"Manifesto" is Netflix's flagship hit.
Too bad it's a terrible and careless series
With a lot of mystery and buzz, "Manifesto" became one of Netflix's big hits, after its three seasons were bought by the content giant.
Apart from a big promise, the series does not provide anything, the gameplay is poor and the script is banal and full of clichés.
Ben Byron Braude
Sunday, 23 January 2022, 08:53 Updated: 09:03
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Montgo Air Flight 828 takes off from Jamaica for New York with 191 passengers and crew on board.
On the way to the destination the flight is caught in a severe storm, but it passes it unscathed.
When the connection between the pilots and the control tower is renewed, they are asked to land in an alternate field, so many police forces and ambulance vehicles are waiting for them on the ground.
It turns out that the time that has elapsed since the flight took off in Jamaica is more than five and a half years, a time when everyone, including the families of the passengers, assumed the flight was gone and its passengers were considered dead.
Where has the plane been all this time?
How did the passengers not notice the time that passed?
Why did none of them grow old?
And did the passengers gain supernatural abilities?
These questions and many others form the basis of "Manifesto", a mystery drama whose first three seasons recently surfaced on Netflix, when the former has already managed to occupy the first place in the list of the ten most watched series of the service in Israel and many countries around the world. Like many content on the service, Netflix did not produce "Manifesto" (named after the list of passengers on the flight) but purchased it from NBC, after it canceled it. So how is "Manifesto" different from dozens of other series that are canceled every year without ever being heard of? The series managed to garner a hard core of devout fans who ran an intense campaign called #SaveManifest (managed the manifesto) and managed to grab the attention of Netflix people who purchased it and even announced that they would produce a fourth and final season of 20 episodes that is expected to go on service later this year.
"Manifesto" was created by Jeff Rake, a veteran screenwriter who has already created a number of series that have left no mark, unlike which the mystery about Flight 828 actually started as his biggest success.
In fact, with more than 18 million viewers in its premiere episode (the most successful of 2018), "Manifesto" was considered the most successful new series that year.
But like a plane plunging fast to the ground, ratings plummeted, the chilling reviews accompanied by the weak second half of the first season already made clear - whoever saw her as the heiress of "Lost" probably meant all the bad things in the hit series from the early 2000s.
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Manifesto (Photo: CRAIG BLANKENHORN / NBC / WARNER BROTHERS)
So what, after all, made her the big hit of the moment?
For starters, the underlying mystery is ingenious and sends all the conspiracy buffs among us (a population that has only been growing since the Corona plague) to dozens of directions every chapter.
How can it be that the passengers did not notice the time that has passed since they took off, and moreover - could it be that they did not age in a second?
Is this a government conspiracy?
Did aliens hijack the plane and return it unscathed?
Every few episodes we get some hypotheses as to what happened to Flight 828 but - caution, half spoiler - an unequivocal answer never comes (at least not in the first season).
Not just conspiracies and the supernatural, "Manifesto" tries to draw you in thanks to elements taken straight from soap operas.
Brothers Michela and Ben Stone (Melissa Roxbro and Josh Dallas), both board the flight along with Ben's cancer son and leave their families to fly another flight.
When they land they are happy to find that the child has survived contrary to the pessimistic predictions of the doctors but they are also disappointed that the couple left behind went on with their lives, remarried and left them as mere memories.
Yes, this is where you say to yourself, "Have we not seen this before in 'Homeland'?", And you are right.
In general, it seems that instead of delving into the fascinating mystery of the underlying media, "Manifesto" is spreading to a million different and distant parts.
Manifesto (Photo: Universal)
It starts already in the first episode, then it is revealed that all the passengers of the flight have gained a kind of supernatural ability that allows them to predict the future and also communicate with each other without talking. They actually become one unit, a bit like in another Netflix series - "Sense 8" directed by the Washowski sisters ("The Matrix"), hence some of the episodes focus on solving point mysteries in the best tradition of "CSI" and what always comes back is the not interesting enough romantic relationship between the characters . On the one hand - you will gain instant satisfaction in every episode. On the other hand - most of these little mysteries are outdated and predictable.
The main weakness of the series, and there are quite a few of them, lies in the detached dialogues between the characters and the absolute seriousness with which they are told. Because come on, we all came here following a mystery about a plane that disappeared and then came back out of nowhere, so where did amounts of kitsch suddenly emerge from as if we were in "life itself"? Not only are the guilty screenwriters, Roxbero and Dallas who play the brothers who lead the series, they are without a doubt two of the prettiest faces that can be found on Netflix right now, but admittedly - they are mediocre and down-to-earth actors. The inability to connect with them, even in the moments when death comes to visit, detracts from the enjoyment of the entire series.
Without getting into spoilers (which will likely be refuted themselves in the coming seasons), even the way the plane mystery is presented to us feels detached from moment to moment and is built solely to get us to the next episode.
Here it's easy to recall that "Manifesto" aired early on the broadcast channel and tried to attract viewers to return next week (a mission that failed) and now that the three seasons are in full swing, the absurd hangar clips at the end of each episode feel even more ridiculous.
So why is she still successful?
Well, we are at home in a kind of obscure closure and how much interesting content can already be found in the service.
At the same time, our reality in the last two years seems so absurd in itself that perhaps "Manifesto" does not tell such a hallucinatory story as it simply presents it in a careless and very unrewarding way.
You could put it this way - if "Manifesto" had disappeared from our radar for five and a half years, we probably would not have noticed.