TV Review: ‘Manifest’ captivates viewers
by Ryan Hsuf
photo courtesy of imdb.com
Created by Jeff Rake and produced by Robert Zemeckis of “Back to the Future” and “Forrest Gump” fame, “Manifest” uses a premise that combines elements of mystery and science-fiction to create a compelling new show.
“Manifest” centers on the troubled lives of the passengers and crew of Flight 828, a commercial aircraft that suddenly reappeared after vanishing for over five and a half years. All of the 191 passengers on board were missing and presumed to be dead all this time.
It stars Melissa Roxburgh as Michaela; J. R. Ramirez as Jared, a police detective and Michaela’s ex-fiance; Josh Dallas as Michaela’s brother Ben; Athena Karkanis as Ben’s wife Grace; Luna Blaise as Ben’s Daughter Olive; and Jack Messina as Olive’s twin brother Cal, who is dying of cancer.
After establishing its intriguing premise, the first three episodes focus mainly on how Michaela and Ben try to reintegrate themselves into their shattered family’s lives.
As the story progresses, one may see other passengers also struggling to restore their lost lives. Past guilt and regrets are mixed with new conflicts that rose for those that tried to right the wrongs that occurred in their absence.
Complicating the struggle for Michaela and Ben is the appearance of unexplainable, inner voices that not only helped them solve crimes, but also connect them to more mysterious events that involve other flight passengers. These new abilities allow for directions to solve crimes and warn them of perils ahead of time.
All of this is closely watched by the ominous
officials at the National Security Agency, who regard the passengers as a great threat to them, and they are ready to arrest anyone on their watch list who is out of the ordinary.
The family-oriented stories of the first three episodes took a frightful and supernatural turn with episodes four and five. The hallucinatory vision of a mysterious female stone figure began to plague the main characters as well as some other passengers that emerged from the shadows.
They soon discovered that their lives are inexplicably changed and connected by their common experience and as each of them reached out to help each other, it became apparent that the shared vision may be a call for them to unite to serve a cause greater than themselves.
Like most major network shows, it has a polished and glossy look, and is populated by a capable cast that elevates the plainly spoken dialogue into lively drama.
Though the dilemmas that the main characters face are rooted in stark reality, it is presented with a gentle touch. Violence occurs mostly off screen, and disturbing images are shown in quick cuts that minimize the fright factor. Actions caused by passengers may be threatening, but these scenes are generally “sanitized” for mass consumption.
What makes the show so enjoyable, besides the intriguing premise and the mature, relatable characters that many root for, lies in the writer’s ability to maintain tension from its steady pacing and the show runner’s refusal to use the supernatural/religious elements for easy resolution.
Instead, it managed to keep the audience invested with clever and unexpected twists that constantly subvert expectations, which can definitely help the show maintain its momentum.