Review of Manifest

Manifest (2018–2021)
Season 1; Just about worth persisting with...
11 August 2019
Yes - the comparison with Lost and The Leftovers does hold true. For me, there is also a whiff of X Files and more than a dash of any conspiracy theory piece you'd care to think of, e.g. Spielberg's mini-series Taken.

However, Manifest doesn't hold a candle to any of these. The Leftovers and Taken are genuinely outstanding. Manifest, sadly, is not.

The problem with Manifest is not the story. The story is good enough and intriguing enough to hold our interest. The problem, or rather, problems, are to do with the dire script, somewhat hammy acting, the front-of face camera angles, and, worst of all, the mommas' American apple pie family situations. These are cringeworthy.

Here are perfect-looking people, in what looks like a perfect too good to be true American family (complete with wholesome American family values and dialogue, yawn...). But, hey surprise - something weird happened to them on a flight back from Jamaica, and now their 'values' are of absolutely no use to them whatsoever. Indeed - the family doesn't and can't cope with what happens. The family is irrevocably split and it's unrecoverable. Unfortunately, we are treated to 16 episodes of watching this 'perfect' family thrashing about with awful dialogue and dire breathy acting. There are many times when you just want to turn it off and just give up!

There is too much schmaltz, and too much garbage. It's too soapy.

This is a real pity, because the background story could support something much better. The Leftovers is so wondrously excellent (10 out of 10) because the viewer is given a chance to really identify with and understand the inner turmoil of each character in a changed world. The characters in Manifest are in a changed world too - but you wouldn't know. In The Leftovers, like the characters in it - we the audience learn and adapt to new moral realities. It's a journey of exploration of a kind we'd never thought we'd have to make, which tests us and causes us to reflect deeply on the human condition. It's brilliant!

Manifest could go to these higher reaches, but it doesn't. It's strangled by its own formula and can't grow. The characters are one-dimensional, there is no character development, and actually, these characters are really not that interesting. Bearing in mind their incredible experience - you'd think they would be interesting, but the script writers have wrung it out of them. I could write better scripts! It's also rather predictable. We can figure out and see for ourselves who or what some characters are and how the plot is going to go. This is an additional irritation to add to an already long list.

Manifest is at its best when we the viewers are allowed to use our imagination to ponder just what the hell is going on - what is behind all this inexplicable stuff? Occasionally we get enough to keep us interested - like the story of the pilot who steals an aircraft, or the appearance of the Wolf. But it's only just enough.

So, I suppose I'm invested now and when Season 2 comes out I'll be watching. But let's hope they read some of my comments and the comments of others here and start taking the opportunities on offer. If they don't, Manifest Season 2 could be somewhat short...
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