Television Review: NBC’s Manifest, Michelle’s Take!

MANIFEST — Pictured: “Manifest” Key Art — (Photo by: NBCUniversal)

Anyone remember USA Network’s old show The 4400? It was a fun little mystery show about 4,400 missing people who mysteriously showed up out of the blue one day. As the series unfolded we find out that not only did these people return without having aged, but they had mysterious powers and other weird changes. NBC’s new series Manifest appears to follow this formula (with a splash of This is Us melodrama) to the letter.

In Manifest, 191 passengers board Flight 828 in 2013 and magically reappear in 2018. To the passengers the only thing that happened was a little bit of turbulence to everyone else they died 5 ½ years ago and life has moved on without them. Manifest premieres Monday, September 24, 2018.

I wish NBC made more than one episode available. On the other hand, I’m glad they didn’t because I really don’t want to get sucked into yet another long, deep mystery. Especially one that’s on Network television which doesn’t have a great track record of supporting shows like this. Don’t get me wrong, the pilot is excellent its slickly produced, looks like they spent some money on it and the acting is solid – especially for a pilot.

Then I’d expect nothing less than a top quality production when the show was created by Jeff Rake (Bones, The Tomorrow People, and CW’s Beauty and the Beast) and relative newcomer Matthew Fernandez. Only concern with the creative team is Rake is a Journeyman Producer/Showrunner and generally doesn’t last more than a season and Fernandez isn’t really tested.  However they count the great Robert Zemeckis as one of the show’s Executive Producers.

MANIFEST — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Josh Dallas as Ben Stone, Jack Messina as Cal Stone, Athena Karkanis as Grace Stone — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC/Warner Brothers)

The show’s pilot follows the Stone Family and is told through the eyes of Michaela Stone played by Melissa Roxburgh (last seen in CW’s Valor). We’re quickly introduced to the rest of her family: her brother Ben (Once Upon A Time’s Josh Dallas) and his wife Grace (Athena Karkanis from The Expanse) and their 10 yr old twins – the terminally ill Cal (Jack Messina) and Olive (Luna Blaise from Fresh off the Boat) and their parents. Half the family have a chance to catch an earlier flight while Cal, Ben and Michaela catch the ill-fated Flight 828.

When told though this lens you realize how short life truly is when half the people you love think you are dead and life moves on without you and the shortness of 5 ½ years makes this contrast even more stark. As we go through life we take each day for granted but a lot can change in such a short amount of time. Now that everyone’s back, we see the impact of this gap.

MANIFEST — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Luna Blaise as Olive Stone, Cal Stone — (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/NBC/Warner Brothers)

Cal now has a chance to be part of a life changing clinical trial, meanwhile his twin sister is now a teenager. Ben expects things to still be the same between he and Grace but we eventually find out that she’s married and doesn’t know how to tell Ben and we eventually find out that Grace is a police officer who was involved in an incident that haunts her while her former boyfriend, who everyone told wouldn’t wait around for her forever is now a top detective and has moved on with his life.

As the pilot goes on we start to find out that not everything is as it seems as Michaela starts hearing a voice in her head tell her to do things that act as strange premonitions. So far everything the voice is telling her to do has saved lives but will this always be the case? Ben is also hearing the same voice as well. What does this mean and how will it impact future episodes? I suspect his show will follow a similar path to The 4400 where eventually we’ll find out that in addition to hearing voices these people will develop mysterious powers and will also get even more scrutiny from the Government because what’s a show like this without a Govt conspiracy and govt persecution?

With Michela being a detective, I’m assuming that’s how we’ll eventually find out what’s going on with the rest of the passengers in future episodes. As I said, this was a very solid pilot, I’m not prepared to go down this rabid hole. I say that now, but I’m already sucked in.  Manifest premieres Monday, September 24, 2018.

Final Grade A  

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