Manifest Episode 11 Review: Contrails-Dark Lightning Is Real And I’m Never Flying Again

History repeats itself as Manifest tries to capture Dark Lightning in a bottle.

Manifest Episode 11 Contrails
Courtesy of NBC

Coincidences are piling up, and no one is happy for the survivors of 828.  The Stone siblings each have family drama to contend with.  Michaela has buyers remorse, and the guilt is eating her alive.  Her dalliance with Jared last week was both predictable and if I’m being honest satisfying, but it was also “cheating” as she points out.  She is torn between what she wants and what she knows to be the right thing to do.  It’s unfair because she did not have the benefit of five years to mourn and develop new relationships.  Jared on the other hand did, and has no problem picking right back up where he started.  He is singularly focused on Michaela.  Poor Lourdes has already been relegated to side bitch status. It’s an exciting idea to explore. 

If there are different types of love, is one type more powerful than the others?  He admits he loves Lourdes, but it is clear he loves Jared more. This concept must be explored more, or Jared who has really grown into a scene chewer will be reduced to an obsessive cheater.  Ben knows exactly what he’s lost but is willing to wait if that’s what it takes to keep his family safe.
Captain Bill Daly(Frank Deal) got his day in the sun this week.  A glimpse into his heroic effort to save the plane during the flight is harrowing.  The storm looks as scary as it had to have been.  To come out the other side with his aircraft and passengers intact only to be questioned incessantly and find he had become a pariah instead of a hero is tough to watch.  His story is a wild one.  It is full of all the politics of this sort of event too.  Even without a government conspiracy moments of heroism are often scrutinized.  Much like Captain Sully, our Captain Daly is a complex hero.  He is tormented by bureaucratic questions and personal ones too.  Why did he do the things he did and what if he had done things differently?  If he could recreate the events of Flight 828 could he prove he was a good pilot and get his life back? 

We will never know, as he either was blown out of the sky with Fiona on board or he managed to escape through time.  His foolhardy but possibly effective plan to recreate a Dark Lightning plane ride to 2024 could very likely be the answer to everything.  How cool would that be if Fiona was the one in the snow circa 2024 that Michaela is supposed to find and help?  Maybe when Captain Daly and Fiona flew through time, they crashed in the future, and she is the one they must save?  It would certainly explain why all the talk of “shared consciousness” in previous episodes appears to be a complete waste of time.  Those concepts and her storyline were too integral to the story beat to be simple throwaways.  The one thing that was solidified is the knowledge that this was no accident and the government knew about it since before the survivors came home.  They have known all along and had contingencies in place.

Those protocols evidently include silencing and then killing if necessary meteorologists who both witnessed the events of Flight 828 and understand Dark Lightning.  They also include keeping Autumn the spy firmly in hand.  Whether the sob story she told Mich about Clarissa Ford and her identity theft is true, she is the worst.  It is one thing to give minor secrets, or even take pictures of all of their research to the bad actors, but it is quite another to get Cal kidnapped.  She could easily have taken the pictures and given the information about the meteorologist to her handler and left the part about Cal out.  We never see the picture that so sets her on edge, and I’m assuming she is the subject, but her callous betrayal is mean spirited and a far cry from the actions of someone who is just desperate.

The episode concludes with a clunky scene that is too cliche for this otherwise well-written show.  Why the Captain needed to say to Ben, “You’re the captain now.” shortly before disappearing, I will never know.  To add further insult to injury, a set of wings arrives at Ben’s house for Cal.  That attempt to hit us over the head with sentimentality is trite and unnecessary.  The one thing that could save this is if the wings had been sent from 2024.  Now that would be something.  By the time Ben gets the wings, it is too late for Cal, however.  He has been kidnapped and is being held somewhere.  His drawings will be the road map needed to save him next week.  Let’s hope Ben and Michael speak fluid elementary art.

Black Lightning is the subject of all the mystery this week.  I was horrified to find out this is a real thing.  We have all seen lightning.  It’s powerful, bright, and dangerous.  My middle school science teacher would be thrilled to find I still remember how it is formed.  Lightning is created when negatively charged electrons build up at the base of a thundercloud.  When you mix in a nearby object, the spark of light you see is the energy making the arch from cloud to tree or roof or ground.  Dark Lightning is the aftereffects of that process.  It is the most energetic radiation produced naturally on earth.    X-rays and gamma rays are thrown into space from the combustion of the energy outlay.  These cannot be seen, but they can be measured. 

We are only just beginning to understand how the the process works, we only know that it does.  Joseph Dwyer, a lightning researcher, coined the term in 2013.  Black Lightning has been studied since the early nineties and is finally beginning to be deciphered.   The genuinely scary thing is you have quite possibly already been struck without ever knowing it. The only effect you would have is the absorption of an entire lifetime of safe radiation at once.  Scientists do not know what impact if any this will have on a person over time. The European Space Agency has plans to launch the Atmospheric Space Interactions(ASIM) in the coming years to study both bright and Dark Lightning.  Perhaps then more will be known about this mysterious phenomenon.  Until then I may stay out of the skies and drive everywhere.  I’m not risking the possibility of a DeLorean disguised as a Boeing 737.


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