One season in, we’re finally starting to see the bigger picture on Manifest. The Season 1 finale, which aired on Feb. 18, featured a major reveal that sets up the rest of the series while also raising even bigger questions about what it all means.
As we learn more about the psychic phenomenon known as the Calling, how the passengers interpret it seems to be more important than the actual Callings themselves. The season finale zeroed in on Griffin (Marc Menchaca), who manipulated the Calling to get away with murder and was ready to expose it to the world as a way of increasing his celebrity. But before he could reveal the Calling, he drowned like he was originally supposed to at the bottom of the Hudson River. It looked like Griffin was being punished for his sins — until Ben (Josh Dallas) and Olive’s (Luna Blaise) stunning discovery that the survivors of Flight 828 may be living with expiration dates, which suggested that the timing of Griffin’s death might actually have been a coincidence.
Toward the end of the episode, both Ben and Olive reached the conclusion that the passengers of Flight 828 are living on borrowed time — the exact amount coinciding with how long they’d been gone — meaning the passengers may only have five and half years to live. It’s a mystery that will continue to unravel as Ben and the rest of the gang try to figure out whether or not their time is actually limited.
But there are more immediate questions that need to be answered, like whether or not the gun that went off during the altercation between Jared (J.R. Ramirez) and Zeke (Matt Long) ended with a fatality. Both men were entangled in a huge scuffle just as Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) made her way up the stairs. With the screen cutting to black before we could see who may have been shot, several fates were left dangling in the air.
TV Guide hit up Manifest creator and showrunner Jeff Rake for some answers on that finale cliffhanger, as well as what that game-changing reveal about the Calling means moving forward, how Grace’s (Athena Karkanis) baby bombshell will affect her marriage to Ben, and what to expect in the probable second season.
You teased a reveal that would set up the whole series and in this episode, we learn that all the survivors may have an expiration date. How does this set the stage for the series? Will it be about them trying to figure out a way to stay alive?
Jeff Rake: It’s kind of a metaphorical bomb that drops in the lap of Ben and Grace and Olive in those final moments of the season finale. It is compelling given that Ben reached the calculus in one way while Olive reached it in a different, mythological way. The fact that they reached the same result carries a lot of weight for them but it’s still just a theory that will require Ben and others to set out to try to figure out if there are ways that they can confirm this theory that is, in a sense, the worst nightmare for them. And then also, try to figure out if this is their fate, then can it be overcome? Is it sealed or is it something that can somehow be defied? That will be an ongoing question for our heroes for the remainder of the series and that’ll drive a lot of their actions in Season 2 and beyond.
That will, of course, lead to a lot of collateral behavior as the word spreads among the passenger community that they may only have five and a half years left. It will lead to a lot of different actions on the part of people who believe. There will be denialists who throw caution to the wind and try to seize the day, so to speak. And that can run the gamut from people trying to check off their bucket list to people deciding that rules don’t matter–that laws don’t matter–to people deciding this is the time for them to lead the best possible life that they can live. It is going to drive a lot of story both in terms of our heroes trying to stop the clock but also will lead to a lot of questionable behavior that would create a lot of work for Ben and Michaela not only as self-appointed caretakers of the group, but also for Michaela in her role as law enforcement. There will be people within the passenger community who couldn’t care less about breaking the law if they feel like they’re not gonna be around for so long and so, the proverbial s— may just hit the fan.
How the passengers interpret the Calling seems to be key in understanding the series so what can you tell me about the Calling? Is it omniscient? What does it want?
Rake: The way you posed the question, ‘what does the Calling want?’ presumes that the Calling is something. That presumes that the Calling is omniscient. It may be, it may not be. On the other hand, as Ben and Grace theorized, they may have misinterpreted the Calling as something that has a point of view and as something that is inherently intended to be a positive, moral force. Maybe the Calling doesn’t have a point of view. Maybe the Calling is just some random powerful tool and it’s not about the Calling itself, it’s about how individuals choose to utilize the Calling. Is it a tool that can be used for bad just as easily as it can be used for good? And therefore, the significance is what the individual chooses to do with the Calling. That would mean everyone experiencing the Calling may not just be pawns in some larger universal force. They may have much more agency as individuals over the Callings and therefore, it’s for them to choose to do with it what they will.
But on the other hand, we see in the season finale that Griffin used the Calling for evil and then dropped dead. So, a core fundamental question in Season 2 and beyond is what is the cause and effect there? Did Griffin die because he used the Callings for evil or did Griffin die because he had been back for 82 hours and 8 minutes and that’s the amount of time he had regardless of the actions that he took? Those are two very different interpretations and there are significant consequences for both. Everybody is gonna be looking for more evidence in order to figure out which of those interpretations makes sense. The two interpretations, from a morality standpoint, will lead people in opposite directions and we’re gonna see a lot of conflict come out of that.
With the arrival of Zeke and Griffin, does that mean we can expect to see even more new faces as the series continues?
Rake: Yeah, we absolutely will. While Zeke and Griffin established for our passengers that this is bigger than just the plane, the plane is still going to remain a focal point of the series and the passengers from Flight 828 will remain central characters throughout. In Season 2, you can expect to meet more passengers from the plane, other people who are experiencing the Calling, others who are not experiencing the Calling but are still inherent to our story in different ways. And just as we met Bethany and Rad and Harvey and Fiona and others in Season 1, so, too, will we round out our cast with another batch of passengers and find that the lives of Ben, Michaela, Saanvi, Cal and others will be intertwined with the lives of those other passengers in surprising ways.
The episode ends with a standoff between Zeke and Jared before the gun goes off. I know you can’t say much but how does that scene set up Season 2?
Rake: I was my intention for some time that there would be a build in the antagonism between Jared and Zeke. It made logical sense to me that these two would be opposition characters. Jared’s mistrust of Zeke is understandable. Zeke’s defensiveness towards Jared understandable. On top of that, Jared has an almost lifelong romantic bond with Michaela. Zeke had a brand new and yet undeniably powerful bond with Michaela. So all of these factors led to a logical boiling point and that’s what we see in the final frames of the Season 1 finale. That’s, of course, gonna pay off in Season 2. That bullet that you heard was not a car engine outside on the street. It did not hit the ceiling. We’ll come to discover that it found a target and there will be consequences at the top of the next season and consequences that will be long-lasting.
Jared went pretty dark in this episode so is there the potential for him to go even further? Is that something you’ve thought about?
Rake: I’ve been trying to play shades of grey in all these relationships. Most of the characters that we’ve gotten to know throughout Season 1 started the series in a very broken, chaotic, traumatic place and have gradually tried to work their way toward a place of healing. Jared’s story has been a little bit different. Of course, Michaela’s return was traumatic and turns his life upside down but at the same time, he started the series very even-keeled–a voice of reason. We’ve seen him kind of unravel over these 16 episodes to a place of exasperation and darkness. Should he survive that gun battle, a lot would have to be resolved before that dark place that he’s in starts to lighten up.
We also found out that Grace is pregnant with either Ben or Danny’s child. How will we see this trio try to handle that baby bombshell moving forward and does that mean we’re gonna see more of Danny in Season 2?
Rake: We will almost certainly see more of Danny in Season 2. One of my goals throughout Season 1 was to take Ben and Grace from a place of insecurity and conflict to a place of unity and cohesiveness and so, you saw the tension start in the shape of a chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon at the top of the series. The writers and I thought about frontloading the idea of Grace’s pregnancy early in the season and let that be a challenge that Ben and Grace deal with, even as he’s just settling back into life at home. Between the studio, network and writers’ room, we came to the conclusion that there was so much going on that might have felt like we were gilding the lily. But now, after we had taken pains to finally get Ben and Grace to a place of understanding and to have summed up their marriage in a way that feels good and real and hopefully long-lasting, this new wrench comes into the equation and that’s going to challenge the stability of their marriage all over again.
With the whole story starting to come together, what do you hope to tackle in Season 2?
Rake: There’s a lot to tackle next season. I have more chapters to come so I need to drive our relationship stories forward. We need to have a passage of time now that we have this ticking clock of five and a half years. The entirety of Season 1 took place in the short span of six weeks and so viewers can expect that the series will start moving more quickly in terms of moving forward in time, moving characters ahead further in their lives. By that, I don’t mean more magical time jumps. I mean just coming back in Season 2 perhaps a little further along than people would expect. And also, trying to move further along from week-to-week throughout the season. You can expect things to move along mythologically, you can expect things to move along scientifically. And you can expect that something’s gonna come out of these therapy sessions between Saanvi and the Major. Saanvi has no idea that she just walked into the lioness’ den and that’s going to lead to some unforeseen and dire consequences by the time we get to Season 2.
Many are wondering why the show hasn’t been renewed yet. What have you heard? [UPDATE, APRIL 15: NBC has officially greenlit a second season.]
Rake: I’m sensing a lot of positive murmurs. I don’t think that viewers should read too much into the fact that a show hasn’t been renewed yet. It always takes a little bit longer when a show is produced by one company and is broadcast on another company’s air. That’s the case with this show. It’s produced by Warner Brothers and it’s broadcast by NBC, and they’re two different entities so it just takes a minute for terms to be worked out and negotiations to be worked out. The network fights for the show, we do well, a lot of people watch the show and I have a good feeling that we’ll be back to continue to tell the story next season.
If NBC decided to pass for some reason, would you consider shopping the show elsewhere? Is that in the back of your mind?
Rake: That’s something we would consider. I wanna finish this story and for it to be left unresolved would be as traumatic for me as it would be for the biggest fans of the show. But I hope and trust that it’s not gonna come to that.