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Manifest creator Jeff Rake explains why the glow is back and Zeke's new role in 'Deadhead'
After introducing a new passenger/player in Manifest's Season 3 premiere, Angelina (Holly Taylor) proves she's going to be woven into the story far more than many might have expected. In Episode 2, "Deadhead," Olive (Luna Blaise) and Angelina follow the dramatic, recurring angel of death calling to upstate New York, and we connect with a few familiar faces. Meanwhile, Ben (Josh Dallas) is crawling with guilt over leaving Vance (Daryl Edwards) behind in Cuba, so he spearheads a plan to save him. And Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) is back on the job, promising to go by the book, but can that really last?
Why don't we ask Manifest showrunner/creator, Jeff Rake? In an exclusive post-episode breakdown with SYFY WIRE, Rake digs into some of the bigger moments of "Deadhead" and teases how they might impact telling the bigger story of Season 3.
**Spoilers below for Manifest Season 3 episode, "Deadhead." Don't read if you haven't watched yet!**
In last week's season premiere, you introduced Angelina. This week, she's already acting like a Stone chasing calling clues with Olive. Talk about what Angelina's impact will be on the Stones and the overall mythology this season?
In the writers' room, we're always looking for opportunities to thematically tell stories about damage that leads to healing and redemption. And from a plot standpoint, similarly, we're always looking for opportunities to bring other passengers into our world, too, and to let their journey impact the other characters' journeys, and to learn something from the greater mystery.
One of the great pieces of architecture in the show is that we have a plane full of almost 100 passengers and every passenger has a story. And the Angelina character is intended to give us all of the above. This young woman who, like Michaela and Zeke [played by Matt Long], will come to discover has a lot of damage in her backstory, and therefore, is desperately in need of a path toward redemption. And so, bringing her from a place of desperation into the cocoon of the Stone family household is an opportunity for her to unpack her own journey towards redemption in a way that can touch the lives of Cal [played by Jack Messina], who tells us mysteriously that he's been waiting for her.
Olive is nursing her own wounds. She's been through so much. She had a powerful romance in Season 2 that ended, so she's very much in need of a hug and an opportunity to be a caretaker. All of that is going to play out in regard to Angelina and the Stones.
Can you tease the strange pull that's happening between Angelina and Pete?
We very quickly establish this mysterious bond between Angelina and Pete, one of the meth heads. Without spoiling too much because I want the viewers to take this ride in real-time, is that the meth heads obviously have mythological importance in our story. They came on strong, and shockingly, at the end of Season 2. They were an important part of not just the jeopardy that played out at the end of Season 2, but also in driving our mythology forward.
Zeke arguably lived because of the damage that the meth heads inflicted on Cal and the Stone family, so all these lives are intersecting in interesting ways. We're going to see a surprising bond, and ultimately, a romance between Angelina and Pete that is going to be a story of redemption and of connectivity. It's going to go to some really interesting and, I think, surprising places. And the impact of that relationship, which we'll get to it in the middle of the season, is going to turn Angelina in new and surprising mythological directions. But also is going to be a watershed moment for Ben and Michaela as they continue to unpack why the meth heads came back and how the fate of the meth heads impacts the fate of the passengers going forward. It's going to be of huge mythological importance.
There's a lot of coming back going on with them and Zeke and others. Is that something to take note of going forward?
At the end of Season 1, we had a villainous character named James Griffin [played by Marc Menchaca] disappear and return. He was kind of our "big bad" for Season 1. Michaela dealt with him disappearing in the East River and then came back. And then, Zeke disappeared and returned. And now, we're seeing the meth heads disappear and return. All three of those disappearances and returns, they're not one-offs. They connect to each other. James Griffin, Zeke, and the meth heads, they all add up to one singular realization that we're going to understand by the middle of the season, and Angelina is going to play a central role in all of that.
Let's talk about Vance. At the end of the last episode, he could have remained lost and not been a player this season. However, this week we find out that he is. Could you talk about your decisions regarding him in Season 3?
With Vance, the answer to that question is kind of a confluence of story and of an actor just being so delightful and so good. I always knew that the character of Vance would be a significant part of our story throughout the seasons. Daryl Edwards, who plays Vance, is just wonderfully talented, charismatic, and multi-layered. We love to write for him. Therefore, we in the writers' room were inclined to keep him as alive in the story as possible. And so through one lens, that's part of the reason that we wanted him to resurface sooner rather than later. But it's not just from a place of story.
From a place of character and theme, we're always looking for opportunities to tell stories about redemption and about the hard choices that we all make in our lives when we're trying to walk the path of righteousness. At the end of Episode 301, Vance makes this huge sacrifice to protect Ben, and now here Ben is in Episode 302 reeling from regrets that he's home safe and Vance is not.
Ben ends up making this choice that's really against his interest, to go put himself in harm's way and to potentially upend the lives of so many people, and really to violate Vance's own very explicit instructions. Vance — very powerfully and compellingly — says to Ben at the end of Episode 301, "You're going to want to save me. It's in your nature. Do not do that." But Ben is Ben and goes against the grain and against Vance's instructions. Is that the wrong thing, or is that the right thing? There will be huge ramifications as a result.
Zeke lost his ability to receive callings and that's an interesting quandary because how does he stay important in the story outside of being Michaela's husband? But we see he's got something else going on now...
Zeke is a really important character, obviously, from a mission standpoint. He's become so important to so many characters in the show. But also from a mythological standpoint, Zeke survives his death day. As our passengers are struggling to figure out how to survive their own death date, Zeke — who is the only known person in the universe who has already crossed that bridge — he is someone who the passengers will be looking toward to understand: "What does it mean to survive our death date? What kind of life might lie ahead for us if we survive?"
When we meet the Zeke of Episode 301, he's on the other side of survival, right? He's lived. We find him in a place of great relief, and certainly happiness. He's married. He's in love. But also anxious and a little bit confused and perplexed, wondering what does it mean for him to have survived? Why did he survive? What is his greater purpose now that he has survived?
At the end of 301, the audience is vaguely aware that there's something else going on with Zeke. In early episodes to come, we are going to watch Zeke in real-time as he becomes subtly aware that there's something going on with him. While he no longer receives callings, he has some different type of ability.
Ending this episode is the dramatic reveal of Ben's hand, his blood sample, and his handprint all glowing. What's that about?
Ben's glowing hand and the other glowing elements that you just mentioned represent a different kind of a calling, but a calling nonetheless. Whenever our passengers receive a calling, it's always to guide them to either realize something — or to do something. It's a tantalizing puzzle piece and it's going to lead Ben down a path. It's a puzzle piece that is going to link us to the next step in our mythological investigation. These glowing elements are going to resurface. They're cookie crumbs and Ben is a tenacious follower of the cookie crumbs. He's going to follow them down that path, and it's going to lead him to a greater discovery. It will be tailfin related, but it'll be much more than that.
And just as the tailfins return is triggering a next level mythological investigation for us throughout Season 3, so too this idea of the glow, which has been with us from Season 1, when Cal looks out the window and sees the glow and he tells us, "It's all connected." Now the glow is leading us forward. The glowing hand is going to pay off thematically but also in a literal way. By Episode 304, Ben is going to be able to play a metaphorical Marco Polo with his glowing hand, if you will. It's going to lead him to yet another very surprising discovery.