematical and scientific worldview.
Since Ben and Michaela share a familial bond, for the most part, their faith and science debate has been friendly. It also helps that they have a common enemy (i.e. the Major) and are trying to keep Cal safe. They appear to have set up a “safe zone” where they can easily discuss and discern the callings, and not to take each other’s views personally.
But out in the world, two opposing groups are laying the groundwork that are going to have serious ramifications for Manifest’s main characters, both as individuals and as a group:
- The Believers: A group that holds up signs (104.11), believing that the passengers are like deity (102.8, 110.20), and
- The Haters: A group that spreads hate and fear suggesting that the passengers may be aliens, freaks, and/or terrorists (111.5, 113.15).
When the debate hits home
Differences of opinion between two groups, when intertwined with feelings of estrangement and resentment, can easily be redirected at a third group. This is what we see emerging in episode 13. (It’s also what we see going on in our world. Just watch the evening news!)
Granted, knowing WHAT the “haters’ did and what they are capable of is unsettling. All the more reason why Grace and Ben want to know WHO they are. But just as important, for some viewers, is to understand WHY there is even a group that is filled with so much hatred, that they would do something like this in the first place.
Attitudes of fear and paranoia
Although what Ben says is true, the passengers DO have control of how they respond to the circumstances of what is happening. In the most drastic case, Harvey Stein jumped off a building (108.12). Unfortunately, when Captain Bill Daly stole the airplane, that changed some people’s attitude.
As Cody tells Ben, “All of you are just a ticking time bomb” (113.8). Playing into people’s fear helps explain why some might be swayed. A couple of scenes later, we hear Cody refer to the passengers as imposters who were sent back “like seeds in the wind seeds of hate, destruction, terrorism. We need to track down every one of them and stop them before it’s too late. If the government won’t do it, the people will” (113.15).
All this talk is influencing people. Cal seems to be affected by it. “What wrong with me? Am I a freak?” he asks his mom. “I don’t know me….How do you know I’m still me?” (113.19).
Attitudes of bias and hate
It is my contention, that long before Daly even stole the airplane, or there was talk about aliens, attitudes of bias and hatred were present. The negative feelings that “the 828-haters” have toward the passengers may be a reaction to the positive feelings “the believers” have for them. While one group affirms the passengers, the other opposes them.
The reason why Ben and Cal became targets, therefore, has little to do with anything they may have done (e.g. it was Daly, NOT Ben or Cal that stole the plane), but everything to do with what every passenger represents (e.g. a walking living miracle), and who stands with them (e.g. people of faith).
Thus, the bias and hatred some groups have for those who have a different opinion have placed the passengers in the cross hairs. One way the hate groups can discredit “the Believers” is by stamping out the passengers of Flight 828. For this reason, the hate groups have been emboldened to come out of the shadows (cf. 102.24) which is making the passengers victims all over again.
What else might the letter “X” stand for?
On the billboard, a website address, “www.828demandthetruth.com” is located at the bottom. There is nothing wrong with demanding the truth. Ever since episode 103, an echoe of Kelly’s calling “Own Your Truth” reverberate through storylines and characters arcs.
Even the question, “Are the 828 passengers human?” may not be without merit. Given the series mythology, which we have only recently begun to uncover, what if the passengers were somehow changed? For example, what if that billboard with the big giant “X” be interpreted in a different light. Instead of “X” carrying a stigma, what if it is understood in the way of faith, as a symbol for Christ (Christos starts with “chi“, a Greek letter from which X developed), and therfore, denotes some kind of supernatural mystical or phenomenal power? This is where the faith and science debate begins all over again.
But make no mistake about it, whatever the billboard signifies it does not justify anyone commiting a hate crime. Nor does it justify circumstances or people leaving “ugly marks” on individual’s psyche. Something has change. Neither Michaela nor Ben will stand for it.
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a reference to a 1956 science fiction horror film, and its 1978 remake. The film’s storyline concerns an extraterrestrial invasion after alien plant spores fall from space and grow into large seed pods each reproducing a duplicate replacement copy of a human. As each pod reaches full development, it assimilates the physical characteristics, memories, and personalities of each sleeping person placed near it; these duplicates, however, are devoid of all human emotion. Little by little, a local doctor uncovers this “quiet” invasion and attempts to stop it.