June 12, 2023

TV Review


There’s no shortage of mystery, intrigue, and suspense on television these days, but every now and then, a show comes along that soars above the rest. “Manifest,” with its peculiar premise and nuanced narrative, does just that. A masterful blend of cliff-hanging thrills and thought-provoking plotlines, this Jeff Rake-directed wonder keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, trying to piece together the puzzle that is Flight 828.

The tale unfolds with the simple premise: Montego Air Flight 828, flying smoothly from Jamaica to New York, hits a spot of turbulence. But when it lands, the passengers and crew discover that while only a few hours have passed for them, five years have elapsed on the ground. As they grapple with this temporal anomaly, they also begin to experience mysterious ‘callings’ – visions and voices that guide them toward actions with unforeseen consequences. The disconcerting confluence of science-fiction, thriller, and family drama elements paves the way for an unending series of ‘what’s going to happen next?’ moments.

As thrilling as the premise is, the true allure of “Manifest” lies in its characterization. The ensemble cast, featuring Josh Dallas (Ben Stone), Melissa Roxburgh (Michaela Stone), and Parveen Kaur (Saanvi Bahl), delivers stellar performances. They inhabit their characters with depth and authenticity, navigating the psychological fallout of their unexpected time jump with compelling sensitivity. Their desperate attempts to reclaim their old lives, cope with the changes in their loved ones, and understand their newfound abilities, instill a humaneness to the sci-fi premise.

Each episode peels back another layer of the onion, slowly revealing more about the strange circumstances surrounding Flight 828. It’s a clever narrative strategy that keeps the show consistently engaging. The various story arcs weave together smoothly, creating a complex tapestry of mystery that continually evolves. There’s no hitting the snooze button here – blink, and you might miss a clue.

“Manifest” does an excellent job of blurring the line between the supernatural and the scientific. Its approach to the bizarre phenomena experienced by the Flight 828 passengers is well-balanced, never favoring one explanation over another. The writers employ the ambiguity to great effect, creating a sense of unease and excitement in equal measure. This thoughtful balance of realism and otherworldliness enables “Manifest” to skirt the pitfall of becoming overly fantastical or too caught up in its scientific explanations.

But it’s not just all cryptic conversations and prophetic visions. “Manifest” also shines in its exploration of more grounded themes. The emotional journeys of the characters are portrayed with equal importance to the overarching mystery. Issues of grief, guilt, love, and betrayal are tackled alongside the investigation into the cause of the time jump. This fusion of human drama and high-concept mystery is another factor that sets “Manifest” apart from the glut of generic thrillers on the screen.

In terms of suspense and tension, “Manifest” is a masterclass in their generation and maintenance. It leaves viewers teetering on a tightrope of tension from the opening sequence of the pilot right up to the latest episode. Rake and his team understand the value of pacing in a thriller, allowing tension to build slowly before releasing it in quick, sharp shocks. Every revelation, every twist is meticulously timed to maximize impact. If suspense were an art, “Manifest” would be a masterpiece.

The show’s aesthetic merits praise as well. The cinematography is both intimate and panoramic, capturing the characters’ emotional turbulence alongside the grandeur and menace of their extraordinary circumstances. The lighting, the camera angles, the art direction – each element works in harmony to create a visual ambiance that mirrors the narrative’s uneasy atmosphere.

Yet, despite its intense suspense and intricate plot, “Manifest” never loses sight of its ultimate focus: the characters. These are real, flawed individuals grappling with a situation far beyond their understanding. Their struggles, their hopes, their failures are what drive the show and keep viewers invested. In this age of special-effects-heavy dramas, “Manifest” is a refreshing testament to the enduring power of character-driven storytelling.

By seamlessly blending elements of mystery, sci-fi, and family drama, “Manifest” has crafted a unique niche for itself in the television landscape. It is, at its heart, a gripping narrative of human resilience and adaptability in the face of the unimaginable. It’s a series that challenges viewers to question, to hypothesize, to engage. And in an age of passive viewing, this kind of active engagement is indeed a rarity.

In conclusion, “Manifest” is a thrilling journey into the unknown, a high-flying mystery that keeps its audience captivated from take-off to landing. With its intriguing premise, layered characters, and the persistent tension, it’s more than just a TV show – it’s a weekly adrenaline shot, a riddle wrapped in an enigma, sent flying through the Bermuda Triangle, leaving a trail of enthralled viewers in its wake. And if you’re a fan of mysteries, cliffhangers, and emotional dramas, “Manifest” is a flight you won’t want to miss.


More TV Thrillers