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'Manifest' Cast Sets Up Season 4 Character Conflicts, Especially How Angelina and Grown Cal Fit In

Plus, how Josh Dallas inspired Ben's grief beard.

Lauren Piester
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Josh Dallas in 'Manifest'

Netflix

It's been a while, but Manifest is soon back for its two part final season, now streaming on Netflix. The series was canceled by NBC before it was able to fully offer all the answers up its sleeve, and was saved by Netflix for one last wild ride towards that looming death date: June 2, 2024. Thankfully, no one at Netflix thought it would be fun to wait until that date to give us the final season — or at least the first part of the final season — so we're actually about to get some answers after more than a year of sitting on a devastating cliffhanger. 

Religious zealot and 828 passenger Angelina (Holly Taylor) murdered Grace (Athena Karkanis) and kidnapped baby Eden, all because she thought Eden was her guardian angel and Cal (Jack Messina) had told her where to find a key to his house. Then, Cal touched the tailfin of the plane and disappeared, only to reappear as a teenager (now played by Ty Doran) just as his mother was dying. (Boy, it's going to be sad when there are no more cliffhangers like that to recap.)

When Season 4 picks up, things are dire. It's two years later, and Ben (Josh Dallas) is still grieving the loss of his wife and desperately trying to find his daughter, leaving his sister Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) to deal with the callings alone. Grown up Cal is still around, but Ben still blames him for allowing Angelina back into the house after she was kicked out. Meanwhile, life for all the passengers has become much harder thanks to the government's terrifying new protocol for keeping them (and their visions) in check. 

Here, Metacritic chats with the cast to get the scoop on what to expect, and just how bad things have gotten in the two years since the brutal end of Season 3. 


Ben and the Grief Beard 

If you thought Ben was obsessive before, wait 'til you see him in Season 4. There is exactly one thing this man cares about, and for once it's not, "Save my son!" Now, it's "Find my daughter!" 

"He's not doing well at all," Dallas says. "He's a very emotional and sad and profoundly angry man. We find him two years on from where we left off Season 3. His wife has been murdered, his daughter has been kidnapped, his son is now the age that he should be but older than what he was, and Ben harbors blame for Cal for Grace's death, which is complicated. He has denounced everything, including his loved ones around him, and the callings. As far as he's concerned, they've given him nothing. They've only taken everything from him, so he doesn't want to know anything about them, which leaves his sister on her own." 

His grief can be seen visually in the form of his unruly beard, but that wasn't just a character choice. "We call it Ben's grief beard, but it was actually Josh's grief beard from when we were canceled at the end of Season 3," Dallas explains. "That's when I started growing it, and then when we got picked up, [creator Jeff Rake] was like, 'You keep that thing. You keep that growing.'" 


Captain Michaela 

Mick may have given up her job as a detective, but she's basically full-time as a calling investigator and lifeboat pilot. It's a lot, but she's doing her best. 

"It was a two-person endeavor and now it's a one-person endeavor while [Ben] is trying to find his daughter and avenge Grace's death and figure out those emotions," Roxburgh says. "Michaela was the hot mess in Season 1, and now she's taken Ben's spot and she's the one carrying the family to a larger extent. And she's also got her own stuff going on, too." 

That "stuff" includes the ongoing love triangle with her husband Zeke (Matt Long) and ex-boyfriend Jared (J.R. Ramirez), and Roxburgh says that triangle is still "wide open." 

"She is trying to navigate that," she says. "She's got two people that she loves dearly and she's gonna hurt one of them. So she's not without her own set of drama, and yet, I think she's a much stronger character by the time we get to Season 4 and it jumps two years ahead. She's kind of being forced to, because that death date is coming up, and there is no time to waste." 

Then again, if you ask the guys involved, there's always time for a love triangle. "It's always gonna be there," Long says. "We do see it. We do see the end of that. The fans will get to know what happens with that love triangle." 

Ramirez confirms that two years have not changed his feelings about his ex. "Jared will always love Michaela," he promises. "He's obviously put himself out there. He has no shame in telling her how he feels over and over and over again. At some point, I would hope he learns, but he continues to take that gamble. I would just say that they did a really beautiful job at tying it all together, and there's a happy ending for all these characters." 


The Return of Cal 

Messina and Doran are not the same person, but boy does Doran figure out how to embody this character anyway. If you didn't know any better, you'd think the new Cal was actually just an older old Cal, and that's how the cast felt too. 

"They kind of are [the same person]," Roxburgh says. "They're not, but they kind of are. When Ty walked down the halls of our set for the very first time, I remember in unison we all just kind of gasped because he looks like a large Jack Messina. He embodies Cal so perfectly." 

Doran was quick to reveal his "secret" to becoming the best Cal Stone: "I watched a lot of Manifest." He saw Messina as his role model, and worked hard to "really get the vibe" of the character and incorporate as much of Messina as possible. The wildest thing about Cal is that even though he's been aged up physically, he's still, in most ways, the same Cal who touched the tailfin in the Season 3 finale. 

"He is Tom Hanks," Doran jokes. "Little kid in a grown man's body. God, we should have done a scene at FAO Schwartz." 

In all seriousness, he has grown up a little. 

"He's different in that he had to grow up emotionally and mentally to match how he is seen and perceived and moves through the world in this new body, but he is still very much that kid trying to figure it out," Doran explains. "He's as overwhelmed as a person can be based on how crazy his life has been so far. He uses that and always is able to act a little bit more now that he has matured slightly, at least a little bit, on how badly he wants to help with the lifeboat and with his family. He wants to be an active member of the solution and to do good and right by his people, so he's able to contribute a little bit more. He ends up in some dangerous situations. He's an adult, but he has always been so welcoming of danger and risking himself to save others. That's just who he is." 

Unfortunately, not everyone is thrilled about Cal's presence, since it was his fault that Angelina was able to get into the house. 

"The relationship between Cal and his dad is complicated, especially at the beginning of Season 4," Dallas says. "Ben has a lot of walls and a lot of anger and a lot of blame that he puts on him, and all Cal wants is his dad. All Cal wants is for his dad to be there for him, and unfortunately, at this moment in the beginning of Season 4, Ben can't, and that makes it tough." 

Luckily, he finds comfort with Aunt Mick, Uncle Zeke, and even Saanvi (Parveen Kaur) and Vance (Daryl Edwards). After a while, his sister is there for him, too. 


Olive's Dilemma 

Olive (Luna Blaise) manages to bounce back from the death of her mother and the loss of her sister a little quicker than Ben does, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hit her hard. 

"Ben and Olive are fully blaming Cal for the death of her mom, and so that's really really hard, but it's confusing," Blaise says. "Olive, she just overheard her mother's death. She didn't even know what was going on. And then to come back and there's this fully grown adult that was your brother? It's high stakes. It's a double-edged sword. There's no good side, so the Stones have to find the way around to the good side of things. I think that's literally a line I actually say in the last episodes. That's their end goal, just getting to the good side of life, and getting to that final mission." 

Olive has also had to get a job, along with Zeke, to help support the family, since life has gotten immeasurably harder for the passengers in the past two years, thanks to the Registry. 


The Registry 

After months of Michaela sneakily using police resources to investigate her callings, law enforcement has a whole new way of keeping tabs on passengers of Flight 828. There's an entire department that keeps fingerprint and DNA records of all passengers, and forces them to come in on a monthly basis to check in, just in case they felt like committing any crimes or having any visions of the future. The Registry would also absolutely freak if they found out Cal had returned as an adult, so as far as anyone outside the inner circle is concerned, Cal is still missing. 

Ramirez says the regular police aspect of the show has "died down" in favor of focusing on the "aggressive" treatment of the passengers, which "throws a wrench into the mix of it all." "You have a couple of integral players in the story who are inside the registry and have a lot to do with helping the Stones move forward," he says, which includes Jared and Drea (Ellen Tamaki). 

Long adds that the role of the Registry in the series is "complicated" because "its existence is not good. It's not positive, but the people that are involved with it, without saying too much, do end up trying to make the most of it."

"There may be some things about it at some point that could be construed as helpful or positive in some way," he continues, "but it's really a draconian, police state totalitarian feeling. It's scary stuff." 

"Now the passengers are given a lot less freedom," Roxburg says. "We're more under a microscope, and that really changes the way we go into the callings. It changes the way we navigate things, and there's so much frustration there and the dynamic between government and passengers really is played up a lot there. You get to see that butt heads." 

And Dallas notes that the Registry "isolates" the passengers in a more intense way. "It puts so much more pressure on this group of people, which is going to be exciting as we go forward to see what that does to them." 


The Bird's Nest 

Despite the troublesome existence of the Registry, Vance has managed to start up operations again, with Saanvi conducting experiments by his side. Edwards is thrilled to have a new "beautiful" space to continue to investigate what happened to 828. 

"There are these scenes we shoot at night with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background, and Saanvi has all of her computers, and Vance has his big screens where he can look at what's going on in the city, so it's fun," he says. And yeah, if you're picturing a Bat Cave-esque control center, you're not far off. 

Saanvi has managed to continue her experiments, and Kaur says that, as science tends to do, all of her theories, ideas, and answers continuously change, especially as the show gets closer and closer to solving all of the mysteries, which might not all have scientific answers. 

"Saanvi definitely starts to question where her personal stance is between faith and science," she teases. 

For Vance, he will keep going on his journey from skeptic to…less of a skeptic. 

"He knows that these things are actually happening, but the contradiction is that Vance is so reality-based, that it is a struggle for him to even say some of the things that are happening. Those are some of the most fun moments to play this season, because absolutely extraordinary, unbelievable things happen, and Vance has to say, 'All right, now let's see if we can figure out a rational way to deal with it,'" Edwards says.


The Religious Nutjob 

And then there's Angelina, who is the reason for all the grief the Stones are still dealing with at the beginning of Season 4. 

"Sorry, my bad," Taylor says. "I'll take the blame on that one." 

Angelina murdered Grace and stole baby Eden, and now she and the toddler are on the run, but Taylor needs everyone to know that she is taking "very good care" of the baby. 

"She cares about her a lot!" she promises. "They are on the run and they don't really have anywhere to settle down. They're just like their own little traveling band, trying to find snacks and shelter along the way. But yeah, I'm sorry. I know people are still going to be angry and I know I'm gonna get bad Instagram comments, so I'm bracing myself." 

Taylor says we will see Angelina process her actions as the season goes on.

"Angelina is a human at the end of the day, and everything that she's doing she thinks is for the greater good," she says. "She thinks it's going to help people. I think she doesn't want to cause pain to anybody, but she also is willing to do whatever it takes to reach this greater good that she thinks needs to happen." 

While Vance and Saanvi and occasionally the Stones approach the callings from a more rational, scientific place, Angelina "could use a little more science," Taylor admits. "I think it's all religion [for her], and that's kind of a conundrum in itself and kind of a moral tale from her perspective of just how you can twist the word of any kind of scripture or philosophy and use it for good or evil. You can interpret it any way that you would like to, and sometimes people get carried away with that. She's like a cautionary tale, in a way." 


Manifest Season 4 premieres Nov. 4 on Netflix.