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The 6 Best And 6 Worst Things In Manifest Season 4 Part 1

Part soap opera, part procedural, part low-key Christian-baiting supernatural sci-fi epic, "Manifest" is a genre-defying series with a fierce cult following that makes absolutely no sense in all the best ways. Told from the perspective of the Stone family, the series revolves around the fated Montego Air Flight 828, a crowded commercial airliner that inexplicably lands five-and-a-half years after its originally scheduled arrival. Not only do the passengers not age during the interim, but they soon begin to experience what they come to know as "callings" — supernatural hallucinations compelling them to action. As the 828ers struggle to reacclimate to their lives, the story becomes progressively stranger. Tears of blood, a freaky cult, secretive agencies, resurrections, an empath, city volcanoes, and even Noah's ark — either it's all part of some divine plan yet to be revealed or no idea is a bad one in the "Manifest" writers' room.

Originally airing on NBC, the series was canceled after three seasons only to perform so well on Netflix that it got its own resurrection after spending several weeks on the streamer's Top 10 list. When show creator and executive producer Jeff Rake tweeted the news that Netflix would bring the show back for a final 20-episode season, fans the world over rejoiced. Premiering on November 4, 2022, the show is finally back and as off-the-rails as it ever was. If you can't get enough of the 828 madness, buckle up while we take a look at the best and worst of "Manifest" Season 4, Part 1.

Worst: Ben's bad man beard

After losing years of their lives only to learn that their families have accepted their deaths and moved on, there's no denying that 828ers have had a rough go of it. And Ben Stone (Josh Dallas) has arguably had one of the roughest times of them all. Before their time slip, Ben's son Cal was already suffering from terminal cancer. The last thing he needed was to come home and find his wife Grace (Athena Karkanis) and daughter Olive (Luna Blaise) have all but replaced him with the perfectly nice Danny and the family is on the verge of financial ruin. That's to say nothing of the anti-828 hate crimes, secret 828er experiments, and those pesky callings. But love prevails, the family finally moves on, and with a little divine help, Cal's cancer goes into remission.

So when the unhinged Angelina murders Grace and kidnaps baby Eden, Ben completely falling apart is the most — if not only — understandable thing in the series. Holed up in his attic hermitage with nothing but pain and his investigation wall to get him through the day and no Grace to help him, Ben's facial hair becomes a character in its own right — a character that's so unhinged that it even scares his young daughter. Thankfully, after several agonizing episodes, Dadbeard gives a symbolism-heavy goodbye to that "mountain man look" actor referred to as Ben's "grief beard" (via Netflix), indicating that he's as ready as we are to get over Grace's exit.

Best: Eden's return

Ben and the remaining Stone family members spend part of Season 4 with a terrifying reality hanging over them — the woman who murdered their beloved wife and mother is raising the kidnapped baby Eden (played by Brianna and Gianna Riccio). The thought is troubling to all of them, but it absolutely consumes Ben. Fortunately, Eden's own callings reach her dad, eventually leading him to her whereabouts. After pursuing Angelina (Holly Taylor) to the compound where Adrian (Jared Grimes) is keeping her and Eden hidden, then getting kidnapped and caught up in some culty terrorist drama, Ben finally reunites with his daughter two years after she was first taken.

Once a small baby with an Angelina-sized stalker problem, Eden is now an adorable, crayon-wielding preschooler. Unfortunately, the volatile Angelina has spent those two years brainwashing the girl into believing her dad is a "bad man" and Angelina is her mommy, making the reunion a rocky one at first. But Stones are nothing if not persistent, and the adorable Eden eventually comes to accept her family. After years of near-constant suffering, Eden's return is one of the rare bright spots in the Stone family's post-828 life.

Worst: Cal's age-up

Like his dad, Ben, Cal has been through the ringer. On top of dealing with cancer and all of his other various 828-related health issues, Cal (Jack Messina) finds himself more than five years younger than his now-teen twin sister Olive, which means he's also now dramatically younger and smaller than all of their mutual childhood friends. But at least he's finally back with his family and semi-settled into a normal life at this point — that is, until Cal is suddenly compelled to touch the tailfin of the destroyed Flight 828, currently housed in the Eureka laboratory, and disappears with his horrified mother looking on.

Stranger still, Cal suddenly reappears when Ben and Saanvi (Parveen Kaur) return the tailfin to the ocean due to "Manifest" logic reasons, only now he's the same age as his now-grown sister. The only problem? Cal (now played by Ty Doran) is still the same kid in a grown-up body with no recollection of having gone through the rest of his adolescence. Despite this and the fact that he had been briefly missing when his mom was killed and his sister was kidnapped, Ben completely rejects the terrified boy who is basically Tom Hanks in "Big," and everyone generally treats him like an adult. As if it wasn't tragic enough that this child was thrice-robbed of his childhood, there's something utterly unsettling about watching a boy who should be about 14 share admittedly adorable smooches with the legal-drinking-age Violet (Sarah Marie Rodriguez).

Best: Cal in general

Once you get past Cal's shocking age-up and learn to simply accept him for the ageless weirdo he is, he quickly becomes one of the show's best characters. While he initially spends far too much time sulking around trying not to be noticed by anyone and ping-ponging between the names "Cal" and "Gabriel," glorious little glimmers of his true Cal-ness start to shine through pretty quickly. While Cal is still the same guy he always was, somehow being the same age as his sister again brings them back in sync, and it's the first time we actually get to see the siblings acting like the twins they are.

Even at 12, Cal was never afraid to sneak out of the house in pursuit of callings, but because now he's big and has a fake ID, Cal can fully contribute just as well as the other Stones. We already know that Cal is a master of arts and crafts from his indoor boat making skills back in "Airplane Bottles" (Season 2, Episode 9) and the green wooden dragon he built in "Estimated Time of Departure" (Season 1, Episode 16), and apparently he's also a decent karaoke singer these days. He's also pretty slick with the ladies, more confident than ever, and as if that wasn't cool enough, he's even got a sweet empathically acquired glowing sapphire dragon tattoo.

Worst: The CGI

In the modern age of computer-generated wizardry, producers can put just about anything imaginable into a TV show. And in service of the callings, "Manifest" CGs everything but the kitchen sink with varying results. After their experience in the Divine Consciousness, the 828ers start seeing and hearing all sorts of things that others cannot, and they occasionally come off looking like a Max Headroom fever dream, ranging from the Trapper Keeper-esque to Windows screensaver-adjacent. Take the 828 answer to a Weeping Angel seen by Saanvi in "Unclaimed Baggage" (Season 1, Episode 4) or the freaky gargoyle that appears to Grace in "False Horizon" (Season 2, Episode 3). 

And then there's the notorious CG wolf that plagues poor Zeke (Matt Long) in "Upgrade" (Season 1, Episode 14), which Redditors dubbed the "MSPaint 'wolf'" and a "CGI disaster," lamenting, "They might be on NBC but they don't got that NBC money." The galvanizing creature stirred up a host of feelings among the "Manifest" fandom, pushing some to the brink of rage-quitting while fans like u/ShadowdogProd praised Zeke's lupine familiar as "so bad it's good." But even the show's smaller CG details have an odd, Uncanny Valley quality to them — lightning, falling cherry blossoms, and imaginary ash bring back memories of early website animations circa 1998, and the little bee Eden follows looks not entirely unlike an animated Lisa Frank sticker. 

Best: The CGI

Once you get over how appallingly bad the CGI in "Manifest" is and lean into the pure zaniness of it all, it's actually kind of amazing. As "Manifest" apologists on Reddit are fond of bringing up, the callings are hallucinations, after all, so it makes sense that they would look completely unrealistic or, at the very least, feel out of sync with reality. Otherwise, how would the 828ers be able to distinguish a calling from their real-world experiences? Even if you don't buy into that theory, there's just something kind of amazing about how unashamed the show is of its CGI — like Napoleon Dynamite dancing to Jamiroquai.

While a lesser series might downplay its weirdly rendered VFX, "Manifest" takes the art form to the very brink of its budgetary constraints. And just like the show's many bizarre and oft-dropped plotlines, the crazier it is, the more glorious it is. When Saanvi and Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) light the CG fire that burns the masonic bricks away leaving an image of the goddess Ma'at from TJ's papyrus, it's a scene straight out of "Indiana Jones" fan fiction. Then there's the epic church standoff scene between Mick, Ben, and Angelina, which finds the Stone siblings playing an IRL game of "The Floor is Lava" as they rescue a bunch of kids from their now-nemesis. And the glowing sapphire and fire hand image that appears when Angelina scoops up a handful of fire and gems is surely destined to be in the cell phone wallpaper Hall of Fame. 

Worst: Eagan Tehrani

"Manifest" has no shortage of unlikeable characters. There's the Major (Elizabeth Marvel), whose frightening mad science experimentation on the 828 passengers got her accidentally killed by Saanvi. Then there are the Xers — the hate group-slash-militia with a weirdly narrow focus — and the lifeboat-sinking Jace (James McMenamin). But of all the villains the 828ers must contend with, perhaps none is more frustrating than perennial smart aleck Eagan Tehrani (Ali Lopez-Sohaili). A self-preservationist with an eidetic memory, Eagan scams, schemes, and snarks his way through life with little disregard for the misery he leaves in his wake. Whether he's dropping unfunny one-liners or coercing his minions to put a gun to a child's head ("Mayday: Part 2"), Eagan is constantly competing against Angelina for most toxic 828er.

Thankfully for everyone else in his lifeboat, Eagan begins Season 4 safely behind bars. But because this is "Manifest," Ben and Vance waste no time working a deal to get him released, free to roam the world in all of his miserable Eagan-ness. And what does he do with his newfound freedom? He tracks down Angelina's mom and blackmails her. Worse, he then steals the Omega Sapphire only to have it immediately stolen from him by the crazed Angelina who, in turn, uses it to usher in the apocalypse. Thanks, Eagan.

Best: Drea Mikami

In a series that's brimming with characters ranging from forgettable — like Danny and Lourdes — to fatally flawed, one character stands out above the rest as the real MVP: NYPD detective Drea Mikami (Ellen Tamaki). Drea first shows up as Mick's new partner in "Grounded" (Season 2, Episode 2) when she introduces herself to Michaela on the 828er's first day back from medical leave, and it's clear from the start that she's something of a Detective Stone fangirl. It's also clear from go that nothing gets past Mikami.

A surprisingly down-to-earth rich girl with a soft spot for baked goods, the friendly detective quickly proves herself a powerful ally for Team Stone. When the eagle-eyed cop catches Michaela slipping a file from Vasquez's desk, Mikami just wants to know how she can help. And now that Michaela's no longer a cop, the Registry-working Mikami is happy to keep helping out the Stones, often at great personal risk, noting that her own grandparents could have used that kind of help in World War II. She loves being a cop, she looks great in a pantsuit, and she's a rare positive force for everyone in the 828 circle. Fans can't get enough of Season 4's many Mikami moments, and there's even a small but fervent contingent of Dreaela shippers in the r/ManifestNBC community.

Worst: Angelina's entire family

Michaela and Zeke first encounter Angelina Meyer in Season 3 while on their honeymoon in Costa Rica when Michaela's callings lead her to the home of Angelina's family ("Tailfin"). There, they meet the Meyer parents — a pair of affluent missionaries who offer the newlyweds a pitcher of lemonade while commiserating about how their daughter lost God's light after returning on Flight 828. When it turns out they're actually keeping her locked in a basement dungeon after becoming convinced that she is demonically possessed, Zeke and Michaela step in to free the girl, and unknowingly unleash a monster.

Between the emotional baggage of the Meyer family's religious abuse and her own zealotry, Angelina rains havoc on the Stone household. Shortly after moving into the Stone home, Angelina goes full "Single White Female" on Olive, adopting her hairstyle, stealing her look, and moving in on her man. But things spin completely out of control as Angelina becomes obsessed with an angel calling, with the girl fixating on Eden, setting fire to the Stone home, killing Grace, kidnapping the baby, and eventually blowing up the Church of the Returned compound. Season 4 shows that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree as her parents get in on the action with their very own killing and waterboarding spree, all in the service of the family's religious folie à deux.

Best: The Omega Sapphire

As the Stones and co. work together to unravel the mystery of what happened to them on their five-and-a-half-year flight, they find themselves awash in religious symbolism from a sampling of global traditions. Bible verses, Tarot cards, ancient papyrus, Noah's ark, the Oracle of Delphi, and even a Masonic order all come together as pieces of a bigger mysticism. Through Olive's Hermionic efforts and her own time working at the NSA Eureka facility, Saanvi becomes convinced that the Omega Sapphire – a kind of super-sapphire that was guarded throughout history by various mystical types — is the key to communing with the Divine Consciousness. And because this is "Manifest," it's tucked away safely, just a Stone's throw away, right in New York City.

The gem's power is apparent when Angelina gets her sticky fingers on it and gets right to work summoning the end times, Thanos-style. Drunk on divine power and lava fumes, Angelina uses the Omega Sapphire to terrorize a church full of kids. After sapphire-infused biological weapon Cal psychically destroys the sapphire, Angelina spies a single shard sinking into the molten lava and dips her greedy little hand in. Her hand instantly fuses with the sapphire and lava, re-infusing her with apocalyptic energy and letting her slip away with the shard. With Cal on the mend thanks to Zeke's sacrifice, Season 4, Part 2 is set up for the biggest epic gem battle since "Steven Universe."

Worst: The 828 cultists

First appearing in "Upgrade" (Season 1, Episode 14), the Church of the Returned is a cult started by Adrian after he loses everything to the 828 mystery. While the 828-worshiping cultists originally emerge independently without Adrian's help, Adrian is more than happy to step in as their fearless leader, mantras and all. Although Adrian eventually leaves the church after an obsessed follower (Olli Haaskivi) tries to murder them all, Season 4 finds him once again culted up, this time running a compound populated by 828ers with nowhere else to go. Like all good cults, this group strives for isolation and independence — growing their own food, bottling and selling honey, and apparently manufacturing their own fertilizer bombs. The only thing that's missing is a sociopath who believes she's been chosen by God and isn't afraid to kill for her cause.

Angelina proves too much for even Adrian to handle when the 828 cultists refuse to harbor her and begin to mutiny. In the midst of the drama, Adrian's right-hand woman Erika Burness (Nurit Monacelli) — who first appeared in "Mayday: Part 2" (Season 3, Episode 13) while trying to buy weapons for the anti-Stone cause — gives Angelina a detonator. Forcing Adrian's people onto the ground, Angelina tells them, "This will be your trial by fire. My guardian angel will save those who are worthy and shepherd us towards salvation." Fortunately, Cal manages to distract Angelina long enough to save everyone from the bomb, to say nothing of their hippie lifestyle.

Best: The coming apocalypse

"Manifest" asks a lot of its viewers between all of the complicated plot threads, frustrating relationships, and frequently illogical decision making from its central characters. And it can sometimes be hard to tell if the writers are writing from a beautifully complex story bible or if they're basically just winging it. Like "Lost" before it, the show has spent a good deal of time exploring the relationship between science and religion, but many fans found the limits of their patience tested when the show's mythology iceberg started to take on a decidedly Judeo-Christian tone toward the end of Season 3. And then there's the fan speculation that the name of Al-Zuras — the explorer who gave the 828ers their lifeboat theory — is an anagram for the biblically resurrected Lazarus, a plausible theory since resurrection seems to be a recurring theme in "Manifest."

After all that time spent waiting for something coherent to arise from the 828ers' adventures, it's nice to finally get some sort of payoff in Season 4, Part 1 when the Stone family realizes the callings are warning about a coming apocalypse and the whole world is in their current lifeboat. Does it make sense? Not even a little. But who doesn't love a good apocalypse story? Whether Angelina is the Antichrist or it's more of a blink-and-you-miss-it apocalypse like the one in "Supernatural," one thing is for certain — we can only hope the end times have more Drea Mikami in them.