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Recap: 'Manifest' Is the Most Insipid Drama on TV

By Dustin Rowles | TV | October 23, 2018 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | October 23, 2018 |


Manifest is like a stock photo come to life, and not the creepy kind of stock photo that might come to life on a season of Channel Zero. It’s like the white family in the picture frame at Wal-Mart got their own network television show, and they even got stock photo names. Ben. Grace. Danny. Jared. I have never watched a series with so little personality. All the characters seem to be going through the motions of what they think a Lost-like mystery should look like. It’s painfully cookie cutter. The actors are bland cutouts delivering grim platitudes, moving through their arcs as though pushed by inertia. In a flashback to Flight 828 this week, Cal — the son — looks out the window and says, “It’s all connected.” It’s a whispering refrain that plays in his father Ben’s head repeatedly in the present. “It’s all connected.” “It’s all connected.” “It’s all connected.”

That’s the best this show can come up with? “It’s all connected”? Why isn’t there even a vague attempt to layer the mystery? Or an attempt to drag us along while posing more questions? They’re just going to spell it out for us, huh? “It’s all connected.” It’s as though the creators were trying to turn Lost into an episodic drama, because what if someone misses an episode! We don’t want them to get lost. They pose a question and then answer it by the end of each episode, but the entire show almost seems disconnected from its premise. Like, hey! It’s only been 10 days. Does someone want to maybe stop for a minute and acknowledge this miracle of physics or time? An entire plane disappeared, the passengers were left for dead, and five years later, it landed, as though nothing had happened and no time had passed. Nobody takes a minute to process this before concerning themselves with the more mundane details of everyday life. Ben’s been back for 10 days, and Olive is already shoplifting, distraught that her real Dad’s return might affect her relationship with Danny, the boyfriend of Grace, her mom, and Danny is also behaving as though he’s entitled to a relationship with Olive now that Grace’s husband is back.


Maybe take a beat, Danny, and instead of texting Grace every 5 minutes and showing up at her house, stand back and acknowledge that Grace might need a quick sec to come to terms with the fact that her husband is not only not dead, but that he hasn’t aged in five years, and that her son is not dead, either, and he’s still 11 years old while his twin sister is 16. Like, why isn’t everyone’s head exploding every five minutes? Not one character has said, “Oh my God! What is happening?”

Hey, but you know: It’s all connected.

Anyway, this episode takes us back and fills in a few of the gaps while the flight was missing for five years. Grace grieved. And then two years later, she found a new man, Danny. And her daughter Olive didn’t take to him immediately, but then she did take to him because he pretended to like Grace’s meatloaf, because even the food in this show is generic.

Meanwhile, while Michaela was on the plane, her best friend Lourdes and her fiance Jared grieved over her death together, until eventually, they hooked up and got married with the blessing of Michaela’s now dead mom. And Michaela’s mom even made them a quilt, and y’all, that’s just a lot for Michaela to handle right now. She just found out she was eligible to upgrade her iPhone 5 to an iPhone 8, and now she’s gotta deal with the quilt her mother made for her best friend who married her fiance? God, nobody tell her who is President.

(Also, seriously. Why hasn’t anyone on that plane asked how the hell Donald Trump became the President of the United States while they were away? Why isn’t Ben or Michaela demanding to know, “How did you let that happen? Where was Jon Stewart during all of this?” And why is coverage of Flight 828 on the news every time the television is turned on? Trump would never let that happen! He’d be blaming the flight’s disappearance on the Democrats and screaming about how we should vote for Republicans or more people will disappear in flights for 5 years.)

Lord knows Lourdes has her own issues to deal with right now, too. Her husband, Jared, is covering for Michaela at work, and she had to find out from Michaela! Her? The woman who went missing for five years, and in less than a week, returned to her old job as a detective and is now listening to voices inside her head say insipid things like, “It’s all connected.” What does it all mean? Is her husband going to leave her for his old girlfriend now? It ain’t right! You snooze (on a plane that went missing for five years), you lose.

What was the point of this episode, anyway? Oh yeah, Cal ran away from his Dad and crawled through a bunch of subway grates until he found the Jamaican stowaway from last week, which was completely unnecessary because the wife of the passenger who was arrested found the Jamaican stowaway anyway, and took him to safety, and really, the only contribution that Ben made to that entire storyline was the money he had in his wallet. I swear to God, this show is like a maze in the shape of a square that we walk through each week and find ourselves right back in the beginning. “It’s all connected.” Yeah. No shit, bro. We just walked through it, took three lefts, and we’re right back where we started.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: ABC