TV Reviews

Manifest Season 1 Episode 1: Pilot Review

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the premise of Lost was reversed? Well look no further because Manifest will answer that question for you.

Synopsis: Returning to New York from a vacation in Jamaica, the Stone family is separated when adult siblings Michaela and Ben, along with Ben’s gravely ill son Cal, are bumped to a later flight, while Ben’s wife, daughter and parents fly ahead. When that later flight lands, the passengers are bewildered to discover that five and a half years have gone by. They attempt to reconnect with the loved ones who mourned their passing and moved on long ago. (TVGuide)

Writer: Jeff Rake

Director: David Frankel

Rating: TV-14

Running Time: 43mins

Airs: Mondays at 10pm on CityTV (Canada)/NBC (United States)

“Pilot” starts off with a flashback to April 7th, 2013 learning about the Stone family. Their flight is overbooked and so Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh), her brother Ben (Josh Dallas) and his twin son Cal (Jack Messina), who has Leukemia, opt to take the voucher and take the later fight. On the flight, Ben talks to Michaela about her being undecided on a wedding proposal when the plane enters a lightning storm. The power shuts off and hits some extreme turbulence, but they are able to readjust and return on their scheduled path. The pilot calls into the airport, and the ground crew sound confused and asks them to divert to a different airport. As they land they are greeted by tons of emergency vehicles who explain the situation. Their flight has been missing for the last five and a half years.

Everyone is escorted to tents in the airport where each passenger and flight crew member is interviewed by the authorities to figure out what happened. Thirty six hours later the families of the passengers are allowed to see them. Cal is freaked out that his twin sister Olive (Luna Blaise) is all grown up while Michaela and Ben learn that their mom has died. Five years changes everything. Michaela and Ben return to the family home where things have been changed around. Ben’s wife Grace (Athena Karkanis) tries to console Michaela about everything, but she is more concerned with calling her fiance Jared (J.R. Ramirez). Grace calls this a second chance when Michaela hears her mother’s last words in her head.

The authorities tear apart the plane for clues as to what happened, but there is nothing to go on. Michaela returns to work at the police precinct where she runs into Jared, now a married detective. She cannot handle the news and storms off. At the doctor’s office, they discover that Cal’s still at the same cell count for his Leukemia and with a new treatment discovered in the past five years his chances are improving. Michaela is taking the bus home when she hears her mother’s voice yelling slower to her and as she demands the bus driver slow down, it stops him from hitting a child. Michaela confronts Ben about the voice in her head and he tells her to keep quiet about this or else she will become the government’s next experiment. Elsewhere, Saanvi (Parveen Kaur) returns home to a wide reception because her research on an experimental Leukemia treatment is a success.

Ben learns that his twin daughter had to go to therapy to deal with the loss of her father and brother causing him to feel bad about making her grow up too fast. As Michaela goes for a run, she passes a pair of locked up dogs as the voice tells her to set them free. That evening the voice continues to bother her making her get out of bed and set the dogs free. As she is about to release them, a car rolls up. Ben steps out and reveals he heard the voice too, but does not want to deal with it because he has to fix his life and catch up with his family. He decides to go through with it and unlocks the gate to let the dogs out.

At the precinct, an officer reveals phone footage of Michaela and Ben releasing the dogs to Jared. He confronts Michaela about it, but she’s still not comfortable with the situation that her ex-fiance and her best friend are married and that she lost five years. She contemplates everything, including a car accident she caused that she believes was murder. Jared tells her to calm down and grab some clothes to go check something out. Ben goes to Olive’s soccer practice to watch her and apologize for the situation. He feels guilty for making the choice to stay behind and made them lose five years together. He was so obsessed with helping Cal that he forgot to live life with her as well and he wants to fix that.

At Saanvi’s work, they are going through the list of trial applicants when Cal’s case comes up. The doctors agree that he falls outside the trial’s qualifications, despite his peculiar case, prompting Saanvi to storm out in disgust. She returns after going over his case file, pleading that they admit him, but they don’t want the potentially mysterious effects of the flight to disrupt the trial numbers for potential buyers.

As Michaela is walking with Jared to return the dogs, she starts to hear the voice again. Michaela notices the address is the same as the flight number, 828. The voice continues to engulf her as she moves through the lot searching for what she needs to set free. She finds a locked door and after bashing the lock discovers two girls trapped in the room. Set them free. The police arrive and the captain congratulates her, offering to take her off desk duty. She thanks Jared, but won’t reveal what helped her solve this case.

At the hospital while Cal is receiving treatment, Grace looks pessimistic about everything and breaks down in front of Ben. She feels the need to apologize to Ben as she blames him for taking her baby away from her, but she thanks him for giving their son the opportunity to live. Saanvi enters the treatment room and shares a smirk with Cal before leaving. At home, the family is playing Mahjong which Cal is dominating. Ben starts to have a headache as he sees the rescued sisters on TV. Meanwhile, Grace receives a text from an apparent new fling. Olive walks up to her and asks what she is going to do.

Michaela goes to church and is approached by the priest. She is curious if she is chosen for some higher purpose when Ben arrives. Apparently their minds are interconnected and Michaela questions why they were chosen, but he suspects maybe it is more than just them. Cut to a montage of various people on the manifest who seemingly awake as they all go to the site of the plane before it explodes in front of them.

Captain’s Log

  • What is the mysterious voice?
  • Will Cal be cured of his Leukemia?
  • What is the whole story of Michaela’s accident?
  • Will Ben and Grace’s relationship survive her secret?
  • Will Saanva stop the sale of her trial?
  • Who else will we meet from the manifest?

Overall, this was a decent premiere for this new series. It establishes the main family it centers around, with some strong, charismatic leads, but it leaves us wanting to know more about the other characters that inhabit this world. The family were only a few on the flight leaving the majority of the manifest as unknown for now and hopefully that changes with time with character-centric episodes. While it has the feel of shows like Lost and This Is Us, it finds itself landing in between them in terms of fantasy intrigue and emotional moments. Hopefully as the narrative moves forward and more of the mysteries around this flight are revealed this show’s tone and rhythm becomes more clear. For now it has some turbulence, but makes for an enjoyable enough ride.

Score: 7.5/10

What did you think of the premiere of Manifest? Was it all you hoped for? Let me know in the comments below!

If you liked this, check out my other reviews here and my website! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook.

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