Manifest: An explanation of why the plane exploded and what Season 2 might look like

by Don Kincaid |
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Jan 21, 2019

Although after 11 episodes everyone is still waiting for NBC to renew Manifest for a second season, fans are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel runway. What the big picture about to be revealed will look like, and what it will encompass, however, remains a mystery. There has been a lot of speculation of time travel, but what if, wrapped up in all this is another trope? What if instead of just thinking Back to the Future, we think Ground Hog Day?  What if our main characters, who are suffering the trauma of a temporal anomaly, are in a time loop?

Why Did the Plane Explode?

🔴 GIF of Plane Exploding

One of the biggest questions fans have is why the plane exploded in the pilot (101.24)?  The writers may have given us a hint during the mid-season opener. Michaela suggests that since there had not been any callings for ten days, “Maybe it’s over. Maybe the lab explosion reset everything” (110.3).

Although she was wrong, the implication is clear.  What if after going through most of the first season without any notification from NBC about a second season, and just when fans think “Maybe it’s over,” another plane explodes (e.g. Daly and Fiona’s plane)? What if after surviving the time jump, Daly and Fiona watch a similar explosion take place?

Could that explosion then ripple back through time to the Flight 828 time anomaly, and everything in the series reset? What if again we see Director Robert Vance out on the tarmac, but this time he tells them it is November 4, 2019 (not 2018)? In other words, next season everything resets—except this time the 828ers have missed 6 1/2 (not 5 1/2) years.

Such a scenario (or one similar to it) would, in part, explain why the plane exploded. It’s not the government or anyone else. It might be just time (or the universe) fighting back or trying to correct itself.

Jeff Rake’s Six-year Plan

There are clues which seem to support this theory or something like it. Recall that in episode 11 after the meteorologist hands over new data to Captain Daly, he goes back into the simulator, and repeats the program six more times. After saying “Please let this be it,” and then having the simulator crash (111.10), Daly finds himself resetting the program and beginning again. “Damn it!” he says. “Hit the reset, Raf. We are going again.” (111.10). The reason the program crashes, says Ben, is that the simulator isn’t capable of time travel. But Jeff Rakes thinks he can do it.

During a 1-on-1 interview with Collider’s Christina Radish, creator/showrunner Jeff Rake talked about a six-year plan for the series:

“When I originally hit on the concept, I knew the beginning. I knew that I wanted this to be about a separated family and throwing at them the most tantalizing, impossible obstacle conceivable, in order to tear them apart and bring them back together again…”1

If the plane’s explosion resets “all things” (cf. 101.6),  then viewers will see the events played out all over again (albeit from a slightly different perspective). In the do-over (which I stress is only a theory), viewers will learn more as the series goes deeper into its mythology. Viewers will also come to a greater appreciation of the character arcs we have been watching. But can all this be done in a way to keep viewers interested? Is it worth the risk?

It’s All Connected

Within this framework, Cal’s clairvoyance and other special gifts (i.e. his drawings) might be explained as a type of déjà vu. At the end of episode 5, while everyone on the plane was asleep, Cal saw a bring light outside his window and said, “It’s all connected” (105.28). Just like Cal, over the course of the series, we will have a window seat into the personal lives of the characters and the mystery of what happened to Flight 828. Just as Ben uses yarn to connect photos of 828’s passengers to their seat on poster board (105.27) and ever since has been obsessed with finding out what everything all means, so are series’ fans!

With so many loose ends, however, some fans have become frustrated. Storylines of multiple relationship triangles often appear disjointed and tangled. But if my prediction holds true, then in the reset we’ll learn not only more about the different layers of these relationships (i.e. Evie, Lourdes, Danny, the shadow, Thomas and Leo, etc.) but find out what happened to Kelly’s body,  the government investigation, etc. Heck, while we’re at it, we might even learn something about the boy (he looks like 5 1/2 years old) who almost got run over by the bus (101.11), the Pyler girls (101.10), and Mr. Garrison (101.19), to name a few others.

Cat’s Cradle

📺 BTS Jack Messina & Luna Blaise — Cat's Cradle

Remember when  Olive and Cal were playing cat’s cradle (103.25)?  They pass a piece of string back and forth. It might be a metaphor for the show itself. In the game, one player creates a figure, which is then loosely passed over to another, who then tightens the loops to create another figure. Similarly, what if all the loose ends of the first season (i.e. the story strands) are passed into next season where they we will see them stretched (treated in more depth) in order to give impetus for one or more “new characters” (i.e. Captain Daly 2.0 and Fiona 2.0)?

Red Markers

If this scenario is true, then certain first season’s episodes must have scenes that can easily be identified. My contention is that this may be reasons we have seen “red-markers,” i.e. the presence of objects that although are sometimes given full camera focus are usually found in the background.  They don’t seem to have any significance or relation to what is happening in the scene, but are there nonetheless, to provide a marker for anyone rewatching so connections can be made later.

Jeff Rake alluded to these red markers in his interview with Collider:

“I’d encourage the audience to pay close attention to everything. Anything that’s featured and highlighted, either in dialogue or in a specific cutaway shot to a number or an object, is intentional. We are deliberately planting seeds, and a lot of them will grow into story strands, over the course of the seasons…There are some little puzzle pieces that will appear in the background that matter, and I’d encourage everybody to keep a close eye out.”1

If you haven’t already done so, you might want to check out the latest Manifest Red Marker Quiz, the article “STOP!” — How the Manifest writers are using signs, words, and actions, and the glossary page for the color of red.

Speculative digression

How will the fans react? Are they going to weather the storm, and the turbulence created by what might appear to be an even a more disjointed and tangled storyline? How will the Manifest’s showrunners stop a possible drop in ratings? For starters, by keeping the storyline fresh and adding new twists.

What about the characters? In episode 5, Ben who isn’t fully committed to helping Thomas and thinks that the callings are dangerous, tells Michaela, “Go ahead, sabotage your life, but don’t ask me to blow up mine” (105.3). In episode  10, Ben tells Aaron Glover the podcaster who wants a statement from him, “What, and blow up my life to launch your career? No thanks” (110.6).

I don’t think Dallas, however, has anything to worry about. He and the other main characters are pretty well established. But what about secondary or recurring characters and any scenes before Flight 828 takes off?

Maybe one reason why we haven’t seen much of Cal or Olive in some episodes is that they are busy filming other scenes which we won’t see yet for some time. We can’t very well have an older Jack Messina reshoot shots when he was 10 years old.

Remember, though, this is all speculation; so we are jumping ahead of ourselves. But, even if this theory is not 100% correct (which it most assuredly is not), there may be some parts that are still applicable to the second season. We’ll just have to wait and see. But first, NBC has to renew it!

If this prediction holds up, I am certain viewers who had long ago stopped watching will come back to their TV set just as the passengers did to the fence. When they do, not only will they see the plane explode again and everything be reset, but ratings will soar. Many will want to watch the entire first season again.

Last Updated:

  1. ‘Manifest’ Creator Jeff Rake on His Diverse Writers Room & Six-Year Plan for the NBC Series
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