Sometimes, when Manifest hits a lull (which is all the time), I can get lost in Melissa Roxburgh’s eyebrows. They are magnificent. I’m a person who has never noticed a person’s eyebrows beyond, “Does she have them?” or “Does she not have them?” but Roxburgh’s eyebrows are noticeable. She’s like the Peter Gallagher of women.
That’s a lot of eyebrow, and it absolutely works. I am pretty sure that 80 percent of her acting is conducted through those glorious eyebrows. Those eyebrows should get their own trailer and separate billing. In fact, I’d rather watch a one-woman show starring Melissa Roxburgh’s eyebrows than Manifest.
As for the episode itself? Look: Manifest continues to suffer from the same problems that have plagued it since the outset. The writers clearly don’t know where the series is headed, and so they write it one episode at a time. They begin each episode with an end-point in mind and spend the remainder of the episode working backward to that point.
In this episode, the endpoint was, “Get NSA Director Vance on Ben Stone’s side.” So, how do we do that, given where last week’s episode left off (with an understanding that Unified Dynamic Systems was involved in the plane crash)?
Follow these improbabilities to the endpoint: Ben somehow easily gets a low-level job with Unified Dynamic, no questions asked. While working for Unified, he uses his position to get into their computer system. He discovers that Fiona Clarke — a passenger on Flight 828, who also happens to be a professor who speaks about collective consciousness — is consulting with Unified Dynamic and may be behind what happened. However, her files are restricted under the folder SP. Fiona Clarke just happens to be holding something akin to a Ted Talk that night. Ben attends and confronts Fiona Clarke, and she comes right out and tells Ben that she’s working on something called the Singularity Project (answering Ben’s question “What is SP?” as though a massive conglomerate just leaves file folders around on its server labeled “SP”).
The next night, Ben plays poker with all of these new co-workers he just met, and after winning a hand, he tells the IT guy that he’s super fascinated by document dumps (what?). The next day, Ben goes to the IT guy’s office to check out those doc dumps, spills coffee all over him, and while the IT guy is out, Ben downloads all the information he needs about the Singularity Project onto a flash drive. However, as he’s leaving, he’s intercepted by NSA Director Vance, who confiscates the flash drive. Now Ben and NSA Director Vance are connected.
It’s clearly not an organically written show. Each episode begins with Point A and ends with Point B, and the writers just throw out as many contrivances as possible to get there. Unfortunately, and what’s most frustrating about Manifest, is that once it moves from Point B to Point C, it completely disregards Point A. Mark my words: By episode 10, Unified Dynamic Systems will never be mentioned again. Manifest doesn’t advance the plot; it moves laterally from week to week because it clearly doesn’t have a defined endpoint in mind. They’re just killing time until Point Z arrives. In Lost parlance, it’s just one hatch after another, only never half as interesting or mysterious or compelling as the hatch.
Meanwhile, over in Michaela land, try not to roll your eyes at all of this, but here’s the TL;DR: While doing police work with Jared, a man gets shot. Instead of hearing voices this time, Michaela hears a loud heartbeat in her mind while she’s trying to resuscitate the man (she fails. He dies). The witness to the shooting, Carlos, is reluctant to point the finger at the shooter because he wants to get his own revenge. Michaela ultimately talks Carlos out of seeking revenge, but in the meantime, the shooter is sprung free from jail. Out on the loose, the shooter is about to kill another man, but Michaela follows the sound of the loud heartbeat in her mind to the shooter and prevents another death. When Michaela goes back to tell Carlos that they got the shooter, she finds out that the witness had heart transplant surgery, and his heart belongs to Michaela’s best friend, who died in a car accident five and a half years ago for which Michaela is responsible! That’s why Michaela kept hearing a heartbeat! Whoa!
But wait! There’s more! Because at the end of the episode, Michaela and Ben are hanging out in Ben’s kitchen and we spot a picture that the boy Cal has drawn and hung up on the refrigerator of Carlos with Michaela’s best friend’s heart on his shirt. No way!
This would be deep and profound if you were 11 years old and had never seen a decently written television series in your life. Me? I’m just here for the eyebrows.
Header Image Source: NBC