The 4400: Season 2 Review
For anyone new to The 4400, Season 1 and the show's premiere began with the excitement of an approaching comet, which, rarely, would pass close by Earth. However, panic ensued when the comet changed direction onto a direction collision course with an expected crash site in Seattle, Washington. As the comet changed direction yet again and began to slow down, the Department of Homeland Security dispatched field agents Tom Baldwin and Diana Skouris to the lakeside location where it was expected to impact, finding instead that, as it slowed to a halt and dissipated, four-thousand, four-hundred men, women and children, all of whom were recorded as having disappeared over the previous century, stepped out of the light and smoke with no record of where they had been. And no evidence either but for the superhuman powers they now showed themselves capable of, including healing, pre-cognition and great strength.
At first, it was assumed that the 4400, as they became known, might have been abducted by aliens but it soon became apparent that they had been taken to and returned from the future, with abilities meant to aid the evolution of mankind. Unsurprisingly, this engendered no small amount of fear in the comparatively larger non-4400 population and the Department of Homeland Security forms NTAC (National Threat Assessment Command) to counter any threat from the returnees. In time, the 4400 and NTAC would find themselves reeling from the actions of Orson Bailey, Carl Morrisey and Oliver Knox, the last of whom was a suspected serial killer. However, scattered as the 4400 were, they were, ironically, largely powerless against big government until returnee Jordan Collier, who was a property mogul before his abduction, used his vast wealth to set about protecting the 4400. However, many were suspicious of his actions and returnees Richard Tyler and Lily Moore, the latter of whom returned to the current time pregnant, escaped from Collier's gated community in favour of a life of freedom. But, as they quickly learned, freedom is not a luxury afforded to the 4400.
This second season picks up where the first one left off with Richard and Lily still on the run from both NTAC and Jordan Collier whilst finding a less-than-warm welcome from those they might once have considered their friends. Collier has abandoned the safety of Arcadia Estates and has instead opened the 4400 Centre, which he positions as something like a cult, which welcomes and protects the returnees but also urges everyone to find the 4400 within. NTAC, specifically Dennis Ryland and his replacement Nina Jarvis, remain sceptical over the nature of the returnees but the 4400 have two or perhaps three supportive voices within the organisation, Tom Baldwin, Diana Skouris and Marco Pacella. However, much of this, in contrast to the first season, is incidental to the drama in the series, which focuses on the relationship between Tom and his son Kyle and nephew Shawn, the last of whom is a returnee but complicated by his disappearance leaving Kyle, who was present at the time, in a coma. There is also the relationship between Diana and her adoptive daughter Maia Rutledge, who disappeared in 1946 aged 8.
With that in mind, it struck me whilst watching this second season of The 4400 how unlike science-fiction on television is from that made for the cinemas. Where most of the latter tends towards alien invasions that must be resisted or giant spacebound battles, what you might call aggressively masculine sci-fi, what we see on television is more feminine, concerned more about relationships and the importance of diplomacy. The X-Files, for example, had an inquisitiveness without aggression whilst Star Trek has always cast its lead character as not only the captain of a starship but as something of a mother for a ship's crew, concerned with morale and well-being as much military strategies. The 4400 takes this even further with a particular focus on the family lives of Tom Baldwin and Diana Skouris. In this season, the storylines reflect Tom's desire to get Kyle to lead as normal a life as possible after coming out of his coma whilst, in Diana's case, it's a study of a successful single woman coming to terms with her adoption of an eight-year-old girl and of her sometimes wayward younger sister April (Natasha Gregson Wagner) moving in.
However, my worry with the show is that of a resistance to advance the plot in anything like a hurry. The short first season, for example, was dramatic in the sense of having the disappeared returning to our present time but only really revealed where the 4400 had been, leaving it as guesswork why they had been returned. This continues into the second season, which, despite much talk of war and of things, "...only beginning!", we're really no further forward. The season finale does drop a good many hints at what might happen but anyone looking for a Brotherhood of Mutants-styled rebellion from the 4400 will be sorely disappointed. It's all very vague and whilst one can understand the writers holding things back for future seasons, I have the nagging feeling that, like Lost, audiences will lose interest long before stories are resolved and with a network looking to cancel, The 4400 will be explained as being a dream sequence.
Until then, though, this is enjoyable but slow-moving, with the accent more on drama than action. The writers have hinted that the third season, which is currently showing on Sky One, does pick up the pace but having watched and enjoyed two seasons of the show as it is, that doesn't sound like The 4400 at all. I think, however, that might be hype on their part and that The 4400 will, for several seasons to come, continue in its mildly entertaining way before any suggestion is made of resolving it.
Needless to say, there are copious spoilers within the text below. If you would rather not read them, please click here to proceed to the next section.
Wake Up Call (2x Parts): It's been a year since the 4400 returned and following his actions over the previous twelve months, Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) has only been assigned desk duty while Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie) struggles through a series of partners ill-suited to her. Having formally adopted Maia, Diana also finds that NTAC are stopping her from simply being a mother with the new Director of Operations Nina Jarvis (Samantha Ferris) querying Maia's talents. And speaking of talents, Jordan Collier (Bill Campbell) closes Arcadia Estates, opening The 4400 Centre instead, a place for returnees and the non-4400 to shine.
As Collier brings Shawn Farrell (Patrick Flueger) into his closest circle of friends and advisors, he uses Shawn's healing powers to persuade rich but very ill benefactors to donate to his centre. But all is not well with the 4400 as Richard (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) and Lily (Laura Allen) go on the run with their daughter Isabelle (Megalyn Echikunwoke) but attract the attentions of a God-fearing family, armed with shotguns, who talk about the 4400 as abominations and who are alarmed at seeing Isabelle's reaction to their presence. Meanwhile, patients in a mental hospital begin building a tower to the stars, all based on a design within the mind of a manic depressive returnee, Tess Doerner, who's resident there. NTAC's interest is piqued when they learn that one of the patients is Dr. Kevin Burkhoff (Jeffrey Combs), commonly considered as the father of the 4400 but who hasn't spoken or communicated in years.
Voices Carry: Minor league baseball star Gary Navarro (Sharif Atkins) is aiming for the majors and is readying himself for a visit by the team scouts. But he has a secret. As a returnee, he came back to the present time with an ability to read minds and knows the direction of the ball before it leaves the pitcher's hand. However, what began as a means to hit the big time is threatening to drive him insane as the volume of unspoken thoughts becomes painful. Navarro accepts an offer of help from NTAC, believing in the assurances offered by Tom and Diana. But Washington and NTAC's directors, impressed by Navarro's mind-reading, intend on sending him to the 4400 Centre to spy on Jordan Collier but if he upholds his part of the will, will they?
Weight of the World: NTAC are unsurprised when news comes of a returnee using his powers for financial gain, even less so when they learn that its a way to lose weight without even trying. But when Trent Appelbaum's saliva, for that is the miracle cure, proves fatal, NTAC are forced to act quickly when they learn that the medical trials are already underway and that the lives of one hundred test patients are at risk. Meanwhile, pop star Chloe Granger (Noa Tishby) joins the 4400 Centre and receives special care from Jordan Collier in spite of Shawn's disapproval while Diana welcomes her somewhat wayward younger sister, tattoo artist April Skouris (Natasha Gregson Wagner), who forms an immediate and strong friendship with Maia.
Suffer the Children: Gifted children are usually a cause for celebration but the residents of a small town panic when a teacher at the school, Heather Tobey, is revealed as one of the 4400, whose touch inspires her students to incredible artistic feats. Meanwhile, Jordan Collier warns Shawn against using his healing powers in public for fear of the demands from the public that would come with his being known to them, something he gets a taste when he helps a homeless girl, Liv (Lindy Booth), who, watching him bring round from an overdose, then demands that he heal all the other homeless people in the city. Richard and Lily's short run from the law comes to an end when he's found in a service station. But looking through the glass of the door, he nods to Lily to drive away and to leave him.
As Fate Would Have It: Maia comes screaming into Diana's kitchen one morning, saying that she's seen a murder. Asking after the identity of the victim, Maia points to her mother's coffee table and to a copy of Jordan Collier's book. With the official opening of the 4400 Centre just days away, NTAC attempt to warn Collier but he refuses their help, saying that he will have no more security than normal. But come the day of the opening, gunshots ring out and Collier collapses on the stage, blood seeping from his chest. Beginning an investigation into Collier's death, Diane and Tom break to attend Collier's funeral, which pleases Shawn, but Collier has one last surprise in store.
Life Interrupted: Tom can't quite believe it. Arriving at the NTAC offices, he mentions the 4400 only for Diana to ask him what he's talking about. Looking around, he sees no record of them in the office and even finds none during an online search, as though the previous year had not happened. During a police chase, he even tracks a suspect to the 4400 Centre and hopes for normality but in there, he notices a strange room that no one else has any memory of. That a strange woman enters his life, Alana Mareva (Karina Lombard), makes it all the more curious, even moreso when she talks about the previous eight years they've spent together of which he has no memory.
Carrier: Papers rustle in the wind, hot coffee pours out of a pot and dead bodies litter the shops and streets of a small mountain town. Standing alone is returnee Jean DeLynn Baker (Sherilyn Fenn), whose hands fester with sores and who, alone, as survived the plague that has killed every other resident of the town. NTAC move fast but despite their pace, DeLynn Baker is already gone and leaving messages on Tom's mobile that quote the book of Revelations and talk about the cleansing of humanity. Meanwhile, a Washington lobbyist, Matthew Ross (Garret Dillahunt), joins the 4400 Centre and clashes immediately with Shawn.
Rebirth: There are Internet rumours of miracle births happening at Mercy hospital and when these reach the mainstream media, the 4400 Centre use their influence to leak the name of the returnee to the press. Moving quickly, NTAC take Edwin Mayuya (Hill Harper) into their care and it soon becomes clear why he cherishes his anonymity. His real name is Edwin Musinga and he's wanted by the Rwandan government on charges of genocide arising from the recent civil war there. As Tom and Diana argue the merits of this case, Shawn, on the advice of Matthew, becomes reunited with his family while Richard Tyler meets up some old army buddies at a funeral and notices that one is missing, Lee, the racist who left him beaten and bleeding minutes before his abduction. Wondering what happened to him, Richard decides to pay him a visit at an army veterans hospital.
Hidden: Kyle Baldwin's blackouts are becoming worse, with whole hours of his life disappearing and when NIAC publish a picture of the murder suspect, Tom realises that it bears a remarkable similarity his son. With his ex-wife, Linda Baldwin (Lori Ann Triolo), he goes in search of Kyle but finds his loyalties torn - arrest him for something he did during a blackout or listen to his son and put his family first.
Lockdown: It is the day of Jordan Collier's birthday and Tom receives an email from an anonymous email account reminding him both of that fact and that he died on NTAC's watch. When he arrives at the office, he finds everyone in the building received it but before he can act, all the men in the building hear a high-pitched whine that causes them to begin acting aggressively, even to shooting Nina in the shoulder. As Tom instigates a lockdown, Maia is admitted to the NTAC health centre after falling ill and with Diana on the outside, she fears for her daughter's well-being as the guys in NTAC arm themselves in the aftermath of the 4400 attack. Meanwhile, Shawn pays a visit to Dr Kevin Burkhoff but finds the father of the 4400 somewhat reluctant to become involved.
The Fifth Page: The strange rash that was seen on Maia's arm begins to be seen on other returnees, first by Shawn and then becoming widespread through the 4400. As Dennis Ryland (Peter Coyote) returns to NTAC to take command of the situation and emergency legislation is passed to put the 4400s into quarantine, Tom and Diana hit the field to bring them in but they face resistance from the 4400 Centre. More surprisingly, they learn that the American government may be behind the illnesses of the 4400s. Elsewhere, as Shawn is quarantined and Richard takes over the 4400 Centre, he leads the returnees to a safe house but, troubled by his manner of making this a fight, Lily runs away during the night, carrying Isabelle in her arms.
Mommy's Bosses: As the 4400s begin dying, Tom and Diana are still reeling from what they have uncovered but have no proof, only a single word, 'firewall'. As they race to find the truth, Kevin Burkhoff finds a means to cure the sick 4400s but with Dennis Ryland discovering the safe houses being used by the returnees, time is against the doctor. That, though, is not the most shocking turn of events as two returnees appear, one on a lakeside near Seattle and the other naked in Shawn's office.
Presented anamorphically in 1.78:1 and with a DD5.1 audio track, Season 2 of The 4400 still looks very ordinary, as though it were was mastered onto DVD whilst no one paid any particular attention to it. I would assume that it was filmed in HD and although it's obviously presented in Standard Definition, it really should look much better than it does here. The picture is soft, bland and wholly unexciting, which means that one isn't as involved in the show as might otherwise have been the case. Granted, it's probably better here than it would have been on Sky One but given the difference in bitrates that shouldn't be surprising. It isn't, however, as good as it should have been and certainly not the step up in quality that one notices from, for example, CSI on Five and CSI on DVD.
The DD5.1 is a fairly good one, though, making clear use of the rear channels and of the subwoofer whilst remaining clear throughout. It does, however, sound a little harsh with the higher frequencies tending towards being harsh and tinny rather than nicely rounded like the mid-to-low frequencies. Finally, there are a selection of subtitles including English and English HOH.
Unlike the Region 1, which offered plenty of bonus material, there are no extras on this DVD.
Well, if you have the option, you would be advised to look towards Region 1 for Season 2 of The 4400, given that it contains three features and audio commentaries on selected episodes. Unfortunately, this release looks to be, for whatever reason, shortchanging European customers yet again. Hence, for those extras features, what I would wager to be a better picture quality and, yes, even a better cover, the Region 1 looks to be the better release.
Last updated: 14/06/2018 00:16:46