Manifest Takes Off with a Satisfying Start to Its Final Season on NetflixPhoto Courtesy of Netflix TV Reviews Manifest
Much like the passengers of Montego Airways Flight 828, Manifest has (finally) returned from the dead.
After being canceled 3 seasons in at NBC, it seemed like we would once again see a mystery box-style show get cut off at the knees with absolutely no resolution. Though Netflix acquired the streaming rights for those first seasons, they initially passed on bringing it back beyond that. However, a change of platform resulted in impressive viewership numbers, enough that Netflix ultimately saved the show and renewed it for a final 4th season. Even better, the final season would be the longest one yet, with 20 episodes split into two 10-episode parts. While creator and showrunner Jeff Rake had originally planned for a six-season run, an extended 4th season isn’t anything to dismiss, especially with the guarantee that an end is in sight.
The nicest thing about a show as far along as Manifest is that it doesn’t need to prove itself to anyone. The audience is already locked in, the end is on its way, and everyone who cares about the show knows exactly what they’re in for. I say this very lovingly as someone who watched the first three seasons of the show live; Manifest is the child Lost and Riverdale never knew they had. Missing planes, government conspiracies, some sort of magical and a divine entity that aged a child up 5 and a half years for reasons unknown, all tied together with some ethereally glowing objects and brain scans. There’s a level of ridiculousness that we all signed up for here, and it’s finally on full display.
Season 4 starts out two years after the death of Grace Stone and the subsequent kidnapping of Eden Stone by Angelina, Season 3’s evangelical heretic who believed the baby to be her guardian angel. Ben is clearly living a version of his worst life trying to find Eden, having pushed anything to do with the June 2, 2024 death date or the rest of Flight 828’s passengers to the back of his mind. He has no leads, the cops have moved on, and life is only getting harder for 828ers everywhere. Aside from Cal’s sudden age increase—something that has forced the family to publicly declare Cal missing while he pretends to be Olive’s cousin Gabriel—there haven’t been any big developments since the recovered front of the plane disappeared with the pilot inside.
While Ben runs himself ragged looking for Eden, Cal is trapped pretending to be someone different who isn’t allowed to have much of a life at all. Along with changing his name and faking his disappearance, Cal doesn’t get to have a social life outside of his family members and their close friends, and he’s clearly unhappy with the way his life has unfolded. To make things worse, Ben’s laser focus on finding Eden has Cal feeling even more unwanted. There might be a chasm between father and son in the first few episodes of the season, but at the end of the day both of them are having an awful time inside their own heads.
Back to the larger plot at hand, Mick has a calling that leads her to a passenger in possession of Flight 828’s black box. Once the box is in the hands of Saanvi and Vance, more and more callings start to pop up for the Stones and other 828 passengers. Zeke also goes through his own struggles separate from the 828 crew when it comes to his empath powers, and all in all Netflix delivers us something that is very solidly Manifest with no egregious changes to the format of the series. The start of the season sees a Ben, Cal, Saani, and even Olive adrift with almost no 828 activity to be found, but they all find their way back to themselves as the episodes progress, and it’s really nice to watch some simple, forward moving character development when there are so many other complex shows around that require you to watch with all of your brain power. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot to think about when it comes to Manifest, but the mystery and drama of the show have always been fun before they’ve been complex, and it’s good to see that it has stayed that way.
A little bit of change in one area would have done the show well, though. As good as Manifest has been at stringing us along for a very weird ride, not a season goes by without at least one terrible romantic subplot. It’s not that romance doesn’t belong in sci-fi shows—generally we need more of it—but this show has never been a good vessel for it. Regardless of how important a romantic beat might be for a character’s development, they never fail to feel like they’re shoehorned in or treated like they’re unimportant. We see Mick dealing with the fallout of her relationship with Jared again, and there’s even a reveal of another relationship that seems like it might lead to some sort of betrayal plotline, but both threads fizzle out before they go anywhere. In truth, that’s probably for the best, but it would still be nice to see a romantic plotline do well here, even if it’s only for a short time.
Despite that, the romance being lackluster is just another thing that reassures us that Manifest is the same show we have always known. A series getting saved by a streaming service doesn’t mean that it will stay true to itself. Sure, Lucifer’s stint on Netflix only served to enhance the show, but Designated Survivor and Arrested Development weren’t as lucky. Manifest fans are fortunate enough that the show has fallen into the latter category, and even if the show won’t be around for as many seasons as everyone would have liked, it’s clear that everyone involved is making sure it will get an ending it deserves.
All 10 episodes of Manifest Season 4 Part 1 premiere Friday, November 4th on Netflix
Kathryn Porter is a freelance writer who will talk endlessly about anything entertainment given the chance. You can find her @kaechops on Twitter.
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