'Manifest': The Jeff Rake-created show must shake-off its predictability when it returns on Jan 7
The creator introduced several plot points and, after a while, they only became history as the show seemed to have forgotten about them
'Manifest' is all set to return from its long fall break on January 7, and as much as fans are excited the show might just bring in characters and plot points that were forgotten after their introduction in the first two episodes. That is the shortcoming of the Jeff Rake-created show — it has a lot of plot points hanging loose but on another hand, it is drilling out theories which, to be honest, are too predictable for a sci-fi mystery show. Starring Josh Dallas as Ben Stone, Athena Karkanis as Grace, J.R. Ramirez as Jared, and Melissa Roxburgh as Michaela Stone, NBC's show has been following the aftermath of the sudden re-appearance of Montego Air Flight 828 which went missing for almost five and a half years.
The storyline itself is an intriguing one. It talks about time lapse, forbidden age limits, and tumultuous relationships but unfortunately, Rake seemed to have kicked all of it aside and is cooking a boiling pot of utter claptrap. The very first problem with 'Manifest' being a mystery thriller is its predictable nature. As much as the show has been criticized for treading on the same path as ABC's hit show 'Lost', it has somehow managed to rip itself off all the suspense and offers nothing but emotionally exaggerated drama. It follows a pattern where it is trying to connect the stories of all the passengers, but unfortunately, that is not happening.
The show took a subjective turn when it began to tell the story from the perspective of the Stone siblings, Ben and Michaela, who on returning from the plane discovered that their spouses have already moved on with other people. Both of them seem horribly calm about it, Ben quietly accepts Danny's presence in their life whereas Michaela does not ask a single question about Jared being married to her best friend, Lourdes. However, both of them go on a rampant puzzle-solving phase, where they hear certain voices that they interpret as "Callings" which almost seem to drive them to do superhuman things.
Michaela rescues people, prevents car accidents, and tracks down criminals — things that she would have never been able to do without the voices. As for Ben, the voices are acting more like guilty-pleasures for him as he perceives it as a chance to improve things for his family. Rake almost provided a very convincing theory to the "Callings" through Parveen Kaur's character, Saanvi, who over the course of the show sort of became a sidekick for the Stone siblings. Saanvi managed to almost unlock the mystery when she discovered the tissues in the brain, but again, for the rest of the show, Rake seemed to have completely forgotten that he had ever introduced the plotline.
More than leaving loose-ends, one of the major setbacks of 'Manifest' is its predictability. Rake did introduce certain plot-twisters such as Lourdes being pregnant, Grace's affair with Danny, and Cal's leukemia, but at the end of the day, they were just as clichéd as the show could get. It was expected that at some point Ben and Grace's relationship would break, and it finally happened when Ben took Cal to the UDS' lab. It was also expected that Lourdes' pregnancy might bring Michaela and Jared close, and we will certainly see them share a kiss when the show returns for the 10th episode. As for Cal, it seems that his leukemia is no more concerning since the boy can now, literally, read minds.
After nine episodes, the show is nowhere close to what it had promised in the first episode — an action-packed thrilling mystery. Instead, it has steeped to the level of becoming yet another romantic flick with the mystery only hovering in the background. It seems that Rake has been trying to shove sentiments down his audience's throat with the forceful depiction of relationships. It could have been used in favor of the show, had the creator managed to put the mystery in the center and the romantic subplots as catalysts, instead of the other way around. However, 'Manifest' continues to be the most popular show on NBC in spite of its shortcomings, and we can only hope that it will incline more towards the mystery once the show returns for the episode 10 on January 7, at 10 pm on NBC.