‘Manifest’: Arrested development

October 1, 2018

Oh, well whaddya know but the media IS a little bit interested in the fact that a plane that disappeared for five years while carrying nearly 200 passengers suddenly reappeared out of the blue — but only they seem to only become interested after said plane spontaneously explodes on the runway while 20 or so of said passengers stood around and watched.


In fact, the reporters are waiting outside the Question Tent while the feds requestion the passengers, until Michaela is all, “I’M A COP AND YOU CAN’T KEEP US HERE UNLESS WE’RE UNDER ARREST ARE WE UNDER ARREST? NO? THEN WE’RE OUTTA HERE.” The beleaguered Federal Agent sighs and is like, “FINE. But this is an issue of national security so don’t talk to any media about anything.”

And then Beleaguered Federal Agent stage whispers to his partner to have all of them followed as if the government wouldn’t have already QUARANTINED ALL OF THESE PEOPLE.

As they leave the Question Tent, one of the other passengers, a Jamaican man named Radd, approaches Ben asking him to help him, but Ben is all, “NO THANK YOU PLEASE.”

Ben goes home and startles his wife while she’s getting dressed and makes up some lie about having gone back to the airport to collect their luggage … in the middle of the night? YEP. THAT CHECKS OUT. And I guess the entire point of this entire scene is that they haven’t seen each other naked since he came back four days (five years) ago and after a traumatic experience? Like, literally none of this makes any sense. But O.K.

In the kitchen, Ben tries to make small talk with Teen Daughter when irritating music that only he can hear begins filling his head. Meanwhile, Pre-Pubescent Son is complaining that he can’t find his toothbrush (again, despite having been home now for four days — has he not brushed his teeth in all that time?) and his clothes feel weird and he misses his toys and that thing where his mother erased his entire existence.

At Pre-Pubescent Son’s cancer treatment, Ben and Grace chat with Dr. Saanvi about how it was a “miracle” that she was on the same plane as Ben and Pre-Pubescent Son, what are the chances? Meanwhile, Grace continues to receive urgent text messages from The Other Man, but lies and claims it’s work-related. So Ben suggests that he go take a walk so she can … sit at the treatment center and take calls? Wouldn’t it make more sense that the guy without a job hang out at the treatment center while the woman with the job GOES TO HER JOB? What is this dumb show?

The point is he wanders around Times Square with that same music playing in his head and it leads him to Radd who is playing the same piece of music on the violin.

Radd repeats that he needs help, and he believes that the music brought them together for a reason — that Ben is going to help him. Radd explains that he left behind his 13-year-old son when he went to Jamaica, but now his son is 18 and has been arrested despite being a Very Good Boy. Radd hasn’t seen his son and can’t get into the prison because his resident visa has expired. HALP.

Ben calls Michaela and asks her to pull some strings to get him and this guy into Rikers, and so she waves her magic cop plot wand over the whole situation. And then Ben sits in on Radd’s visit with his son, Adio, which feels a little awkward and intrusive but TV LOGIC! After the cursory, “Five years! Crazy, right?” business is taken care of, Adio explains that he was closing up at the jewelry store where he worked when he was bonked over the head from behind. When he regained consciousness, the store had been cleaned out, and being the only black man near the scene, he was promptly arrested.

Ben and Radd stop by the jewelry store to talk to the owner who is all “YOU HAVE SOME NERVE COMING IN HERE!” before stomping off stage right. The store owner’s son apologizes but reiterates that they don’t know what else to think: the alarm wasn’t tripped, Adio was the only one around, and he gave them a fake name and used a fake ID when he got the job, so, you know.

Meanwhile, after taking Pre-Pubescent Son to the toy store to buy some replacement Lego sets, Grace and Pre-Pubescent Son are accosted on the street by a woman who grabs the boy and starts yelling, “HE IS RISEN! HE IS NOT HERE! HE IS RISEN! HE IS NOT HERE!”

Grace is understandably upset about religious weirdos accosting her son on the street, but Ben’s all …

Michaela then comes home and Ben asks her if she can look into Adio’s case, maybe the cops done fucked this one up or something? After first being insulted, Michaela wonders if Ben heard something like he did with her in last week’s neatly tied-up story. He confesses that he did, but when she asks if he’s told his wife about all this, he’s like, “NOPE AND I’M NOT AGUNNA.”

Later that night, Ben notices a scar on Grace’s shoulder and asks her where it came from. When she explains it was while scuba diving, Ben pouts about all the times he tried to get her to go scuba diving with him, and she, somehow, isn’t like, “YEAH, WELL, AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I TRIED IT,” in response.

The next morning, Grace is on the phone with The Other Man when Michaela walks in on her and is like “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WITH THIS?” Grace promises to tell Ben once she figures out what she is going to do and Michaela is like, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WITH THIS?” prompting my husband the lawyer to wonder what, exactly, the law would say about someone remarrying after incorrectly assuming their first spouse was dead but had really been sucked into some sort of wormhole in the Bermuda Triangle. Did they legally commit bigamy?

It’s Ben’s turn at the cancer treatment funtimes where he talks to Dr. Saanvi about hearing the voices and she’s all, “yeah, weird shit has been happening to me too, but let’s just leave the conversation on that note without exploring it further because our writers are ham-fisted and incapable of sussing out a mystery with any kind of real skill.”

Meanwhile, Pre-Pubescent Son draws a creepy picture of their family with some sort of shadow man standing behind them and Ben and Dr. Saanvi are all, “This is normal. Yep, this is definitely a very normal drawing that merits no more discussion.”

But also, like, what’s going on with Dad’s hair?

Michaela arrives at the treatment center to explain to Ben that Adio’s case looks pretty clean, which, somehow, leads the two of them to argue about miracles and God and her relationship with Jared. I just don’t even know, guys.

Back at home, Pre-Pubescent Son is still having fits about his stuff not being “right” — specifically the Lego set that his mother bought for him — so Teen Daughter asks Ben to take her for a drive. They end up at a storage unit where she explains that after their plane disappeared, Grace was a wreck for years. A therapist told her to get rid of Ben and Pre-Pubescent Son’s stuff as a way to move on and so she put all of their crap out on the sidewalk for Goodwill to collect. However. Teen Daughter just knew her twin was still alive, so she — a 12-year-old girl at the time — stayed home from school and snuck all this crap into a storage locker. Out on Long Island.

But somehow it isn’t until Ben sees some scuba equipment inside the storage locker that he’s like, “WAIT, WHOSE LOCKER IS THIS?”

This is how dumb the writers are writing the main character.

Anyway, Teen Daughter tearfully confesses that the storage locker is one of her mother’s “friend’s” as Ben assures her that she did the right thing by telling him. But then the music starts up in his head again, so Ben runs off, leaving his emotional teenaged daughter who just revealed a secret she knows could end her parents’ marriage standing in a storage locker filled with her not-dead father and brother’s sentimental items she’s been secretly hoarding for the past three years.

But off he goes, following the music until it leads him to a different unit where a man takes a phone call — AND HIS RINGER IS THE MUSIC BEN HAS BEEN HEARING —




Anyway, long story short, the Jeweler’s Son tries to bribe Ben to keep his yap shut, Ben punches him, the cops come, his sister is all, “Still don’t believe in miracles?” blah.

That night, Ben and Teenage Daughter return to Pre-Pubescent Son his toys, and then Ben and Grace retire to their room where Ben assures her that it doesn’t matter how or with whom she found the strength to get by for the past five years. It’s all cool. And then they have the sexytime for the first time in five days/years.

Over in the B story, Michaela heads into the police station to try to get back to work, only to run into her best friend/boyfriend stealer, Lourdes, and Michaela is like, “NOT NOW.”

She then heads into the Captain’s office who is happy to have her back. But first, she has to go through some evaluations, including a shooting range test, a physical test, and a psychological evaluation. Michaela is all huffy about this but DUDE. YOU DISAPPEARED INTO A WORMHOLE FOR FIVE YEARS. YOU THINK THEY’RE JUST GOING TO HAND YOU A GUN AND TELL YOU TO HAVE FUN? COME. ON.

So she goes to her therapy appointment where she is super-suspicious that the therapist is trying to trick her into crying so that she can take Michaela’s badge away, but the therapist is like, “I mean, no? That’s not how this works?”

Later, Michaela runs into her ex-boyfriend — because he works two desks over — and he’s all, “You should be nice to my wife who used to be your best friend, please.” And Michaela is all “NOT NOW.”

That night, Michaela goes onto her memorial Facebook page and discovers that the only person who ever posted anything on it was Lourdes.

And so back into the therapist’s office she goes to deal with the fact that she has no friends where she breaks down crying about the fact that she misses her mother and that she can’t stop being in love with Jared and the one person she would complain to is the person she can’t complain to. The therapist is impressed with this performance and gives Michaela her badge back on the condition that she continues to come see her.

Then Michaela goes to Lourdes’ house and is all, “I saw your Facebook posts, and I just wanted to let you know that I totally bless y’all’s marriage. In fact, I was on my way back from Jamaica to tell him I wouldn’t marry him, so y’all would have been together no matter what! Probably!”

Yeah, except in a flashback we see that just as the plane landed, she put on the ring and was totally going to accept Jared’s proposal, so.

Then there are the Beleaguered Federal Employees who throw out a couple of theories about the plane: wormhole? aliens? were the passengers all replaced with changelings? ripped out of the plot of a better show? They decide that someone on the plane might know something and decide to focus on the 20 people who showed up at the airport for the plane explosion because 200 characters are too many characters.

One of those 20 people, a complainy lady who bitched on the plane about the snacks having too much sodium, she goes to the media to tell her story despite BEING TOLD EXPLICITLY NOT TO BY THE BELEAGUERED FEDERAL AGENT. As she leaves the interview, a weird shadow figure appears in the parking garage.

And then that night, as she enjoys a glass of wine while watching her interview, the same shadow figure appears behind her and ZOMG shoots her in the head.

Alright, I’ll begin by giving the show some credit — partial credit. They sorta addressed the media issue. Sorta. They kinda addressed the government’s lack of response issue. Kinda. They kinda-sorta addressed the religion and cult issues. Kinda-sorta.

I still argue that the media would be LOSING THEIR COLLECTIVE SHIT over this story and not a single passenger would be left alone for a single moment. There would be cameras in their faces, or at the VERY least, their phones would not stop ringing with interview requests. The missing flight would have been one of the biggest stories of the year when it disappeared — it was flying into New York City, after all, the media center of the universe, and nothing happens in New York City without it becoming international news — and every single name on that manifest would have been known and reported on five years earlier. I assure you the press would be following up with all of those names.

As for the government, I’m glad they are at least TALKING about it, but I still don’t buy for a hot second that the passengers would not have quietly been detained and examined thoroughly before being released into the wild. That’s just nonsense.

I’m most intrigued by this small hint that the passengers could start becoming the focus of some sort of religious or cult fixation. The story of a plane going missing for five years only to suddenly and inexplicably reappear is absolute starter fuel for a good cult. In fact, a show about a cult that spontaneously forms around a plane that mysteriously reappeared after being missing for five years is one that I’d much rather watch than whatever this nonsense is.

And while I’m on the subject, the other show I think I’d rather watch is one based on the people who thought they lost their loved ones on that plane. Because this episode helped solidify for me the problem with this show: the people from the plane don’t really have much of a story. They got on a plane, the plane had some turbulence, the plane landed. That’s all they know. They haven’t gone through any actual shit.

However, the people that were left mourning them, they are the ones whose stories inspire some real pathos. The people they love just up and vanish. There is no plane, no bodies, no closure. And they have to somehow move on with their lives, constantly with that niggling doubt in the back of their minds that they shouldn’t, that their loved ones could be out there, somewhere. But they do move on. They remarry, the move, they die. And yet some, like Teenage Daughter here, some of them never quite accept the “truth” and always believe that their loved ones are out there. Somewhere. And then, in the finale, the plane arrives. NOW THAT WOULD BE A SHOW. It could have been a whole thing with This is Us-style flashbacks and flashforwards all the while hinting at some smaller supernatural elements, but not being too overt about it … and then the next season could be sort of where we are now, but maybe from the family members who were left behind’s perspective, where their returned loved ones are acting … strangely. Disappearing in the middle of the night. Suddenly on the local news for solving some unsolvable crime. Hanging out in prisons with strangers …

AND THAT’S ANOTHER THING: You’re going to tell me the media wouldn’t have been ALL OVER THE FACT that a kid arrested for robbing a jewelry store was suddenly exonerated when a man who happened to be on the missing flight with his dad found the real thief? ON TOP OF THE FACT THAT THE BIG HERO OF THE MISSING GIRLS STORY WAS A WOMAN WHO WAS ON THE FLIGHT?

I think I might hate this show and it might be very bad.

As for the new mystery posed in this episode: the shadow man. The shadow figure appears to be corporeal, so I’m going to guess that it is an actual human who believes that the people on the flight have to be eliminated before they can do something cataclysmic. There will be something about how the flight was supposed to crash, but didn’t and now it’s fucking with the timeline and the passengers have to die before they Butterfly Effect the universe or some bullshit that was done MUCH BETTER ON A DIFFERENT AND SUPERIOR SHOW, FRINGE. Another prediction, the shadow figure will end up being someone we know, someone probably on the flight, either from this timeline or some alternate timeline. And yet another prediction, this will somehow tie into the whole cult thing I mentioned earlier, the “He is risen! He is not here!” lady. But honestly, I’m not going to think about this too much because I think the writers haven’t thought about this too much.


Manifest airs on NBC on Mondays at 9 p.m.

One thought on “‘Manifest’: Arrested development

  1. There have been some wonderful films about the presumed dead returning, including The Return of Martin Guerre (starring Gérard Depardieu [of Mon Oncle d’Amérique, which if you haven’t seen, you have a delight ahead of you] and Nathalie Baye [of La balance, a nice Bob Swaim thriller]) and its remake, Sommersby (with Richard Gere and Jodie Foster).

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