This Manifest review contains spoilers.
Manifest Season 3 Episode 3
This week’s Manifest episode had a lot going for it. It had government intrigue (arguably the most fulfilling aspect of the serial story over the past three seasons), a satisfying puzzle-style calling, and a return of the deep historical mythology surrounding Al-Zuras. Some might argue there were too many balls in the air at once, but the overall effect was pretty solid nonetheless. It’s too early in the season to expect answers, but there’s always been a question of what we’re supposed to focus on with so much to speculate about.
Right now, the most entertainment is being provided by the various pieces being moved into place. Vance is such a unflappable badass, for example, and it’s nice to see him being brought back into the NSA fold. Paradoxically, it was also somehow comforting that he turned down the offer from his former colleague initially. After all, why help the same government machinery that supported the Major? Bonus points for NOT showing us what was behind the door that will supposedly seal the deal next week!
The best Manifest episodes also include a calling that feels more like a puzzle to solve rather than a compulsion of fate. Such was the case with Ben’s vision of a collection of strange artifacts like a golden toad and a marble monkey. His collaboration with the shady but smart Eagan Tehrani, the chess shark with a photographic memory, was a fun adventure, even if the fact that the rescue of Caleb, the brother of meth dealer Kory, felt more like a glorified coincidence than a meaningful payoff. Ben’s acknowledgement of Eagan’s superior calling interpretation was also a nice touch.
What also made “Wingman” feel like an Indiana Jones style archaeological adventure was the Al-Zuras papyrus being assembled at the university by Ben’s new assistant, who seems destined to bond with Olive. Manifest did a good job of tying threads together, too, such as the peacock feather being both in the woods with Cal and on the drawing of Ma’at, or the missing piece of parchment being in the urn Eagan stole from the illicit storage facility.
Or how about the mention of the “treasure hunt” in the childhood rhyme shared between Olive and Cal? Not only did the memory serve to further heal the wounds between Tarik and Grace as she told him about Cal’s sickness; it also appeared as a powerful new calling shared between the meth-heads, assuming that was Jace scraping the eyes out of Stone family photos. It’s almost impossible to guess where Manifest might be headed with this, but the possibilities are certainly compelling.
The strength of these arcs overshadowed what was a perfectly acceptable calling in season 1 of Manifest: the return of Evie’s heartbeat, guiding Michaela on a healing journey for her best friend’s mother, Beverly. It was fine, but using a macaroni necklace with the word “Brave” on it to bring Pete and Angelina together felt much more forced than the stories that surround it, as did the aforementioned “compulsion of fate” which made Michaela decide to care for Beverly in the home she just inherited from her.
But how about that Zeke, huh? His survival of the death date has had a transcendent effect, turning him into the most serene, perfect husband anyone could ask for. Manifest made the ultra-cool choice to subtly portray his sudden epiphany surrounding how to talk Beverly down from her meltdown with a shimmering effect, like heat coming off a street in summer. As with the impending treasure hunt, there’s nary an inkling as to why that’s happening, but we’re all in on the innovative concept.
Is it a lot to pack into a single episode? Yes, but the bridging of plots helps make the disparate mysteries feel more unified despite the fact that Manifest sometimes misses the mark with the forced motivations of some callings. Even the reminder that Jared is still working the case of the missing Major after learning of her covert torture and telling her daughter about it fits nicely into the larger picture somehow, so these small missteps can be forgiven. As long as we’re still anticipating the following episode each week, the show has done its job.