Fasten Your Seatbelts – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Grounded – | Review Score – 3/5
False Horizon – | Review Score – 3/5
Black Box – | Review Score – 3/5
Coordinated Flight – | Review Score – 2/5
Return Trip – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Emergency Exit – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Carry On – | Review Score – 1.5/5
Airplane Bottles – | Review Score – 3/5
Course Deviation – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Unaccompanied Minors – | Review Score – 3/5
Call Sign – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Icing Conditions – | Review Score – 2/5
Manifest is a show that should be a big success on paper. Feeding off the popularity Lost enjoyed all those years ago, Manifest boasts a similarly intriguing mystery, encapsulating a colourful group of characters and with a meaty 13 episode run to play with. Enjoying healthy ratings and a solid audience tuning in every week, Manifest squandered any potential it may have had to be the next prime-time mystery box phenomenon, delivering a mildly entertaining soap opera drama instead.
Of course, to stave off boredom the show threw in snippets of sci-fi and surprisingly compelling hooks to keep you coming back but left things wide open for a second season at the end. When Manifest returned in the fall it got off to a promising start with a decent opening episode. Old habits die hard though and for Manifest, despite some decent work put into making our characters likable and a few compelling twists along the way, it finally confirms one thing about this show – we’re not going to get any answers any time soon.
While the first season could make an argument for a lack of progression by focusing on character drama and building up our ensemble, season 2 does not have that same luxurious scapegoat to hide behind. Instead, the second season soon slips back into familiar territory with bottle episodes, lots of soap opera drama and superficial contrivances thrown into its 13 episode run.
Even worse, Manifest goes one step further and adds plot armour to its characters this year too, with not one but two fake-out deaths along the way. All of this builds up to yet another cliffhanger at the end that’s almost certainly going to play on that sunk cost fallacy and keep you coming back for a third season.
The main crux of the story this year takes on several different forms as the show struggles to settle on a consistent antagonist. While the first season dealt with the government and their possible involvement in all of this, this time around we’re given a shadowy cult called the X’ers, led by Adrian whom we learn a lot more about this year. With one of our main characters caught up in the hype and joining ranks, the first half ultimately sees cracks growing in the Stone family before a dramatic spike that looks like it’s going to deliver some genuine consequences for our characters.
Alas, that’s not the case though and instead we see several different antagonists rise up and fall away as quickly as they arrive, with both The Major and a trio of drug dealers taking centre stage as the big threat across the season. It all feels pretty messy and in terms of consistent plotting, Manifest struggles to balance this out with the sci-fi elements, which are here but ultimately convolute the original premise. There’s a vague whiff of the spiritual, some contradictory messages about the Callings and even tarot cards and old religions that crop up too but nothing that ever really sticks. Those going into this expecting answers are certainly in for a rude awakening.
With the exception of a few key plot points across the season and a couple of reveals in the finale, Manifest really doesn’t leave you any wiser to what’s really going on at the end. There’s no explanation to the Callings, no resolution to many of the character issues and certainly nowhere nearer to finding out what really happened to Flight 828. All of this combines to make for a season of… nothing, really. An empty season devoid of promises and one that only reinforces how much potential has been squandered here.
Of course, if you enjoyed the first season and want more of the same with a little sprinkling of sci-fi to keep things interesting, that’s still here to enjoy. There will be a Cult of Believers that follow this show and that’s fine – fair play to Manifest for being able to achieve that. Grace is a much more likable character this year too which is good, while Cal is more grown up and involved in a lot of the serious plot points of the show which is certainly another positive, progressive point to note. There’s a couple of really well written episodes too (undermined by the following week’s episode, mind you) and some genuinely surprising twists along the way.
After 26 episodes clocking in at 42 minutes (which averages out to around 18 hours) though, we’re no closer to finding out what anything means. Even LOST, for all of its problems, peppered in some answers along the way but Manifest doesn’t even have that going for it. If this is renewed for a third season (and I’m pretty confident it will be given the very high ratings), Manifest needs to step it up and deliver some compelling answers. Then again, given the wealth of good TV out there is this really a show that respects your time investment?