The fourth season of Manifest is bigger and more impactful than ever for the passengers of flight 828, the plane that mysteriously departed in early 2013 and reappeared in late 2018 as though no time had passed. Following the murder of Stone family matriarch Grace (Athena Karkanis) and kidnapping of Ben ( Josh Dallas ) and Grace’s daughter Eden, we pick up with the passengers two years later to a much different world. Ben has spiraled and is lost in his grief and desperation to find his daughter, while Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) and Saanvi (Parveen Kaur) relentlessly try to right the lifeboat and prevent their imminent death day that awaits them in just a year and a half. Meanwhile, Cal (Ty Doran) is back — five and a half years older, physically — and trying to figure out his new life under the alias of Gabriel. Olive (Luna Blaise) is lost without her mother and her grief-stricken father, also struggling with her brother’s role in their mother’s death as the reason Angelina (Holly Taylor) was able to get into their house to commit the nefarious deed.
However, amidst the chaos and upheaval, one character has continued to pull himself together and stay on the right path over the missed two years: Zeke (Matt Long). Zeke has stepped up in the time away, becoming a counselor to help recovering addicts like himself (and pay the bills now that Michaela has quit her job on the police force and Ben is too focused on finding Eden to work).
The first ten episodes of Manifest’s fourth and final season focus heavily on Zeke, depicting how much he has grown since he made his frostbitten journey to find Michaela shortly after the plane returned to New York. Zeke found some solace and family with his wife Michaela and the Stone family as whole, only adding to what a fantastically complex character he had become. This makes the midseason finale, which sees Zeke make the ultimate sacrifice, all the more heartbreaking, and make this death the most powerful we’ve seen on the series thus far.
In the episodes prior, Zeke struggles quite a bit himself; however, these struggles help to depict just how much Zeke has changed and grown since we first met him. After surviving his death date at the end of the second season, Zeke has taken his new lease on life to help others, aided by the empathic abilities that he was gifted by the universe after losing his Callings. During the two years we skipped, Zeke discovered the ability to absorb others’ emotions and lessen their burden, but we catch up with him as these latent emotions do too. He doesn’t know how to handle them, nor has he been properly allowing himself the time to deal with his own emotions. This causes issues when the emotions become too much to bear, causing Zeke to kill a passenger that was about to harm Michaela and lash out at one of the addicts at the counseling center (which results in Zeke’s firing).
Overwhelmed with what’s been going on, Zeke relapses and starts drinking again, starting again after years of sobriety. As soon as he does though, Zeke steps up (a true depiction of how he’s changed since we met him) to admit to what he’s done and put things right. He struggles to find a way to tell Michaela about what happened, but stumbling over a passed-out Cal in the yard gives him someone to help hold him accountable from the start, as they both try to help one another with what they’re dealing with.
Meanwhile, Cal struggles with the reemergence of his cancer. After seeking medical advice from Saanvi’s former lover Alex (Sydney Morton), and his treatments failing to make the impact they were hoping for, Cal’s death is all but guaranteed. In the midseason finale, Cal is essentially on his deathbed at home, waiting for the inevitable to happen while trying to encourage his family to keep fighting for themselves and each other. Cal and Zeke stay home together, a bond that has been one of the most solid aspects of Manifest since Zeke’s introduction, as the family goes out to do what they need to do. And, with Angelina out in the city with the omega sapphire, creating fake Callings and causing lava-filled fissures around the city, there’s a lot for them to do.
Upstairs, with everything they’ve recently learned about the Callings and their reason for returning, Olive and her boyfriend TJ (Garrett Wareing) are digging into history and mythology to find an explanation for the questions they still have. Ultimately, they discover that Cal is the passengers’ hope for surviving the death date — meaning, he’s also the world’s hope for surviving the forthcoming apocalypse — and his death would solidify the end. In a moment of pure selflessness, Zeke returns downstairs after overhearing their conversation and absorbs Cal’s cancer with his supernatural abilities, calling Michaela one more time to say goodbye to the love of his life before it’s too late. When Michaela gets home after confronting Angelina, Zeke is gone.
In the three and a half seasons of Manifest thus far, there have been quite a few deaths, all of which have had some great and impactful purpose behind them. In the first season, Griffin (Marc Menchaca) dies to teach the passengers about the death date. Saanvi accidentally killing the Major (Elizabeth Marvel) leads Saanvi down a rabbit hole of grief and guilt while also resulting in the passengers learning something new about the plane and their disappearance. The Meth Heads die to show the passengers the truth about their death date, which is that they will be judged equally for their actions, completely turning their world upside down as the concept of the “life boat” is born. Finally, Grace’s death in the third season’s finale turns the tides against the passengers once and for all, destroying the happily ever after that Ben and Cal thought they would have after the death date had passed. Grace’s death, as such a prominent character herself, is the only one that challenges Zeke’s in terms of how powerful it is. For this writer though, Zeke’s is much more impactful.
The main reason I will say this latest death is more impactful is that, at the end of the day, Zeke has arguably had more character growth than any other character on Manifest. When we met Zeke, he was broken inside. He had been for a long time, holding onto guilt and grief over his sister’s Chloe death that he blamed himself for (and his parents blamed him, too). That singular moment is why Zeke lost himself in addiction, violence, and bad choices for the majority of his life. When Zeke returns after dying of frostbite in the cave, he more so than anyone else uses this second chance to get things right. He makes a few frustrating decisions, like going to jail around the time of the accidental shooting at Michaela’s apartment, but it’s the way Zeke expects to do his penance for all the bad things he’d done in his life.
From there, Zeke and Michaela fall in love, get married, and a whole new world is opened for them. Zeke finds a family of his own with the Stones, quickly growing close to Cal in particular. In fact, these special relationships are another factor in why Zeke’s death is the most impactful thus far. In the fourth season, Zeke grows to become a father figure of sorts for Cal and Olive in Ben’s absence, being a vital part of their grieving for their mother and figuring out how to move forward. He helps Olive deal with her anger, especially her anger directed at Cal for trusting Angelina once upon a time. Zeke gives Cal a shoulder to cry on and someone to seek comfort from when Ben won’t even look at him. Even with Ben, Zeke attempts to be a voice of reason for his brother-in-law, pointing out that Ben is ignoring his other children in his single-minded search for Eden.
Obviously, his relationship with Michaela is something special in and of itself, too. Their journey under the stars has not led where anyone expected, but this relationship has always been so easy to root for. Zeke’s love for Michaela knows no bounds, while Michaela has found a true partner in Zeke who loves and accepts her for all that she is — yes, even her lingering feelings for Jared (J.R. Ramirez). They were, quite literally, fated to find each other, help each other to heal, and fall in love. They help each other to cope with their guilt over their roles in Zeke’s sister Chloe’s and Michaela’s best friend Evie’s deaths. They were relentless in their love and support for one another, becoming nearly unbreakable by the end. When all is said and done, we have seen every reason Zeke and Michaela fell in love and wanted to be together, something we didn’t get with Ben and Grace as they were together long before we entered their lives.
Another reason Zeke’s death is the most impactful yet is because he had already survived his death date. He followed the Callings, helped to save Cal’s life, and lived. He was the passengers’ hope, proof that there is life after this. Zeke was supposed to live a long and happy life after everything he had endured. His death cut that short, though he got a few years more than he expected, and ruined the future that everyone had envisioned for Zeke. Death is unpredictable, as we learned with Grace, but this wasn’t supposed to happen after everything we’d learned from the Callings. When Manifest returns for the second half of the final season, Zeke’s death should be felt even more strongly than Grace’s. He is the reason the world has hope of surviving what’s coming, and he gave all the Stones a second chance at living long, happy, and full lives by saving Cal.
Every episode of Manifest is now streaming on Netflix.