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Welcome to Promise City: "The 4400" Takes a Great Leap Forward

It's rather depressing to me that the end of USA's seminal sci fi series The 4400 sort of came and went without very many people even noticing. Sure, part of that is what comes from airing a season (or is it series?) finale opposite the Emmys but the other is that The 4400 has long been overlooked by most people.

Which brings me to Sunday night's season finale of The 4400 ("The Great Leap Forward"), which played things rather like an episode of the old Twilight Zone, complete with a zinger of an ending that sort of tied things up in an unexpected way but left the door open for an eventual return to the concept, while also possibly being the very last thing we'll ever see of The 4400. USA, which was always a strange home for this daring, smart series, hasn't yet decided the fate of the series and is said to be in some discussions for ordering a fifth season of futuristic mayhem, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Sure, there are still several dangling storylines: just what are Jordan Collier's mysterious abilities, which seem to include resurrection? Is Kyle's "ability" Cassie good or evil? Or both? Who were the other members of The Marked and are they still in power within the US government and several multinational companies? Will Maia's prophecy of 4400 concentration centers ever come to fruition? Were the "ghosts" that Maia visited in Promise City really those of her parents? Can Alanna ever be saved from the past? Will Diana and Ben ever get back together as they are fated to? And just what apocalyptic battle looms on the horizon?

In any event, I was happy to see that the series did resolve some of its ongoing storylines: restoring Tom Baldwin to his own persona after his "possession" by those tiny machines, The Marked; forcing Isabelle Tyler to make a decision about which side she's really on (and whether she's finally received redemption); and dealing with the fallout of Shawn's brother Danny taking the promicin shot. That last storyline is what propelled the plot of the finale, a decision which reverberated throughout Seattle as Danny unwittingly infected thousands of people with promicin, killing half and granting the other half with abilities in his wake. That weighty decision--to inject or not to inject--was taken out of the general populace's hands and decided for them, with shocking consequences.

The result? People were dropping like flies: patients at the hospital where Danny and his mother Susan were taken, NTAC agents back at HQ, people on the street. Some would remarkably be saved while others, standing next to them, were felled by this invisible killer. (Never was that 50/50 proposition more visual or terrifying.) One neat twist: that the writers wisely remembered that Diana had been injected with Kevin Berkhoff's experimental promicin trial waaaay back when and it rendered her immune to the promicin infection (but sadly once again left her on the outside of the group and rendered her useless to 4400 daughter Maia).

I loved seeing the NTAC agents deal with their newfound abilities: Marco being able to teleport (after seeing a location in a photo); Meghan has the ability to turn inanimate objects into plants; Garrity is a multiple man, etc. And I guess Meghan wasn't evil, after all. (Though I do wish the reveal of that had been a bigger deal.)

Much was made of the fact that the White Light's prophecy of a new and better Earth (and/or Paradise) would come when a long list of prominent citizens would take promicin, along with Tom Baldwin. The final scene between Kyle, who stepped up to lead Jordan Collier's movement during his abduction, and his father was fraught with tension and peril. Would Tom take the shot, as prophesied by that arcane text that Kyle holds so dear? And would that decision save the 4400 and the Earth... or doom them? We never do see whether Tom takes that fateful shot, but the final scene of the episode is nonetheless haunting in its implications: after Maia tells Diana that things will be better because the 4400 are now in power, we see a defaced Welcome to Seattle sign that has been vandalized to read Welcome to Promise City. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the future is here. But is that a good thing?

It's an eerie and subtle coda to a series that has been more about the underlying current of fear and dread than horror movie mechanics. And should this truly be the end of The 4400, I like to think that it's the perfect Rod Serling-style ending: open-ended, divisive, and imaginative. If nothing else, it will keep the loyal fans of The 4400 guessing and pondering for the rest of their lives. Unless, of course, USA decides to wrap up the ambitious storyline definitively. Maybe then we'll finally get to learn just what Jordan Collier's abilities really were...


Dani In NC said…
Two comments:

1. I thought that Maia's parents were projections caused by the same P-positive guy who made Isabelle's mom appear to her dad. Maia knew right away that she couldn't hug or touch them, so I think she knew that, too.

2. I thought that Jordan Collier's power was to pull promicin out of anyone who wasn't an original 4400. That's why the Marked wanted him on their side.
12345 said…
I recently discovered your blog looking for "Damages" episode recaps. I have to say that you are always spot on with your comments about the show. It is simply mesmerizing.

A comment before today's episode:

I'm starting to think that the "present" and "past" storyline are going to come together before the finale. I also have a feeling that the storyline with Ellen in jail does not take place after the case was settled. When Tom told Ellen that Fiske really go to Patty, then that has to mean that something went wrong with the case and thus David ends up dead and Ellen attacked....and since episode 4 or so I keep thinking that Patty has a hand in both David's murder and Ellen's attack...

...but I might be wrong. This show really has my imagination going.
Anonymous said…
Jace, you're a loyal fan. I feel like the series got too big for its britches (too many dangling storylines that I felt like were a result of carelessness on the part of the writers), and I stopped watching after season 2. I tried again for the last few eps, and I also found the finale to be underwhelming
Unknown said…
Right, as dani said, Jordan's ability was to extract promicin, like he did with Isabelle.

I loved that The 4400 had all those interwoven and dangling storylines. They didn't feed the viewers pablum and made us think instead.

I didn't hear that it might be canceled, and that's truly a shame. If that happens, at least they went out on top.
Jace Lacob said…
Personally, I thought that Jordan's ability to pull promicin from P-positives was just a FACET of his power rather than the power itself. After all, three seasons went by before we even saw that display. I don't think his ability during Seasons One and Two were that. Nor do I think, if that happens to be the case, that it was a very good reveal to the mystery behind his power...
Jason said…
I always thought that Jordan Collier's Resurrection was more of a Deus Ex Machina, rather than the manifestation of his ability. He did disappear into the future for a little while, complete with a revelation about his destiny as the 4400 movement's messiah. It seemed more likely to me that he was pulled into the future at just the right time to be stuck back into the timeline in his new role. But, of course, I could be wrong.

I do agree that there must be more to Jordan Collier's (JC's) abilities than we have seen. As the messiah, he should be able to do something a little more impressive than just pull promicin from people.
Anonymous said…
I can't believe it might be over! I don't think this show ever got the recognition it deserved. At least some things were resolved in the last episode but, as Jace said, there are still so many questions that haven't been answered. I wish they could do a two hour tv movie or something to wrap it up.
Anonymous said…
Per 4400 writer Amy Berg's blog (on the USA network site), Jordan's only ability is to remove promicin from the Extra Krispies. Jordan never removed Isabelle's promicin - it was removed at the end of S3 when Richard used his telekinesis to shoot her with the syringe filled with the potion. Then she was shot by Diana.

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