Lost and Manifest: How one TV show got it right, and the other got it wrong. (Rethought my suggested ending for Manifest.)
Two TV shows about supernatural events that happen to passengers of a commercial airplane flight. They are similar in their Science Fiction/Supernatural elements concerning the aftermath of that flight. However, one of the show's endings is consistent with the events as presented in the episodes and thus ends satisfactorily, and the other violates the expectations of the viewer by renouncing those episode events and expectations and therefore ends poorly.
Lost is an American science fiction adventure drama television series created by Jeffrey Lieber, J. J. Abrams, and Damon Lindelof that aired on ABC from September 22, 2004, to May 23, 2010, over six seasons, comprising a total of 121 episodes. The show contains elements of supernatural fiction and follows the survivors of a commercial jet airliner flying between Sydney and Los Angeles after the plane crashes on a mysterious island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean.
Manifest is an American supernatural drama television series created by Jeff Rake that premiered on September 24, 2018, on NBC. It centers on the passengers and crew of a commercial airliner who suddenly reappear after being presumed dead for five and a half years. On August 28, 2021, Netflix renewed Manifest for a fourth and final season, consisting of 20 episodes, split across multiple parts. The first part of the fourth season premiered on November 4, 2022. The second part of the fourth season was released on June 2, 2023. During the course of the series, 62 episodes of Manifest aired over four seasons between September 24, 2018, and June 2, 2023.
I had never watched Lost, although I had heard about it, my girlfriend, now wife, had watched it from the beginning. So, on May 23, 2010, when the last episode was going to be on, she asked if I wanted to watch it with her. She knew that I enjoyed spoilers and would often go check out a TV show and read up on it before or during watching. She had said that she was strongly considering re-watching the whole series with me since it had been on for so long and was so complex that it would be worth it for her to have a second viewing.
We discovered that the series finale was to be an expanded running time of two and a half hours starting at 9 pm ET, with a retrospective of the past six seasons running for two hours, starting at 7 pm. She was looking forward to seeing that retrospective to refresh her mind with all the plotlines with its ins and outs to set up that series finale. Whereas for me, this was the perfect spoiler-filled way to watch the series, getting a taste of it all before I saw the finale, and thus happily prepared to dive into a long re-watch.
In the end, we were both sorely disappointed with the TV series Lost. The basic ending was that everything that preceded it was only a death dream. The only significance for the whole series for the characters was that it was a dream means for them to let go, stop struggling, and accept the fact that the plane crashed on the island and everyone died.
We both hated that ending since it seemed to contradict and violate all the plot points and plotlines that had been offered in the previous 120 episodes. We both resolved not to re-watch the series.
Manifest, however, was no disappointment. It delivered on its premises and ended consistent with the plotline and plot points of all the prior episodes. The show kept hinting at where it was going and what was going on with the supernatural events taking place throughout the show. It delivered a satisfying and emotionally fulfilling finale. Overall, I would rate the show with a solid B to B+. It set up an interesting and intriguing premise, a plane goes into a freak and mysterious storm and then seems to come out of that storm to land successfully on the runway. The trouble is that when it lands, it turns out that the day it lands is five and a half years in the future. How and why this has happened is what the series explains. The show falls short of an A rating in that in its later seasons, it goes clearly off into supernatural and divine intervention as the overall explanation of what is happening. This intervention comes off strong and thus takes away from the potential mystery of the show. However, the show ends consistently with a satisfying payoff.
Now, I would like to present an alternative ending for the show. One that is consistent with its reliance on supernatural/divine intervention but gives the viewer a little nuanced and ambiguous resolution.
SPOILER ALERT: The following section discusses the show's finale.
The actual ending has all the passengers undergo judgment, with the show's villains being turned to ash for their evil choices and actions within the series. So, when the plane does land, it is not five and half years in the future, but it simply lands on the same day that it was when it took flight from Jamaica and returns to New York City after passing through that mysterious turbulence.
My different ending would have been the following:
First rather than the villains of the series turn to ash, I would have them collapse and the viewers are left not knowing whether they are alive or dead. Secondly, I would have the plane arrive five and half hours later than their expected arrival time. Lastly, we would see the original captain of the plane be the last one to disembark off the plane. Thus all the passengers and crew had returned and are accounted for.
This gives the ending a very ambiguous and mysterious ending. Something mysterious still happened; the plane traveled and lost time. Now the time difference is not measured in years but in hours.
Now there are a few more possibilities here. Did the villains die or are they in some sort of coma? Who knows. With my ending, the outcome is more ambiguous and yet still consistent with the show's supernatural/divine intervention concept, just not as overtly obvious in its presentation.
As I said, the show was enjoyable and a success, with a B or B+ overall. Even with its more overt and direct showing of intervention as a means to resolve the plot, it was a show well worth watching.
Gary Jaron's musings.
In my High School Art Department someone had made an ornate sign on hung it on the wall that read: 'Ignore this sign completely.' A paradox couched in sarcasm and irony. This blog is for random musings on anything and everything that comes into my head.