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THE 4400
Season 1

available on DVD

4400 Logo

  1. Pilot Episode
  2. The New and Improved Carl Morrissey
  3. Becoming
  4. Trial By Fire
  5. White Light




Tom Baldwin -
Joel Gretsch

Diana Skouris -
Jacqueline McKenzie

Shawn Farrell -
Patrick Fleuger

Richard Tyler -
Mahershalhashbaz Ali

Lily Tyler -
Laura Allen

Kyle Baldwin -
Chad Faust

Jordan Collier -
Billy Campbell

Maia Rutledge -
Conchita Campbell

Dennis Ryland -
Peter Coyote




OTHER SEASONS
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4


OTHER ALIENS AMONGST US SHOWS
ROSWELL


OTHER ALIEN INVESTIGATIONS
Millennium
Fringe





Pilot

When a comet passing Earth suddenly turns onto a collision course it's time to panic, but before you can say Armageddon, it's slowed down and come in for a landing just outside Seattle. There it turns into a ball of light and deposits 4400 confused 'returnees' on the beach of a lake before disappearing in a puff of smoke. Each of the people returned was taken by a light from above and from different times since the fifties. They haven't aged, have no memory of what's happened to them or why.

That's the intriguing set up for The 4400. The department of Homeland Security (a name that is deeply ironic these days) interns them all in a big bunker for debriefing. When the human rights lawyers force their release (boy how the Guantanamo Bay prisoners could use these lawyers), they go back to their families, but the reunions are not all plain sailing.

Maia is a little girl whose real parents are long since dead and the new parents can't really cope with the way that she can see the future.

Richard is a black soldier coming to terms with the fact that his white girlfriend Lily is dead and that he is getting involved with her granddaugther, also a returnee whose husband has formed a new family and not told their daughter about her real mother. Add to that the fact that she is pregnant and it might not be her husband's and you know that's a story that's gonna run.

Shawn is a typical teenager whose cousin was put in a coma by the events of his taking and is finding it hard to come to terms with the new youth culture that has emerged since he left. Still, at least he has his uncle Tom (really!), an agent recently returned to the Department to help investigate the returnees, as support.

And then there's Orson. His wife, not young when he went missing, is in a mental institution, his law firm was sold off when he was declared dead and he's started to get these nosebleeds. The problem is, when his nose bleeds the rest of the room gets shattered and people die.

The 4400 wants desperately to be The X-Files when it grows up. Mysterious happenings, changed human beings, an alien plan to be understood and a bickering man and woman team to decode it all. Hell,even the sparse, documentary style is trying to be X-Files. Admittedly, the mystery is already in the lap of the investigators and the format of the show is already set, but there are running plotlines in place and a real sense of wanting to know the answer.

It is to be hoped that later episodes are better than this pilot, though. The indecent haste with which it dispenses with the return of the lost people in a breathless first 15 minutes in order to get on with setting out its stall and telling its first tale is hopefully not the sign of things to come. The potential end of Earth to comet collision and mind-blowing possibilities of certain contact with an alien phenomena are merely glossed over. The world goes about its business unaltered by the certain fact that we are no longer alone? I don't think so.

The acting, though, is acceptable enough. Joel Gretsch and Jacqueline McKenzie make for a likeable central couple as the detectives on the case, sparking off each other and doing far better than the hackneyed dialogue that they are given deserves. Peter Coyote is craggy and, well, Peter Coyote as the head of the operation. Michael Moriarty makes a splash as the telekinetically enhanced Orson (no Mork jokes please), but they are all overshadowed by Conchita Campbell, the little girl who is Maia, the seer of the future and genuinely creepy.

The 4400 has possibilities, then, but this is not the most auspicious start. It needs to shake off its slavish adherence to The X-Files's blueprint, go its own way and hope that it has a mystery all its own to unravel.

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The New and Improved Carl Morrissey

The story continues and the focus this time is on the eponymous Carl Morrissey, who has been missing for 3 years, but has found that life in his neighbourhood has changed a lot in that time. The park is overrun with junkies and gang members. People are afraid to go out at night and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. At least he is back with his wife and has found a job at the local market on the fish stall (even if his boss is a jerk).

Then Carl discovers that he is one of the 4400 with a gift. His gift is speed and martial arts. He is mugged one evening, coming home from work and takes out the punks with an ease that shocks him. When he can't sleep, he goes out into the park to clean up some of the mess and foils a rape, kicking the hell out of the would-be rapists. His wife is scared, not of him, but of what he might end up doing to himself. He isn't superman after all.

The mysteries surrounding the 4400 are beginning to become clear (a little bit early perhaps, but then this is only a 6 part mini-series). The 4400 all have powers and they were each returned with a purpose. Orson, from the pilot, killed the partner that stole his business, but in doing so foiled a huge conspiracy that was going to cost the state billions of dollars. Now Carl had the mission of cleaning up the town.

On top of all of this, the running stories are continuing. Maia wants to move in with Jacqueline McKenzie's Diana, who has relationship issues to spare.

Shawn is wrestling with a growing relationship with his brother's girlfriend and what happened to his cousin. Lily and Richard are setting up home together and growing ever closer. Lily, it seems, can also sense what her baby is thinking, despite the fact that it is too young to be thinking anything yet.

This episode was directed by actress Helen Shaver and works pretty well. It does use a digital day for night system that allows for filming during the day and then digitally making it seem like night in post-production, but this has never been a convincing process and it simply distracts here.

The introduction of the theory room is fun; a room full of science geeks coming up with ideas as to what's going on and Tom's (Joel Gretch) response to it.

The 4400 is shaping up nicely, though not spectacularly. The format has already been revealed, one new member of the 4400 reveals his talent each week whilst the core stories continue, and it will be interesting to see how long that will hold up without becoming repetitive. There might be 4400 stories, but I don't think that the show will last that long.

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Becoming

Not all of the 4400 are good guys. That is the central idea of this episode. A serial killer has returned to a small town just weeks after one of the 4400 returned there. The dates are impossible to ignore. After he went missing, the killings stopped. Now he is back, they have started again. The problem is that the newest killing was carried out by someone else, someone who admits it. Then another killing takes place and a new man admits to the killing, and all the others. Something strange is going on. Can the returnee really be responsible for the new killings even though they were carried out by other men? How is this possible and what effect will this have upon the reputation of the returnees, especially as a TV journalist is already raising a hate campaign against them?

After the last, almost static, episode, the running plots are starting to pick up pace. Maia is now living with Diana, making her breakfast and telling her not to read the papers. Lily is arrested for getting too close to the daughter she no longer has and Richard manages to persuade her ex-husband to drop the charges only by guaranteeing that she won't go back. Shawn and Richard both fall under the spell of the smooth Jordan Collier who is organising a foundation for support of the 4400 and who is clearly not the good guy he appears to be.

And Shawn finally takes the plunge, remembering that it was his cousin who was supposed to have been taken instead of him and he interfered with the abduction. With said cousin rapidly going downhill, he takes the situation in both hands and uses his talent to bring him back from the edge of death.

It's nice to see Peter Coyote taking a more active role this time around, squaring up to the TV hack who is out to get the 4400 (Helen Shaver who directed the last episode). Everyone else is pretty much as is.

The alien plan, it seems, has been revealed in this episode's visit to the Theory Room. The 4400 have been returned to Earth with special powers in order to change it for the better. Orson prevented, albeit unknowingly, a conspiracy that would have bankrupted a whole state, Carl - the luckless would-be vigilante - died quickly, but his sacrifice has stirred up the local residents..... It's all about the ripple effect. These folk can't make a difference in themselves, but enough stones dropped in enough places will raise enough ripples to cause a tidal wave.

Well that's the theory. If it's true, then the series may have revealed its secret too soon. Once the truth is no longer out there, interest may wane badly. It remains to be seen.

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Trial By Fire

At the end of the last episode, the names and addresses of the 4400 had been released onto the internet. At the beginning of this one Richard and Lily are nearly taken out by a pipe bomb, his military training being the only thing that keeps them alive. Another of the returnees is not so lucky. The question is whether this is a response to natural fear or something more sinister, more targeted.

Diana is concerned for Maia, who has to be taken out of school because of the threat that she represents as a target. She is not worried, making the statement that someone is coming to make things better, and they only have to wait a short while. Is she talking about Lily's baby or Kyle, Tom's son brought back from a coma by Shawn's magical medicine.

Shawn, meanwhile is getting it on with his brother's girlfriend, despite his better judgement.

Peter Coyote's boss smacks down the reporter who has been a thorn in his side in no uncertain terms, but a new man has arrived from Washington, determined to take his job and far too keen on looking into the personal involvements of the two main investigators.

Jordan Collier is still being too good to be true and Lily is picking up of the vibe.

There is only one episode to go and the story is coming to a head. Despite its uncertain nature, there is enough enigma still going on to grip and make that final episode unmissable if you've made it this far.

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White Light

And so the end is near and its time to face the final curtain (or season two if it gets commissioned. That means a mix of cliffhangers and resolutions, explanations and enigmas. The truth about the 4400 is now made clear, but first there is a lot of plot to get through, so keep up.

Tom's son Kyle is out of his coma, but acting like he doesn't know anybody or anything. Not unusual in these cases, but when he claims to be someone else then the new head man from DC moves in and kidnaps him back to the quarantine area. Diana (Jacqueline McKenzie) immediately agrees to help and between them, she and Tom (Joel Gretsch) get him back with absurd ease. Kylee wants to go back to the place from where Shawn was taken, so that's where they head off to.

Richard and Lily are settling into their new life on Jordan Collier's estate for returnees, but when Richard finds out that Jordan has designs not on Lily herself, but on the baby, they decide to leave. Jordan nails his true colours to the mast, but the baby is having none of it and seems equipped to look after itself.

Shawn is now with his brother's girlfriend, but when Danny finds out, he picks a fight and Shawn uses his new powers to defend himself. Fleeing the house, he goes to the one place where he might be able to get help, right into the hands of Jordan Collier

Back with Kyle and Tom, they arrive at the abduction site, barely ahead of the chasing feds, but with enough time for Kyle to pull Tom into a beam of light that creates a place where they can talk. The 4400 were taken forward in time to a place where the human race is dying. They were altered and given powers to allow them to carry out tasks that would avert that future (temporal paradox alert). Shawn interfered with Kyle's abduction, putting him into a coma when he should have been a link to explain to Tom how to help the 4400 do their job. The feds arrive and shoot Kyle, breaking the link before Tom can find out how he is supposed to help. The future boys, though, aren't about to let Kyle die.

So enough answers are given to allow the series to die here if it is not renewed, standing as a six part mini-series. The cliffhangers are there in the shape of Shawn falling in with Jordan Collier and Lily and Richard on the way to tht hospital to have their baby. Tom knows that he has to help the 4400 do their work, but not how and so the format for the future show is set (if it happens). There's a lot of incident in the last episode and most of it's pretty good, but the sense of wonder still isn't there and everything is just so low key. The final shot is almost enough on its own to undo all the good work that has gone before. If the 4400 is to continue, then it will have to work hard and get better stories that live up to its likeable cast.

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