“Manifest”: Are Eerie Voices “Callings” or Something More Treacherous?

“Manifest” follows the lives of 20 passengers and crew who emerged from a plane that was missing for five and a half years. PHOTO/ NBC

This Fall, NBC debuted its new hit series Manifest. Right in time for Halloween, five episodes from the series’ pilot season will have premiered, and the show’s vibe has been…well, nothing short of creepy.

The series, set in New York City in November of 2018, follows the lives of 20 passengers and crew members who were on Montego Air Flight 828. When the plane lands, everyone from the flight learns that five and a half years have passed—though the passengers and crew themselves haven’t aged a day—and they had all been presumed dead during that time period. While they struggle to readjust to a society in which everyone else around them have actually aged, they also begin to hear voices and see hallucinations that seem to come from a being higher than themselves. Saanvi Bahl (Parveen Kaur), a medical researcher whose research led to a new treatment for pediatric cancer patients while she was missing, has discovered the passengers’ (hers included) brain anatomies are on par with individuals who may have an ischemic stroke or various mental illnesses, but the cause of the passengers’ strange experiences appears to be much more complicated than that.

So far, these voices and hallucinations have primarily led to positive outcomes. Michaela Stone (Melissa Roxburgh), an officer in the New York Police Department who seems to have been experiencing these voices and hallucinations the most, was able to lead her colleagues to two criminals as a result of voices she was hearing. Her brother, Ben Stone (Josh Dallas), an associate professor currently looking for work, was led to the real culprit behind a jewelry store’s robbery thanks to eerie music he heard. The man who was originally jailed for the robbery also happened to be the son of another passenger from Montego Air Flight 828.

Those outcomes, however, occurred when the passengers interpreted the voices and/or hallucinations correctly. In episode four, “Unclaimed Baggage,” we see the potential consequences that occur when the passengers, specifically Michaela Stone, don’t immediately know what the voices and hallucinations are leading them to.

Michaela Stone and Bahl in this episode see similar hallucinations, a gray statue resembling the Angel of the Waters, a statue that is at the top of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. While staking out a house on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operation with her ex-fiancé, Jared Vasquez (J. R. Ramirez), Michaela Stone sees the Angel of the Waters, and the statue says, “Save him.” She immediately becomes frantic, thinking the person they have to save is the ATF agent who was already undercover in the house (Michaela Stone and Vasquez were waiting for his cue to leave the car and enter the house.) Unfortunately, the agent was not in any immediate danger, and Michaela Stone’s premature decision based on her hallucination resulted in a foiled operation. Vasquez, who appears to still deeply care for Michaela Stone even though she refuses to tell him about these voices and hallucinations, ended up taking the fall for her, and his job is consequently in jeopardy.

Bahl’s and Michaela Stone’s hallucinations were actually for Thomas (Sheldon Best), a Jamaican stowaway on the flight who was smuggled onto the plane by Bethany (Mugga), a flight attendant. Bethany had secretly brought Thomas onto the plane in hopes to unite him with her cousin Leo, as the pair was deeply in love.

Because of the circumstances in which Thomas had gotten on the plane, when Bethany learned the flight would be met by National Security Agency (NSA) agents upon its landing, she told Thomas to climb onto the landing gear, jump off, and run. Thomas was inevitably not present when NSA director Robert Vance (Daryl Edwards) explained to all the flight crew and passengers that five and a half years had passed. Consequently, Thomas, now separated from Bethany and being in a foreign land where he didn’t know anyone, began to behave erratically in public. He was brought into the hospital where Bahl worked under the assumption that he had some sort of mental illness.

Michaela Stone, Bethany, and Bahl eventually connect the dots. Upon learning of Thomas’ escape from the hospital, they head to the Bethesda Fountain, the place Thomas and Leo had planned to meet five and a half years ago. That should be considered a success based on the Angel of the Waters hallucinations… right?

That may be the case when it comes to Thomas, but not for Vasquez. Toward the end of the episode, Ben points out to Michaela that Vasquez is in danger of being reprimanded by the NYPD as a result of her initial blunder in interpreting the meaning of her hallucination. Ben goes on to state how dangerous it may be for them to follow these voices “blindly,” to which Michaela responds, “I don’t think we have a choice.”

This raises an excellent point: none of the passengers have thus far been able to resist following these voices and hallucinations. Everyone is not only overtaken by these seemingly higher, powerful forces, but they all just assume that these forces are inherently “good.” What if they aren’t?

In the preview of the next episode, “Connecting Flights,” we see that Cal Stone (Jack Messina), Ben’s son who’s being treated for his cancer through treatment developed from Bahl’s research, is the centerpiece of these voices and/or hallucinations. Toward the end of episode two, “Reentry,” Cal was previously seen sketching an eerie shadow in a drawing of his family. Perhaps “Connecting Flights” will elaborate more on what this shadow means for Cal, the rest of his family, and the passengers and crew from Montego Air Flight 828.

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