Media Mindfulness Blog

Manifest: the Mystery of Life's Meaning and Purpose on Network TV

Manifest: the Mystery of Life's Meaning and Purpose on Network TV

One of the top new shows this season is Manifest. The first episode of the most prominent new drama of the year (with about 8 million viewers tuning in each week) is still available to watch if you missed it.  


The show begins with a family at an airport after a vacation.  Michaela (Melissa Roxbourgh), in a voice over, introduces us to her family.  Before boarding the plane, the airline announces that the plane is over sold and anyone willing to take a later flight receives a $400 travel voucher.  Michaela, brother Ben (Once Upon a Time’s Josh Dallas) and nephew Cal take the offer and get on a later flight. 


During the flight the plane experiences extremely strong turbulence: lightning flashes outside the plane and the lights in the cabin go out.  After a few moments all calms down, the lights go back on and the pilot apologizes for what seemed to be a sudden storm surge not seen on the radar.  


When the plane lands and all on board deplane, they discover that what seemed to be a few hours on the plane actually was five and a half years.  As they process what that means, they discover their lives are not the same as when they first boarded the plane.


Each episode builds from the previous as we mainly journey with Ben and Michaela as they learn how to adapt to the present life. 


Many reviewers are comparing Manifest to the hit supernatural drama Lost because of the mystery questions: What actually happened to the plane during its time in the air? Did something happen to the passengers during the flight?  This second question is raised because in each episode, Ben and Michaela hear a voice in their head that repeats a phrase and doesn’t stop until they discover the meaning of the phrase and act on it.    


What I find interesting is that the show hints that the “voice” Ben and Michaela hear may be supernatural. Each time they listen and respond to the invitation, they help someone who wasn’t able to help himself or herself. 


Manifest looks at the topic of faith and finding meaning in a world where, at times, there may not seem to be any meaning.  The very name of the show seems to establish the idea that all of our lives are connected with one another and linked to our Creator.  The meaning of the lives of each character are gradually revealed—made manifest—in each episode. 


We have been created in the image and likeness of God.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “the divine image is present in every man…in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves” (CCC #1702). Pope Saint John Paul explains, “The function of the image is to reflect the one who is the model, to reproduce its own prototype.  Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion” (TOB 9.3). It is when we participate in a communion with another or with others that we most image the Trinitarian God.


Our culture tends to tell us that great status, large amounts of money, fancy houses and cars are the key to happiness.  But if we look logically at the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and God is a loving communion of persons, that we will find our greatest joy and fulfillment in living as we were created to live, in a loving communion focused on others. 


The new drama Manifest reminds us that each of us can touch the lives of others in a profound and mysterious way when we strive to live in the image and likeness of God who has created us.  As we watch the show, perhaps the question to ask ourselves is: how will we allow God’s image to manifest in our lives and in the lives of others?



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