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Manifest - Reentry - Review - "Do You Hear That?"

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What happens to things when they reenter Earth's atmosphere too fast or without proper protection? They burn up. Maybe even explode, like the plane that flew Flight 828 did last week. Manifest is pacing itself wisely, by not leaning into the possible supernatural or natural forces too quickly, but it's faltering in terms of its characters.

The show may plan to settle into a "case of the week" routine, where Ben and Michaela help a different passenger each time. This approach brings pros and cons. On the positive side, it will keep the show from getting too serialized and bogged down in the bigger mystery. However, it could also doom the show to never escaping from the immediate Stone family and friends circle. A man named Radd (Curtiss Cook) asks for Ben's help, but Ben initially brushes him off, too overwhelmed with other things. Mysterious violin music brings Ben back to the man later. (Definitely reminded me of An American Tail for a second there when Fievel wanders the streets of New York, listening for his Papa's music). Radd is a violinist who was in Jamaica for one day to play with the Philharmonic. He left his 13 year old son behind with a neighbor. Now his son Adio (Curtiss Cook Jr!) is grown up and in jail, facing trial for robbing a jewelry store he worked at. His father insists he must be innocent, and Ben gets Michael's help to visit Adio at Rikers. Eventually another "divine coincidence" will lead Ben to the real culprit, setting Adio free. I wonder if it's coincidence that this episode and the pilot focused on someone being set free.

It is a pity that there's no hint that Adio and Radd will be a bigger part of the show, because their dilemma was much more compelling than almost everyone else's right now. Michaela's focus in this episode was dealing with Jared moving on with her best friend Lourdes. The baking soda isn't mixing with the vinegar in terms of Jared and Michaela's connection, so instead we're treated to solid awkwardness when they share the screen. It's admirable that Michaela lies to Lourdes that she was going to break up with Jared anyway. But really what else would she say? This story angle has been executed with considerable more finesse, with much more agony, on other shows.

Michaela does make a big discovery though. She overhears Grace talking to her boo. (Secret Phone Conversation 101: don't do it with your back to the door). Again Michaela handles this the only way she can: by not mentioning it to Ben. Cal meanwhile is the one character who seems to actually be struggling with everything that has happened to them. His distress levels go up and up, as it dawns on him that everything in his life has been upended. His toothbrush is gone, his Lego sets are gone, a crazy lady grabs him in the street and cries out "He is risen!" He draws a family portrait but adds a faceless figure in the background. Eventually Olive can't stand this anymore, and she reveals to Ben that she kept Cal's things when Grace finally set them out to be donated. It's this trip to a storage unit that results in Ben realizing that Grace had somebody else. At first he's startled, asking Olive about it sharply. She immediately bursts into tears, probably the first reaction that feels genuine and natural on this show (Kudos to Luna Blaise), and he does the right thing and hugs his daughter and tells her everything is going to be okay. It's a real moment. Ben, for all his insistence on uncovering facts, seems to want to believe the warmest, fuzziest explanations. He doesn't even seem to consider that Grace might still have this person in her life. He doesn't want any details. Except when it comes to what happened to the plane.

The central mystery is still not a strong part of the story. The episode quickly follows up on the pilot, as all 20 passengers who watched the plane blow up are questioned by the government suits. No one admits to hearing any voices or anything else strange, except one whispered question from the pilot who asks Michaela and Ben if they have heard voices. They play it cool. Later, a room full of more important government suits debates the incident. Was it a wormhole? Was it a secret weapons test? One man asks "How do we know the same people came back?" These questions would be interesting, if the show even remotely hinted that any of them could be true. One stuffy old white dude wants to lock all the passengers up, but it's too late to do The Crossing.

We are left with what's supposed to be a tantalizing tidbit. The passenger who cried during the initial questioning in the pilot goes against the government's instructions and appears on numerous news programs. She spouts theories and speculation, settling in later in the evening to watch herself on TV. But we saw earlier that someone was following her, or rather we only saw their SHADOW (are you not intrigued???). In any case, a gunshot rings out, and we only see her blood splatter the TV screen, still playing the footage of herself talking. Supernatural shadows probably don't use guns, but I think this moment is supposed to be gasp worthy. Look, kids, that lady is dead, so the passengers are in danger! I have to say that for a show with the premise this one has, there is an immense lack of mysterious atmosphere. However, there's also a possibly more lethal absence of meaningful interpersonal drama. Where's the conflict, the tension, the unexpected friendships that might form from this bizarre situation.....the woes of being five years behind the world!? This show right now is all gravy, with no meat and potatoes.

Last Thoughts:

Ben ran right past a Times Square advertisement for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which again made me wish that the show would do more to show the culture shock the passengers would be experiencing.

Everyone on this show is utterly too chill.

Also, Michaela is a detective now, because the promoted her when they thought she was dead.

I am also wondering about the life insurance payouts that must have been made for any passengers who had insurance. It's possible that Grace could have grown her business enough in five years to be where she is, but I just thought that money might have helped her. In fact, many of the passengers' families may have benefited similarly, so it would be interesting to explore that angle.

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