Callings are thoughts, visions, sounds, feelings etc. that a character experiences “calling” them to say or do something to improve a situation or make something happen for a purpose they are not always sure of. Characters who have callings spend a lot of time discerning whether they are good or bad, or how to proceed as a result of them. In the process, they are realizing that they have a capacity to manifest something which offers one’s blessings (or curses) as they move from relationship to relationship reaching out and drawing everything together.
The first time the word “calling” is used is at the crime scene of Kelly’s murder when Michaela and Ben are speaking to her husband. After Patrick Kelly told Michaela and Ben that his wife describe her experience as a “calling” (103.6), it became a “shorthand” (cf. 107.16) for the passengers’ experience.
The first hint of the “callings” occur in episode 101.6 when Michaela hears a voice in her head saying, “All things” just after Grace says, “The universe just gave all of us a do-over. Everything that happened before goes out the window.” Moreover, there seems to be a relation between the callings and Karen Stone’s favorite bible verse,
“All things work together for good…” (Romans 8:28).
The first calling seems to be the one that calls Cal in 105.28 where he sees a bright light out the window of Flight 828, and says, “It’s all connected.” (It almost makes one wonder if Cal’s name is, in fact, a derivation of “calling”—as the first one called.
Who are the called? (Who gets callings?)
In episode one, when Michaela asks the rector/priest of the church, “How do we know if we’re the called?” he responds, “We know in our heart” (101.24). It isn’t until episode seven, Michaela is able to realize this for herself (107.26).
As far as we know everyone on board Flight 828 receives callings. Many of them returned to the airport to witness the airplane explode, although they all understand them a little differently. For example, Rad, who hears music playing as does Ben, explains it this way, “For me, music is a higher power. So this music we hear, you and I together, it’s for a reason” (102.5).
What is there purpose?
Most of the callings appear to be sent to help other people. The first calling Michaela receives is when she hears a voice say, “Slower! Slower!’ she tells the bus driver to slow down. If he had not slowed down, the bus would never have been able to stop in time after a boy runs out in front of it (101.11). There seems to be a relation between the callings and Karen Stone’s favorite bible verse, “All things work together for good…” (Romans 8:28).
What does the process of discerning them look like?
It’s messy. Some callings are sent privately to one person. Other callings have a party line feel to them. Here are three examples in which Michaela receives the same call as someone else. Whatever or whoever sent the calling, did they also forward it to Michaela, to assist, or what?
- First, Michaela and Ben receive a calling, “Set them free!” thinking it was about two dogs (101.15), when it turns out to be about two kidnapped girls, Hallie and Samantha Pyler (101.19).
- Second, after Kelly receives the calling “Own Your Truth,” she first wants to live a more simple life, e.g. she did not want to wear expensive necklace her husband bought (103.9), she then carries the calling further by talking to media about a conspiracy even though she hated politics (103.9), and finally sees it being connected to the “family business” which extorts illegals working at mall (103.16). Each of the ways she understood the calling had its own set of consequences, and offers possible clues as who might have murdered her. Not overlooking Christine’s “confession” (103.24), we can’t be certain that the government was not connected to her death.
- Third, when Michaela receives a calling “Save Him!” by an Angel with wings, she misinterprets it and as a result, she and Jared botch an ATF operation (104.10). Jared takes the blame and is suspended (104.19). By the end of the episode, the true nature of her calling is revealed—the person who needed saving was Thomas (104.22). That doesn’t necessarily mean that everything else that happened beforehand was without merit. There may still be a connection (i.e. “All things work together…”).
How individual characters’ react to the callings has been noted by one critic as follows: “One nice element of the writing in this series is that the individual characters react to the callings in a way that reflects who they are.
- As a law enforcement officer, Michaela is trained and expected to act decisively under stress, so when she gets a calling, she picks it up and runs with it.
- Ben, a math professor, and Saanvi, a researcher, analyze things for a living, so they are more analytical in their reactions.
- From what little we saw of Kelly, she had a free-floating sense of entitlement and expected to be the center of attention wherever she went, so when she got the call to ‘own your truth,’ her first impulse was to go in front of the cameras and make herself the center of attention.” 1
Who is sending them? What is the connection?
After nine episodes, we have yet to learn how or who is sending these callings. Some viewers see them as some kind of divine interference that is somehow related to the deceased or to angels (both good and fallen). Certainly Michaela thinks so. Others, like Ben, would prefer a more scientific connection. Perhaps the experiments that are being performed on the missing passengers have created a mind to mind communication, that is, a collective consciousness among the passengers, which has taken on a life of its own.1
Michaela has made two attempts to communicate: First, she asks the Angel of Waters statue, “What do you want?” but has so far received no response (104.26). Second, following the explosion, she asks that Jared’s life be sparred. When Jared recovers, she believes it was because she “talked back” to the callings (109.22).
After Ben was unwilling to help Thomas, and in fact, walks away from him, Cal leads him through a subway back to Thomas (105.16). In the episode, Ben receives a calling, “It’s all connected” (105.6) in his head, only to hear Cal himself later verbalize it. Then at the end of the episode, Cal has an encounter with a bright light outside the window of his airplane and again says, ‘It’s all connected.” As father and son, and both having been on Flight 828, Ben and Cal, share a special connection. But so also does Cal with his twin sister (who was on Flight 537). As their grandpa Steve, states, “Being a twin is a heck of a special relationship. You always feel connected, no matter where you are” (105.1).
Are they curses or blessings? There is a lot of discussion about whether the callings are good or bad. Things that look like mistakes when following callings may not really be mistakes. It might all be part of the plan.
- The ATF bust: At first, one might conclude that Michaela made a mistake. But we are also told that there will be a thorough investigation of the event. We might later learn that the bust was going to go terribly wrong (in a way that hadn’t revealed itself yet).
- Freeing the dogs: Could it have happened that way, so that Michaela had Jared with her for backup when she actually found the girls? Ben wouldn’t have been as effective in a fight, and the police wouldn’t have believed the story as easily about why they just happened to find the girls if Jared hadn’t been there to witness it.
Thus, it’s too soon to judge the results of some of the callings.