In the first season of The 4400 we are introduced to 4400 people who, we are led to believe, have recently returned from being abducted by aliens. Before you can look for Samantha Mulder among the group, we eventually discover that it was in reality the future that abducted these hundreds for nefarious reasons of their own. Some abductees have returned with mysterious powers and abilities. No, this is not Heroes or X-Men; in fact it’s a lot more like The X-Files than anything else, particularly in this the final season. Up to this point the government has developed a vaccine that inhibited these powers. Again we seem to be treading on X-Men territory here, don’t we. When the third season left us we were introduced to another drug that can reverse the effects of the inhibitor, but it carried an almost even chance of death. It is here that season four begins its likely final stories to tell.
In season four the show has changed quite a bit. It has become somewhat more procedural and even more like The X-Files. Meghan Doyle (Baird) has taken over as head of NTAC. Her appointment is regarded as political by many. There is a belief she lacks the law enforcement experience to do the job. Her right hand man is, of course, Tom Baldwin (Gretsch). Together they make up a team very much like Mulder and Scully. Most of the season involves them investigating the emergence of powers and other phenomena that all too often looks like it came straight out of Cris Carter’s mind. Most of these episodes are essentially about these emerging powers. The series has devolved into a new power of the week scenario. The show uses an AIDS analogy in the context of the promicin drug. Terms like promicin positive help to strengthen the connection. It’s true that The 4400 started out very much as a social commentary; I think you’ll find less of that going on here in the final year.
Barring a mini-series or television film, this is the last of The 4400 we’re going to see. The ensemble cast is actually very strong and honestly that keeps the series fresh. The mythology of the show has fallen into the complicated grandeur trap, so it’s these characters that make these stories compelling even when we’re at a loss to understand it all. There are a great number of strong female characters in this show. Megalyn Echikunwoke plays Isabelle Tyler with a lot of passion, making her one of my favorite characters on the show. Australian actress Jacqueline McKenzie plays Diana Skouris. Diana is Tom’s partner and like Mulder is also in search of her own sister. The two share a nice dynamic that again reminds us of Mulder and Scully. Finally, Jeffrey Combs is such an underrated actor, and he impresses like nobody’s business every time he’s on the screen. It’s in vogue today to have shows shrouded in intricate secrecy and mystery, as evidenced by shows like Lost and Heroes, but I’m afraid the threads don’t always get played out in The 4400.
One of the most interesting threads is the establishment of
Each episode of The 4400 is presented in its original broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is a very nice television picture. I think you’ll find it better than you managed to catch it on USA Network. I was particularly impressed with how natural things like flesh tones stood out. There is a dark hue to the show even in brightly lit scenes that serves as a “look” for the show, and it is distinctive and unique. Black levels are better than average, suffering only from rare and minimal compression artifact.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is pretty much nothing more that a 2.0 track thinly disguised. There’s not much happening in the sound field that doesn’t really carry in the front speakers. There isn’t any real sub to speak of, and ambient sounds are quite rare. Dialogue is spot on, and I guess that’s what really matters.
Deleted Scenes: There are many deleted scenes spread out over the discs. Nothing spectacular here, but a welcome treat nonetheless.
Bloopers: A nice collection of flubs and general on set nonsense.
The Great Leap Forward – Director’s Cut: This is an expanded version of the series finale with an optional audio commentary by series creator and all around chief cook and bottle washer Scott Peters.
Season IV – Factions Of War: Can’t tell the players without a program? Here’s your program. This is a decent half hour look behind the scenes and breakdown of the major ideas. Cast and crew fill in some blanks.
Jordan Collier – The Grey Man: This is a nice little profile of cult leader Jordan Collier with some helpful input from Bill Campbell who plays the guy. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? These folks don’t seem to want to make up their minds.
If none of what I just wrote makes any sense to you, you’re not alone. You simply cannot begin watching this show from the fourth season. You will not understand much of what you see even if you did watch from the beginning. If you start here, you are hopelessly lost. If the ideas of this show appeal to you, go back to the first season, which is relatively cheap right now at Amazon.com, and start at the beginning. You simply must invest the time in the first three seasons first. “I don’t care if the fate of the world is at stake.”