When Netflix saved Manifest after NBC so unceremoniously canceled the series, I was cheering right alongside the most devoted Manifesters. It's true that I hadn't yet caught up with the most recent season, but when I finally binge-watched those episodes, I was ready to buckle up for the fourth season. Twenty more episodes of this twisty, mysterious mythological drama? Yes, please!
Netflix rescuing Manifest season 4 gave the series a second chance to finish telling its story on its own terms, and nothing was more exciting than seeing how it all came to an end. But there was still that lingering bittersweet desire for season 5. No one wants their favorite thing to go away, because it's just not the same when it's gone.
After watching the second half of Manifest's final season, it's clear now that the collective desire for season 5 — and even a spinoff — was otherwise unnecessary. The show told its full story, but it left me wondering... what was the point? I longed for Manifest to leave a bigger legacy than its Netflix ratings and resurrection, but the muddled messaging of the ending fizzled its potential.
Manifest's ending squandered the show's potential
When a show comes back from cancellation after a cliffhanger as shocking as season 3's, you need to put the pedal to the metal and maintain that speed. But I, along with many other fans, was left disappointed by the revelation that the Flight 828 passengers simply got back on the plane and... got off back where they started. Like nothing ever happened.
It's been explained that the ending doesn't negate the events of the series (or at least, wasn't supposed to), but that's how it felt in the moment and now still. When you leave viewers feeling like nothing they watched for the past four seasons has mattered in the grand scheme of things, how are they supposed to want more?
The cast, especially leading stars Melissa Roxburgh and Josh Dallas, were excellent in the final season and the best reasoning for bringing back the show for a real ending. They're amazing! The fact that the series finale didn't top the breathless devastation and utter surprise of the season 3 finale is incredibly disappointing. As a fan of cliffhangers (I know, unpopular opinion), I almost wish we'd been left weaving our own what-ifs.
Why season 5 didn't happen
The reason Manifest season 5 didn't happen has to do with Netflix and Warner Bros. (the show's production company) negotiating a deal beneficial to both parties that also worked creatively in favor to what a final season needed to achieve. As is usually the case in this industry, it all comes down to literal business.
Had the final season landed at its previous home of NBC post-cancellation and Netflix boom, we might not have gotten 20 episodes. (Would that have been better?) Jeff Rake, the creator, had pitched a number of different options for the series' return, including a wrap-up movie and a shortened final season. Obviously, we got the super-sized deal.
When the series ended with its final 10 episodes in June 2023, Manifesters (and even some of the show's crew) rallied online to start the campaign for a spinoff. Nearly a year later, there's been seemingly no traction on that front, and it's perhaps best to leave Flight 828 in the past... or the future? I don't know, but wherever it ended up, just leave it there.
All four seasons of Manifest are available to stream on Netflix.