Monday, June 20, 2011

The 4400

by DionysusPsyche

This television series is about a group of missing people who are removed from their daily lives in the 20th century and transported to the same location at the same moment. Upon further investigation by Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) and Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie), they learn that it's not coincidence involved with these reappearing people. Tom also has a personal interest in this case since his son is in a coma and his nephew who dissappeared three years ago has returned as one of the 4,400 returnees. Yet the longer the case continues, the more Tom and Diana find themselves in the midst of an evolving mystery.
The 4400 find themselves out of their time period and under government scrutiny. Society at large either worships or fears them. Depending on how far back they've dissappeared, most of them have no family or contact with what was once their former life. The hatred that they undergo is not unlike the racism that one of the African American characters endours during the 1940's when his co-worker discover he's dating a white woman. One of the lessons The 4400 teaches is to not be afraid of someone who is different than you. The person you fear or loathe might just be someone who is intelligent and talented in ways you'd have never imagined. Fate plays into the show as our characters ask whether they have control of the situation and the future.
The cast on the show revolves around our regulars and guest spots that help propel the story. There are even a few secondary cast members that I personally love. One of the members of the Ntac team on the government case is my favorite because he reminds me of another character I love named Leonard in Big Bang Theory. Whenever he appears, he provides essential insight as to the current, intense situation of the returnees.
The 4400 is Heroes meets The X-Files with a bit of The Stand and Lost thrown in. The cast is large, and you have several characters (not all, but many) in the television series who are found to have phenomenal abilities as a result of being taken out of the time loop then placed back in it. There is also a steady stream of interesting, individual storylines that play into the overall theme of the show. We are told that there is a greater purpose to this web of connections, and although the character development is not as nuanced as one might like, the element of curiosity begs that the audience continue. My preferred episodes are those that more strongly resemble that of X-Files although I never found myself to be a die-hard fan. It has lots of characters that put it in a similar category as Lost where the viewers juggle multiple cast members from which to pick a favorite. When the characters find themselves in trouble or make mistakes, it is usually because their kindness is retaliated with spite.
The characters with special powers are defined almost exclusively by their talent, especially in the beginning. The villains aren't “psychological” ones. These are not enemies you love to hate. In more recent shows, many villains are multi-faceted enough so that even if they are dark or despised, they are still human and capable of being understood. I was disappointed that the less liked, even hated characters are very one dimensional and cartoon-like (although not in a hilarious, evil way, just the kind that makes you hate to hate them and find them incredibly grating). What is more annoying than an episode ending on a cliffhanger is the episodes that drag by while one hopes they will move on from a topic. The writers will occasionally spend an episode on a particular motif like “letting go” or “forgiveness” or “trust.” The episodes aren't named as such, but when the overall story is sidelined while the characters learn a lesson or take time out to act like children in an afterschool special, it's frustrating. Fortunately, these are few and far between. Since the whole series is on dvd, one is able to go through these episodes more rapidly or take a break to return to them when one has more patience.
Shawn Farrell is one of the heroes of the show. Similar to his predecessors of other tv series (the one that truly comes to mind is Buffy, the Vampire Slayer), Shawn is a young man who is forced to take on more adult responsibilities because of events after his encounter with the force that brought him to the present time. He is often accused of making bad decisions despite his lack of experience merely because people expect more of him on account of what he's been through and what he's become after it. Shawn yearns to be normal, enjoy his last year of high school, and play guitar. However, like the rest of the 4400, drama finds him and thrusts changes at him beyond his grappling and maturity level.
Maia Rutledge is a little girl with foresight into events. While she does not control what she can and can't see, she does possess the potential to change the future in pieces by informing those around her of what awaits them. Like Shawn, she genuinely wants to use her knowledge to help people and to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, she finds her fortune telling leads into more trouble, and that people she tells are too afraid of what she has to say to truly befriend her as she wishes they would.
The 4400 is an excellent show worth renting and watching. Right now it's available through Netflix in dvd form. I honestly have been pleasantly surprised by this show. The episodes are approximately an hour long, and although not every episode requires full attention, you will definitely miss large chunks of important story information if you are multi-tasking.

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