Well that season certainly flew by. This show was being billed as a LOST meets This Is Us character drama so of course it was going to find a big audience. But, did it have enough substance to sustain itself?
Warning: Mild Spoilers Below for Manifest Season 1
The main story of Manifest season one revolves around the intertwining lives of passengers from Flight 828, a plane that mysteriously returns five years after it vanished. Siblings Michaela and Ben Stone, along with his sick son Cal return to a world that has moved on without them. His wife Grace, Cal’s twin Olive and Michaela’s boyfriend Jared have all come to terms with the flights disappearance and find their lives disrupted when their family comes home. Things get even worse for the family when the passengers start to receive Callings, visions of the future to prevent disastrous events from happening. While Ben and Michaela try to learn more about these Callings with the help of other passengers, the government hopes to exploit the Callings and use them for sinister purposes.
To start it all off, the premise of this show was great. It was a high-concept sci-fi mystery stuffed with a serious character drama wrapped in the occasional cop procedural. It started off strong in its storytelling bringing a lot of mystery and intrigue to its central story. The case-of-the-week format was one of the strongest points of this show as it allowed them to look at different passengers and their situations after Flight 828’s return.
The struggles of characters returning to a world that has moved on from them is a great source of drama allowing for a good blend of procedural and serialized elements for this series. This allowed the actors to have a lot of material to work with in creating flawed, human and emotional characters. While that wasn’t the case from the start, the acting certainly improved over the season.
Unfortunately, the show deviates from this format rather quickly and goes from promising to slightly frustrating after the mid-season split. The series starts to throw more mysteries into the fold without tying up almost any by season’s end. While this is meant to be setting up the series for a long run, it causes a lot frustration for an audience who expects some pay off or reveals.
The back-half of the season ignores the fun and interesting case-of-the-week storytelling that allowed us to learn more about the individual passengers. Instead, it looks at the consistently drama-centric triangles surrounding the sibling’s separate love lives. This worked when paired with the passenger stories, but removing that and continuing with a soap drama tone took away two of the genres it prided itself in being.
And of course there are a few nitpicky issues I had throughout the season with this show. There was some ungodly CGI thrown into it taking away from the atmosphere. The characters seemed to come to epiphanies and revelations through contrived situations. Surely people aren’t that knowledgeable in everything. The plot development slowed to a halt in favour of minor obstacles that led to a cliched and lackluster cliffhanger. It took everything promising about the series and pushed it aside for overdone tropes in hope of a ratings grab. Hopefully, this is just the foundation being built for a bigger and better series going forward.
This season of Manifest is a strong, layered sci-fi drama that uses its premise as its hook, but brings the characters needed to make it shine. While the season feels like it slows down with some drawn out and filler storylines and the constant setup and questions can be tiresome, the performances by the main cast, human stories, and ability to set up a detailed world set this series up for seasons to come. From its deep, personal themes to its sci-fi premise, this season manages to blend its two key elements into stories that may hit turbulence along the way, but manage to sail smoothly in the end so I’m going to say it’s worth the watch.
What did you think of the first season of Manifest? Let me know in the comments!
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