When the 2018-2019 television season first started back in September, NBC's Manifest quickly became one of the biggest hit series, and certainly one of the most talked about ones. The series follows a group of individuals who vanished on a flight five and a half years ago (to the rest of the world), while to them, it was merely a few minutes of turbulence. The parallels with Lost and other similar high concept genre fiction series were immediately drawn, but at least in the first half of the season, the series was able to stand on its own and prove that it had more to say.
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In the back half of the short, sixteen episode first season, Manifest began to lose its way, treading water and introducing far too many new elements when it needed to be tackling the problems and mysteries it had already established. While no official decision has been made by NBC regarding a potential second season, there are plenty of things we already have in mind as to what needs improving, and what needs cutting altogether.
10 Less Melodrama
The basic premise at the heart of Manifest is one that is rife for mining real, earnest drama from. But with that said, there's a fine line between emotion heavy drama plots and the over the top melodrama that the series unfortunately tends to favor. Whether it's the love triangle between returned passenger Michaela, soulmate Jared, and her former best friend Lourdes; or the love triangle between returned passenger Ben, his wife Grace, and her spurned lover Danny; or the love triangle between...
You're starting to get the point, right? There's only so much melodrama that genre series viewers can handle, and for a series that has only been on for one season, enough is enough. The ratio of melodrama to storylines that actually moved the series' central mystery along is, frankly, aggravating. Season 2 could benefit from easing up on the soapiness.
9 Ben And Olive Repair Their Relationship
Based on the flashbacks the show has given us of the passengers' life prior to the disruption of Flight 828, it's clear that young Olive Stone was totally a daddy's girl. All of the interaction between the father and daughter duo in the present, however, has been rightfully fraught, given the fact that Olive lived five and a half years of milestones and life changes without her father, Ben, around.
There's also the fact of the matter that the show has, on multiple occasions, shown present day Olive as thinking of her mother's ex-boyfriend, Danny, as her new father, and often flagrantly showing this belief in Ben's face. Their relationship is too important to the series for Manifest to continue struggling to find a way to let these two make amends. Even if the past is gone, Ben and Olive have an entire future to build together.
8 The Show Figures Out How To Properly Utilize Saanvi
In early episodes of season one, the brilliant doctor and Flight 828 passenger Dr. Saanvi Bahl seemed like she was being set up to be just as important as the Stone family. While her connection to Ben and Michaela has strengthened with time, and she's developed a bond with youngest Stone family member, Cal, there were entire stretches of the season in which Saanvi was nowhere to be found.
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Further compounding the issue is that, even after an entire season, we still hardly know anything about her, besides that she's great at her job, invented a potential game-changing treatment, and had a significant other who failed to show up for the flight. Parveen Kaur is too strong an asset to the series for Saanvi's potential to continue being squandered in any potential second season.
7 Grace And Danny Move On, Preferably Together
While Manifest has done a really good job portraying the struggles of the returned Flight 828 passengers in a sympathetic light, it has arguably almost entirely bungled the depiction of the characters who were left behind. Perhaps two of the worst offenders - if angry live tweets are anything to go by, at least - are Grace Stone and her (maybe?) ex-boyfriend, Danny.
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We can't blame Grace for moving on, with how much time passed for her during Flight 828's disappearance. The show doesn't seem to blame her, either. But what the show does fail to do is make Grace seem remotely sympathetic to Ben's or Cal's struggles to readjust to a world that carried on without them, especially as she continues her secret communications with Danny. With the finale reveal that Grace is pregnant, the show would be wise to make the baby Danny's, and allow these two insufferable characters to move on together.
6 Jared and Michaela get a real chance
Speaking of the series' main couples, longtime loves Jared Vazquez and Michaela Stone deserve to have a proper shake at things in the series' possible second season. While Jared, who had proposed to Michaela prior to the fateful flight, would go on to marry Michaela's former best friend, Lourdes, in the time that came between, from the moment Michaela returned, it was clear that these two were always going to wind up together again.
The show may not have handled their reconnection in the best of ways, particularly given all the lies and secrecy that came with it in the second half of the season. But with Lourdes potentially out of the picture now, and Michaela and Jared able to be open and honest with each other at last, it's about time these former love birds get to give it another go. Jared said it himself: Michaela's his soulmate, after all.
5 Fewer new characters unrelated to 828
One of the biggest mistakes the series has made so far came in its last batch of episodes. Before answering any questions the audience and the characters themselves have had about the exact nature of the disappearance and its time traveling reality, Manifest instead decided to introduce a few characters who had experienced similar, albeit much shorter disappearances totally unrelated to Flight 828.
It's an interesting concept, in theory, to explore these sort of time-space continuum disappearances and callings in all their forms. And maybe, down the line, it's something the series can come back to. But as things stand right now, Manifest hasn't earned the ability, storytelling wise, to be able to do this. There are other, more pressing questions to answer, before we can be expected to care about other characters who come out of the woodwork.
4 More Flashbacks To Life Before 828
As we previously discussed, Manifest has a real problem of relying on melodrama over drama, when the series' central storyline of missing people returning after five and a half years already has so much genuinely emotional material it could be mining from. A way in which season two could improve upon the failings of the first season is by increasing the number of flashbacks to life before 828, in lieu of continuing to tell such over the top stories in the present timeline.
Whether showing more glimpses of Ben and Olive's relationship in the past, or Michaela's relationship with her mother, or Jared and Michaela as a couple, there's plenty of emotion that can be drawn from showing the contrast of the past and present.
3 Ben And Saanvi's Chemistry Is Put To Good Use
Another clear fan favorite from the first season has been the friendship that's developed between all around good guy dad and investigator Ben Stone and medical genius Dr. Saanvi Bahl. The duo has been dubbed Benvi on Twitter and other social media sites, with the cast and powers that be behind the series even getting into using the name and indulging fans who find themselves 'shipping the duo.
While Ben's current fractured relationship with his wife, Grace, prevents anything from happening between the Benvi dynamic any time soon, season two would be sorely lacking if they didn't work on developing their friendship even further than the series already has. And if a romance is in the future, down the line, then all the better.
2 Cal's Special Powers Are Explained
Season one has explored the notion of callings - the special power that certain members of Flight 828, and beyond, have become privy to as a result of their disappearances. But while characters like Michaela, Ben, Saanvi, and Zeke may have these callings, it's clear that Cal Stone, the youngest character in the entire series, has a special level of superhuman abilities that none of the other characters do.
Cal's callings extend far beyond voices and flashes of images and sensory experiences. Things that he draw come true in the future, and he finds himself physically experiencing pain and frostbite and other impossible things for him to experience given his circumstances at the time. So what is it that makes Cal so special? We don't know. But hopefully, season two will let us know.
1 Actual Answers As To What Really Happened
But it's not just the true nature of Cal's powers that we need some answers about. Manifest season two, if it happens, needs to start providing some real answers about exactly what happened - and soon. Whether that means shedding more light on who the mysterious character of The Major really is, delving more fully into the spiritual elements the series has danced around, or getting to know more of the passengers on the flight that the series has so far ignored...
Well, we're not too picky. Lost took a long, long time unspooling its many answers - to the point that we're still not entirely sure what really happened in certain parts of that series. As of right now, Manifest has a very different, but hopefully less complex mythology. Providing real, definitive answers this early on could prevent Manifest from repeating many of Lost's mistakes.