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Manifest: The Complete First Season (2018-2019)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 6/23/2019
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/1/2019
Every once in a while, I will do a writing exercise in which I try to come up with a new idea by creating a story which is the opposite of a popular trope. This is often a fairly simple endeavor, although, it must be said that some outcomes don’t make any sense. Looking around and seeing how many movies are simply carbon-copies of older films, one can’t help but wonder why more people don’t do this, instead of churning out the same story over and over again. It’s for this reason that I was very interested in Manifest, a television show which takes the primary concept of one of the most popular shows in recent memory and turns it on its head. But, will that be enough to maintain the audience’s interest?
Manifest opens with a group of characters who are flying from Jamaica to New York. Michaela Stone (Melissa Roxburgh) had been to the island on a family vacation with her brother Ben (Josh Dallas), his wife Grace (Athena Karkanis), and their kids, Cal (Jack Messina) and Olive, as well as Michaela and Ben’s parents. Once at the airport, the family finds that their flight is overbooked and a cash bonus is offered to those willing to take a later flight. Michaela, Ben, and Call accept this offer and soon find themselves on board Fight 828. The flight experiences some strong turbulence, but, otherwise, is fine. However, once the plane is set to land, it is diverted to a small airport and the passengers are greeted by authorities and the news that the plane has been missing for 5 ½ years. Michaela, Ben, and their fellow passengers find themselves in a world which has mourned their death and moved on. Michaela attempts to return to her job as a cop and finds that her fiancé and partner, Jared (J.R. Ramirez), may now be unavailable. Grace is thrilled to see Ben, but Olive, who is now a teenager, isn’t quite as accepting. To make things worse, the passengers from Flight 828 begin to hear voices and see visions of the future. Why are they having these “callings” and what exactly happened on the flight?
Unless you didn’t get the reference above, at first glance, the core concept of Manifest appears to be the opposite of Lost. I can easily see a writer approaching a TV producer and saying “You know how Lost was about a plane which was lost? What if we did a show where a plane was found?” OK, that’s sort of an odd idea, but at least it makes sense. The idea of a plan suddenly re-appearing over five years after it was believed to be lost creates a chain of concepts which have potential. The fact that the passengers didn’t age and that, for them, no time has passed, clears the way for a classic “fish out of water” scenario. Given the passage of time in the world, the passengers must try and navigate relationships with those who were not on the plane. Thrown into this already complicated mix are the further science fiction elements of the visions and the mystery of what really happened to the plane.
I can clearly recall seeing the promos for Manifest and thinking, “That’s a clever idea, but that sounds better suited for a movie. How are they going to sustain that for a season?” (Or sixteen episodes, as it turns out.) The answer to that question is a complicated one, as the powers that be at Manifest have decided to take a kitchen-sink approach to the show. We are introduced to the primary science-fiction based concept of a plane which disappeared and then reappeared over five years later, with the passengers having not aged and feeling as if no time has passed. This is accompanied by the inevitable mystery of how and why this event occurred and the conspiracy theories and government shadow-ops which come along with this sort of idea. Added to this is the notion that the passengers have been dislocated in time and must attempt to re-assimilate with the world and work on their family and romantic situations. On paper, all of these things make sense as necessary ingredients to this story, but the problem with Manifest is that it jumps around too much, unable to decide if it wants to be a sci-fi thriller or a drama. Again, the family drama scenes are a necessity, but they should take a backseat to the mystery elements. It’s clear that the writers wanted to slowly unveil the fantastic portions of the show (or else hadn’t fully fleshed out those concepts), so we slowly get information about the plane, while watching scene-after-scene of Michaela and Ben attempting to sort out their lives.
In the end, Manifest’s biggest issue is that it’s simply too reminiscent of Lost, save for the setting. Just as in that show, we’ve got a group of seemingly unrelated characters who must come together to solve their collectively mystery. Some episodes begin with a flashback to the plane – just like on Lost – and, at times, Manifest adopts the Watchmen-like style of having each episode focus on a different character. And while Lost eventually fell apart, there’s not doubt that the first season was quite gripping. Manifest has some good moments, but it never quite drew me in. The story is familiar and the characters are somewhat bland. The aforementioned meandering style doesn’t help either. When the show returns for its second season, I may check it out, but if things haven’t improved, I’ll take my parachute and leave.
Manifest: The Complete First Season will make you think twice before taking that next flight on DVD courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The 16 episodes from the season all are included here, spread out over four discs. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. Still, if you’re like me and you’ve been spoiled by 4K UHD, Blu-ray Discs, and HD television, you’ll see the mild flaws here. The image simply doesn’t have the crispness to which we are accustomed, and it’s somewhat soft at times. The DVDs carry a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This fares better than the video, as we get some nice surround sound and subwoofer effects during the scenes on the plane and with the action sequences. The stereo effects delivers sounds coming from off-screen in key scenes.
The Manifest: The Complete First Season DVD set does not contain any extra features.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long