4400 News for Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Spoilers Here

It’s been quite a few months since "The 4400" was airing new episodes, and in the meantime, it feels like the writing staff actually listened to some of the fan response from the second season. In particular, it’s almost as though they listened to everything I was saying and changed things accordingly. Granted, the plot threads all pointed in the right direction, but I can still crow a little bit, right?

Perhaps the most obvious and well-timed change is this shift towards a more familiar dynamic. Those who remember the classic "X-Men" or more recent "Rising
Stars" comic books probably recognize and appreciate the current themes at play. In particular, with nothing to inhibit the natural escalation of their powers, the surviving 4400s are discovering that they are more powerful than humanity ever imagined. Some of them are using that power to help, but others are going full-out Brotherhood of Evil Mutants on the world.

To some, this may seem simple, but it places the characters into some rather complex conflict scenarios. From an external point of view, there are four camps, all more or less vying for control of the 4400 and their future. There’s the division within NTAC, which is representative of the division within the human population: some want to help the 4400 integrate and make their promised impact, while others want to eliminate or control the 4400. Among the 4400, there’s Jordan Collier’s foundation and Sean’s attempt to keep its ideals afloat, and then there’s the Nova Group, which has taken a more proactive approach to ensuring that the 4400 control their own destinies. All the characters are caught in this larger chess game, which allows for fascinating character arcs.

Internally, Tom and Diana continue to struggle with the reality that they are, in a certain sense, compromised. Alana is portrayed as someone helping Tom cope with his emotional stress, but one could easily interpret that as a means of control in and of itself. Diana cannot deal with the larger issues posed by the 4400 without considering the effect on
Maia. It continues to place them in the center of the storm.

The 4400 themselves struggle with the loss of the promycin inhibitor. Some find it remarkably liberating, since they now have more power and better control. Others (like Richard) have discovered that their abilities are a lot harder to control, especially when emotions run high. It could be interesting for a future episode to explore the ramifications of a powerful 4400 losing control over his or her abilities, thus becoming a potential threat. Imagine how each faction would choose to respond. (And that’s right out of the "X-Men" playbook, I admit, but I think it would be fascinating on this more "human" level.)

Sean is in a particularly troublesome place, and his emerging relationship with Isabelle could go in any number of troubling directions. Isabelle herself is probably going to be fairly unstable, and if she’s as powerful as she seems to be, the growing conflict could center on control over her future. Isabelle’s development has already been deadly (Lily’s death was a shocking but logical progression of the story), and it could bring up a lot more questions about the methods and choices of the "future humanity" that created the 4400 in the first place.

Similarly, Dr. Burkhoff’s experiments with the modified promycin will no doubt lead to his future success as the father of the 4400 (in the usual temporal paradox fashion), but it may also lead to the circumstances that required the creation of the 4400 in the first place. What if an early version of the promycin booster turns out to have long-term side effects, but they don’t show up until a significant percent of the human population has already tried to alter their DNA to become one of the special ones?

Despite the two-hour length and the massive amount of plot and character material to cover, this was a strong and well-paced premiere. It actually felt like it should have been a bit longer, which speaks to the depth of the narrative. There’s enough happening that the remaining 11 episodes of the summer season could be jam-packed with plot and character arcs. The producers did indicate that the series mythology was going to be the focus, but time will tell. If it does center on the rich array of conflicts, it should be more than worth the long wait.

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