Published On: Tue, Nov 15th, 2022

Netflix’s Most Absurd Sci-Fi Show Is Back With a Hugely Popular New Season

Josh Dallas has a big beard and cap as Ben Stone in 'Manifest'

Long ago, I wrote about the head-scratching popularity of Manifest, an objectively not-great television show that is nonetheless compulsively watchable. Much to my chagrin, I still can’t quit Manifest, and the show itself is proving all too resilient. Like the cursed passengers at the heart of the supernatural plane drama, Manifest has been on a strange journey. The series ran on NBC for three seasons before cancelation, only to be resurrected by Netflix after those seasons grabbed huge viewing numbers on the streaming network. Netflix brought Manifest back for a final, two-part season, betting that audiences would continue to watch, and they appear to have won their wager. After a November 4th, 2022 bow, the first ten episodes of season 4 quickly shot to the coveted #1 most-watched spot on Netflix, with more than 57.1 million hours viewed.   

I cannot in good conscience tell you to watch Manifest from the perspective of a media critic. On paper, the premise intrigues: what happened to the passengers on a plane that mysteriously disappeared for five years and then reappeared, its passengers unaged? Why are said passengers afflicted with weird visions when they finally make it back home? The production as a whole, however, leaves much to be desired. The same problems I noted about previous seasons—including wooden dialogue, baffling religiosity, laugh-out-loud plotting, and two-dimensional characters with two-dimensional motivations—are as present in the Netflix Manifest as they were in the NBC Manifest. Yet this new Manifest has managed to maintain its strangely compelling hold on the viewer, at least most of the time. The show excels at episodic cliffhangers and sudden twists, leaving you in a state of piqued interest behind your otherwise glassy eyes. You could use the remote and search for something else to watch, or you could just let Manifest keep playing. It’s the path of least resistance, and that’s alluring as a mystical Omega Sapphire that gives you godlike superpowers. Not everything has to be prestige TV.

The Mary Sue

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