'Manifest' Makes for a Mystery Worth Solving

Review of NBC's "Manifest" TV series
Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas and Jack Messina
(Craig Blankenhorn/NBC/Warner Brothers)
TV SERIES REVIEW
NBC has been relentless airing the same previews for the network’s mystery thriller, Manifest over and over again. Yes, we get it. The Montego Air Flight 828 hits some turbulence (or something) and lands safely five and half years later. Now what? They did a similar stunt with the premiere of This is Us presenting a short glimpse of the show without actually explaining any of it. Well, it worked for that series which is now a huge hit and it isn’t out the realm of possibility that history could repeat itself with Manifest. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Even after watching the pilot episode, it’s still not clear exactly what this show is going to be and while we are introduced to the main core characters, there’s a lot of people on that flight that we might get to meet sooner than later.

The show begins at an airport in 2013. It is here that we meet the Stone family. Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) is struggling accepting a wedding proposal to Jared (J.R. Ramirez), her mother, a religious woman, shares her favorite verse from the Bible (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”) to comfort her. Her married brother Ben (Josh Dallas, the former Prince Charming from Once Upon a Time) is happily married to Grace (Athena Karkanis) and together they have a set of twin children, one who of which is losing the fight to Leukemia. When the call goes out stating that their flight has been overbooked, Michaela, Ben and his son Cal (Jack Messina) volunteer to take the next flight. Also on the Flight 828 is Saanvi (Parveen Kaur) who has just created a new theory for a medical breakthrough.

When the passengers land safely, they struggle not only with the fact that they just missed five and half years away from their family, but the world has moved on without them. But also, they begin to realize that they have been changed somehow and come to the conclusion that they might be meant for something greater than when they boarded the plane. Meanwhile, the government is suspicious and like us, is looking for answers.

Created by Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke, Jeff Rake and Jackie Levine, Manifest feels a little like Blindspot + The Returned + Touched by an Angel. There are certainly religious undertones to the pilot episode, but we’ll see if they will go any further as time goes on. We also don’t really know which direction this show is going to go. Are the characters superheroes? Saints? Crime solvers? Healers? All of the above?

As far as pilots go, Manifest does a good balancing of setting up the story without handing over too much information but not making the mystery portion too convoluted. With the exception of J.R. Ramirez’s character, the cast is quite likable. The adult brother and sister dynamic is a nice angle too. This new reality isn’t going to be easy for any of them and the episode ends with you wanting to know more about these people and what’s going to happen to them. And that’s a good sign of a good show.

Manifest premieres on Monday, September 24 at 10:00 p.m. on NBC. Watch the full trailer below if you dare as it is full of spoilers.



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