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The 4400 season 2

March 6, 2013

4400.2A few years ago, in yet another round of bottom-feeding at the local Suncoast Video, I managed to grab a used copy of season one of The 4400.  I had heard reasonably good things about the show so, I figured it was worth the whopping $6 investment to find out.  When I got stuck between seasons of Stargate SG-1, I finally watched the first season of The 4400 and really enjoyed it.  After diving back into Stargate, I found myself wondering about the next season of The 4400.  I could have checked out the Suncoast as, believe it or not, it is still there and for all I know may be the last one left in the country but, instead, I decided to go with the sure thing that is Amazon.  Also, being the Ebenezer Scrooge of genre television fans, their price at the time was low enough for me to part with my money.

 The first difference I noticed was with the writing.  The first season of The 4400 is really one huge pilot that sets up the premise of the series.  Spoiler time.  A bunch of people that have mysteriously vanished starting from 1945 to the, then, present day suddenly re-materialize in a ball of light in Washington state in the US.  In the finale of the first season we learn that they were all abducted by people from the future and have been sent back in time with unique abilities in an attempt to prevent some kind of future disaster that threatens to ruin the planet for humanity.  Even though it’s kind of one giant pilot, the stories pacing is solid and is something I would easily recommend to any genre fan.

Unfortunately, the second season’s writing didn’t live up to the first in terms of tightness of storyline.  It was still enjoyable enough but, it felt to me like there was a mid-season course correction that actually made me look into whether the show runner had been changed.  It turns out they hadn’t so, maybe there were concerns about the show’s ratings.  For this season, the show starts one year after the events of the first season.  While 4400 activity has been on the down low, the season opens with an event that shakes NTAC (the federal agency that had the responsibility of monitoring the 4400 dumped onto their lap) back into a more proactive stance.  It’s hard to go into much detail given the large number of characters in the series but, the first half of the season focused on two of the 4400 who were trying to avoid the government’s watchful eye.  The problem for me is that these two characters were the two I was probably the least interested in as the very nature of their particular arc put them outside of the pieces I was most interested in which dealt with the integration of the 4400 back into society and, what exactly the master plan to save the planet was. 

One direction that they took with the series that I really liked was the questioning of this master plan.  Like I said earlier, the finale of the first season was rock solid with the resolution of the mystery given in this very touching speech by one of the 4400.  I guess my skepticism from my scientific background is stronger than I appreciate because, even while I was listening to this marvelously crafted explanation I immediately began thinking to myself how it would be really nice to get a second opinion on all this.  I’m not saying the voice from the future was outright lying but, even if the speech was sincere, it is still their unique perspective and someone else may have a slightly different view of the situation that would help clarify what exactly is going on.  

This whole question of can we trust the motives of the future people and, hence the 4400, becomes a significant part of the second season.  This whole communication from the future element leads into another part of this season that I wanted to talk about.  At the mid-season point a love interest for Tom Baldwin (the male lead) is introduced in a way that I would normally despise.  A 4400 named Alana throws Tom into what at first appears to be an alternate reality where the 4400 disappearances never happened but, instead is really a dream sequence that gives Tom some background on what happened to the 4400 while they were abducted.  When they come out of the hallucination (in which they were married for a number of years) Tom and Alana decide to continue the relationship.  Dream sequence stuff generally pisses me off in a big way, probably as the result of a number of poorly executed attempts on the part of other genre shows (Star Trek the Next Generation is the only one that leaps to mind but, I’m certain there are others).  However, in this particular instance it worked and worked well.  It made a great deal of sense to me that, given the future folks don’t have any direct contact with the people they sent back, they would include a 4400 who was a monitor.  The individual could, after integrating themselves with someone involved directly with the 4400, then be programmed to react if things start going off the rails and steer the plan back on track.  It’s the only time I can think of where this otherwise cliché idea is used in a way that both makes sense within the context of the universe and was actually a good story on top of that. 

To summarize, while I felt the second season of The 4400 was a change in tone from the first season, I found most of it good.  My biggest complaint was that the storyline kind of got off track for the first half of the season but, with the introduction of Alana the series quickly re-oriented itself.  This will, of course, be different for people who are more interested in the characters that I am not as hot on and vice versa.  The slightly darker tone brought on by the questioning of the 4400’s motives was a welcome feature for me as it was a response I saw as very realistic but, I can see how it could be a turn-off for some as it doesn’t replicate the more optimistic feel of the first season.  This really reached its peak with the season finale which left an ominous lead in for the third season but, again, was something that I found to be completely credible on the part of the people and organizations involved.  I will certainly be checking out the third season of The 4400 but, first I will be doing a few more mission with Colonel Jack O-Neill and the rest of the SG-1 team.

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