The 4400 Review
It was all a big ruse, an overused plot line touted to bring in the viewers, and it worked; little did we know it was all tosh. When The 4400 premiered on the USAnetwork channel on 14 July 2004 it was watched by 7.4 million viewers, a record of a 'basic' cable channel, and though this dropped to 6.1 million by the season finale, a second season was guaranteed. It was in this season finale that the creators dropped the bomb shell; for six episodes we were lead to believe the returnees where alien abductees, but no, turns out that they were taken by humans from the future and seeded back into history, some with special abilities, to try and overt the devastating future that humanity is heading towards. Each of the returnees has a hidden ability, a special gift or latent power that will be used to manipulate a tiny portion of the time line, a ripple, and only when all the ripples converge is the full picture understood and disaster avoided. An excellent premise and one that is pretty much unique; it separates this series from its peers and allows an exploration of some clever ideas.
The second season picks up a year after the first; Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) has been demoted from field operations due to his conduct when trying to save his son at the end of the last season; Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie) has been through a succession of temporary partners as she tries to follow up on her remit of investigating the returnees, while adopting eight year old returnee Maia Rutledge (Conchita Campbell). Jordan Collier, (Bill Campbell) a millionaire real estate agent, has formed a refuge centre, called The 4400 Centre, where he uses Shawn Farrell's (Patrick Flueger) power of healing to finance his sinister motives. Richard and Lily Tyler (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali and Laura Allen) have given birth to their child, a little girl called Isabelle - a child Collier is driven to apprehend, who has some unusual powers of her own. And Kyle Baldwin (Chad Faust), Tom's son, now awake, is finally allowed to leave the medical centre after his father agrees to return to field duty which required some bullying from Diana to their new boss Nina Jarvis (Samantha Ferris). The first episode, Wake Up Call, like its first season counterpart is a double episode. Starting off with a lengthy 'previously on' which I didn't mind as it had been a long while since I'd seen the first season, then serves to reintroduce us to our principle characters, where they are now while telling a new story about Tess Doerner (the utterly gorgeous Summer Glau) a schizophrenic that seems to be controlling an entire hospital while they try to build an antenna to contact the future. As always it is just another ripple, but quite possibly the beginning of it all with a terrific introduction to the wonderful Jeff Combs whose character has much to do with the 4400s.
Unlike the first season which was very 'monster of the week' brought about by its mid season making and only five episodes, this second season has the benefit of a much bigger budget a set thirteen (actually twelve as the first is a double) episodes and an expanded storyline to include inter episode arcs, something clearly lacking previously. So too are the actors more comfortable with their roles, towards the end of last season things were really on the up, throughout this new one all are on top form and everything gels. With back stories and motivations there is much to hang your emotional hat on; whether its Tom caught between two worlds, his work and his devotion to his son and nephew, both of whom are intertwined with the coming fate of humanity, and his growing affection for (newcomer) Alana Mareva (Karina Lombard) with the uncanny ability to create alternate universes in one's head, something she uses to effect Tom. Or Diana with her unwavering loyalty to Tom, her professional approach to her job and her tigress devotion to her adopted daughter Maia. Richard and Lily are sympathetic towards each other, trying so hard to add a stable family unit with a child that can, at times, resemble a young Damien from the Omen without the evil objectives. And all the while there is Jordan, he exposes the 4400's secret, that they where taken into the future, and with it uses his 4400 centre as a front to gather and exploit their powers. Though the Centre is open to all on the pretext of realising the 'hidden 4400 in you all' when really it is a money gathering scheme. At once using up and spitting out 'common folk' yet all the while publicising its celebrity endorsements; the true intentions are all the more sinister. He is a terrific villain, with the charm and charisma of a cult leader; at least while he's in it. Then you have the ever presence of the Government, and its insistence of interference, and all for the 'best'; their genocidic conspiracy ends up with deadly results.
Overall this is a stronger season that builds on the terrific set up of the first. With a larger scope, more money, stronger stories, including arcs, and a better understanding of the characters this series is going from strength to strength; and just like is previous finale, this one too opens a whole new set of twists that leave us wanting the release of the season three DVD, if only I had Maia's ability to see the future...