Manifest

Manifest

2018 - United States

‘The show toggles the fine line between the mystery and human aspects of its science-fictiony scenario’

Review by Jennifer AJ

The passengers of a plane that has been missing for five years suddenly return with no grasp of the lapsing time. Their mysterious reappearances unravel a web of intricate conspiracies that hint at a bigger force at play. That is the premise of Manifest, a 2018 supernatural thriller series whose existence itself has experienced a miraculous resurrection the way its characters did. Its first three seasons aired on NBC, where the series performed admirably but not enough to avoid cancellation. However, the show then saw a huge boost of viewership when it dropped on Netflix, who then revived the show for its fourth and final season.

The show’s second life indeed proves once again the might of Netflix’s reach. Netflix did this with Cobra Kai, which was a modest hit on YouTube before becoming a juggernaut when it moved to the streaming platform. It also did wonders for legal drama Suits, which topped Netflix’s 2023 charts after all the seasons became available on the platform and immediately had a spin-off greenlit in its wake. Like those shows, it’s easy to see why Manifest attracted a late-game crowd: its serialized format and intricate mythology is something that greatly benefits from the binge-watch model of Netflix. Its production value pales in comparison to the latest Netflix original outputs, but it’s got a compelling paranormal aspect and just enough human warmth that make it addictive. Sometimes, that is all viewers need. 

Manifest

The story revolves around 191 passengers of Flight 828, who took off from Jamaica but never arrived in its New York destination. At the centre of it is the Stone Family, who had decided to split up their flights home. While the rest of the family boarded their original flights, siblings Ben (Josh Dallas) and Michaela “Mick” Stone (Melissa Roxburgh) alongside Ben’s son Cal (Jack Messina) took a later flight, the fateful Flight 828. When they arrive in New York, five and a half years have passed and they discover the hardships of returning to a life that has dramatically changed since their presumed deaths. On top of that, they start getting supernatural “callings” directing them to do inexplicable things, all connected to the other passengers of Flight 828.

The show toggles the fine line between the mystery and human aspects of its science-fictiony scenario. As a whirlwind of visions start plaguing the Flight 828 survivors, the show builds up an intriguing conspiracy surrounding the plane’s disappearance and the sudden psychic connections that seem intent to link them all. One by one, more 828ers appear and complicate matters as the NSA (National Security Agency) continues putting them under watch. 

Manifest

On the other hand, they also deal with the interpersonal chaos that erupts as the Stone Family pieces their lives back together. While Cal, Ben, and Mick attempt to reconcile with a changing world, their loved ones have rebuilt their lives and become unrecognizable. The show deftly handles the complexity of emotions that every character deals with; both the ones who came back and the ones left behind. One of the most poignant involves Cal feeling disconnected to his twin sister, Olive (Luna Blaise) – who has grown into an emo teen in his absence. This is how the MCU post-Blip era should realistically be depicted after 5 lost years: plenty of consequences, whiplash, and a futile attempt to hold on to the past. All in all, the well-drawn emotional conflicts are just as compelling as the imaginary aspect.

With its twisty plotlines and a surprising amount of heart, fans of supernatural shows in the veins of Lost and Heroes should find plenty to enjoy from Manifest

Published on February 19th, 2024. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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