Manifest – A Look At Character Development

Hey guys! Keeping up with my Manifest theme for the month (and making up for not doing a character development post last month), I will be analyzing the development of one of my favorite characters in the Manifest TV show, Ben Stone. Before we get started, I just want to mention that I didn’t really see my first Character Development post being the start of a new series, but I find I enjoy analyzing characters and what makes them tick. I thought it would only be right to have a series dedicated to doing that! You can read my first Character Development post, in which I analyzed Prince Dimitri from Fire Emblem: Three Houses, here.

As I said, I will be analyzing Ben Stone, a character who I feel has gone through some extensive development throughout the three and a half seasons he’s been on screen. We’ve still got ten more episodes in season 4, which will most likely be released in 2023, so I know we’ve still got some more development to see when it comes to Ben. He’s had plenty of traumatic experiences even before the events of the show. There’s a lot of backstory that contributes to how he is in the first couple seasons, and it takes a while for him to work through it. But that’s something I feel was done really well in this show. Ben starts out as an atheist in episode one, and by the time we get to the season 3 finale, he’s begging for a scientist too have faith that miracles can happen. This transition doesn’t happen over a couple episodes. This series did a really good job with the pacing, and it was as realistic as possible (except for, you know, the fact that an entire plane-full of people died and came back to life).

So how does this development happen? Let’s do a deep dive into his character and find out!

Ben’s Backstory –

Ben Stone (Property of Netflix)

At the very beginning of the show, before the Stone family gets on the flight back home from their vacation in Jamaica, we learn that Ben’s marriage is struggling. Ben is a math/physics professor, so he trusts in science. He is a problem solver, but this can sometimes get in the way of things. Every little problem becomes a puzzle he has to solve, and he’ll stop at nothing to fix things. This might mean he becomes a little destructive towards himself and his family, even if he doesn’t mean to hurt anyone. The problem he’s trying to fix at the start of the show revolves around his son, Cal. Cal is only ten years old, but he’s been fighting cancer since he was six, and they’ve just received the devastating news that he won’t survive another six months. Ben sees this as a problem to solve, so he dedicates himself to doing just that. Though his goals are good, he ends up neglecting his family along the way. Which brings us to the beginning of the show…

When Flight 828 lands in New York five years after leaving Jamaica, the passengers are left devastated, including Ben. He comes home to a much older daughter, a wife, Grace, who was in love with someone else, and the news that his mother had died. He’s trying to pick up the pieces of his life, and he doesn’t see Flight 828 returning as a miracle like everyone else does. In fact, he doesn’t believe in miracles, or anything that has to do with God. Even though Cal has a chance of surviving his cancer due to new technology, he’s still skeptical.

Then, the Callings come into play. Callings are visions the passengers start to get, and the first one we see is with Ben’s sister, Michaela. When she tells him what happened, he insists that she keep the Callings to herself for her own safety, but it seems to be that he doesn’t even believe that it happened…until he starts getting them. As the show goes on, and it turns out the Callings might actually be helping them avoid disasters, he starts to open up to the possibility that maybe miracles do exist…

One Step Forward –

Clinging to faith, but a little “unhinged” (Property of Netflix)

Season one has Ben trying to repair his marriage after finding out Grace fell in love with another man after she thought Ben died. Things get rocky, but eventually, the two decide not to call it quits. This happens right on time, because as it turns out, Grace is pregnant. Flash forward to season 2, Grace has complications with the pregnancy, leading Ben to have to make an impossible decision; save Grace, or save his unborn daughter. The doctor that could have saved her was nowhere to be found for the first half of the episode, until a Calling leads another passenger to rescue the doctor, who had gone out kayaking but almost drowned. The doctor arrives at the hospital just in time to save both Grace and the baby. After this, Ben is forced to recognize that miracles are taking place, and maybe there’s more to God than he thought.

Even just in a season and a half, Ben was far from where he had started. While everyone was using science to figure out what had happened to Flight 828, he was starting to rely on faith. He’s certain the Callings are good, and that the only way to survive their Death Date (the day they’re all supposed to die) is to follow them. This is where things get difficult for him, because even though he might begin to see the point of faith, he still gets caught up in problem-solving. He gets so caught up in it that he often puts his family at risk. These risk including getting himself arrested, and at this point, he even has multiple felonies.

However, Grace is always there to pull him back from the edge. But what happens when Grace is gone? At the end of season 3, their son, Cal, disappears. Ben is convinced that the only way to bring him back is to destroy a piece of Flight 828, but the scientist in charge of studying the piece refuses to part with it.

“There are some things science can’t explain! Some things you have to go on faith!”

Eventually, Ben is able to get through to the scientist, thanks to help from a Calling. But when Ben follows the Calling to destroy the piece of the plane, things go terribly wrong.

One Step Backwards –

Season 4 Ben (Property of Netflix)

While Ben is off destroying the piece of the plane, Grace is murdered and his daughter, Eden, is abducted by the series’ villain, Angelina. We don’t find out his reaction to this until season 4 through flashbacks. Season 4 picks up two years after the events of season 3, and Ben has lost the faith he had in the previous episodes. He’s devoting all of his time and energy to tracking down Eden, who is still missing. She’s been declared dead by the police, but he doesn’t want to give up. He’s still clinging to his last bit of faith that she’s still out there, alive, even though no one else believes him.

However, he doesn’t believe following the Callings is going to lead to anything good, now. He’s completely given up on them, forcing his sister, Michaela, to take his place as “captain” of the passengers. He’s been completely neglecting his family, and his relationship with his son, Cal, is in shambles. After Grace’s murder, Cal returned five years older (as he would be if the plane never disappeared). This is still a mystery, but one Ben doesn’t care to solve. He blames Grace’s death on Cal, since Cal was the one who told Angelina where the key to their house was (and Cal was the only one who trusted Angelina).That being said, the two don’t talk. Even Olive isn’t sure how to talk to Ben anymore.

For the first five episodes of season 4, Ben searches for Eden. Sometimes he’s forced to follow a Calling, but he always walks away crushed that they never led him to Eden…until one day, they do. In episode five (“Squawk”), Ben finds Eden. His family is all under the same roof again, even if they still need to repair their relationships. Ben has a chance to build up his faith again, too.

Where Will We Go Next? –

Ben waits for Cal to be released from the Registry (Property of Netflix)

By the end of season 4, Ben is back into the thick of solving Callings. For the last half of S4 Part 1, Ben was trying to help Cal, who was dying from a relapse of cancer. I have a feeling he just would have fallen back into old habits had Cal actually died, or perhaps it would have been worse than when Grace died. Now that Zeke ended up sacrificing himself to save Cal (he used his powers to take Cal’s cancer away, but that meant he had to take it for himself), Ben’s really going to have to step up and be there for Michaela (Zeke’s wife). We’ll be swapping places between Ben and Michaela now, since it’s Michaela’s turn to lose her spouse. With Ben most likely taking back the mantle of “captain” of the passengers, it’ll be up to him to help Cal ensure Zeke’s sacrifice doesn’t go to waste. It’ll be interesting to see how this all works out, and what his character development will be like moving forward, since I feel like he still has a while to go before this show ends.

As of now, there is no confirmation of season 4 Part 2’s release, so we’ll have to wait a little longer to get the rest of Ben’s character development. Until then, what do you think about what he’s gone through so far? Let me know in the comments below! And as always, God bless y’all and have a wonderful weekend!

All media property of Netflix.

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