Part 1 of the fourth and final season of Manifest will finally drop November 4 on Netflix. Here, Creator Jeff Rake talks about what to expect from the first 10 episodes, why each one remains the standard broadcast length, and whether we’ll ever learn who (or what) is the source of all those mysterious “callings.”
DEADLINE You may not have gotten your six full seasons, but is this still your happy ending?
JEFF RAKE It’s like a happy ending. Twenty episodes turned out to be plenty for us to tell our complete story. I have my story points, my flags in the sand, and I carried them into the new writer’s room. You look at your Zoom board and your flags and … you’ve got 20 episodes! Twenty turned out to be more than enough. We’re telling the same story we were always planning to tell. It’s just a little more concise, a little more packed. Each episode is a little bit more packed with information, which I think is a win for the audience. It just makes each episode more dense with excitement and action and relationship stories and mythology. It’s been incredibly exciting and gratifying. And when I heard that it was two blocks of 10 episodes, that was great news to me because in my mind, that’s effectively two seasons. It allows me to put a big, season-ending cliffhanger right in the middle at the end of [the first] 10, which is exciting for the viewers and fun for us as writers. It was a great victory.
How many writers were you able to hire?
RAKE I was able to keep all of my writers but there was a slight adjustment. We lost one or two and were able to replace them. So I had nine and I still ended up with nine.
You are on Netflix now with no ads. Why did you keep the episode the same, standard broadcast length?
RAKE One of the first things that Netflix said was, ‘we are happy for you to just keep doing what you’ve been doing.’ We already had the proof in the pudding that the Netflix audience loved the show as we had been writing it, the length of it, the tone of it, the fact that we had act breaks and we went to black with our act breaks. We had already seen that the streaming audience had watched 42 episodes of our show and they loved it. I didn’t want to do anything to risk alienating our audience. Why mess with success? So we kept writing to the act breaks. It still feels like the show. And we wrote in some late profanity just because we got a kick out of it.
What did you decide to jump two years into the future?
RAKE The hardest thing to do that we discovered from season one was to move the story calendar forward. I had arbitrarily picked the death date as June 2nd, 2024, way back when. I did that because I was hoping that we’d have six seasons. June 2nd, 2024 was six years after the story began. And so I was stuck with this death date in 2024. We forever wanted to create these big cliffhangers at the end of a season. And then it turned out that these cliffhangers almost always wanted to be answered with immediacy. And so the problem was you’d want to answer the cliffhanger, like the next day. So it proved really challenging to move the ball closer and closer to the death date six years later. So whenever we could find an opportunity to push the story calendar further, we would take it. And when we wrote the cliffhangers for the end of season three, we thought okay, what’s next? Grace was killed. The beloved daughter Eden was kidnapped. What happens next? We wondered, how horrific would it be if two years later if [Ben, played by Josh Dallas] still hadn’t found that child? We went for it because it gave us the great advantage of pushing us much closer to the death date, which raises our stakes enormously. And yet at the same time, imagine if on top of your wife being killed, it’s two years later and you still haven’t found your child. What a nightmare.
When Angelina kidnapped baby Eden and killed Grace in the season 3 finale, it caused the entire plane to disappear. Will we learn why the plane disappeared?
Good question. We won’t find out where the plane went, but, slight spoiler, that may not be the last we see the plane.
Will we learn where Cal went?
Will you get into where Capt. Daly went?
He kind of appeared and disappeared. That won’t be the last we’ve seen of Captain Daly. And we will learn where Captain Daly’s been.
Will this story end or get within minutes of the death date?
You can expect [the show to go] literally up to the death date. That’s where episode 20 is going to take us.
More importantly, we will find out the source of the callings?
We leave it up to slight interpretation, but I think the audience will be able to draw a satisfying conclusion.
After Netflix picked up season 4, did you ever get a “we’re sorry” call from NBC?
You know what, I don’t wanna talk about that specifically. But NBC and I have been great friends and they have been champions of mine for many years, before and after. I have a very cordial relationship with the executives over there to the very top. We remain great friends and colleagues.
What’s next for you, a comedy?
This was a turn for me in terms of genre because I was not an event mystery writer. I came up writing cop shows and lawyer shows but I really loved writing a big, event mystery that captivates the audience. And I’m hopeful that I can come up with something as captivating as Manifest.
Your relationship with fans on Twitter played a big role in Netflix picking up this show for a final season. Does that mean you’ll pay $8 a month to Elon Musk to keep your blue checked account?
Stephen King is a great fan of Manifest and that was very impressive watching him get the price down from $20 to $8. So I’m just gonna stand back and see how low he can get it.
The final 10 episodes of Manifest season 4 are expected to drop in the spring.