With the ember finally burning out too soon, the 4400 has come to rest as a complete series release from
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 plans of their own. The 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 the final season.
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. That first season was really a mini-series, and there wasn’t a lock that the show was going to continue.
Season two brings the young Maria into focus. She can read minds and had been missing since the 1930’s. Here we discover that the returnees are not part of an alien plot, but rather have to do with people from the future.
Season three becomes almost a lesson in civil rights. The 4400 begin to create legal issues for the government and society in general. Many of these themes are much like the X-Men cure story arc.
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.
Creating The Ball Of Light: You would think this was an F/X feature, but it’s not. Here the subject is how the original idea evolved. There’s talk of pitching the show starting with just that first idea of people emerging from a ball of light.
Return Of The 4400: Here the talk is about shifting from the mini-series to an actual series. The show’s direction changes are examined here as well. The 2nd season was a reboot, of sorts, and cast and crew talk about that here.
A Stitch In Time: Real time travel theories are talked about here.
The Architecture Of Series Story Telling: Cast and crew talk about the frenetic pace of the third season in this 20 minute feature. Topics include writing for such a large ensemble cast and the complexities of the season 3 arc.
Powers Grid: The crew talk about moving away from the “freak of the week” concept and creating a more powerful larger mythology to the show. It’s only 5 minutes, so it doesn’t get extremely deep.
TVFX: As you might expect, this 13 minute feature looks at creating some of the season’s f/x shots. The transition from SD to HD is also discussed.
4400 Gag Reel: This is one of those more produced looking gag reels so appears less like candid playing around and typical mess-ups. It’s long for a gag reel at 8 minutes.
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.
Video Intro: Scot Peters, who created the show, mostly uses the short time to thank the fans for their support.
Pilot with Audio Commentary: The pilot is shown again here with commentary by Peters and Joel Gretsch.
The 4400 – The Ghost Season: I’m not really sure what the title alludes to, but it is a love fest. Cast and crew talk about how genius the show was. We learn that
Finally a chance to just watch this series all at once. You may remember I was brought into the fold on the fourth and final seasons, and I was totally lost. Now I’m still lost, but at least I know how I got there. For me this was a blessing, but I can’t imagine most folks shelling out the extra money for a few minutes of new extras and bad packaging. “I don’t care if the fate of the world’s at stake.”