‘Manifest’ Creator Jeff Rake Breaks Down Season 4’s Biggest Twists in a Spoiler-Filled Q&A

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Spoiler alert: This article discusses all plot points from the first 10 episodes of Season 4 of “Manifest.”

The first 10 episodes of “Manifest’s” fourth season have now dropped on Netflix, after a labored birth in which the show was rescued by the streamer after NBC canceled it in May 2021.

And naturally, the show’s mysteries deepen. After catching up with the survivors of Flight 828, Variety spoke with “Manifest” creator Jeff Rake, who broke down all of the twists and turns — and gave a preview of the show’s upcoming final 10 episodes.

The last shot in this batch of episodes is so creepy. How would you describe what’s happening with Angelina’s hand fusing with the sapphire?

Angelina [Holly Taylor] has been desperately trying to accumulate power, and whether that’s by teaming up with Cal [Ty Doran] or somehow getting closer to an archangel, whatever that means in her mind — the angel of the apocalypse that Adrian [Jared Grimes] talks about. She’s so desperate to get this sapphire for herself that she does the unthinkable: Sticks her arm into that fissure with boiling lava and impossible pain, and pulls this piece of sapphire out. We see it effectively soldered into her hand, and now she and sapphire are one and the same. You can deduce from that that she now is more powerful than ever, that whatever dark power or dark force exists in the universe of this television show, she now is that personified. And to whatever extent one needs sapphire in order to save the passengers, one is going to need Angelina in order to find salvation for the passengers — or so it seems.

As it is right now, the passengers are going to assume Angelina is gone, right? Ben [Josh Dallas] saw her knocked out by that stained glass. He assumes she’s dead. And it’s kind of a secret between us, the viewers and Angelina, that she’s even alive. And as we watch her in that final scene head off into the darkness, trailed by these cracking fissures trailing her into the night, that’s just between her and the television audience. So it’s gonna be a hell of a surprise when when our heroes discovered that she’s out there and, when they do discover that, it will be a more formidable force of darkness than they can even imagine. So that’s gonna be quite a wake up call for Ben and Mick [Melissa Roxburgh] and Cal and the others.

From your vantage, is Zeke (Matt Long) for sure dead?

Zeke is dead. But there’s a powerful love that exists between him and Michaela — and so on “Manifest,” who knows what that means? We have seen characters find ways to communicate with each other, death notwithstanding. So let’s see what Michaela can achieve because their bond is a strong one.

Since Cal is The Dragon and The Holy Grail, how do you think his role will change in future episodes?

In one of those final scenes in Episode 410, there was Zeke, heading up to the attic, just as Olive [Luna Blaise] was theorizing about Cal’s unique ability to save humanity. She certainly has a lot of mythology to back it up. Her claim rings true to Zeke, and so when Zeke made that fateful decision to sacrifice himself, you know that was not arbitrary. He did it because he believed that Cal is the only person who can save all of humanity. So there’s certainly an expectation going into the final ten episodes that Cal is gonna have to rise to the occasion.

When we come into the back 10 episodes, those are going to be the expectations, and that’s a lot of responsibility sitting on Cal’s shoulders. Psychologically, he’s going to be pretty messed up. That’s a hell of a guilt trip, knowing that Zeke gave his life so that Cal could live. So we can expect to see Cal coming out of the gate in the back half of the season burdened with that responsibility, desperately trying to figure out, “What what does that mean? How am I supposed to do that?” And when he doesn’t initially succeed, that’s going to be really depressing for him. Because this isn’t the first time that he has felt survivor’s guilt, and experiencing that yet another time could be almost too much to bear.

How did you come to determine that Mick ended up with Zeke over Jared (J. R. Ramirez)?

This twisting and turning of that triangle is something that is inherent to our story and has been from the very beginning. Let’s remember that Jared, who had the worst kind of relationship with Zeke back in Season 1 — we remember them beating the shit out of each other in the Season 1 finale, gunplay was part of that — he’s super cool and quite the gentleman here in Season 4, Part 1. He was a great friend to both Mick and Zeke and he stood by and honored that marriage.

When we come back for the final 10 episodes, there’ll be another passage of time, not anywhere close to the two years that we saw pass between Seasons 3 and 4, but a number of months will have passed. And it begs the question, “How many months does someone have to wait before ending their grief period and moving on?” There may just be another chapter in store for for Michaela and Jared. So let’s take a beat, and see if there’s another opportunity for romance between those two.

Going into this season, was it a little nerve-racking knowing you wouldn’t have Grace (Athena Karkanis) as a central character?

Well, as soon as we made the decision to to kill off that beloved character, the next thought in my head was, “How can we figure out how to bring her back in some way?” I think that the actress is so great — she’s so lovely, and she had become such a fan favorite, which was so gratifying to me. Because a lot of people forget that she was less than a fan favorite in Season 1, which really bummed me out. I never intended for her to be a character who was rejected by by the fans, and I was really delighted when we were able to turn that around. It was really important to me and the rest of the writers that we find a way to bring her back.

Now, of course, we brought her back in a very perverse way that that I feel I have to apologize for, because there’s great trickery involved and I hope it wasn’t ultimately a bad trip for for the fans. I reached out to her along a long time before she actually had to make her way down from Canada to come and shoot scenes with us. But Athena was such a great sport about it, and we just had a fun time. She and Holly Taylor are just the loveliest of people, and to put them together in a story about such manipulative darkness was really fun. I felt bad that for fans: This could be a real shock to the system.

There are so many twists and turns this season. Was there a certain scene that, once it went down on paper, you thought, “Damn, I can’t believe we went there!”?

There are certainly a few. One of my favorite scenes of the season is in the episode in which Ben ultimately is able to rescue Eden [Penelope Rose Lang]. Early in that episode, Ben is tied up. He’s down there in that basement, and Eden, whether she’s called there through a calling or not, makes her way down. She doesn’t really know who Ben is — or does she?

She wanders into that basement, and there’s Ben. He’s tied up. He’s got a gag in his mouth. He can’t even speak to her and and he’s trying to communicate with her with his eyes. He’s so desperate to communicate. It’s so tortured for him to be not able to talk to her, not able to shout out at her, not able to reach her, to touch her. She’s just standing there just feet away from him, and yet it’s impossible for him to communicate. And in comes Angelina very casually, and picks up Eden starts talking about Ben being the “bad man.” It’s just really delicious how cruel that moment is.

What freedoms did you feel on Netflix that you didn’t feel on network TV?

Just knowing that we had so much creative flexibility in and of itself was very empowering. And yes, we used some light language throughout these episodes, and took advantage of the fact that we didn’t have an absolutely set-in-stone running time that we had to adhere to. It was just nice to know, because in broadcast you do spend a lot of time, particularly in post, getting that running time exactly right, because it really does matter within 30 seconds. That was just very freeing not to have to think about it. All of that said, we tried to make the same show that we had always made.

Netflix said to us at the beginning, “Please don’t feel obliged to do anything different on our behalf. We encourage you to make the same show you’ve been making.” We already had the data: The Netflix audience had already watched 42 episodes of the show that we made for broadcast, and they had such a positive reaction. They were already used to that running time, our writing to the ad break. We would write these eight-minute segments, and then cut to black. There’d be a little cliffhanger at either act break, and we continue to do that because that rhythm was something that that both our cast and our audience was used to. When we get to series finale, whenever that’s released, that episode is longer. We had a lot of story to tell in that final episode. But beyond that, the show is still the show.

How far are you along in the production process on the last 10 episodes?

They’re all in the can. We’re very far along in editing them, we’re deep into the editing process, even in that series finale. Visual effects takes a really long time, so that’ll be a couple months. I don’t know when that second block will be released, so I’ll be anxiously waiting to find that out for myself.

You’ve already written and shot the finale, but do you believe the finale answers all the questions fans will have? Or will some things remain a mystery?

It’s been very important to me from the get-go that we make a good faith effort to speak to every hanging chad. I’m well-aware of the criticism that other shows that have come before me have received for closing the loop on Easter eggs that are planted in early seasons of a show. There were a number of shows that came after “Lost” that didn’t go the distance, and a number of them were accused of just kind of planting Easter eggs, but then leaving them dangling and going off in a bunch of different directions. I said to myself when I set out to create this show, “That’s not going to be us. If we don’t make it, we don’t make it. But that’s not going to be the reason why.”

We’ve been very careful in our writers’ room to pay very close track of every clue that we put out there in the world. Whether it was a character, whether it was a piece of scripture from the Bible or another source, whether it was a piece of artwork. When we got the glorious news that we had 20 more episodes, one of the first things that we did in the writers’ room is we sat down and we have a very extensive show bible, where we’ve kept inventory of every character or every piece of mythology. We went through and we said, “OK, how are we going to address this? How are we going to address this?”

We have tried our damnedest to incorporate every single last nugget in these 20 episodes, and I think we’ve succeeded. Social media will let me know after 20 episodes if we succeed, and I hope we did. I look forward to finding out.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

‘Manifest’ Creator Jeff Rake Breaks Down Season 4’s Biggest Twists in a Spoiler-Filled Q&A

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