NBC has a new show called Manifest i.e., a small play on words for both a passenger manifest on a plane and a supernatural phenomenon manifesting itself in the real world. In the opening episode, you have a plane from Montego Bay to JFK that takes off normally, hits some pretty rough turbulence in the air, recovers, and tries to land at JFK. But the air traffic controllers re-route it to a small airport outside the city instead. Why? Because the plane has been missing for over five years, with everyone assumed to be missing and presumed dead.
It is a pretty great premise, not the least of which is that unlike Lost being out in the deserted wilderness, everyone is back to their regular lives in NYC. Except their old lives don’t exist anymore for some. For others, it’ll be a bit, well, different.
I also love the main character. A police officer dealing with guilt from the death of someone in a car crash (she was driving, the other person died), had a boyfriend / near fiancé when she left for the trip, and five years later, he’s married to her old best friend. Melissa Roxburgh plays Michaela, and I have seen Roxburgh over the years in a few guest star roles (Arrow, The Tomorrow People, DC Legends of Tomorrow, Travelers) and last year’s Valor. I knew she looked familiar, but had trouble placing her. But what I love about her character i.e., police officer, is that the writers have a natural hook for her to investigate, well, things. And while a lot of shows struggle in pilots for actors to find their character, she inhabits the role perfectly.
Equally, her brother, Ben, is played by Josh Dallas just coming off of 7 years as Prince Charming on Once Upon A Time. He can rock the odd side of scripts and just go with it, and he seems to have no trouble adjusting to his new character. Not even when Michaela and him start hearing their own voice in their head telling them to go to a specific building in NYC and “set them free”. They think the voice means the dogs guarding the building site; spoiler alert, it means set two little girls free who were abducted and are being kept in the building. Michaela frees them, they realize these voices are not simple hallucinations, and this sh** is starting to get real.
There are other stories going on too, mostly to do with Ben and Michaela’s extended family. Ben’s son has leukemia, and was given just six months to live before the flight. Now, there’s a new protocol available to treat it that looks pretty promising, and it is based on research from a doctor that was on the flight too. Ben’s daughter is now five years older, Ben’s wife has some sort of secret person texting her (I’m betting it’s a woman lover, not a man), and the son is connected to all of it.
And then at the end of the episode, they realize they’re not the only two people on the plane who were affected.
When I read the description, I thought it sounded too much like Lost, not to mention too many links to shows like The Returned. Lost went long, others usually don’t. It is so hard to get enough weird to hook people and keep them coming back but not so much weird that they can’t suspend their disbelief or they give up completely. So I predicted CANCELLED, sight unseen.
Now that I have watched the pilot, I’m going to upgrade it to RENEWED, primarily based on Michaela and Ben’s characters. It’s a nice hook. I’m not entirely convinced it will catch fire, but I’m watching whether it does or not.