Manifest: “Reentry” Takes on Life Five Years Later

MANIFEST: 1.02 “Reentry”

Last week, I lamented that Manifest didn’t spend enough time with its characters adjusting to life that’s been fast-forwarded by five years. This week, we got a glimpse of that. Michaela was working on getting back on the force and dealing with her former best friend. Ben was working out life back with his wife. And his poor son, Cal, seemed to have the hardest adjustment, after realizing that all of his toys, clothes, posters—all things familiar—were gone.

I really felt for Cal in this episode, and it was interesting to see how Grace jumped through hoops trying to make him feel more comfortable. Especially given that he’s going through his treatments, it’s important that he feel like he hasn’t lost everything. After all, he lost his twin sister in a way; she’s now five years older and like an entirely different person (a person, who smartly saved his belongings and brought a smile to his face at the end of the episode).

Grace and Cal was probably the most redeeming part of Grace’s storyline, though, as we waited the entire episode to find out if she was going to come clean to Ben about her relationship. Of course, Ben found out another way, and then she was left to make a choice: a life with her husband or her new love. Now, based on the end, it looks like she’s choosing Ben, but I doubt this tension is over. My guess is that whoever she is seeing will make an appearance and cause more issues and complexity to this marriage.

As for Michaela, well, she’s not only trying to accept what happened to her on Flight 828 but also the death of her friend in the car accident, which apparently happened while she was drinking and driving. She’s also dealing with the reappearance of her best friend Lourdes, who showed up at the police station to reconnect. Now, if I were Lourdes, I would’ve tried calling Michaela at Ben and Grace’s house and asking to meet for coffee, rather than blindsiding her at work unannounced, where, by the way, Michaela’s former boyfriend and Lourdes’ husband works and was present. But that’s just me. Fortunately, that was all cleaned up by episode’s end, when Michaela says that she was planning on turning down Jared’s proposal, even if it was a lie.

So our main characters seemed to smooth over some rough edges in “Reentry,” though all of these bits do seem a little too easy right now. I would’ve expected more struggling—or at least for it to last more than one episode. Who knows? Maybe it will.

The more interesting part of the episode was what was happening with the other passengers of Flight 828. No, I’m not talking about our “case of the week,” which was…fine? It didn’t draw me in that much, not because it was poorly done, but because I’m must more interested in the larger mystery and story arc than individual weekly cases. But I’m starting to see that this is going to be a habit for each episode. Someone hears something mysterious, follows its lead, helps someone out, and tracks down some sort of criminal by episode’s end.

No, more intriguing is the shadow figure that is apparently now killing fellow passengers. Why? We don’t know. Was it because she spoke out on the news? Or something else? And who is the shadow?

Yes, I find this more compelling than the visions and voices. Clearly, whatever happened on that plane wasn’t simply magical. There is some human involvement. But how? And why? And why kill the passengers? And did Cal have some sort of vision, in order to draw the shadow in his family picture?

All good questions with no answers yet. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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Manifest Takes Off with a Mystery, but Fails to Land the Characters

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MANIFEST: 1.01 “Pilot”

Every new fall season, I have my lists: shows I’m super excited about returning (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend! The Good Place! Jane the Virgin!), returning favorites that I watch but may be ambivalent about (Supergirl, The Flash), new shows I’m looking forward to checking out (A Million Little Things), and new shows I know little about but will check out if I have time (Single Parents). Manifest, as it turns out, falls into that third category, where I’ve been looking forward to it. So it was nice to have it be the first new premiere I watched this season.

Now, I’ll preface this by acknowledging my skepticism. The premise seemed intriguing: A plane takes off but lands five years later. No one has aged who was on the plane. Where did they go? What happened? It sounded exactly like one of those shows you’d get super-invested in right before it got cancelled.

But here’s where the reality kicks in. Within moments of the show starting, Flight 828 went up, hit some unexpected turbulence, and then landed five years later. They all had their reunions with families (missing the now late mother, of course), and everyone is confused as to what happened. The FBI starts to interrogate the flight crew and passengers… And then everything is back to business, where family is home with family, and other than a few references to having no belongings or a working phone, they’re basically back to the real world.

Until…

Michaela, our heroine sister, starts hearing voices. Or, rather, her voice, instructing her to do things. “Slow down.” “Let them free.” Then we find out brother Ben has the same new power. And suddenly, it’s not just them. It’s all the passengers—at least that’s how it seems by the episode’s end.

All of this happens within one hour of network television. And while I have some complaints about the supernatural element of the show (I wasn’t expecting magical voices and premonitions), my biggest issue is that the reality of the world these people are returning to was highly ignored. How can we care about characters when we don’t really know what life was like for them before they took off, let alone how different it is once they landed?

Let’s pause there. We get a nice voiceover at the beginning, seeing what would appear to be a “happy family.” We know Michaela is dealing with something and that it ties to her decision of whether to marry her boyfriend. And we know Ben’s son has leukemia, and it doesn’t look good. Beyond a brief—and I do mean brief—tension between Michaela and her mother about said engagement, there’s barely any conflict.

So it’s a bit surprising when later we find out that Michaela was on desk duty because she’s being evaluated after her partner died in the car next to her. Or how important her best friend Lourdes was (someone we hadn’t even heard of before), when we hear that she married Michaela’s old beau. In a show that would have been nice to get more show than tell, all we get is spoken backstory at the wrong times. This essentially means we barely know the characters, we can barely understand what they’re going through, and even when you discover that dear old mom has sadly passed, we can’t muster a hint of emotion.

But aside from the backstory, we barely saw any reaction to the five-year jump. We see initial shock and, again, annoyance that they don’t have belongings or a phone. But where is the adjustment period? Other than Ben’s moment trying to reconnect with his daughter, it’s like no time has passed at all. For them, it’s been two days. Where’s the frustration that everyone keeps telling you “it’s been five years” when to them, it hasn’t been? Where’s the confusion to coming back to a world that would be different? I mean, they’re in New York. You mean to tell me that walking the streets of the city, they wouldn’t see different storefronts—that their favorite diner or donut shop has shut down? Everyone is still living in the same houses, with no change to decor other than soccer pictures? Ben seems oddly calm that he suddenly has to find a job, when I assume he had one when he left (which was, again, to him, two days ago). Geez, even an iPhone would’ve had multiple generations since the time they left.

Or, how about everyone else? We barely saw the FBI interrogate the passengers, which would likely take days, if not longer. They’d probably be taken to hospitals for medical tests. Sure, luggage would’ve been investigated (as we saw), but they’d probably confiscate all other devices on that plane to scour the data. And what about the press? These people would be hounded, treated as celebrities. A normal life? I think not.

Somehow the series decided to skip all that in favor of jumping into supernatural mystery. While I realize it would’ve made for a slower beginning, I would’ve much preferred to see some of these lives in 2013, see how people interact and get to know them for half an episode, before they got on a plane that changed the course of their lives forever. Spend some time showing them getting acclimated in an episode or two, and then, right when you think they’ve got a handle on things, introduce these voices and visions to add a new twist, throwing them off their game once again. Is it a slower build? Sure. But at least we’d know who we were watching.

Because for now, while they may have set up a mystery to figure out (with a self-exploding plane, for good measure), I don’t yet care about any of the characters. These people couldn’t been gone for a day, a week, or a month, and they would’ve had the same reactions as they did after five years.

And if anything, giving a little more time for their lives to develop and then get pulled out from under them would offer us the opportunity to get to know them (I’m ashamed to say that I actually had to look up Michaela’s name on IMDB because even in an hour of TV focused on her, I never learned it). But without any sort of life before, they have no personality. No personality means no real reaction to what happened. And with no real reaction, it’s hard to keep my interest, no matter how many visions and voices are thrown my way.

Hannibal: 1.05 “Coquilles”

HANNIBAL: 1.05 “Coquilles”

As you may know, NBC pulled episode 4 of Hannibal in light of the tragic Boston marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt for the suspects (an event that I found a bit too geographically close from comfort, though that’s another story). I can only assume, based on brief plot summaries of that episode (children killing children, or something), that it may have wrapped up the storyline with Hobbes’ daughter. I’ll have to catch up on it sometime soon, but thankfully watching that episode wasn’t necessary to enjoy this one.

We get another serial killer this week, which is starting to worry me a bit. How many crazy, brutal serial killers are there, really? If there were three or four major killers caught by the FBI within a couple of months of each other, the nation would be in a panic. It’s getting a little hard for me to suspend my disbelief; I’d really like to start seeing the show carry the same case or two over more than just one week. That said, this week’s killer and his “design,” as Will would put it, is very gruesome, as he peels back the skin on the back of his victims to form wings. He’s motivated by a sense of religious fervor, plus a terminal brain tumor that causes hallucinations. Aside from the way in which the killer executed his victims, he wasn’t a particularly interesting villain, and mainly just served as a way to amplify both Jack and Will’s personal crises.

Jack’s problem begins with his wife, who we learn has terminal cancer and is afraid to tell her husband. He eventually finds out the truth, and Laurence Fishburne does a great job of showing Jack’s quiet devastation, feeble attempts at putting up a strong exterior, and quiet melancholy.

Will, in the meantime, is breaking down under the strain of all he’s been asked to do lately. He’s not sleeping, and when he is, he sleepwalks and wakes up in strange places. Finally, his hallucinations are intensifying, from the dark deer that he’s been stalking for a few episodes, to a vision of this week’s dead serial killer. Crawling into the minds of these men is seriously destabilizing him and by the end of the episode, it seems like he may be close to giving it up and heading back to teaching.

Finally, the more I watch this show, the more I am enjoying its depiction of Hannibal himself. His odd shaped, heavy lidded face, his indistinct European accent, and the elegance and refinement in which he cloaks himself (from his shirt-vests or perfect Windsor-knotted tie to his decanter of fine wine and the classical music softly piped into his dining room) makes him fascinatingly, attractively interesting and yet utterly sinister at the same time.

Hannibal: Aperitif

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HANNIBAL: 1.01 “Aperitif”

Before last week, I had no interest at all in NBC’s new show, Hannibal. I think Silence of the Lambs is a classic movie horror/crime mash-up, and while I barely remember Red Dragon and Manhunter, I think they were both pretty good too. Years ago, I read all the books, though I do remember being thoroughly disappointed by the ridiculous outcome to the final book in the series (also titled Hannibal, I believe). Anyway, I’m well familiar with Thomas Harris’s serial killer, both his film and literary incarnations, but I wouldn’t consider myself a fanboy. I figured this show was just going to be another crappy procedural trying to cash in on the memory of a now 22-year-old movie. I started getting a little curious, though, when some critics I respect, like Alan Sepinwall and Andy Greenwald, came out with some surprisingly positive reviews. I’m glad I was encouraged to check in on the series, because Hannibal is the best thing that I’ve seen on NBC, and many cable channels, for a long while.

Yes, the show is gore-soaked and exceedingly graphic for network TV, but I guess NBC has to try and push some buttons given their ratings. I particularly like how stylized the show looks; there are strange camera angles, sharp and sudden focuses on individual objects, a color palette that seems just slightly off and surreal, and plenty of hallucinations as our main character, FBI profiler Will Graham, uses his imagination to vividly reenact crime scenes while putting himself in the perspective of the killer. The first episode ends, spoiler spoiler spoiler, with him gunning down a serial killer who has a knife at a young girl’s neck. Graham’s clearly distraught by what he’s seen and what he has to do, as he shakes like a leaf and appears nearly incapable of functioning right after he pulls the trigger. I have a feeling that the psychological consequences of experiencing and imposing violence might actually be explored in this show. If so, it’d be a welcome contrast to the standard police procedural, in which a new body is dumped on a table in the first five minutes, and our heroes wind up capturing or killing the person responsible in the last five minutes, secure in the knowledge that they are righteous champions of justice and goodness. Graham may have done the right thing here, but it seems to me that the consequences of that action won’t be wiped clean off the slate at the start of the second episode.

Mads Mikkelsen plays a great, though different Hannibal. While he comes across as wonderfully sinister and frightening to the audience (particularly in this episode when we see him cooking dinner; the long apron that he wears made my skin crawl, that’s because we know his secret). To the other characters in the show, he’s a plausibly aloof and brilliant doctor, with no reason to suspect he might be a cannibal.

I’ve been hooked immediately. Much to my surprise. I have to say again that the hyper stylized nature of the show is something that really draws me in; the colors, the camera angles, the flashbacks, quick cuts, and weird dream-like sequences just fascinate me, and I can’t wait to see more. I hope it succeeds wildly, because as fun as it is to bash NBC for terrible ratings, something this compelling needs to stay on the air, no matter what network it happens to be on.

Hey, Boston! Here’s Your Chance to See ‘Revolution’ Before It Premieres!

What would you do if tomorrow you had no electricity? Everything was off, and you had to survive?

That’s what NBC’s new show Revolution aims to find out. In this epic adventure from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions and Supernatural‘s Eric Kripke, a family struggles to reunite in an American landscape where every single piece of technology — computers, planes, cars, phones, even lights — has mysteriously blacked out forever. A drama with sweeping scope and intimate focus, Revolution is also about family — both the family you’re born into and the family you choose.

This is a swashbuckling journey of hope and rebirth seen through the eyes of one strong-willed young woman, Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos, Being Human), and her brother Danny (Graham Rogers, Memphis Beat). When Danny is kidnapped by militia leaders for a darker purpose, Charlie must reconnect with her estranged uncle Miles (Billy Burke, The Twilight Saga), a former U.S. Marine living a reclusive life. Together, with a rogue band of survivors, they set out to rescue Danny, overthrow the militia and ultimately re-establish the United States of America. All the while, they explore the enduring mystery of why the power failed, and if — or how — it will ever return.

Revolution premieres on NBC on Monday, September 17, at 10/9c, but for some of you in the Boston area, you can see it even earlier.

That’s right. On Thursday, September 6, at 7:30 pm, there will be a screening of the first episode of Revolution at the AMC Boston Common for some special Boston viewers. All you have to do is a few simple steps.

First, go to this link for your ticketDownload and print your ticket. There is a limited number of tickets, so get yours soon!

Second, show up. Seating is first-come, first-served, so make sure to show up early to get a seat.

Third, enjoy! 

And that’s it! Not only will you get a fun night out, but you’ll even get the bragging rights of having seen the show more than a week before anyone else!

Want to know more? Check out the Revolution website, where you can watch an extended trailer, read about the cast, and even play a game. And don’t forget to watch the show when it premieres on the 17th!

Thursday Open Thread: Your Olympics Viewing Experience

A lot has been said lately about the Olympics this year. Since it’s considered the first “social media Olympics,” that means a lot more people are on Twitter, reporting reactions to events and winners at speeds like no other. I’m not following the headlines religiously on Twitter, but the few moments I peruse Facebook in the course of the day has shown me quite a few reactions and photos that reveal winners of the day’s events.

Now you all know me. I’m not the biggest sports fan. But I do enjoy the Olympics. Now, some “spoilers” I could care less about (I have a whole different post I could write about whether these should really be coined “spoilers,” but I won’t digress here), and others — like the women’s team gymnastics final — I really wanted to be surprised by, so in those cases, I keep my distance. That being said, these are taking place five hours before my viewing experience, so if I find out, I find out.

But I’m in the minority. There have been many people upset by the coverage, the spoilers, what they’ve seen, and what they haven’t. NBC’s being attacked left, right, up, down, and in between. I’m not NBC’s biggest cheerleader (if you met me in the ’90s, you would be hearing something else entirely), but I can’t say I’m really against what they’ve done so far. If anything, I’d follow the message of this guy and The Onion over those complaining. But again, I digress.

How has your Olympic experience been? Have you enjoyed it? Are you annoyed with being spoiled? Have you even noticed the social media buzz at all? How are you watching, and what are you missing?

Now’s the time to spill it. Let it all out. There you go. Just comment.

*image from nbcolympics.com

Community Open Thread: Your Favorite Episode

Community is back tonight. This is a good thing, because without it, NBC’s comedy lineup is a wasteland (I’m looking at you, Whitney.) The show has struggled in the ratings throughout its entire run, but so has the rest of NBC’s lineup this year. It as a small, but devoted core of followers. Perhaps these two factors, along with the news that Comedy Central will start airing reruns, means we may have some hope for another season. Until we hear one way or another, though, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy whatever’s left of this season as best as I can.

In honor of Community‘s return, I thought I’d pose a question: What’s your favorite episode? For me, it’s got to be “Contemporary American Poultry” from near the end of season one. The gang works out a mafia style plan to control the cafeteria’s supply of chicken fingers; it’s a great homage toGoodfellas, one of my favorite movies. Before this episode, I knew this show was good and unique, but this one really convinced me that it was something special.

What’s your favorite episode?