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Manifest Boss Breaks Down That Shocking Return From the Dead

(Warning: This post contains spoilers from Manifest‘s Season 2 premiere. Read at your own risk.)

Manifest came out swinging in Season 2 with a jaw-dropping premiere that not only raised more questions about those elusive Callings but also saw a familiar face return from the dead.

The episode, aptly titled “Fasten Your Seatbelt,” kicked off on a tense note with the reveal that neither Jared (J.R. Ramirez) nor Zeke (Matt Long) were harmed during that scuffle at the end of Season 1. Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) found herself caught in the crossfire, literally, and took a bullet to the gut. Though in recovery, she hadn’t quite forgiven Jared for ignoring her pleas to leave Zeke alone which led to the violent showdown and the current hole in her stomach. As a result, she remains at odds with her former flame.

Here’s Everything We Know About Season 2 of Manifest

The hour also saw the Callings manifest in an entirely new way, with Cal (Jack Messina) and Michaela communicating mid-vision. Plus, a new couple entered the fold after Ben’s (Josh Dallas) persistent search for more passengers led him straight to a terrified couple who mistook their Callings as a sign to drive into the river.

And, in a stunning turn of events, former NSA Director Robert Vance (Daryl Edwards) didn’t die in that Season 1 explosion like we originally thought. He not only survived that huge blow-up while trying to free the missing Flight 828 passengers but had been surveilling Ben Stone for reasons that are currently unknown. The episode wrapped on a shocking note with Ben snatched up by men from the mysterious white van staked out in front of his house and coming face-to-face with the man he believed to be dead.

As we gear up for another mystery-filled season, TV Guide spoke with showrunner Jeff Rake about Vance’s unexpected return and where that takes us this season. The Manifest boss also opened up about what’s in store for Ben and Grace (Athena Karkanis) amid their paternity drama and teased a difficult journey ahead for Saanvi (Parveen Kaur).

Francesca Faridany, Daryl Edwards and Josh Dallas, <em>Manifest</em>Francesca Faridany, Daryl Edwards and Josh Dallas, Manifest

So NSA director Vance is NOT dead, after all. How is he still alive? Is that something we’ll learn more about sooner rather than later?
Jeff Rake: Vance’s backstory, in terms of how he came back, will be explored in Episode 2. We love this character and had been mulling over much of the back half of Season 1 if we could continue with him and we figured out a way that we were really excited about.

He kidnapped Ben at the end of the hour so how does that set up the next few episodes?
Rake: As we get into the next episode, we’ll come to understand why kidnapping Ben was controversial but justified. The alliance that existed between Vance and Ben in Season 1 will continue but there’s gonna be some tension as we get deeper into the story with Saanvi and the Major. We’re gonna see different points of view between Vance and Ben in terms of how to solve the problem of the Major and what the best ways to alleviate the stress are. They will ultimately figure out a way around this but with a lot of personal collateral damage.

How much of a threat does the Major pose to the other passengers now that she’s gotten into Saanvi’s mind with these therapy sessions?
Rake: The Major’s therapy sessions really pose an existential threat to every one of the passengers. [Saanvi has been] trying to figure out what the common thread is between all of the passengers. She identified this DNA anomaly which seems to be responsible for the Callings. If the Major can learn these secrets and can get access to Saanvi’s research and understand the formula for the DNA anomaly, then the passengers are at risk. So while it is Saanvi sitting in the chair in the therapy sessions, she really carries on her shoulders the fate of every single passenger. The audience should pay very close attention to this story and when it blows up — it will in a big way in Episode 4 — because they will come to discover all of the passengers’ lives will be immediately at risk. And the humiliation and regret and self-loathing that Saanvi feels is going to drive her story through the rest of Season 2 all the way to a shocking season finale.

Saanvi revealed that she likes Ben. How significant are those feelings? Do they run deeper or is it just a crush and nothing more?
Rake: I wouldn’t say nothing more because Saanvi’s at the most vulnerable point in her life. She and Ben have been on this parallel emotional journey and so, the feelings there are profound and real and come at a time when Saanvi is so lost. We’re gonna see a real divide between Ben and Saanvi and there’s gonna be an unfortunate, active betrayal. Let’s just say that relationship’s gonna break apart before it comes together in any real way. As for whether or not it’s gonna move beyond friendship, I’m gonna leave that alone and let the audience see what happens in real-time. We are gonna spend much of Season 2 learning a lot more about Saanvi’s emotional life.

Ben and Grace have decided to do the paternity test, so what can you say about this very important doctor’s visit coming up?
Rake: We’re gonna resolve the paternity issue in Episode 2. Ben and Grace have vowed to work through this [paternity situation] together no matter what the results are and that’s an important story. So much of Season 1 was about a divide in this marriage and the goal of Season 2 with regard to their marriage is to tell a story of healing, unity, and mutual support. Ben and Grace are going to find their way to be there for each other as partners but there are new and unexpected hurdles that are gonna continue to challenge their relationship with regard to this baby.

Melissa Roxburgh, <em>Manifest</em>Melissa Roxburgh, Manifest

In this episode, we also learned that Michaela was shot during Jared’s scuffle with Zeke. After putting the blame on Jared for what happened and remaining firmly in Zeke’s corner, where does she stand emotionally with both men? How does their relationship evolve over the season?
Rake: Michaela is in an impossible emotional place. She holds Jared more responsible than she holds Zeke for her getting shot because she warned Jared again and again in the back half of Season 1 to stop looking so closely at Zeke. But Jared was a dog with a bone. I’m not saying it wasn’t understandable–a lot of people in Jared’s shoes may have done exactly the same thing he did. He couldn’t stand down [because] he thought he was protecting Michaela. In the end, it’s really a gray issue. She’s in a real tough bind because she has loved Jared for years and he loves her right back. And yet, there is an impossibly strong gravitational pull toward Zeke. We’re gonna see her starting to fall for him as well. She has seen the worst side of Jared through these recent events and she has seen the best side of Zeke so one can understand how she is becoming closer with Zeke but growing more distant from Jared. We’re gonna see Jared really lash out in response to this in a very dark and subversive way and then her feelings for Jared are gonna become somewhat self-fulfilling because she comes into Season 2 pulling away from Jared and she’s gonna have more and more reason to as we get deeper into the season.

We’re starting to see the Callings evolve even more this season, especially with Michaela who is receiving more Callings by touching people. What can you say about how they will continue to manifest in new ways over the course of the season?
Rake: From the very beginning of the series, the Callings have been growing or building so we’ve seen this evolution for a while. What you’re seeing with the Callings in Season 2 is passengers being able to communicate inside a shared Calling. We’re gonna see passengers and others like Zeke and anyone who is blessed or burdened with the Callings and shares a Calling with someone else continue to have these cognizant moments. The Callings are lasting longer, they feel more visceral and this communication that occurs inside the Calling is kind of a next-level puzzle piece that helps the passengers try to make sense of what the Calling means both within the episode itself and within the larger mythology. In the front half of Season 2, building up to Episode 7, we’re gonna see these Callings in and around the airplane continue to evolve in a way that is very scary and provocative and unavoidable. That’s gonna take us down a dark and twisted rabbit hole and bottom out when we get to Episode 7.

Michaela’s last Calling at the end of this episode features Zeke on the plane despite him not being a passenger. What can you say about what that particular Calling means for Zeke and the role he’s going to play this season?
Rake:
All Callings throughout the series have impacted our characters both in tangible ways and metaphorically. The whole idea of the Callings centers around themes of redemption and renewal and the opportunity to try to make up for the past in the present. In the case of Zeke, a man who has been burdened by such guilt and self-loathing…His backstory is so tragic and he is arguably a shell of a man as he gets through the day with this terrible albatross around his neck connected to his sister’s death for which he holds himself responsible. And now, piling on that, he holds himself responsible for what’s happened to Michaela so he is someone who is in dire need of healing. His journey through these Callings is intended to be his story of personal redemption and so, we’re going to watch Zeke come to embrace the Callings and his role in the journey of Flight 828. He started this story believing he had next to no self-worth and through these Callings, he’s going to reluctantly and begrudgingly realize that he is not only worthy of redemption but his redemptive journey is going to be crucial for the survival of all the passengers.

What can you tease about the stories coming up this season? What questions will start to be answered?
Rake: Season 2 is largely centered around two big ideas. One is the question of the death date. Is it a real thing and can it be undone? Is there a workaround for the death date? That is Ben’s defining journey of Season 2 as he continues to take on the role of caretaker for all the passengers. But it’s also, on a parallel front, Michaela’s journey throughout the season. As she grows closer with Zeke and as his clock ticks away–Zeke has one year to live because that’s how long he’d been gone–Michaela is literally fighting for Zeke’s life. So this idea of undoing the death date is the fundamental mythological question of Season 2 and we will answer that by the time we get to the end of the season.

The next big mythological idea that will be unveiled in Season 2 is to what extent is the phenomenon 828 unique in the universe. When the series premiered and the story started, it appeared that this was the first time in human history that this had ever happened before and the world had never seen anything like this, people disappearing and coming back not having aged. Then, when we met Zeke and Griffin, we discovered [the passengers] were not alone. But the question is, are they the first? Have they launched some new mythological normal in the universe? Or are they a part of something larger that has existed for a long time? That question is gonna be asked and answered in Season 2. By the time we get to the end of the season, the Zekes and Griffins of the world–others who experienced the Callings–there will be others coming. Several [new faces] will appear and their arrival is going to platform a mythological turn as we get to the end of Season 2 and propelled into Season3 that is going to distill our mythology in a way that will set the stage for the back half of the series.

Manifest airs Mondays at 10/9c on NBC.

(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)

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