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‘Manifest’s Series Finale Crashes and Burns With Its Ending

Manifest, It was so close to finishing with a standing ovation.

Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for the series finale of Manifest.

Manifest has finally come to a close after its initial cancelation at NBC and subsequent rescue by Netflix in 2021. The show was granted a final super-sized 20-episode final season, split up into two parts. The second part, which recently dropped on the streamer, was incredibly strong from the eleventh episode of the season until the last 20 minutes of the series finale. Then, Manifest flopped. But what exactly happened?

What Happens in the ‘Manifest’ Series Finale?

The finale starts strong and as wild as ever, with the passengers meeting at the fissure site to face their death date. Convenient reasons drive the non-passengers, Olive (Luna Blaise), Jared (JR Ramirez), and Drea (Ellen Tamaki), away and back to town, where their realities are about to be erased from existence. At the fissure, Cal (Ty Doran) seems to sacrifice himself to give the others a fighting chance, something only he can do since he is imbued with sapphire. This is materialized as the 828 plane, which the passengers board. Angelina (Holly Taylor) almost doesn’t make it, but Ben (Josh Dallas), in a moment of forgiveness, rescues her and takes her onboard the flight. As they take off, the volcano that had breached the land explodes, and they survive because of Cal’s contribution to the lifeboat. The flight is where the passengers face judgment with 11 passengers not passing, including Angelina, bursting into ash as a consequence of how they lived their lives. Spotting the glow amidst all of this, Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) pilots the plane into the glow.

This is where they went wrong. Once they reach the glow, the passengers walk through it, and on the other side is the airport on April 7, 2013, the day they originally disappeared. While they retain their memories from the events that encompassed the show, nobody else does, including Jared, young Cal and Olive, Vance (Daryl Edwards), and Zeke (Matt Long). This isn’t so bad for the Stones, who all get to reunite with their other halves: Ben and Grace (Athena Karkani), Michaela and Zeke, and the twins Olive and Cal, but what about everybody else?

The ‘Manifest’ Finale Relies On a Tired Trope

This ending is just “it was all a dream,” but a shared one. At first, this ending seems like it works for the show, but that’s only if you don’t think about it too hard. Other shows have tried this before, and for the most part, it doesn’t work — Life on MarsRoseanne, and Lost, to name a few. This functionally negates so much of the growth and resolution that the characters made in their personal lives by following the callings and takes away the full journey of the characters who don’t remember the disappearance of Flight 828. The imbalance between these two groups of characters is palpable.

A lot of the allure of Manifest is the relationships and found family that the characters build trying to prevent their deaths and the end of the world. But by the end, the only relationships that remain are those within the group of passengers, but what happened to those who love and helped them are now gone. And while the passengers may look on them with love, their allies will never know what they went through and what they all overcame together. It all is a one-sided memory. The idea that one day all we will be is memories are something worth pursuing, but that isn’t exactly what is happening here. The show’s motto was “It’s all connected,” but by the end, that connection is superficial at best.

There’s also something to say about Manifest‘s decision to show happiness when the character’s trauma is essentially erased. A much more interesting story to tell is the characters finding joy despite their trauma, and maybe even because of it. Olive is one of the characters that this finale does dirty the most. After her character wasn’t always treated the best, a bright spot in her development was her relationship with TJ (Garrett Wareing), whom she met in Season 2. The two ended up sharing a passion for mythology and often worked together to help decrypt the clues about what happened to them and the Callings. Every time he returned to the show, the two resumed their relationship, up until the finale.

Many Core Relationships Are Lost in ‘Manifest’s Finale

Once they go through the glow, Olive is a child again and TJ retains the memories of her, but obviously things won’t happen like they did the first time. In fact, he instantly is shown interacting with another passenger, Violet, who teenage Cal previously dated. It’s weird. Olive was surprisingly one of the most interesting characters of Manifest, but since our experiences typically make who we are, the Olive we grew to know and love is gone, as is Cal. It’s great that they get a second chance, but as an invested viewer, the fate of that Olive is what I wanted to see. The heartbreak of losing her outweighs the happiness her new clean fate is supposed to bring.

Similarly, many core relationships are lost, and among them are many important friendships. Ben and Vance, Michaela and Drea. While the Stones and others still may be enriched by their experiences, and try to resume these relationships, just their knowledge could lead to something completely different. Or in the case of Lourdes, Michaela’s friend who had married Jared in the 828 disappearance, how could that friendship move forward when she didn’t even commit the “crime,” yet Michaela knows of it? And Saanvi (Parveen Kaur) may have reunited happily with Alex, but her lover still has a family, so her future is almost as complicated as before.

While Manifest may have come to a close in a prophetic and fateful way, that doesn’t necessarily take away the struggles these characters deal with, nor does it alleviate all of their problems. In fact, it takes away from some of the characters audiences came to love. The finale even takes away complete versions of these characters and the dynamics built over the course of the series. The ending to this tale fits well when it comes to the mythical lore of the show, which still was not explained, but didn’t serve all of its characters and the places they found themselves in by the end of the series, using the vagueness of the same mythology to create an ending unfitting of what fans loved about the show. For a show orbiting around an event that created a massive found family, it feels like much more was lost in the end.

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