NBC debuted its science fiction mystery Manifest last night with voices from the past and a whole lot of the number 828.
The slick thriller from executive producers Jeff Rake, Jack Rapke and Robert Zemeckis gave us tons to get obsessed about and a literal plane’s worth of people to wonder about as it slowly unraveled its secrets. The parallels to Lost are plenty, but there are just as many differences to set it apart moving forward. The real question last night was how would your life look five and a half years in the future with you removed from it? The devastation you would feel watching everyone move on without you must be soul-crushing. That’s an intriguing thought all on its own but throw in a past or a future self, inceptioning your current self to save the lives of the ones you love, and now you may have a hit. If you can make sense of it. Still with us?
Lost always succeeded because of its characters. At the end of the day smoke monsters, bunkers and Faraday Cages mattered less than Charlie’s drowning and Michael’s redemptive arch as a father. Manifest does the same thing in remarkable fashion in the first hour. Focusing on just four characters instead of the whole plane allowed for an in-depth look at the devastation absence has on the lives of siblings Michaela and Ben Stone, played by Melissa Roxburgh and Josh Dallas respectfully. Ben’s cancer-ridden son Cal(Jack Messina) and pharmaceutical genius Saanvi(Parveen Kaur) help provide this emotional foundation. It also made me so much more curious about the remainder of the passengers than I would have been if perfunctory glimpses of their problems and stories had been introduced. Even with the exclusion of most of the planes backstory, I was still left with more than a few strings to pull. It is a classic example of how a show can embrace smaller stories to engage the audience.
Speaking of the planes backstory we have some questions. Namely, where did the plane go? All the voices in Michaela’s head coupled with Ben also hearing “something” now leads me to believe some kind of rip in the space/time continuum occurred(yes I’m going there already) and the voices are just Ben and Michaela’s other selves telling them how to right wrongs in their own timeline. Someone shut up Neil deGrasse Tyson, I am sure I am going to butcher the science but there seems to be a pretty serious multiple universe vibe happening and I think it’s more than a little likely that our plane traveled in and out of another dimension bringing back the ability to communicate with other times and places. Albeit that ability right now seems to be solely focused on strange voices and really bad headaches.
Speaking of those clairvoyant powers. Does everyone hear their own voice or does the voice of the others sound like say Fran Drescher and Owen Wilson? If the others hear something other than their own voices what the heck does that mean? Are they communicating with someone other than another version of themselves like Michaela is? The Stone’s are hearing voices to save little kids from being kidnapped and run over but what are the voices telling everyone else? Are they also being instructed to save lives, or just buy a lottery ticket? We would prefer the latter in a scenario where it happens to us. The plane called everyone together to watch it explode save Cal who was in bed asleep but awoke just as the explosion occurred. Why are they all connected and who blew up the plane? Did it explode because it was out of alignment with its own dimension which does not bode well for our passengers or did a higher power destroy it before it could be investigated?
The powers our passengers have seemed to be limited to when they are close to danger at the moment. So are we soon to have troves of wayward plane passengers roaming the streets looking for someone or something to save? In Saanvi’s case, she saves Cal by allowing time for her research to develop into clinical trials and being the voice of compassion against fellow researcher Joel de le Fuetne who you might remember in the sometimes brilliant Hemlock Grove. Quite honestly when I saw him I knew this show had the potential to be great. He is really good at playing the morally questionable. He already has the semi-evil medical personnel role on lock and has the best condescending smile on television.
The title of the show is a huge clue. The term manifest refers to appearing or being present in a place or time as in a ghostly manifestation. Of course in the most basic sense, it is the list of all passengers and crew aboard a plane. It could also refer to the term Manifest Destiny a phrase coined in 1845 by magazine editor John O’Sullivan to explain a young America’s right to expansion. It was believed God bestowed on America the ability to spread across the countryside. I don’t think our passengers will be taking over the world in a genocidal fashion but, they surely seem to have a specific purpose.
That flight number is very important. The number 828 shows up in various forms throughout the episode as addresses, number of days combined with months and years missing, Cal’s pulse rate, number of girls kidnapped, German Shepherds, and license plates. As important as Lost’s numbers were…or weren’t, Manifest’s numbers are just as important and just as secret right now.
Angel Number 828 in spirituality is about equality, rebirth, new beginnings and fulfilling one’s purpose. Self-reliance and acceptance of one’s goals are central to this theory. With the pain that accompanies the voices, it is apparent that someone or something wants our passenger’s attention. They are being shouted out from the great beyond to do good and the shoutee is not above beating them in the head to get their point across. The concept that the universe seeks balance always, could be a compelling storyline. If Saanvi is an altruistic researcher than Dr. Cordosa is bad.
For all the suffering the Stone’s seem to be experiencing they had equal parts good in the saving of two girls. The passengers might be the embodiment of universal balance. Michaela’s Mom embroidered a pillow with a biblical verse that reiterates exactly that. The King James version Romans 8:28 reads “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” It is widely thought this verse applies to suffering and perseverance. The belief that even in times of great sorrow goodwill prevail if given the chance. It is not a “pie in the sky” view of the world where everything is honky dory, rather a view that if you trust in the higher purpose things will work out.
In addition the number 100 was sprinkled all over posters, price stickers at Walmart and at the hospital. The number 100 signifies divine intervention. When this is combined with 828 it becomes more than a little obvious we are being told fate or kismet is interceding and everyone has a purpose to be completed. Whether Montego Airways Flight 828 has been called for a reason and by who are two of the biggest questions facing this series.
With wheels firmly on the ground but our eyes looking to the sky, Manifest has its fair share of intrigue to keep us hooked. This may be the heartfelt science fiction mystery we have been waiting for since Lost. At the very least I may learn a lot about numerology.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.