Josh Dallas and Melissa Roxburgh star as two siblings whose worlds flip upside down after disappearing for 5 years aboard a plane.
Credit where credit is due, NBC’s "Manifest" premiere dropped enough tantalizing mysteries to keep the show trending high on Twitter all night long as fans tried to wrap their heads around it.
With obvious connections to "Lost" in that it involves a group of passengers who vanish on a plane, "Manifest" instead picks the adventure up after they’ve arrived back home only to discover that five-and-a-half years have passed. For the passengers, it’s as if no time at all has passed.
But that’s only the first weird thing to happen in the hour.
Whereas "Lost" explored the weirdness inherent in the island the passengers landed on, "Manifest" brings that weirdness home with them. It allowed the show to explore both the ramifications of stepping out of your life for five years as well as start laying the groundwork for whatever the bigger picture is.
Luckily, the "while you were gone" elements are intriguing enough that the show could probably carry on those for awhile. "Lost" succeeded in its early going because it focused on its large cast of interesting and likable characters, each with plenty of secrets and baggage they’d brought along with them.
"Manifest" again took a different route, instead focusing on three of the adult passengers, and the child of one. It’s a bold and intimate choice that only made us more and more curious about all those other passengers we only got glimpses and passing moments with. Luckily, the closing moments of the episode teased that we’ll be getting to know those other people a lot better as the series progresses.
So the good news is that as intriguing as that pilot was, there is clearly a ton more story potential to be had. And we also have a ton of questions already. Here’s what kept Twitter up all night chatting about the premiere.
WHERE AND WHY DID THE PLANE GO?
Obviously, that’s the biggest question of the show. Or perhaps it didn’t go anywhere, but just jumped ahead in time, in which case the question becomes why five-and-a-half years? What was it about this group of people that they needed to jump ahead this exact number of days?
In the case of young Cal (Jack Messina), it seems obvious. He needed to jump ahead so he’d be alive in five years when Saanvi’s (Parveen Kaur) medical research had reached the trial stages so it could save her life. And maybe she jumped ahead so she could convince Dr. Cardoso (Joel de la Fuente) to give him a chance.
But why is Cal so important? Many other pediatric cancer patients died in the intervening five years he and Saanvi were missing. And on top of that, it’s clear the rest of the passengers weren’t just collateral damage, as evidenced by the life-saving moment shared by Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) and Ben (Josh Dallas).
WHERE ARE THE VOICES COMING FROM?
The most urgent mystery has to do with voices and visions coming from somewhere. For Michaela, who is our point of entry, it’s her own voice urging her to tell a bus driver to slow down and ultimately "set them free." The latter message leads to the rescue of the two missing girls her former man, Jared (J.R. Ramirez) had been investigating.
But her brother Ben got that message, too, and it had to do with being in proximity to the girls, much like Michaela’s "slower" message was in proximity to the little boy running in front of the bus. Does that mean if they just walk around, they’ll get alerts to save people nearby?
HOW AND WHY ARE THE PASSENGERS CONNECTED?
But it’s more than just voices and proximity by the end of this opening hour, as Michaela had a visual flash of the airplane, and she wasn’t the only one. Most of the passengers (if not all) appeared outside the fences where the FBI was holding the plan while they continued to investigate it. But why where they there?
It would seem they were brought there to witness the plane spontaneously combust and destroy itself, but why? None of them knew each other, and it doesn’t look like they started a support group for Flight 828 right there outside that fence.
And why did Cal (who wasn’t there because he’s a kid) wake up the moment the plane went boom? The passengers are connected to one another, appear to be hearing voices that guide them, and — oh yeah — all of this is cripplingly painful at times. That doesn’t seem to be very convenient for them getting on with their lives.
WHAT BLEW UP THE PLANE?
So how did the plane blow up? Do some of the other passengers have other abilities, or was this some symbolic gesture by whatever force is behind all of this that there are no answers to be found on the plan. Or perhaps there were answers. The next step was to take it apart and investigate it piece by piece, so perhaps the power behind everything didn’t want that to happen.
WHAT DOES 828 MEAN?
One of the more subtle hints throughout the episode — which suddenly became totally not subtle when Michaela made the connection for us — was the recurring usage of the flight’s number, 828. When it was the address where the girls were being held, that was a bit much. Is every life-saving rescue going to have that number?
It was a little more poignant when it was also the Bible verse Michaela’s mother kept quoting to her, and finally embroidered on a pillow, but it might have been nicer to keep it a subtle nod at this point, rather than hit us in the face with it. How long can they keep these numbers recurring? Oh, and yes, it’s totally another nod to "Lost."
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CAR WITH EVIE?
Aside from the bigger questions, we also got some teasers as to the back-stories of the characters. While they didn’t go "Lost" flashback on us, it was evidence that Michaela, at least, has some baggage in her past. In particular, she was found innocent of the death of someone named Evie in her car, but she blames herself.
We can also presume this is why she was still on desk duty at the precinct, though apparently her assist in the rescue of the two kidnapped girls was enough that her captain is going to put her back on a beat. But the death clearly still haunts her, and we’ve no idea how Evie is and why no one else in her life seems to be talking about it.
DAMN DUDE, HER BEST FRIEND?!
We get that five years is a long time, but Michaela wasn’t the only one more than a little upset to find out that her boyfriend/fiance Jared was now engaged to not just someone else, but her best friend! Somehow we don’t think she and Lourdes have chatted since she came back. This poor girl has truly lost everything!
And then old smooth boy — who already thought the cutting of the fence was somehow all about him — had to get all bro on Michaela and tell her, "You still take my breath away." Really, dude? Just stop.
WHO IS GRACE TEXTING?
With Michaela’s life totally falling apart over the course of that plane flight, it was somewhat touching to see that perhaps Ben would get a chance to reclaim his. Unfortunately, it turns out it’s not going to be that easy as Grace (Athena Karkanis) apparently also moved on in his absence.
We finally saw her texting with some mystery man who misses her and needs to talk to her, and when daughter Olive (Luna Blaise) catches wind of it, she asks her, "What are you gonna do?"
With all the connections throughout this episode, we’re totally imagining this due is going to tie into the whole story in some bizarre way. If he doesn’t tie in with anyone we’ve already met, maybe he’ll be the catalyst to expand the cast and bring in other passengers.
The confusion continues every Monday at 10 p.m. ET. on NBC.
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