The second season of USA Network’s The 4400 picks up one year after the events of the four-part season one. This time around, we know the 4400 once-missing people were not returned from alien abduction, but rather from the future.
That revelation aside, this series is still chock full of mystery. What is the nature of the fate the 4400 are meant to save us from? How were they selected? What impact will their return continue to have on the collective future of humankind? Will the government’s role be one of interference, or protection? And if protection, of the 4400 from the rest of the population, or vice-versa?
Each of the 12 episodes in season two builds on the dramatic tension and the overall story arc established in the first season, which deals with the above questions and others that are either explicitly stated by the show’s characters or perhaps simply wondered by viewers. One of the great things about this show is that there’s plenty of room for your own thoughts and theories.
Season two also continues the individual stories of the central characters we got to know in season one, including the government agents and the key members of the 4400. Along with the central characters, each episode features a new member of the 4400, with a new special power, that drives the events of the episode. Creativity abounds with these special powers, but I won’t spoil it by describing them here.
The show’s overall production values are solid. The 4400 brings us decent writing, consistently good performances from the cast, interesting sets, moody lighting, and an excellent score that complements the mysterious underpinnings of the story.
I do have a few gripes. First off, I don’t buy Joel Gretsch as Tom Baldwin, the rebellious top field agent. There’s a lot of talk about Baldwin being, basically, the baddest agent around, but I’d like to see more proof. Second, I find myself only caring about a few of the characters. With a fairly disconnected ensemble cast following various plot tangents, this is a problem. And finally, with so much mystery to the overall story, I wish the episodes were constructed in such a way that the ending moments did more to compel the viewer to keep watching.
That said, the show has a lot of potential, and I’ll be watching season three to see if it can find a groove.
So the show is mostly good. How’s the DVD set?
The 4400 – The Complete Second Season is presented on four discs, with each episode in 1.78:1 widescreen format. High marks are deserved here, because this show looks gorgeous. I did not notice any problem areas, as the picture is sharp, clear and fine detail is plentiful. The 4400 has a look that really fits. The cool colour tones and the extensive use of contrasting light and shadows all contribute to a mystical feel for the show.
The menus are very basic. They’re easy to navigate, because there’s not much going on, but they do the job.
Solid marks for the audio. This set offers two audio tracks: Dolby Digital 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1. I’ll focus on the 5.1 mix, but if it’s not an option for you, rest assured that the 2.0 track is just fine. As for the 5.1, it does a great job, at least on the front sound stage. Dialogue is always crisp and clear, and there are plenty of left and right channel directional effects, from gun shots to knocks on doors, which serve to immerse the viewer.
Unfortunately, the rear channels don’t get much use. Mine dozed their way through most of this season, with only the odd moment of inspiration. When a mix is overly weighted to the front channels like this one, it tends to compromise the handful of times the rear channels are used to good effect, because the effect is one of surprise at hearing sounds from out back.
Audio is English only, with no subtitle options.
The bonus materials offering is pretty decent. Three commentary tracks, and three featurettes.
The first featurette, Creating the Ball of Light, is an 8-minute look at The 4400’s path from original inspiration to actual production. It’s interesting, and certainly better than your average promo clip-fest.
Return of The 4400 offers the creators’ perspective on the show’s transition from season one to season two. It runs a little over 11 minutes, and covers aspects of the transition like expanding on the characters and storylines introduced in the first season, and shifting from a four-part miniseries to a 12-episode season.
A Stitch in Time is the most original of the featurettes. It involves creator Scott Peters and some college professors (physics and engineering), and it examines a topic central to the show’s concept: time travel. Here we learn a bit about the theories associated with time travel, which we all know depends entirely upon a neat little item called the “flux capacitor”.
For some reason, there’s no mention of the commentaries on the packaging. Perhaps that’s because they lack focus, and seem more like chatter than actual commentary. The tracks feature executive producer Ira Steven Behr, stars Jacqueline McKenzie and Joel Gretsch, and writer/producer Craig Sweeny, and they’re offered for three episodes: As Fate Would Have It, The Fifth Page, and the season finale, Mommy’s Bosses, which is also the season’s strongest episode.
Simply put, this is good television, presented in a quality DVD set. Fans of good TV won’t be disappointed by this package, but big fans of The 4400 will probably have hoped for more extensive bonus features. Call me Goldilocks if you must, but I think this set is just right.
Special Features List
- Audio commentary for three episodes
- Creating the Ball of Light, featurette
- Return of the 4400, featurette
- A Stitch in Time, featurette