Manifest (Season One)
This summer saw the release of the highly anticipated NBC drama Manifest (Jeff Rake, USA, 2018), in which, the passengers of flight 828 return after they are assumed missing for five years. The majority of the passengers begin to experience ‘callings’ (visual and auditory hallucinations) which Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh), a police officer, is convinced are for the greater good. The rest of the season follows Michaela and, predominantly, her brother Ben (Josh Dallas) as they attempt to uncover the mystery of their supernatural reappearance.
The 16-episode haul starts adequately enough with episode one rather unoriginally setting up the narrative. However, from the establishment of its core concepts, the series had already overplayed its hand. The series had one question to answer: what happened to flight 828? We never get closure to this inquiry. Instead, we are bombarded by futile personal drama and pathetic attempts at creating a love triangle; all expressed under the guise that ‘it’s all connected’, not with any thought or meaningful association it seems.
The viewer is continually treated as though they have never seen any form of visual narrative played out before. The plot is not so complex that we need to be shown a flashback of what has happened only scenes before. It is not only bad writing from which Manifest suffers, but appalling CGI and special effects in general also cheapen the shows appeal. Early in the season, an explosion is used as the set piece for the ending of an episode, an explosion that would not look out of place on a YouTube video created in Windows movie maker. Towards the tail end of the season, we are presented with a CGI wolf which would look perfectly adequate in a Scooby-Doo cartoon. The only redeemable element of the show’s production is its passable cinematography. Although this is still highly unoriginal and holds no artistic merit of notoriety.
NBC has created an utterly tedious series with uncompelling characters whose relationships are unembellished leading one to a feeling of mind-numbing malaise. With a second 13-episode season billed for release in spring 2020 (for US audiences), the viewer is left feeling that the benefits of flight 828 remaining lost outweigh those of its return.