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'It becomes more important than ever for Cal to be a leader'
[Warning: The following contains spoilers from the Season 4 Part 1 finale of Manifest. Read at your own risk!]
We are heading into the final descent for Manifest, which returned for the first half of its fourth and final season on Netflix on Friday, Nov. 4. The 10 episodes revealed that Team Lifeboat is tasked not only with saving all of the 828ers before the Death Date (June 2, 2024), but all of humanity. That's right, the Death Date wasn't just about when the 828ers will die, but when everyone on Earth will face the apocalypse.
The first block of Season 4 also revealed that Cal (Ty Doran) will be instrumental in stopping Earth from turning into a lava pit, even if it means facing Angelina (Holly Taylor), who has become otherworldly powerful after absorbing the last fragment of the holy sapphire Team Lifeboat needed to be able to control the callings and have a direct connection to divine consciousness. However, paving the way for Cal to save Team Lifeboat and the world didn't come without sacrifice. Zeke (Matt Long) used his empath powers to absorb Cal's cancer, healing the Holy Grail but giving up his own life instead. The final moments of Episode 410 saw Zeke say his final goodbyes to Mick (Melissa Roxburgh), as Cal emerged from near death in apparently perfect health.
That means the Stone family has suffered another massive loss, but will they even have time to grieve properly with Angelina on the run and time dwindling before the end of the world? Series creator and showrunner Jeff Rake talked to TV Guide about the repercussions of Zeke's sacrifice, and what all of it means for Manifest's final episodes, premiering later on Netflix.
How long have you been planning for Zeke to sacrifice himself to save Cal?
Jeff Rake: We've been planning for it for a long time. I sat Matt down a long time ago and walked him through it just because I wanted him to know what was coming. And you know, it's a tough one, but it was a powerful turn and one that we thought was worth taking and important for story. And it's just one of those hard turns in the writers room that you have to take some times and we're proud of the work, but we're heartsick about it.
Cal is not aware of what Zeke has done when the finale ends. Can you talk about what his reaction is going to be when he processes what happened?
Rake: It's deeply emotional, powerful, and comes with a lot of baggage. Cal will end up with survivor's guilt. That's such a big part of [this first half of the season] that the audience is digesting right now with these 10 episodes, especially because a lot of the baggage that we're experiencing between the Stone family right now is thrown right in Cal's face. When you think about the dynamic between Ben, Cal, and Olive, he was hit with a lot of survivor's guilt, because that was just kind of imposed on him by his sister, by his dad. The fact that he's here, he's alive. His mom's gone. That was a very painful period for him to go through and he got past it in [the first half of the season], but now here we get to [Episode] 410. He lives. Zeke doesn't. There's obviously connective tissue there. Where Zeke really gives his life so that Cal can survive. And spoiler alert, when we get to the next block of episodes, that's a lot for Kyle to be living with. It's a burden that he'll struggle with.
Cal and Zeke had a discussion about why Zeke has powers and why Cal came back older. Neither of them knew the answer. We discovered the reason for Zeke's powers, but will we find out why Cal came back older?
Rake: There are different reasons for it. I don't want to be too on the nose about it, but part of it is sacrifice. Part of it is also the necessity of Kyle to lead and it becomes more important than ever for Cal to be a leader. In the back half, the callings will become stronger, while for others the callings become weaker. Cal, more than ever, needs to step up and lead. It was challenging to some extent for Cal to lead as a child. His ability to grow up, even though it's at great personal expense, his ability to grow up and become a man, to be looked at as an adult, becomes more important with the missions he has been sent on.
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Someone else who is not going to take this death well is Mick. What does her grief process look like in the second block of episodes?
Rake: Zeke made a very compelling explanation in his deathbed speech to her at the very end. She understands on a certain level, and she'll say as much to Kyle on the bedside when we get to that next block of episodes. It makes sense from a mythological place to the extent that they're all on the same mythological journey. And that goes a long way. But at the same time she loves [Zeke]. She's convinced he's the love of her life and to lose him is devastating. That will be a lot for her to navigate. In the aftermath, it's incredibly complicated. There will be some passage of time [at the start of the next season] and from a romantic place that will make her life quite complicated as she asks herself: How much time is enough time before I can move on with my romantic life?
I was about to ask, should the Mick and Jared fans see Zeke's death as an opening?
Rake: Look, Jared was super cool in this last chapter, right? He stood back. Zeke and Jared were friendly. I mean, you think back to earlier in the series when they literally were fighting with each other. We remember that kind of dark place that Zeke went to at the end of Season 1. Now they were cool. Jared stood by and let this all play out. But now of course, with Zeke being gone, Jared, who still thinks of Mick as the love of his life is obviously wondering, how long do I have to wait before trying again? And we're gonna see that happen. And even Mick, who can't help but still feel something for Jared because he was the love of her life at one point, is gonna be asking herself, "you know how long do I have to wait, at what point am I ready to move on romantically in my life?" We're gonna watch that play out, and we'll see where it leads.
What is Angelina's mission now that she believes that she is the Angel sent to save everyone?
Rake: I will challenge you just on the very end of your premise, which is Angelina certainly believes that she is this Archangel, but does she believe that she is supposed to save everybody? That is the one question that's up in the air and what we're gonna come to discover, and she's sort of alluded to this but this will become much more explicit in the final block, that she believes that she is supposed to save "the righteous." What we will learn is that she has a very narrow definition of who are the righteous and that does not necessarily include most of the people who we have come to know and love on the show. It's an incredibly narrow definition. That will be kind of the centerpiece for the mythological conflict. That will play out in the final epic 10 episodes. We've talked somewhat about the Noah myth and Noah's Ark, and that continues to become a big part of our mythology in the final 10 episodes. Angelina, spoiler alert, will come to believe that she is effectively Noah. She and her family are basically the only people who deserve to board the ark, whatever that may be, as we approach the death date. So it's up to Ben, Mick, and perhaps mostly Cal to defeat Angelina as we make our way into the final block. The problem is that Angelina becomes increasingly powerful. We saw how powerful she was right there in Episode 410, and that's only gonna get worse.
Angelina has absorbed the last piece of the sapphire. How does that complicate the mission for Team Lifeboat?
Rake: That's incredibly problematic. That is gonna become increasingly powerful in terms of Cal's belief that he has to maybe collaborate with her and somehow work with her, as hateful as she is. Sometimes you believe that you have to collaborate with your enemy in order to save yourselves and that's a big part of the storytelling in the final block. Ultimately, Cal, Ben, and Mick will be fighting to some extent, as they ask themselves, is it possible that the divine would really want them to have to work with this woman who killed Cal's mom? Is there a world in which the divine would really want them to team up with her so that they can all save themselves, which seems impossible? Or is there another way? Or is there another way?
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Team Lifeboat also finds out in the last episodes of this block that the mission isn't just to save the 828ers, but all of humanity. Besides the scale of the mission, how difficult is that for them to work towards when society has turned against the passengers?
Rake: Similar to the question we were just talking about, how could I possibly have been tasked with saving people who hate me? It's a powerful question. It's a question that I think comes up in a lot of religious faiths where we talk about forgiveness and tolerance. It also is kind of theoretically something that comes up in the real world, in terms of our getting along with the enemy and in politics and in diplomacy. We look at our own political leaders who are typically despised by at least half the country… It's a cliche, but someone becomes the new leader of the country, and they say, "Look, for the people who voted for me, thank you. For the people who didn't vote for me, I'm your president, too." Those are kind of the themes that we're circling in the next block. How are they supposed to create healing? How are they supposed to save people who hate them? That really gets to the core of the themes of the show. We talked about redemption, for themselves personally, but how do you redeem yourself? What does it mean to redeem yourself later, and what am I redeeming myself for? What we'll learn is that it's different things for different people. But often, it's about tolerance, right? Forgiveness, but forgiveness of whom, tolerance for whom? For someone like Ben, it's about tolerance and forgiveness for those who hate me, right? Tolerance of your enemies, forgiveness of your enemies, and that'll become a really important theme as we make our way to the series finale.
Manifest is now streaming on Netflix.