OK, I’ll admit that I’m (embarrassingly) late to the party regarding “Manifest,” which returns to Netflix, most likely in the spring, for the second half of its fourth and final season.
I’ve recently begun to watch the binge-worthy series, and now I understand what all the fuss was about when it premiered on NBC in 2018.
It was canned after three seasons and Netflix, already streaming “Manifest” repeats that captured a solid audience, renewed it for a fourth season — which premiered Nov. 4 to robust viewership. Those fans already knew what everyone else was missing.
I’ve still got a long way to go before reaching Season 4, but am already immersed in the “Manifest” universe, which blends action, sci-fi and a hint of the supernatural into a multi-layered premise that explodes in many different directions.
For the uninitiated, here’s the premise: in April 2013, Flight 828 took off from Jamaica en route to New York City and, after some in-flight turbulence, landed — five-and-a-half years later to a 2018 world stunned by news of the phantom flight’s return, with everyone onboard alive and haven’t not aged a wink. Creepy and compelling all at once.
(The flight returned Nov. 4 — a wink-and-a-nod to the Season 4 premiere date.)
The Flight 828 passenger manifest (there’s that play on the title) includes math professor Ben Stone (Josh Dallas), his 10-year-old son Cal (Jack Messina) — who’s battling leukemia — and Ben’s sister, Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh), an NYPD detective. Ben and Michaela are dealing with heavy personal issues; Ben and his wife, Grace (Athena Karkanis), went on the family trip to Jamaica hoping to iron out their marital strains, while Michaela grappled with marrying her boyfriend/fellow cop Jared Vasquez (JR Ramirez). Grace, Cal’s twin sister, Olive (Luna Blaise) and Jack’s parents took an earlier flight back to New York — and, after half a decade, tried to move on with their lives. And now this. There are ramifications for everyone involved in the Flight 828 saga but particularly the passengers — with Ben, Michaela and Cal experiencing visual and auditory “callings” that lead them on different paths, all connected in some cosmic way. It’s pretty wild.
That’s your jumping-off point to what follows as “Manifest” branches out: conspiracies, the NSA (in the form of Robert Vance, played by Daryl Edwards), deaths of other 828 passengers, shadowy, sinister forces at play and soapy interpersonal relationships, to name just a few — all wrapped with a sci-fi bow tightening the mystery around Flight 828 as more compelling questions are worked into each episode — and that’s only in Season 1.
Series creator Jeff Rake originally envisioned a six-season “Manifest” arc on NBC, but, in this case, fate smiled on his series with the move to Netflix. Season 3 of “Manifest” averaged a little north of 3 million weekly viewers on NBC — peanuts when you consider that a leading 1.37 billion minutes of its Season 4 premiere were consumed on Netflix — with no pesky commercial interruptions jarring you back to reality just when things are getting juicy.
I can’t wait to see where it all leads — and how it ends.