Manifest Season 1 Episode 1 Review: All Good Things

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"Everything happens for a reason" is more than a platitude to the creators of Manifest.

The writers went for a more biblical interpretation of that sentiment on Manifest Season 1 Episode 1. You'll hear a snippet of Romans 8:28 quoted ad nauseam as things progress. I mean they even embroidered "All things work together for good" onto a throw pillow!

Waiting - Manifest

Schmaltzy and heavy-handed the references may be (828 in all the addresses, for instance), but they also set up a really good mystery. Who or what is causing these events to "work together for good?" 

I have some reservations about centering the premise of the work on a bible verse. Religion and network television often don't mix very well -- Eli Stone, Kings, and Living Biblically are a few examples that spring to mind. 

Strictly devout audiences are likely to find such shows blasphemous or incompatible with their particular doctrine, and those more secularly inclined can be turned off by too much religion. It's a difficult needle to thread. 

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The mystery of who or what is behind these events, and more importantly, WHY they are causing these things to occur is the interesting part. Is there a larger plan or will each of our passengers be tasked with becoming a hero just once? 

I sure as hell hope there's some kind of big-picture plan. Focusing on too many individual cases could easily lead to chaos and confusion. 

The success of Manifest hinges on two things: how long we're all willing to stick with it, and how much of a plan the creators had going into this. The great genre shows of recent years -- Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and Fringe, among others -- all had a strong sense of direction from the get-go. 

Welcome Wagon - Manifest Season 1 Episode 1

One of the aces up Manifest's sleeve is the interplay between the characters. Melissa Roxburgh came out of the gates swinging hard, lending a vulnerability to Michaela that allows the character to be delightfully nuanced. She's a cop, but that doesn't mean she's hardened. 

Her relationships with her family are neither the bedrock of her strength nor irreparably estranged. They're realistically complicated -- she leans on her mother for advice but also gets exasperated by her meddling; she carries her own guilt but also resented Grace for her judgment.

The family was relatable before the trauma occurred, which will make it easier to see ourselves in them as they deal with the fallout from the reappearance of flight 828. 

Ben: Why are you fighting this when all it's gonna do is make you happy? That's all we want for you.
Michaela: That was really sweet of you. You must be drunk.

Some of that fallout will revolve around what happens to a marriage when one of the spouses disappears for five years. We're obviously expected to think that Grace has entered into a relationship with another man while Ben was presumed dead, but that seems like too obvious an answer.

For one thing, Michaela is already in that situation. There are some variations that could be enough of a twist to keep it interesting (maybe Grace's new lover is a woman?), but other possibilities are plausible.

Reunited - Manifest Season 1 Episode 1

Maybe Grace sold their life story to Hollywood to pay the bills. Maybe she wrote a book and is now a public figure. Schools with soccer fields with those views don't come cheap is all I'm saying. 

Related: Manifest: Get to Know the Characters!

In addition to the mystery of what happened to MA828 and what the family got up to during Michaela and Ben's five-year absence, there's the riddle of what Michaela did before all this started. Who is Emma? 

If the point is how this even changed people, then it's vital that we know who our characters were before takeoff. 

After all, Michaela's initial narration of her family might not be trustworthy. 

Michaela: What is this? What is happening? How 'bout this: There were a lot of people on that plane, why you and me? What makes two head cases like us so special?
Ben: What's the probability it's just you and me?

There are stories to explore outside of the Stones', and hopefully, it won't be a long wait for us to get to them. It's disappointing that the only other passenger we've met so far is Saanvi, even more, that we've seen so little of her. 

As of now, it feels like she's just there as a diversity hire. Saanvi needs to be developed in her own right and not only as Cal's secret savior. How is her relationship with Dr. Cardoso going to play out? Can she reform his corporate corruption? Should she?

There are a few passengers that it seems like we'll likely see more of, but we don't even have names for them yet. The captain of the plane at least has a name, which is more than Disgruntled Businessman and Immigrant Busker can claim. 

Turbulence - Manifest Season 1 Episode 1

Hopefully, we'll have plenty of time to meet more core characters. If all goes well, there will be thirteen episodes of Manifest for the first season. NBC has already scheduled Manifest Season 1 Episode 2 to air, so that's a start!

"Reentry" will be broadcast on October 1st at 10 pm and then again on October 5th at 8 pm. This will echo the double broadcast of the pilot episode and should help to increase viewership. 

If the teaser for the second episode is anything to go by, Josh Dallas won't be stretching his muscles too much for this role. "Helping a passenger reconnect with his son" sounds an awful lot like a Prince Charming plot from his Once Upon a Time Days

Government Investigator: We interviewed every last one of them. Nothing. And we still haven't come across a single substance any time the day the flight took off and when it returned. It's as if the plane never left the sky.
Agency Director: Do I have to say out loud that that's impossible?

While Ben is off playing the hero, Grace grapples with revealing her secret to her husband, and little Cal ends up with a stalker. Will Aunt Michaela be too busy dealing with her boyfriend's marriage to her bestie to help him out?

Meanwhile, Homeland Security is going to be losing its mind about the plane explosion. With little physical evidence remaining, it's the passengers turn under the microscope.

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NBC is certainly willing to give Manifest a big boost. It's a good sign when the network clearly wants a show to succeed.  So do your part to boost ratings and watch Manifest online. And watch the second airing. And watch it from your DVR. 

Tweet about it (#Manifest)! Tell your friends! Talk about your favorite parts in the comments section below! 

Because if this thing ends before we find out what made that plane disappear for five years, we only have ourselves to blame. 

Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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Elizabeth Harlow was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She left the organization in October 2018.

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Manifest Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Michaela: I am still the same screw-up you said goodbye to in Jamaica.
Grace: The universe just gave all of us a giant do-over. Everything that happened before goes out the window.

Ben: Why are you fighting this when all it's gonna do is make you happy? That's all we want for you.
Michaela: That was really sweet of you. You must be drunk.