Barack Obama was just beginning his second term. Same-sex marriage was still in the process of being legalized on a state-by-state basis. “Blurred Lines” was the song of the year, played on the cutting-edge iPhone 5C. The world was a different place in 2013 when Flight 828 took off. When the plane lands, after what seems to the passengers on board to be a three-hour flight, it’s five years later: November of 2018.
This is the plot of NBC’s hit new show “Manifest.” Following several members of a family who agree to board a later flight home from vacation, only to land and discover that they’ve all been presumed dead for years, the show chronicles the events following their landing.
On board Flight 828 was Michaela Stone, a young woman deciding whether or not to accept her boyfriend’s marriage proposal; Ben Stone, her brother, whose wife and daughter stayed on the original flight; Cal Stone, Ben’s son and a severe pediatric cancer patient; and others, including the pilot, copilot and flight attendant.
The passengers on board notice nothing strange about the flight, save for several seconds of severe turbulence. Upon landing, however, the passengers are greeted by ambulances and police cars, and are told that their flight was missing for five years, regardless of the fact that no one on the flight aged a day, confirmed by medical testing.
While a supernatural aspect is introduced, and the characters start noticing that they possess new abilities, the true fear in this new drama is in the day-to-day social interactions. Each character aboard Flight 828 is faced with every way the world has changed in the previous five years, thrown at them in one day.
On the surface, this includes politics, music, social change, technological advancements, etc. However, each character must then face loved ones whose lives and priorities have changed dramatically. Whether it’s a fiancée that’s moved on, a young daughter who is now a teenager, or a parent who has passed away, “Manifest” explores the nature of grief, the passage of time, and how far each character will go to reclaim the life he or she lost.
It’s this duality that makes the show so watchable and so fascinating: sympathy for the characters forced to grieve the losses of their loved ones for five years, and also sympathy for the characters who never experienced those five years at all, coping with the entirely foreign new world of 2018.
“Manifest” airs on NBC at 10/9c on Mondays, after The Voice.