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SYFY WIRE Manifest

Death! Heartbreak! Hope? 'Manifest' creator Jeff Rake explains that Season 4 midseason finale

"Don't rule anything out until you get to the series finale," Manifest creator Jeff Rake tells SYFY WIRE.

By Tara Bennett
(L to R) Melissa Roxburgh as Michaela Stone, Matt Long as Zeke Landon, Daryl Edwards as Robert Vance, and J.R. Ramirez as Jared Vasquez in Manifest Season 4 Episode 5.

If you've landed bingeing the first half of Manifest's fourth season, which dropped Nov. 4 on Netflix, we congratulate you on surviving the onslaught of twists and turns creator Jeff Rake and his writers unleashed upon his loyal Manifesters. Especially if you watched "Inversion Illusion," which probably has you ugly crying into a box of Kleenex as we speak. 

There, there. SYFY WIRE is here to gently dry your eyes and give you some concrete answers about Part I of Season 4 with none other than executive producer/showrunner Jeff Rake, the architect of our communal group sadness. A co-writer of the midseason episode with Margaret Easley, Rake is ready to spill the tea on what exactly was planned long ago in that cliffhanger, how they constructed Part I to accommodate that big two-year time jump and what we can expect from the final batch of Manifest episodes ever when the series returns with Part II. 

***Spoilers below for Manifest Season 4, Part I below***

Let's start with what you knew you were heading towards, story-wise, as you constructed the Season 4 midseason cliffhanger episode. How much of this was planned from the start?

We ended up deciding that the most important things that we wanted to finish on was Zeke's (Matt Long) passing, Cal (Ty Doran) surviving, and, of course, Angelina (Holly Taylor) surviving but letting only the audience in on that. Ben (Josh Dallas) doesn't know and thinks she's gone. Both of those are mythological and of course, Zeke and Cal are both deeply emotional. We thought that was most important to get out of [Episode 10] with our mid-season out. Everything else built around that, and you'll see what that means going forward. 

Going back to the start of Part I, you open with a two-year time jump which is very out of the norm for this series. How did that change your crafting of this block of episodes?

Yeah, we settled on two years. And almost in the next breath, we settled on the flashback format, so that in this block of 10 episodes, there'd be key flashbacks that catch us up on the story. We tried to build those flashbacks such that every major character kind of got their own. The combination allowed us to jump a lot closer to the death date, which allowed us to build the stakes because we're getting a lot closer. And yet, not feel like we missed anything. By the time we get to [Episode 9], you're caught up on everything. It was a bit of a gamble because you're kind of in the dark on certain characters for a number of episodes. But the audience is smart. They understand the format.

Speaking of Episode 9, "Rendez-vous" reveals that the death date is no longer just an 828 harbinger but a problem for all of humanity. When did you decide to go there?

It had been contemplated from the very beginning. It was in my pitch way back at the beginning when I pitched the series originally. But we were always a little bit nervous about that idea: "save the passengers, save the world." Once the stakes become so vast and it becomes about the world itself, it can become so big that it becomes about nothing at all. It's just hard to swallow and digest making things so humongous. We were nervous about it. We always figured we could thread the needles by keeping the story focused on the family. And so that was the happy medium that we always contemplated, to have global stakes and yet always tell the stories through the characters that we know and love. I think we've successfully threaded that needle. 

Manifest Season 4 Episode 5

Will Part II of Season 4 continue following the 828ers or will it bloom into a global story?

What you'll discover when you get to the final block is that we shift our storytelling. In block one, we're still very much focused on the family and spend our time at the Stone house when we're not out solving the case of the week. For reasons that I'm not going to totally reveal right now, we shift in that final block so that we spend much more of our time with all of the passengers as a group. The final block is much more focused on the community of the 828ers. The Stone family is among the community of them.

How do Ben and Michaela function in that scenario?

We've always talked about Ben and Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) being the co-captains of the lifeboat. And when we talk about the lifeboat, we've always talked about that in the context of the Flight 828 passengers. Now, in a sense, metaphorically, the lifeboat is kind of about the lifeboat of humanity. But, again, it's kind of hard to get your head around Ben and Michaela saving the world. It starts to turn them into superheroes. And that's so big, it's almost impossible to tell those stories. This is not intended to be a Marvel movie. That's not what the show is, even though the stakes, arguably, are at that level. But we wanted to keep it on a more grounded terrain. We'll see if it works for the audience. Hopefully, we've managed to keep the show feeling grounded, even though the stakes are that high. 

Ok, last but not least... Zeke! How dare you!? Was his sacrifice for Cal always a fait accompli?

Yeah, that was something that was always going to happen. But remember on Manifest, just because somebody dies doesn't necessarily mean that's the end of the story. Minor spoiler alert, the Zeke/Michaela/Jared (J. R. Ramirez) story continues. Don't rule anything out until you get to the series finale.

The first half of Manifest Season 4 is available now on Netflix.

Looking for another sci-fi mystery? Stream La Brea on Peacock.