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Manifest's Most Confusing Moments Explained

With its complicated mythology and esoteric themes, "Manifest" is one of the more mind-bending sci-fi shows available on Netflix, even if it can be more than a little soapy at times. From the moment Flight 828 unexpectedly lands five years after its scheduled arrival, the passengers find themselves plagued with strange visions and auditory hallucinations they come to know as "callings."

One of the central mysteries in "Manifest" is exactly how the callings work and whether they have the ability to somehow lead to a person's death. With all of the various plot threads the Stone family and their fellow 828ers encounter, it's no wonder Michaela and Ben are confused — especially when so many of those threads seem to inexplicably get dropped or fade into the background. But sometimes, the answer to what seems like a red herring is hiding in plain sight, or at the very least half-hidden behind a cringy love triangle. If understanding the callings is threatening to sink your lifeboat, we've got you covered. Let's take a look at the most confusing moments in "Manifest" explained.

When the bar patrons die

Things start to get really dodgy when early in the 828ers' calling-directed lives, the elder Stone siblings find themselves with good reason to suspect that telling non-828ers about the callings could lead to the outsiders' sudden deaths. The drama begins in "Point of No Return" (Season 1, Episode 8) when Michaela encounters a passenger named Harvey who is convinced that he is an angel of death. They meet on a rooftop where the distraught passenger tells Mick that people are dying and then he jumps before she can understand his meaning. When she and Jared find the phrase "I am the angel of death" painted across Harvey's apartment wall alongside a couple of recent obituaries from the pub where Harvey was a regular, Michaela becomes convinced that these people died because Harvey told them about the callings, while Jared insists it's all a coincidence. When the bartender is suddenly electrocuted while on a smoke break, though, it starts to look like Harvey was right, and the Stones begin to worry about their own loved ones. But as the series progresses, all sorts of people end up learning about the callings and don't die. While the show doesn't clarify the canonical reason for the discrepancy, some fans have observed that the callings seem to only kill outsiders they perceive to be a threat to the callings, which makes as much sense as any other explanation. 

When the meth-head lifeboat dies

One of the more frustrating aspects of the callings is that understanding them requires more math skills than most of us are willing to invest in our TV shows, and "Manifest" math frequently makes no sense. For an example of baffling math, we need look no further than the meth-heads' death date and relationship to the callings. The Stones' first awareness of death dates comes when career criminal James Griffin suddenly drowns on dry land exactly 82 hours and eight minutes after his resurrection — the exact amount of time he was presumed dead. The meth-heads later encounter a similar fate.

Michaela first meets the meth-heads during a bust, and a calling tells her to let the three of them go. She ignores the calling and arrests them, but they invariably escape and quickly graduate from slinging drugs to kidnapping Cal and planning a homicide. After a series of mind-numbingly convoluted calling-related shenanigans, the meth-heads end up falling into a frozen lake and disappearing, only to return from their seemingly temporary deaths 84 days later.

Olive uses her Super Hermione skills to predict that the three returned for a trial. While meth-head Jace doubles down on his dirty deeds, his lifeboat buddies set a course for redemption — which makes it that much more horrifying when Jace's soul emerges from his recently deceased body and kills his compatriots. As Olive explains, this happens because they came back together, and thus are judged together. Although who they were judged by and to what end remains a mystery, showrunner Jeff Rake emphasized in an interview with TV Insider, "It's all connected, and the meth-heads' return and their demise will be intrinsically connected to the passengers' fate."

When the earthquakes start

Earthquakes aren't something you'd normally expect to occur in New York. But in the world of "Manifest," they're just another side effect of the Eureka team's misguided attempts to hack the Divine Consciousness through weird science. Seismic activity first comes up during "Destination Unknown" (Season 3, Episode 8) when Saanvi learns Eureka has procured a piece of 6,000-year-old driftwood from the Vatican, which Dr. Gupta calls "the next crucial piece in a metaphysical puzzle stemming back millennia." The wood was brought to the surface by seismic activity seven years ago just south of Armenia near Mount Ararat of biblical fame. As Saanvi's Eureka colleague reveals, the 828 tailfin was also pushed up by a seismic "ghost."

Later in "Compass Calibration" (Season 3, Episode 10), Saanvi's coworker Troy tells her, "There's a working theory that the testing might be having unintended consequences." The docs proceed to initiate a driftwood test that immediately has unintended consequences, blasting Saanvi to the ground and causing an earthquake strong enough to shatter windows and send a ceiling fan crashing through a coffee table. Once it's established that the earthquake is not a calling but an IRL quake putting real lives in danger, Saanvi starts to believe the tests are causing the quakes. There are quake epicenters in the ocean, under Eureka, smack dab in the center point of Griffin's river, Zeke's cave, and the meth-heads' lake where it has opened a lava-filled fissure in the middle of a road. And there's also ULF — a sound frequency tied to earthquakes — on the 828 black box recording in "All-Call" (Season 4, Episode 2). Taken together, all of these details support the notion that seismic activity is a side effect of sapphire connecting humanity and the Divine Consciousness.

When Saanvi cries tears of blood

Of all of the miseries inflicted on the passengers of Flight 828 after their landing, perhaps the most unsettling is when Saanvi develops her own stigmata and starts leaking blood from her eyes. The event occurs in "Bogey" (Season 3, Episode 9) while the good doc is conducting experiments on the magic Vatican driftwood only to realize she's got blood running down her face. And it's not just a few errant tears — Saanvi has a steady stream of blood streaking down her face. Worse, her body is failing as the Eureka staff struggles to care for her. Through their callings, Ben, Michaela, and Eagan are convinced this is happening because Saanvi is "sinking" their lifeboat since she removed her own callings through experimentation, causing her body to break down. When she confesses that she killed the Major, the situation instantly reverses, with the blood streaks on her face evaporating as if they are erased in MS Paint.

According to "Manifest" logic, Saanvi is no longer sinking her lifeboat at this point, and her health begins to reverse. But a season later, we've got Angelina running around for years after killing Grace with nary a blood drop welling up in her eyes. And as Reddit's u/petit_pimento so aptly noted, Saanvi — a doctor who literally cured cancer — killed someone accidentally during an act of self-defense against someone who was harming the 828ers. So why does the stigmata affect Saanvi but not the murder-slash-stalker? 

The answer can be found in the legend of the lion unearthed by Olive. According to a Chinese Buddhist myth, when lion statues cry tears of blood, it indicates a flood is on the way. When the townspeople painted red tears on a statue as a prank on an old woman, everyone but the prank victim was killed in a real flood. The myth leads the Stones to conclude that it was Saanvi's lie, not the Major's death, that caused the good doctor to cry blood. As to why the lie is somehow worse than a cold-blooded slaying, however, only the Divine Consciousness can say.

When the CG wolf shows up

While "Manifest" offers up no shortage of creativity in its storytelling, the show's questionable use of computer graphics — especially a notorious CG wolf — has been the butt of jokes across the Internet throughout its run. Besides being a digital disaster, it's also one of the most confusing callings in the series as it seems to appear with little context or in-series clarification.

The wolf first bears its teeth to Zeke while he's staying at Michaela's apartment in "Upgrade" (Season 1, Episode 14) after a mutual calling told them to "go back" together in "Cleared for Approach" (Season 1, Episode 13). Young Cal later confirms he experienced the same calling, and in his vision, the wolf is attacking Michaela, who also sees the wolf after locating a bomb in Times Square. Unfortunately, the story remains unclear on the real-world identity of the wolf in question. While the wolf calling is edited to imply it could be connected to Griffin, there's no reason to believe Michaela would need a calling given to three people to know she should be wary around a resurrected criminal. Also, she sees the wolf after confirming that Griffin is a killer. At one point, many fans suspected the wolf could mean Jared. While that theory seems to be confirmed when he later joins up with the anti-828 hate group the Xers, it gets instantly debunked when it turns out he was undercover the whole time.

Showrunner Jeff Rake told Bustle the wolf represents "the idea of a predator who realizes that, when unexplained abilities arise, it becomes a pendulum that can swing in either direction." Specifically, Rake referred to individuals who are "prepared to use it for the worse." While he doesn't confirm a specific person, there are a number of characters within the series that fit this bill, and it's possible that Rake is referring to the concept of calling opportunism as a whole. In other words, the wolf seems to be a warning against anyone who wants to take advantage of the 828ers' newfound abilities for their own gain, whether it's the Major, the meth-heads, or Angelina.

When Zeke survives his death date

The concept of death dates is among the most confusing "Manifest" details, especially since the callings don't exactly come with an owner's manual. After the Stone family establishes the death date in the wake of Griffin's death, they expect the rest of the resurrected will meet the same fate — a suspicion that seems confirmed when Zeke begins to show signs of frostbite consistent with his own original death in the days leading up to what's projected to be Zeke's death date. And because Zeke is a real one, he uses up the last of his moments in "Icing Conditions" (Season 2, Episode 13) trying to help Michaela save her young nephew Cal from the meth-heads, an event that culminates with Zeke belly flopping into a frozen pond to retrieve the boy after Cal and the meth-heads fall in. Moments after Zeke is pulled from the icy water, he dies. Enough time passes that it's clear he's really dead as the Stones sob over his frozen body and the police begin to arrive. Just as Ben is telling the newly widowed Mick, "It was his time. You know that," a supernatural glow brings breath back into Zeke's lungs.

Although many fans appreciated Zeke getting yet another run at life, the turn of events left more than a few viewers scratching their heads. While Ben believes that Zeke's survival is due to his following the callings, we know from Jace and Angelina that the callings don't always lead people to make altruistic choices. For that matter, the callings aren't always clear. And as Jeff Rake noted to TV Guide, there's "a difference between a correlation and a connection."

If following the callings don't necessarily lead to surviving one's death date, how does Zeke manage to cheat the big expiration date? Some fans speculate it's not just about whether the resurrected follow the callings, but about how they follow them. Redditor u/ivehearditbothwaysss posited that it "wasn't just that he followed the callings, but risked his life." The fact that Zeke is resurrected as an empath also seems to support the importance of selflessness or benevolence when following the callings.

When Noah's Ark closes the lava pit

Through her experiments at Eureka, Saanvi comes to believe the driftwood Eureka acquired from the Vatican is a fragment of the biblically fabled Noah's Ark. This assumption also implies that Noah and his family may not have simply survived the biblical deluge — they may have actually been resurrected by the Divine Consciousness. When Saanvi also becomes convinced the Ark experiments are causing seismic events that open up a lava pit in New York, she tries to persuade Gupta to stop the experiments, but she declines. Short on options, Saanvi enlists lab tech Troy to help her pull off an illusion that would make Gob Bluth proud and smuggles the Ark fragment out of the lab so she can chuck it into the lava fissure, instantly causing the lava in Cal's calling to cool while sealing the road at the same time. How Saanvi knows to put the Ark fragment in the lava or what exactly that has to do with the callings is a serious puzzler.

The answer is hidden in the wider context of "Manifest" logic. When Cal later disappears after his calling compels him to touch the tailfin, Ben tells Gupta the tailfin needs to go back into the ocean just as the Ark went back into the Earth. The tailfin in question is the tailfin that originally landed in New York five minutes too late and exploded, which we know because Saanvi explicitly states that the tailfin disappeared when she killed the Major before later reappearing in the ocean. And as showrunner Jeff Rake hinted in an interview with TV Insider, Cal's and Captain Daly's disappearances are also connected, and Daly is "interacting with the Divine." Rake also hinted that the passengers are "in a holding pattern" as their "ultimate fate is determined."

As many astute fans have noted on Reddit, the appearances and disappearances of the tailfin and the Ark seem to be tied to the passengers' adherence to the callings. Fans theorize that as the passengers follow the callings, the tailfin gets closer to one judgment or the other – a sort of convoluted, biblical Schrödinger's cat scenario — and the Ark does the same for its passengers. Anyone who interferes with these items is interfering in the judgment process, which is why the items had to be safely far away from any human efforts to hack the Divine.

When Cal reappears

When Flight 828 first reappears after five and a half years, the fact that the passengers haven't aged at all in the interim is clear from the appearance of Cal, who is now several years younger than his fraternal twin Olive. Although we can't tell if Zeke, Griffin, or the meth-heads age in their Divine time, it's safe to assume that their internal chronometers adhere to the same rules as the passengers of Flight 828. That makes it that much more confusing when Cal disappears from touching the tailfin in "Mayday: Part 2" (Season 3, Episode 13) only to reappear five and a half years older when the tailfin goes into the ocean. In Season 4, Part 1, it's clear that he has no memory of the time he lost, which means he's now a tween in a grown man's body. Why Cal aged up and what happened to him in the meantime is a complete mystery. The only thing that is clear is that he is now the same age as his twin and the age he would have been had he not experienced a five-plus-year time slip.

To understand the answer to the Cal mystery, it's necessary to rewind a couple of episodes back to "Duty Free" (Season 3, Episode 11). Cal begins to experience burning all over his body, but it's not just a calling — it's happening in real life. After Grace and Ben, who is currently under house arrest with an ankle monitor, refuse to let Cal solve the calling on his own, father and son have visions of themselves burning in fire and the burns on Cal's abdomen worsen. Adrian and Eagan later confirm to each other that they have had the calling as well. Convinced by Angelina that he has to fulfill his mission to be healed, Cal takes a cab to Eureka with a clear purpose in mind, and he knows exactly what he plans to do before he arrives.

As long as the tailfin is under experimentation, the 828ers' fate is doomed to burn up as it originally did before they were resurrected, and with Ben under house arrest, they can't even get near the Eureka facility to stop the experiments. Cal's arrival at Eureka and his treatment for his supernatural burns gives the Stones a reason to show up at the NSA facility, and his disappearance gives the Stones and Eureka a reason to destroy the tailfin (Season 3, Episode 12, "Mayday: Part 1"). For seeing the calling through to its end, Cal brings himself closer to the judgment where he makes it home safely and ages naturally. The fact that his cancer returns supports this, since he would have likely died from cancer if he hadn't gotten on that flight to begin with.

When Ben is horrible to Cal

Between Cal's cancer and all of their various losses through the years, to say the Stone family has been through hell and back is an understatement. When Cal goes missing after touching the tailfin, Ben is willing to do whatever it takes to get him back. Shortly after this happens, Cal reappears just in time to learn Angelina stabbed Grace to death and kidnapped baby Eden. This poor kid has been traumatized beyond what any adolescent child should ever have to endure before he finds out his mom died.

From Ben's perspective, his wife is now dead, and both his son and infant daughter are missing, and there's only an Amber alert on one of those kids. And then, in the midst of the family's grieving, a young man shows up at the door — a young man Olive instantly recognizes as her missing brother. Before anyone can be grateful at least one of their family members has been returned to them, Olive begins berating Cal for letting Angelina into their home. There are so many reasons for Olive and Ben to simply hug him and cry — reasons like the fact that he was just a child who made a mistake, or the fact that he's still a child who has clearly gone through something terrifying and traumatic. But instead, Olive abuses him while a detached Ben looks on as his terrified son crumples to the floor in a near-fetal position. And it doesn't get better from there, as Ben basically stops being a parent to Cal and begins treating him like just another adult.

It's easy assume that Ben is distancing himself from his son because he blames Cal for what happened to Grace and Eden, but the truth is probably more complex and hidden somewhere in Ben's grief beard. After his family falls apart, Ben retreats to Zeke and Michaela's attic where he becomes something of a recluse. Although it's tragic to see Cal left alone in the meantime, he has a strong family support system in Michaela, Zeke, and Olive. Once Ben begins to feel hope again, he is finally able to be the dad Cal needs him to be ("Romeo" Season 4, Episode 7). It's a reminder that grief is a very personal and powerful experience that can ... manifest in many ways.

When Violet dies

One of the stranger stops on the magic carpet ride that is "Manifest" has to do with Cal's dating life. Despite the fact that he is for all intents and purposes still a 12-year-old after returning in his now-grown body, Cal eventually acclimates to life as an adult. This is hardly surprising for a boy who, even during his tween years, has no qualms about getting around town without an adult. He even gets a brief chance at romance, which is sweet as long as you're willing to overlook the fact that his memories are missing a handful of years and the fact that he met the lovely Violet while rescuing her from a super culty compound.

Putting all of those pesky details aside, the pair have an adorable date that leaves Cal absolutely giddy ("Romeo"). The pair even share a sweet kiss as they part ways. And it's even sweeter when Cal goes home and immediately starts looking through his Violet pics and texts while positively glowing from their time together, which makes it that much more horrible when Jared bursts into Casa Stone and gives them the head's up that not only is Violet dead but the police think Cal is the killer. Many fans were irate at the turn of events, especially since Cal already seems to be the writers' favorite punching bag at this point. And because she dies off-screen, it's not entirely clear that Violet is really dead at that point. Unfortunately, although we are spared seeing Cal's first love suffer, Noelle is finally caught and arrested for killing multiple 828 passengers, which she freely admits while she's waterboarding Adrian ("Fully Upright and Locked" Season 4, Episode 8). It's safe to assume that Violet was among Noelle's victims and her death was not a fake-out, no matter how bad we want it to be one.

When Saanvi hears callings in the black box

One of the central plot points in the first half of Season 4 of "Manifest" is the discovery of new data on the plane's black box. The box first came into question during Season 1, and there was nothing originally found in the recording that gave the NSA any reasonable understanding of what happened during the flight's missing five years. When Saanvi finds herself coming up with no new answers, she decides to dive back into the recording to see if there's something she originally missed, and that's when she hears an unexpected voice on the recording begging for help.

When Saanvi and Vance sync up the recording with the footage from Eureka's video of Daly on the wrecked plane, they realize that it's Daly calling for help from inside of the plane even though the event happened long after the original black box recording. After digging even deeper into the black box audio, Saanvi uncovers an even bigger secret; all of the callings are somehow hiding on the audio file in ultra low frequency — an audio frequency associated with earthquakes and seismic events.

The discovery leads to a whole series of questions. Were the callings always hidden in the black box recording? How could they be on an audio file that is recorded before the callings occur? And why are they there in the first place? Since the Stones establish during Season 4 that the plane flew into the Divine Consciousness and the Divine Consciousness seems to exist in a place where the laws of normal space-time don't necessarily apply, perhaps the best conclusion is that the black box carries the imprint of the Divine Consciousness and like everything else — the Ark, the tailfin, and the passengers themselves — it's possible for them to be there one minute, disappear, and then come back again as the 828 passengers get closer to their final judgment.

When Zeke dies again

The callings go to a lot of trouble to save Zeke Landon after his resurrection from a frozen death inside of a cave. His and the Stones' journey to each other is one of the more powerful relationships in the series, and his romance with Michaela is one of the only consistently healthy pairings in "Manifest," which makes it that much more rewarding when he finds redemption and cheats his original death date. And since surviving his death date left him with empathic abilities and the ability to take others' pain away, he is able to continue helping the 828ers in a new way, without which their journey to understand and survive the callings might not be possible.

And yet despite all he has to celebrate in his new life with Michaela and the Stone family, Season 4 finds the empath increasingly suffering as he gives of himself without prioritizing his own feelings and self-care — a lesson to us all. It's hard to watch as his condition continues to deteriorate, causing him to explode in an uncontrollable fit of rage, shoot Erika, and crumple to the floor completely drained after helping Henry Kim. 

Zeke just can't stop helping others, especially those he cares about most, as evidenced by him sitting vigil with a bed-ridden Cal after his cancer comes out of remission and lovingly taking his swiftly declining nephew through the items on Cal's bucket list. As Zeke cares for Cal, he is reminded of how Cal cared for him when Zeke was dying as his death date neared.

After Cal's psychic boss battle with the power-mad Angelina leaves the younger Stone on death's door, Zeke uses his own power to take Cal's suffering and cancer onto himself, making one final, heartbreaking call to Michaela to say goodbye moments before dying himself. But since he's already cheated death by sacrificing himself for Cal once, it's hard to tell if this death is a real one. Can we expect a third resurrection for Zeke? Apparently, when it comes to Zeke's deaths, the third time's a charm. Showrunner Jeff Rake told Variety, "Zeke is dead. But there's a powerful love that exists between him and Michaela — and so on "Manifest," who knows what that means?" In other words, if they see each other again, it will probably be in the Divine Consciousness and not at the Stone family dinner table.