Over the course of several decades, 4400 people vanish in a flash of light, apparently abducted by aliens. Then, on done day, a ball of light appears in the Pacific Northwest and they all emerge having not aged a day. That’s the premise for this sci-fi show that ran from 2004-2007, which takes its cues from the CBS police procedurals of the time and The X-Files, even to the point where its main characters have some sort of direct connection to the 4400.
Those main characters are Tom Baldwin (Joe Gretsch) and Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie), two investigators for the National Threat Assessment Command (NATC), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Their boss, at least for this season, is Dennis Ryland (Peter Coyote), and when they are put on the case we see that Tom’s nephew was one of the abductees and his son, Kyle (Chad Faust) witnessed that abduction and is now in a coma, so there’s that personal connection (kind of like Mulder’s sister being abducted). The chemistry between the two leads is pretty good and thankfully without romantic tension, and their relationship with Dennis Ryland is friendly, which at times works for the show but other times could use a little more tension (and perhaps the writers thought so because Coyote doesn’t return for the second season).
So the 4400 come back and it becomes immediately apparent that all of them are going to have a hard time adjusting to society and it also seems that many have gained some sort of special powers. What we end up getting is a long-form storyline mixed with a “4400 of the week” where the main characters can simply investigate someone and either fix their problem or bring them in. Meanwhile, Billy Campbell plays an L. Ron Hubbard-type character called Jordan Collier who sets up a “center” and a community for the 4400, which plays more like a cult and he seems to set up to be the main adversary.
There’s also a running romantic subplot between Richard Tyler (a pre-House of Cards Mahershala Ali) and Lily Tyler (Laura Allen) that starts slowly as he adjusts to having been abducted from service in the Korean War and is now in a post-Jim Crow United States (there’s a great scene when he goes into a restaurant to have some coffee and lights up a cigarette, then gets strange looks because he’s smoking) and she seems to resemble the white woman he was in love with in the 1950s. It’s an engaging subplot that I’m sure will eventually intersect with the main characters but works on its own.
The leads a really good and Gretsch and McKenzie carry the show well. I didn’t recognize her from anything else, but Gretsch is one of those character actors who seems to pop up in a lot of different shows like this (he was a priest on the V reboot) and he does a great job handling everything thrown at his character–this crazy case to work, his son in a coma, and his marriage falling apart. Meanwhile, Diana befriends and then adopts one of the 4400, a little girl who seems to have psychic powers, which I thought was a great idea for her character because as much as I liked Mulder and Scully, I wouldn’t have wanted the same kook/skeptic dynamic played out in this show.
Season one is short with the other three seasons being longer (and apparently it was canceled due to low ratings and the 2007 writer’s strike) and while it’s not perfect (there are scenes that are considerably badly written and overacted), as a drama it is a consistent hour of television.
Keep Watching or Give Up?