Manifest: CBS’s New Drama

Sylvie Culang

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

I’m sure many of us-maybe on our first plane flights- have scared ourselves with the thought of a possible tragedy. Our fears may have been increased by the many disappearances and crashes that have happened in recent years. Flight MH370 of Malaysian Airlines is among the most notable. The plane, along with its 293 passengers, disappeared without a trace on March 8, 2014. This tragedy was the inspiration for CBS’s new drama Manifest. The story picks up with the main character, Micheala, and her family splitting up to take different returning flights to New York City. While Michaela’s parents, sister in law, and niece return home safely, Michaela, her brother, and nephew arrive in New York five years later with no signs of aging, and no understanding of how their few hour flight turned into five years. It would be as if the Malaysian flight passengers returned now, with no memory of being lost.The survivors are thrown into a world that has grown without them, into lives they can barely recognize as their own. Though the acting at the beginning of the episode was similar to that of a Hallmark Christmas movie, one can’t help but shed a tear when Michaela returns home to find that her mother had passed and her fiancé married. Though the acting is sub par, the plot and concept is what shines in this new drama. The writers chose to explore a sci-fi path, giving the flight survivors what seem to be blooming superpowers. Michaela begins to hear voices that help her save a little boy from being hit by a truck and two girls who were kidnapped. But not only Michaela is hearing voices. The episode closes on all the survivors following the voices in their heads to an airport runway, where they watch the plane they returned on explode (how curious). Though Michaela’s narrating disturbed the flow of the episode (an interesting artistic choice), Manifest was successful in building curiosity and concern for the developing characters. The audience can’t help but feel for Michaela and her family. The show has received mixed reviews, but boasts an 83% “audience score” on Rotten Tomatoes. All in all, Manifest introduces an interesting ‘what if’, but the mediocre acting and choppy flow might be preventing the big ratings. My opinion: The first episode of Manifest is worth the 50 minutes, but don’t expect Stranger Things quality. I’ll hold further judgement until episode two.