“Manifest” reveals one of its leading characters is queer

*Contains spoilers for Manifest

After writing about television for eight years, it’s hard to surprise me, but NBC’s Manifest‘s big (but also not a big deal) reveal on Monday sure did. If you aren’t familiar with Manifest, it’s one of NBC’s big ratings winners. In it’s second season, the story centers around a group of passengers who on a flight from Jamaica to New York experience a bout of turbulence. To them it’s just a bit of a scary flight, but for the people back home, Flight 828 has been missing for over five years and all have been presumed dead. Imagine their surprise when their loved ones return home. Also for the passengers of 828, they arrive to a world that has gone on without them, loved ones who have died, jobs that have been filled, and a world that regards them with both awe and suspicion. Oh and voices in their heads giving them cryptic messages about saving people or events that are about to happen.

Source: Manifest

One of those passengers is Saanvi Bahl (Parveen Kaur), a brilliant medical researcher whose cancer research saves the life of one of the 828 passengers, Cal Stone. Along with Cal’s father Ben, another 828 passenger, Saanvi tries to get to the bottom of the mystery of what really happened on that plane. Last season, we saw Saanvi experience a traumatic kidnapping, and seeking out professional help to deal. What Saanvi doesn’t realize is the show’s big bad, The Major, is posing as a helpful therapist to mine Saanvi for info about her fellow passengers and the important research Saanvi is doing.

Most of Saanvi’s airtime has been about figuring out what happened to herself and the passengers, with little focus on her personal life, but that all changes when she starts to open up about being heartbroken by “Alex” on the way to Jamaica those five years ago. Since returning, she hasn’t been contacted by Alex, but a suggestion from her loving father brings the two of them together again. Alex, it turns out, is Dr. Alex Bates, another brilliant medical mind and the woman who left Saanvi high and dry. This is the first time we ever hear about Alex being a woman, and it’s handled in an impressively breezy way. Alex, who is married to a man, got cold feet about running away with Saanvi, and couldn’t bring herself to reach out when Saanvi returned, something that wounds Saanvi deeply. Alex does help Saanvi out with a major medical discovery, and the two confess to loving each other still, but if we see Alex again remains to be seen.

Having a major character on one of primetime network TV’s most popular shows turn out to be lesbian, bi or queer (we really don’t know how Saanvi identifies, it doesn’t come up) is still a big deal. While I couldn’t have predicted it if I tried, I am happy to say that Manifest continues to entertain and surprise me weekly.

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