It was 'Manifest's script and Jeff Rake's focus on family that won the hearts of fans
Although the actors themselves are pretty young in the field, the story was relatable enough for them to be absolutely comfortable in their roles
'Manifest' might have started off on a hush-hush tone since when it began, it was not yet the big talk of the town but immediately after the first episode, the show was ranked as one of NBC's top TV series. Over its course, it broke all viewership records of the channel, and soon gathered a massive loyal fandom who even now are hoping that the channel will soon announce an official renewal for Season 2. Coming from creator Jeff Rake, who is seemingly the new face in Tinseltown, 'Manifest' follows an enthralling story about a missing plane and time travel. Although it has been compared to 'Lost', 'Manifest' has proven in the very first season that it has a lot more to offer.
The story has been following the passengers of Montego Air Flight 828 which went missing for almost five-and-a-half years. When the plane finally arrived, the passengers realized that they were all presumed dead and none of them had aged a day. As they try to understand this mysterious circumstance, a new mystery emerges where the passengers begin to hear voices in their heads which they refer to as "Callings". Quite expectedly, such a storyline began to include government conspiracies, broken relations, and a villain whose intention to trace the passengers and their "Callings" continues to remain a mystery in itself.
However, what made Rake's show stand apart was the script and the angle which it took in order to accentuate the aftermath of the event on the plane. Rake, unlike most other mystery storytellers, chose to tell the story from the perspective of a family. A major portion of the show is spent on showcasing just how those five years have affected the Stone family. While Ben (Josh Dallas), his son Cal (Jack Messina) and his sister Michaela Stone (Melissa Roxburgh) had left on Flight 828, Ben's wife Grace (Athena Karkanis) and Cal's twin sister, Olive (Luna Blaise) left on another plane right before that. Due to this minute change in their plans, the family faced a tremendous consequence and that was further highlighted by Olive growing up and Cal remaining the same age.
That particular scene, upon Cal's arrival when he sees Olive as a 15-year-old teenager, had set the stage for the trauma that was about to fall upon the family. Over the course of the show, we further saw a turmoil between Ben and Grace, since Grace had already been with another man presuming Ben was dead. Rake's script in almost every single page seemed to have made the attempt to show the audience just how a family can be affected by a single decision made in a split second. 'Manifest', therefore, is not a typical mystery thriller since it is heavily concentrated on the struggles of the family. Although the actors, who play the characters, are pretty young in the industry, the very fact that the storyline is so grounded to something as common as family gives them the space to be in their most natural forms.
Speaking to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), Rake explained his chief motive was to pick up a big idea and apply it into something as small and concrete as a family. He said, "As a creator, I am most focused on marrying a big idea to an emotional center. Yes, the mystery of 'Manifest' is what brought people to the show in the first place. But, in my opinion, it’s the underlying emotionalism that keeps people engaged." Time and again, this has been prominent with fan's reaction to the show. While there are some fans who want to know more about the plane than the family, a great portion of the fandom is based on the characters and their shared dynamics on the show.
The Stone family is a representation of any middle-class family but what makes them so appealing is that they fight together even when they are themselves turning against one each other. Ever since we have been introduced to this family, in the course of Season 1, it seems that they have all developed a great deal. We see Ben and Grace work through their relationship on every stage, trying to come together once again as a family in spite of the years that they have lost. Similarly, when Michaela realizes that her fiance Jared (JR Ramirez) is married to her best friend, her life takes a different turn as she tries to make amends for all the mistakes she has committed.
As for Cal and Olive, they have tried to work out the differences between their age, and Olive soon picks up the role of an older sister in spite of being a twin. This is where 'Manifest' started growing on the audience. Rake mentioned that the audience "loves to be taken on a journey. When the journey is mysterious, all the better. But again, we are only impatient for more reveals if we are invested emotionally in the first place." The reason why people want to know more about the incident on the plane is because of the impact it had on those who were still alive. We all share the common tendency to only care about things once they have an effect on our lives, and this is exactly where the script managed to pull in the audience.
This is also the reason why unlike many other mystery thrillers, 'Manifest' has not bored its audience. Rake explained, "Mystery becomes boring when we don’t care anymore. So it’s crucial that mysterious elements remain centered around the people and relationships that we care about as viewers." It once again echoes the thought that we only care about things when they bring about a change in our lives, otherwise, that incident does not really hold any importance in any context. 'Manifest' is not yet officially renewed by NBC but chances are the show will return very soon with Season 2.