The Manifest Series Finale Let Saanvi Down One Last TimePhoto Courtesy of Netflix TV Features Manifest
The series finale of Netflix’s Manifest is one wild ride. After Cal (Ty Doran) sacrifices himself, the remaining passengers reboard Flight 828 to face their ultimate judgment, leading to villainess and murderer Angelina (Holly Taylor) finally getting the poetic message from God she had been looking for as she’s smitten for her terrible deeds (with a few other passengers perishing as well). Those who survive, however, are given the best ending one could hope for with this story, as they emerge from “The Glow” into the airport back in 2013 when their flight was originally supposed to land. They remember everything, certain what they just experienced was real, especially given the gunshot wound Angelina inflicted on Saanvi’s forearm that continues to hurt.
It’s their happy ending, the ultimate second chance. They are gifted with an opportunity to make different decisions than they would have before, certain about what they want. Waiting for Ben (Josh Dallas) and Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) are Grace and Karen, both alive and well. Likewise, Zeke awaits Michaela’s arrival from a cab in front of the airport, which Michaela rushes to as soon as she remembers—though he doesn’t. Cal and Olive are young again, the former remembering absolutely nothing of what happened, able to enjoy their childhood this time around. Other passengers are reunited with their loved ones, many of whom had died, and some were also gifted with the opportunity to watch their children grow up this time around. However, there is one passenger whose ending feels less than perfect: Saanvi Bahl (Parveen Kaur).
Truthfully, though I was never quite on board with this pairing, it feels that Ben’s happy ending came at the expense of Saanvi’s. Saanvi’s feelings for Ben have, quite literally, been building since the first season. In the second, during her so-called therapy sessions with the Major (Elizabeth Marvel), Saanvi discussed her feelings for Ben that she couldn’t act on because of his devotion to Grace (Athena Karkanis). Long after Grace’s death, in the fourth season, we watched as Ben and Saanvi’s feelings turned into something else. A few spontaneous kisses led to the pair finally hooking up only days before their death date, but then their future is cut short when Ben confesses that he’ll never be able to get over Grace. This makes complete sense, in the context of the show, but it’s Saanvi’s response that is somewhat troubling. She also confesses she doesn’t think she’ll ever get over Alex (Sydney Morton), the married woman she was seeing before the trip to Jamaica completely obliterated their lives.
So, when they return to 2013 and Alex is at the airport waiting for Saanvi, it’s a tearful reunion. It’s Saanvi’s happy ending, a life with the woman she was never able to get over. But, that’s not exactly how it feels. The biggest issue with this story is how little Alex’s presence was actually ever felt on the show. Considering Saanvi was a main character, we should have seen more of Alex if we were to believe this was Saanvi’s ultimate chance at happiness. Alex was only in a handful of episodes through Manifest’s run, and what we did see of Alex didn’t do many (or any) favors to their romance. This relationship was pretty much treated as unhealthy and a slip in judgment that Saanvi needed to work through to achieve happiness. Instead, what we did see from Saanvi usually revolved around her work, which put her in close proximity with coworker Troy (Ed Herbstman), and he obviously had a major thing for her until the very end. (Perhaps Alex should have been Saanvi’s partner at work instead, allowing for the two to spend more time together.) When she wasn’t solely working on the science-y aspects of Flight 828, Saanvi’s primary relationship was with Ben, and their growing romantic feelings were spotlighted throughout this final season.
If she wasn’t going to end up with either of these men, and it was always the plan to reunite Saanvi and Alex, much more work should have been put into developing Saanvi and Alex’s relationship. There were deep wounds there from their affair in 2013, and Alex only poured salt into them back in Manifest Season 2 when she continued to treat Saanvi terribly. This isn’t to say that they shouldn’t have ended up together because things weren’t perfect between them; Grace and Ben, for example, had a lot of issues in 2013 that they must work through to resolve in order to live happily for the rest of their days. But, we know exactly how that will happen, as Grace was a major character for three seasons with development of her own and in her relationship with her husband. To be the love interest to a main character, that is what’s needed for an ending to feel fulfilling, but it’s exactly what was missing with Alex and Saanvi.
Honestly, Saanvi ending up single—something I often despise in television—would have felt a more appropriate end for this beloved character. While her therapy sessions were fake, Saanvi didn’t know that, so we had a chance to really delve into her mindset and understand her side of the relationship with Alex and her newfound feelings for Ben. Saanvi didn’t view herself favorably, which resulted in chasing people who wouldn’t commit to her. And, as far as we saw, those issues remain. Because of how dedicated she was to her work and how vital it was to figure out the mystery of Flight 828, Saanvi never really focused on her own issues and feelings. She rarely left the lab, and the only multi-episode story she had outside of science ended with her accidentally killing the Major, causing her more trauma that she only forgave herself for in the series finale.
Saanvi’s story is the one major failing, in my opinion, in Manifest. Saanvi was used as the scientist, the doctor, and the passenger on the inside of the government’s experiments. It feels that little thought was put into developing her and her relationships with anyone aside from Ben and colleague Vance (Daryl Edwards) after the second season. She was collateral damage, screwed over until the very end—like how she was torn away from all of the other passengers for their final eight months and forced to continue working for the NSA on figuring out the impending apocalypse.
This led to an ending that, technically, can be coined as a happy ending. But, it just doesn’t feel right. More thought should have been put into her growth and where she would find herself back in 2013. She might not have watched a loved one die, as Ben and Michaela did with Grace and Zeke, but Saanvi sacrificed so much to help the passengers, too. She was instrumental in surviving the death date, even if there was no scientific explanation for what happened to Flight 828, nearly killing herself multiple times to help the passengers. Saanvi deserved better—and closure that would have rivaled Ben and Michaela’s perfect endings.
Jay Snow is a freelance writer. He has published many places on the internet. For more of his thoughts on television and to see his other work (or to simply watch him gush again and again over his love for the original Charmed) follow him @snowyjay.
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