While I mentioned in my review for season two of The 4400 that the 13-episode season was nice and tight and that made it really enjoyable, it wasn’t as helpful here, even though without the need to fill a full 22 to 26 episodes, the writers could stay right on track with whatever they had planned. And the plans looked promising–at the end of season two, we saw Isabel had suddenly grown up to be an adult woman, Kyle had turned himself in for the murder of Jordan Collier, and Collier himself reappeared right on the same beach where the 4400 had returned in the pilot. He looked all Grizzy Adams and dazed, but we all knew it was him.
The central mystery for this season, therefore, centers around Isabel and who she is. We know that she has powers, and by the end of the second episode of the season, we know that her sudden maturity drains the life force of her mother, Lily, who grows really old (and is played by The Birds’ Tippi Hedren) until she finally passes away (I half expected her to come back at some point but she doesn’t, at least in this season). They play it, at first, as some sort of “kid trapped in an adult body”, which has its fun moments but gets uncomfortable when she starts having an affair with Shawn. Don’t get me wrong, the actress is attractive, but it’s hard to shake the whole “You were literally in diapers last season” aspect of it.
Of course, if it were just for her to be half-naked through the whole season, we’d wonder why they aged the character in the first place, so as Isabel’s time at the 4400 Center goes on, we see that she’s got a sinister streak and can essentially Force choke people. So yeah, they introduced Darth Vader in a way. And it would work if they gave Megalyn Echikunwoke more to do than deliver her lines in a steady “this is supposed to sound evil” tone and dress her in darker shades of clothing. It would have also been a little nicer if they hadn’t made the one Black female character the evil one–at least Mahershala Ali’s Richard (Isabel’s father) doesn’t have a heel turn.
Peter Coyote’s Dennis Ryland is the other heel turn in this season, although that had become evident in season two when he was put on trial for covertly injecting the 4400 with an inhibitor that would stop the element promycin from giving them their full powers. Coyote is pretty solid, as he’s not a moustache twirling villain but still can have a more forceful presence than the X-Files‘ CSM. His mission throughout the season becomes to create a group of super soldiers by injecting them with pure promycin, which Isabel donates. Of course, this goes off the rails. Collier returns, gets his memory back, and decides to go Full Combat Jesus by stealing the promycin and then luring Ryland and Isabel into a trap where several soldiers get killed but she survives. Then, when she decides to do a full-on assault of the 4400 Center, Ryland tells our Tom and Diana that he “couldn’t control her.”
Now, that’s all the last third of the season. Up until then, there’s a lot of stuff that sets that up, so we definitely know that something is coming, but it also meanders a little bit and some of the subplot elements take a little too long to click in. Granted, this is a third season of a show and they can be a bit weak (Lost probably being one of the best examples of this). But at least when the season ends, there’s a clear status quo shift and enough happens in the last few scenes of the season finale that I’m definitely up for watching the final 13 episodes.
Watch or Skip?