Manifest: Here's Why the Now-Netflix Series Will Always Be "Lost Lite"

As a latecomer to NBC-now-Netflix's Manifest, I'll admit my confusion as to how the series ever got the undeserved hype it got. The Jeff Rake-created series focuses on passengers of Flight 828 and the mysterious circumstances that got them to somehow time travel five years into the future with the world they left behind. The price to pay for missing those five years includes psychologically ominous visions known as callings that tell each passenger vague messages that lead them to their next fateful clue in a long, convoluted (so far) puzzle.

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Image: NBCU

Manifest Is Too Protective of Its Core Cast

The principal players are siblings Michela (Melissa Roxburgh) and Ben Stone (Josh Dallas), who become the most proactive from these callings that not only affect their fellow passengers but also the world around them. All parties are trying to make sense of whatever phenomena comes their way and it eventually gets into biblical messages like another mystery-shrouded series, ABC's Lost but it always seems to lack a real sense of gravity since it seems okay with arbitrarily moving the goalposts when it wants. At the end of the third season, the biggest and only major casualty of the core cast is the loss of Ben's wife Grace (Athena Karkanis), who manages to have her final moments with her son Cal (Jack Messina), who manages to phase back into time to see her.

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NBC

ABC's Lost had a similar plot to Manifest, but it involved a group of marooned passengers on an island from a flight that crashed. The series' focused mainly on the events on the island than the plane itself. While both series leaned heavily on their ensembles, Lost wasn't squeamish about killing its core characters. Honestly, I feel Manifest could have learned a ton from Lost when it comes to where it drives its plot. For example, one of the most intricate and show-defining plot moments of Lost is Charlie Pace's (Dominic Monaghan) death as he managed to write "Not Penny's Boat" on his hand before drowning.

Manifest: Here's Why the Now-Netflix Series Will Always Be "Lost Lite"
Henry Ian Cusick and Dominic Monaghan in Lost. Image courtesy of ABC

Zeke and Grace Overstayed Their Welcome

Manifest character Zeke (Matt Long) could have had that moment since he wanted to enjoy his final days married to Michela as his "death date" approached. Instead, he's still alive. So was Grace in an earlier episode when Ben had to pick between her & their baby in a procedure that created a gut-wrenching emotional moment. Again, the plot conveniently had a doctor that saved them both because Flight 828 passenger Adrian (Jared Grimes) saved that very same doctor from drowning previously. Having those convenient plot devices too many times get written off as "it's all connected so we'll learn more later." But as we learned from The X-Files, more often than not that never ends up happening- and Manifest feels like one of those shows.

Manifest: Here's Why the Now-Netflix Series Will Always Be "Lost Lite"
MANIFEST — "Fasten Your Seatbelts" Episode 201 — Pictured: (l-r) Athena Karkanis as Grace Stone, Josh Dallas as Ben Stone — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Yes, Lost may have left a bitter taste in some fans' mouths when it came to the series finale, but that appears to be more the norm than the exception nowadays. Then again, it's my hope that with a charitable episode order from Netflix and better resources beyond broadcast television that maybe Manifest can roll back some of the faults. It has the chance to move beyond being vanilla and predictable, and provide its loyal fandom with a satisfying ending deserving of that loyalty. Think of this as the start of a different kind of #SaveManifest campaign.

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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