It doesn't have to be this way.
This is not a shot at Athena Karkanis, who is a great actress. And it's not a shot at the idea of nuanced shades-of-grey characters. Not everyone has to be "likable." Most well-written characters are unlikable at times, because most real humans are occasionally unlikable, and it shows realism and depth.
And sometimes fans can be overly critical of supporting characters -- especially the wives of the main characters, while making excuses for the protagonists whose storylines we follow more closely. (See: Anna Gunn's Skylar White on Breaking Bad.)
In that case, Grace was always going to be second-fiddle to our sympathies for Ben Stone (Josh Dallas). The same could be argued for fans wanting Michaela Stone (Melissa Roxburgh) and Jared Vasquez (J.R. Ramirez) together. If the show were following Lourdes (Victoria Cartagena) as the lead character, fans would probably be more on her side.
But, really, Grace does not need to be this unlikable. They did not need to end the winter finale with Grace kicking Ben out of the house. That heartbreaking scene really came off badly for Grace, especially since she was the one who was home when Cal snuck out of the house to help Ben save the day.
Grace was already upset with Ben for not calling and explaining why he wasn't with her to host the cookout. OK, it's understandable that she'd be worried and confused. And she did just have officials ambush her at home to ask about Ben and inform her that he had lost his job. No one likes to be lied to, or left in the dark. There's a lot Grace won't be able to understand about Ben's "calling," etc., but he could take a second to let her know the basics of where he is and what he's doing. That's on him.
But this time, after being told Cal snuck out of the house while she was busy with the cookout guests, she was angry with Ben for not driving back home with Cal right away. It seemed extreme, partly because we as viewers just saw how Cal's information was key in rescuing the missing passengers. A barbecue doesn't quite compare. Granted, Grace didn't get to see that. Any time viewers have more information than the characters, viewers tend to blame the characters for not being able to watch the show along with the rest of us.
Manifest did not help Grace's situation by having her get so mad at Ben. She does know there are bigger things at play here, even if Ben's communication skills aren't that great. There really isn't a perfect way to explain what's happening since no one knows the full story yet. But when your family goes missing for 5.5 years, you have to automatically assume there's a major mystery going on. That alone should help Grace trust that whatever Ben and Cal are feeling or doing is pretty much above her pay grade.
Instead, Grace just keeps getting frustrated and repeating that she lost her son for 5.5 years. Really, Ben is the one who lost his daughter for 5.5 years. Cal is the same age. Ben will never get those 5.5 years back with Olive. Instead, Ben has to suck it up and accept that Danny is as much Olive's father as he is. Now Grace has kicked Ben out, so he'll lose even more time with Olive, plus time trying to protect Cal from this shared mystery.
Grace was already in hot water with fans for keeping Danny a secret from Ben. It's not like she should've had to be a nun for 5.5 years, so anyone who felt like she was "cheating" on Ben had a weak argument. If anything, Ben was the one who was in the wrong to assume she had just waited for him. Yeah, it was the same day for him, but once it sunk in that 5.5 years had gone by for her, he should've been the one to ask her if she ever found someone else.
At least Jared and Lourdes were immediately honest with Michaela, not that there was much room to hide. Instead, Grace did try to hide Danny from Ben, which was frustrating for fans to watch. Any other show, Danny might've been considered the bad guy (like This Is Us' Miguel, whom many fans still haven't warmed to - yet) but Grace's decisions have kept her #1 on fans' hit list.
Grace deserves credit for being loyal to Ben, and giving their marriage another shot after 5.5 years, as opposed to going the Big Love route and trying to keep both guys around. (To be honest, Jared kinda seems like he's doing that with Lourdes and Michaela.) But some fans suspect Grace was already looking for an excuse to go back to Danny, and kicking Ben out in the midseason finale just gave her one.
If that's the case, then maybe Ben can just hook up with Saanvi Bahl (Parveen Kaur). It seems like we're headed there anyway, but Manifest didn't have to get there by having Grace separate Ben from his kids.
It's actress Athena Karkanis' job to see things from Grace's point-of-view, and there are definitely arguments in Grace's favor. Earlier this month, Karkanis told CinemaBlend the whole Flight 828 situation is hard for Grace, since she didn't experience what Ben and Cal went through, but she's still trying to support them through it:
You know, imagine your partner is dealing with sickness or an accident, or a loss in their family. I think it's hard, because you can't understand exactly what they're going through, but you are trying to be as close to them through it as you can. And yet there's no way that you can fully predict their needs, and their everything, because they're experiencing something totally different than you, even if you're watching them experiencing it, or you're alongside of them while they're experiencing it. [...] And then at the same time, there's all these wires crossed because Ben, in trying to protect Grace, is not sharing with her what's going on. But you know he thinks he's doing the right thing by not exposing her to all this crazy stuff that he's dealing with, and not wanting to worry her. Whereas maybe what would actually be better for the relationship is if he was completely open with her, so that she could help him.
She's right. It would help -- or would have helped -- if Ben had made Grace his partner in all of this, like Jared has been for Michaela.
Right now, Twitter is filled with fans slamming Grace. But it's not over yet. Far from it. So many disliked characters have pulled 180s and won over fans. Remember Season 1 Carol on The Walking Dead? She's now a badass fan favorite. That might not be the plan for Grace, but here's hoping they don't keep making her the punching bag, when this show already has enough real villains to go around.