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TV Series Review

Most travelers are all too familiar with airline delays and interminable layovers. But … five years?

Seems excessive, but that's what happened to the passengers on flight MA 828.

Hey, don't blame Montego Airlines for the kerfuffle. It wasn't the company's fault (as far as we know). The plane took off on time, after all. And when the flight never showed up in New York, everyone had to assume that it had crashed somewhere out to sea. Sad, yes. Tragic, yes. But it sometimes happens.

Then, five-and-a-half years later, the plane, filled with nearly 200 souls and their outdated smartphones, lands as if nothing happened. Sure, they experienced a little turbulence on the way, but what would a long flight be without a little spilled coffee and a startled scream or two, right?

So, like a bevy of jet-lagged Rip Van Winkles, they return to a land much changed from the one they'd left. Children have grown. Spouses have moved on. Loved ones have passed away. Jobs have been filled and apartments sold.

And that's not the only inconvenience our passengers are dealing with.

Final Boarding Call

Manifest takes a particular interest in the Stone family. Because their original flight was overbooked back in 2013, some family members went on home as scheduled, while others took the next flight out and landed half a decade later.

Young Cal Stone, a little kid suffering from seemingly terminal leukemia, returns to find a promising new treatment (yay!) and a "twin" sister (Olive) who's now in high school (yay?). Cal's dad, Ben, must somehow make up for five lost years with Olive and his wife, Grace. And while Grace is incredibly grateful that her husband and son have returned to her safe and sound, she had moved on to some extent, as well. Now she must choose, or balance, between the life she had and the life she's built since—and that won't be easy.

Then there's Michaela, an NYC police officer who made a grave mistake shortly before their family outing. While that mistake is ancient history for everyone else, it's still raw and painful for her. (And the fact that her fiancée is now married to her best friend doesn't exactly help her angst, either.)

These and other characters find that they're not only forced to rebuild lives and reconnect with people, but that they must also heed mysterious voices urging them to do things—things that often feel utterly ludicrous in the moment.

But it's more than that: They also discover that they're all connected in some mysterious way—a connection that goes beyond just sharing the same ill-fated flight.

It's almost as if they were all meant to be on that plane, even if some nefarious forces seem to mean them ill.

Carry-On Fees

Manifest (as my colleague Adam Holz suggested in a blog) is something of a mash-up between Lost and This Is Us: Passengers have an inexplicable experience aboard a seemingly ill-fated plane, but instead of chasing down smoke monsters and opening mysterious hatches, they're finding human connection and meaning.

On top of that, Manifest tackles one of the most ticklish topics of all: The place of faith and finding meaning in what can sometimes feel like a meaningless world.

The setup—the very name of the show, really—seems predicated on that sense of meaning, on the idea that the threads of our lives form some sort of cosmic tapestry, one inherently woven by a Creator. The lives of these characters have meaning, and that meaning gradually becomes manifest. And we, as viewers, can extrapolate that idea to our lives, too: We touch the lives of others in mysterious-but-profound ways.

Moreover, the show just feels … nice? Not only does it tug on the heartstrings and lift one's faith—in mankind, if nothing else—it doesn't shock its viewers with lots of violent content. At least not in the show's early going.

But it is early yet: Manifest may take some unexpected turns in both plot and content, and romance will certainly play a role. (In fact, one episode shows a couple stripping off their clothes in preparation to hop into bed together.) And while NBC doesn't seem inclined to stuff a lot of violence into the works, we know that Michaela's not exactly in the safest of jobs. Language can be a bit rough at times, too.

Still, Manifest mostly offers a much-needed respite from television's continual turns toward the tawdry and traumatic, and that in itself is manifestly good.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

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Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Jan. 21, 2019: "Vanishing Point"
Nov. 26, 2018: "Dead Reckoning"
Sept. 24, 2018: "Pilot"



Readability Age Range



Melissa Roxburgh as Michaela Stone; Josh Dallas as Ben Stone; Athena Karkanis as Grace Stone; J.R. Ramirez as Jared Vasquez; Luna Blaise as Olive Stone; Jack Messina as Cal Stone; Parveen Kaur as Saanvi; Daryl Edwards as NSA Director Vance; Victoria Cartagena as Lourdes; Francesca Faridany as Fiona Clarke; Shirley Rumierk as Autumn; Elizabeth Marvel as The Major






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On Video

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