‘Manifest’ Boss Teases Michaela’s Love Triangle & a Divide Between Ben & Saanvi

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Virginia Sherwood/NBC; Peter Kramer/NBC

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 2 premiere of Manifest, “Fasten Your Seatbelts.”]

Who was shot? Who’s the father of Grace’s (Athena Karkanis) baby? Will Cal (Jack Messina) run off again? Two of those three questions are answered in the Manifest Season 2 premiere.

Right off the bat, “Fasten Your Seatbelts” reveals that Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) took the bullet, but don’t worry, two months later, she’s back on her feet, helping passengers alongside her brother. Speaking of Ben (Josh Dallas), he and Grace ultimately decide to find out who the father is, but that’s going to have to wait for another episode.

But the shocker comes at the end of the episode. After Ben notices a van seemingly following around 828 passengers, he bangs on the window, only for the people inside to take him — straight to an old friend, Vance (Daryl Edwards). Yes, Vance is alive!

Here, executive producer Jeff Rake answers our burning questions about the premiere.

(Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

When did you know that you’d be bringing Vance back? And what does his return mean for Ben’s investigation?

Jeff Rake: Vance proved to be a very popular character in Season 1, and there was a story strand in regard to the government investigation that had always been penciled in for Season 2. The question was, would Vance be a part of it? After his huge popularity in Season 1, we spent much time in the writers room discussing whether we were going to continue the story strand of Season 2 with Vance or without Vance.

So much material kept popping into our imaginations as we contemplated the story with Vance, and that combined with the fact that the actor is so strong and those scenes always played so well made it clear to us from about halfway between after we had “written Vance out of the show” and when we wrapped that we would want to give him a second life.

Ben and Grace are being quite mature about her pregnancy and the paternity, but they do ultimately decide to find out whose baby it is. What’s coming up next there, and did you want to establish and focus on the stability of their relationship before answering that question?

That’s exactly right. So much of Season 1 focused on the strife in that marriage. Grace has the disadvantage in our story of being outside the journey. She’s an outsider looking in. Her skepticism and her frustration throughout Season 1 were understandable, but at the same time ended up doing a real disservice to the marital bond between them. It was always my goal to create a divide in the marriage in Season 1 and then restore that marital bond in Season 2. That is quite by design.

And I really like Grace’s point of view in the first episode of Season 2. “It doesn’t matter biologically whose baby this is,” she tells Ben. “This is your child. We are a couple, we are a family, and we’re going to raise this baby together.”

(Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

That was important to me because we’re going to be on a long journey with this family, and this marriage is going to see ups and downs, but it’s very much by design that we’re on an upward trend in terms of their marital stability. I hope the audience buys into that because there were a lot of skeptics about this marriage in Season 1 and I’m excited to see if people will get on board with the marriage in Season 2.

Saanvi’s clearly in serious trouble with her choice of therapist, but we see the Major may help her deal with some things, such as questioning her feelings for Ben. Why did you want to bring that up so early in the season and will we see that continue to be a factor moving forward?

There was a lot of speculation in Season 1 about whether we were teeing up a romantic relationship between Saanvi and Ben. The two characters have obvious chemistry together. They’re also emotionally on parallel journeys of discovery. They’re both scientific minds.

Again, the bonding between these two and the arguable ambiguity as to where friendship ends and some romantic spark begins, I will admit, was by design as well because I think it’s interesting storytelling and it’s organic to this situation where you can’t help but blur the line between allies and friendship and more when your lives are overlapping in such ways as they do between Saanvi and Ben.

You’re right in terms of the premise, and yes, right here at the top of Season 2 we see that Saanvi is getting some positive results or at least introspective results in these therapy sessions as she confronts her feelings for Ben. We are going to see that relationship take a downturn in a way that will perhaps be surprising to our viewers, but there’s going to be a divide in the Ben-Saanvi relationship before it ultimately heals. As for whether it’s going to move beyond friendship, I’m going to leave that alone and the audience can watch and see.

(Peter Kramer/NBC/Warner Brothers)

You wrapped up the “who was shot” cliffhanger quite quickly, but that’s affected Michaela’s relationships with Zeke and Jared in significant ways. Where did you want to leave each relationship at the end of the premiere and is Cal right that Michaela and Zeke need to be together?

It was always our intention to in a short-term sense resolve that cliffhanger right at the top of Season 2. We didn’t want to leave the audience dangling. On one hand, we at least resolved the cliffhanger of the bullet from the opening frames of Season 2, but this triangle that we’re building out between the three certainly will continue to linger.

We’re going to see Michaela and Zeke at a snail’s pace explore that idea that Cal has set forth, about whether in fact the universe wants them to be together. You’re going to see that relationship gradually build, and conversely we’re going to see Jared turn to a darker side.

We’re going to see a darker shade of Jared as he becomes increasingly convinced that Michaela is on the wrong path, and he can’t help feeling increasingly betrayed because after all, Jared was such a great ally, friend, and ultimately lover to Michaela in Season 1. If the payback is Michaela growing tighter with Zeke in the top of Season 2, it’s not something Jared’s going to stand for, and so you can expect some very subversive moves from Jared in response.

(Peter Kramer/NBC/Warner Brothers)

Manifest, Mondays, 10/9c, NBC