Thursday, August 05, 2004

The 4400

The 4400 is a television program on the USA network, and i think it is one that deserves a look. It began several weeks ago with a pilot episode with a fantastic premise: Over the past decades people all over the world disappeared in what can only be called "abductions". The way the pilot episode showed some of the abduction scenes, it is one of those classic scenes where a beam of light from the sky covers a person on the ground and then the person is gone. A classic alien abduction. So, we see a series of abductions. One abductee is a 9 year old girl who was born in the 1930's, another is a black man who was serving in the army during the Korean war (we see him getting beat up by his fellow soldiers for daring to date a white woman), another was a teenager in 2001.

What makes this interesting to me is that the premise of the show is that one day all of these abductees are returned in a flash of light. The total: an even 4400 returnees. The media dubs them: The 4400. Who are these people and why have they been returned? Is there some sort of an agenda in returning the 4400? Why now?

As a fan of science fiction and stuff like the X-Files (am i identifying myself as too much of a geek?), this is a fantastic concept. But, the show does not go in the direction that i might have expected. The alien stuff is pushed to the back (though never truly ignored). What is pushed to the front is the stories of several of the 4400. We follow their lives as they try to recover whatever life they might have had...but one woman who was gone for 11 years has found that her husband has remarried and the daughter who was only an infant was never told about her. The Korean vet i mentioned has found that the grandchildren of his relatives are his age and they only know of him from pictures. The little girl has nobody. But, others are able to find a semblance of their lives.

Each episode of the show follows several different threads. One thread advances the storyline of the main returnees and how they are adapting to their new found lives. This is actually much more interesting than i expected. Another thread follows two agents in Homeland Security who are investigating the 4400 to try to find out why they may have been returned and also to look after them. These two agents also get to follow the next thread of the series, which is the "ability of the week", which is similar to the X-Files or even Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Monster of the week". See, the 4400 did not return unchanged. They have been given various "gifts" that augment their ability. One man has a form of telekenesis, another has something of a superpower...but the point of the show never seems to be the power, but rather the relationships. Another thread (it all ties together rather well, by the way) is the American public's growing reaction against the 4400 in fear and hate. Not too surprising.

USA is airing a marathon of episodes on sunday, and it looks like they are airing a finale (must be a season finale to see if they are going to do another season...and there are plenty of stories left), so give it a shot.

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