The 4400: Season Two
Admittedly, the first season of the 4400 was flawed. It held so much promise but it just seems to miss the mark. Part of the reason for this was without a doubt the fact that it was a mid season replacement/mini series and had only a mere five episodes to set the stage and introduce numerous characters. At the end of season one it turns out that the 4400 human beings that were abducted where not taken by aliens but instead where brought to a future earth. The earth was in dire danger and the 4400 where given special abilities and returned to our time in hope of changing the future. As the second season starts they continue with the returnee of the week format but thankfully they started to integrate several season long arcs that made this season move above the previous one.
Season two opens a year after the close of the previous one. Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) has returned to the NTSC to find himself largely limited as a desk jockey. His former partner Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie) welcomes his return after putting up with one temporary partner after another. Diana is also in the process of formerly adopting the returnee precognitive child Maia Rutledge (Conchita Campbell). Maia has the uncanny ability to foresee the future, a power that is both a gift and a curse since what she sees is rarely pleasant for all involved. Entrepreneur returnee Jordan Collier (Bill Campbell) has given up his real estate empire to form the 4400 Center. He not only wants to gather together fellow returnees to study and possibly exploit their abilities but to help regular people discover how to tap into their inner 4400. Collier has also become the legal guardian of Shawn (Patrick Flueger), the nephew of Tom and in possession of incredible powers to heal. Collier begins to groom Shawn as his second in command at the 4400 Center. Richard Tyler (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), an African-American returnee taken during the Korean War is still with his wife, another returnee, Lily (Laura Allen) and their daughter Isabelle. The sinister Collier becomes obsessed with Isabelle, the only first generation child of returnee parents. While Lily is glad for all the special attention Richard correctly suspects the worse and takes his family on the run. One of the best new plot lines in the series was the introduction of the returnee Alana Mareva (Karina Lombard) who has the ability to create alternate realities in the minds of others. She uses this power on Tom. He finds himself in a world without the 4400 and romantically involved with Alana. Even after illusion is broken the two become a stable couple and positive influence for each other.
In this second season all the parts seem to gel. With 13 episodes there was enough time to get into the back stories of the principle characters and properly develop the interwoven themes and stories. This season moves further along the lines that works best in science fiction, holding up our own society to an unblinking eye while veiled in improbable situations of Sci-Fi. One such theme is the 4400 Center. One regular person is drained of his money with fees for a series of seminars and classes only to be kicked out when the funds dry up. In contrast celebrities are treated in a far different fashion. They are promoted through the ranks rapidly with much publicity. This cut very close to a real world, well known religious organization that is much in the news right now. There is also the theme of government interference all in the name of the ‘greater good’. They conspire to inhibit the powers of the 4400 with deadly results.
With this season the excellent cast finally has something of depth to sink their teeth into. Joel Gretsch plays Tom as a man caught between two worlds. On one hand he is dedicated to the responsibilities of his job but he also knows the truth that these returnees are the last hope not just for the country he loves but for humanity at large. Since he also has a son and a nephew that are deeply involved with what is going on he finds his ability to objectify the situation is strained almost beyond his ability to cope. What holds him together is the fact that he found a true love in the imaginary world created by Alana. Jacqueline McKenzie does exceptionally well as Diana. She is also the consummate professional in the NTSC but now that she has adopted Maia she is like a mother bear protecting her cub. The fact that her daughter was actually born several decade before her doesn’t matter at all. Bill Campbell is at his best as Collier. His acting ability makes it seem easy to combine the sleazy side of Collier with the ever popular charmer. He is the perfect villain, smiling; shaking your hand all while he is preparing to stab you in the back. Some of the best chemistry here is between Mahershalalhashbaz Ali and Laura Allen. In the story Richard was in love with Lily’s grandmother. Back in 1951 the world was not accepting of an interracial relationship so Richard has to get use to the fact that he can be openly married to a white woman and raises their child together. Together they give pathos to the series that is compelling.
Paramount has once again provided only a bare bones, plain vanilla release of this series. There are no extras to be found. That is a shame since a little behind the scenes peak would have been nice. They could have least provided a trailer for the up coming third season. The video is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer. The color balance while not exceptional is fitting for a television series. There is also reasonable contrast and the picture is free from defects. The audio is in Dolby Stereo and does get the job done although the channel separation is somewhat flat. At the season finale last August the story is set to achieve a lot in the third season. If you happened to miss this second season this is an excellent chance to catch up and get ready for the summer of ’06. This series is reaching its potential and that alone makes this a worthwhile addition to your collection.