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Last weekend marked the return of The 4400, USA’s miniseries about a group of humans abducted and brought back to earth. When I announced the return of the series as well as the contest for the swag from the show, I hinted that they had been abducted by aliens. I said this mainly because I thought I would leave a little suspense for those of you who hadn’t seen the first season yet, which is, well, almost everybody. In fact, the big twist at the end of the first season is that The 4400 weren’t taken by aliens, but by humans in the future. And they were sent back changed, so that they could save the human civilization.As I said, it puts a nice little twist onto the whole human abduction theme that has been traveling through science fiction since forever. Since the season premiere was two hours long and there are a lot of intricacies in the story, I won’t be able to give a traditional recap, because that would be about forty pages long. Instead, I’m going to try and make a quick run through this episode and try and connect what everything means as coherently as possible. By the time the second season is over, we might be all cut up and some of it may make sense.
Some time has passed since our last scene from the show, which had Richard and Lily driving somewhere into the Pacific Northwest in an attempt to save their baby from Jordan Collier (more on him later). Richard and Lily were both abducted, but about fifty years apart. The interesting thing is that, when he was abducted, Richard had a thing for Lily’s grandmother. Although they never saw each other during their time away from earth, Richard and Lily almost instantly fell in love. For Lily, she found a perfect companion after her husband, who had remarried since she went missing, put a restraining order on her, even preventing Lily from seeing her own daughter. For Richard, it was a second chance at love, but also really the first chance. Richard is black, and during the time period when he was in love with Lily’s grandmother, their relationship was so forbidden they never knew if they would ever have a chance to be together. Oh, did I mention that Lily was pregnant with some supernatural baby?
Like I said, they were on the run from Jordan Collier (played by Billy Campbell – this role was the reason for his ridiculous beard on The OC) another 4400 who was a real estate developer; and with his means, he envisioned bringing together the 4400 and protecting their community. Quite obviously he has some nefarious plans for world domination and he somehow thinks that Lily and Richard’s baby is the key (we’ll assume it is theirs since it is mulatto, but they didn’t have sex while gone, so how can we be sure?). Therefore, Lily and Richard are trying to make their lives away from populated places where somebody could find them, and Jordan has plenty of people searching. This leaves them to live in places like cabins in the woods, and take jobs like car mechanic at the local garage. Their life is hard, but of course they care more about being together and all of that sappy shit.
So what is Jordan Collier up to these days? He is creating 4400 centers, where he is going to get people to open the 4400 inside of them. What does that mean and why does he want to do it? Well, all of the 4400 were changed in some way when they returned. Some of the were able to manifest their powers, and some of them looked like they hadn’t been changed. Jordan believes the theory that the 4400 were sent to save humanity, so he think these 4400 centers will do just that. However, in order to build them, he needs money. He was rich, but not that rich. Luckily for him, Shawn Farrell works for him. He was abducted, and when he came back, he had the ability to heal people. Jordan uses Shawn to heal the terminally ill kids of the filthy rich in order to get them to write donations to his foundation. It sounds to me like he is building a cult, but that’s just my opinion.
OK, how did Jordan know about the theory that the 4400 were sent from future humans? Well, he has somebody on the inside at the Department of Homeland Security, which was handling the returnees. The Department of Homeland Security knew about this plan after Kyle Baldwin told them. Kyle Baldwin is not a 4400, but he was connected with Shawn Farrell. They were cousins, and when Shawn was abducted, Kyle fell into a coma. When Shawn returned, he eventually visited Kyle in his hospital room, did his healing thing, and Kyle woke up, but didn’t remember anything. Then again, you can’t blame him. It turns out that when Shawn woke Kyle from his coma, Kyle was possessed by somebody from the future.
Eventually, Kyle understood his purpose, and that was to give a piece of information to the locals. He returns to the beach where the 4400 were returned, and is hit by a flash of white light, which we think is from the aliens, but soon learn it is from the future humans. Kyle delivers this information because his dad, Tom, tried to save him when the white light hit. His dad heard the message, and reported the information to the stiffs at Homeland Security, which just happens to be the branch of government that he currently works for. Fast forward a few months and Kyle is in custody taking an MRI every other day to see why he said what he did, and his dad is on desk duty because he pulled a gun on a guy from the FBI who was starting to get in his way.
Tom finds a way to get Kyle back home, but he really needs a way to get back on the case of the 4400 and his partner, Diana, is on the case. Her partners are going down faster than reality contestants at a casting call. Diana is not without her connection to the 4400 as well. She adopted Maia Rutledge, a young 4400 who was abducted when she was about 9 years old. She returned with the ability to tell the future. Maia didn’t really understand her ability, so she would often blurt out what would happen to people, even though it would frequently freak people out. This made it difficult to find a foster family or regular school. Diana adopted Maia, and for some reason, Maia’s abilities sort of disappeared, although she was still having trouble adjusting to her new life and was therefore homeschooled.
Diana eventually finds a way to get Tom back on the case of the 4400s, although he is on a short leash. They start out with the case of a returnee, Tess Doerner, and her apparent ability to get people to do what she wants just by thinking about it. Tess is crazy, possibly schizophrenic, and spends her time drawing charcoal pictures of this huge structure people are telling her to build. At first, the administrators at the hospital think it is no big deal. After all, the only people who are listening to Tess are other patients, who are also crazy. Unfortunately, one of the orderlies dies while grabbing an item off the roof of the mental hospital that is supposed to be used in this communication structure they are building. This tips off the people at the hospital, and they call Homeland Security for help.
When Tom and Diana ask Tess, she says that she has been told she has to build it, and that it is a communication device to reach the future humans. They want her to come back, or so she says. Her explanation is so crazy, that it might just be plausible. Honestly, stranger things have gone on since the 4400 have returned. Then again, she also believes that there are scientists in submarines listening to everything she says, so maybe we should take it with a grain of salt. It would be easy to just dismiss this as crazy, but soon, there are tons of people working on this thing, including the hospital administrators, doctors, and some of the team Homeland Security sent to investigate these matters. Tom and Diana take her into detention, hoping that by removing the source of all the thoughts, the people will stop.
Now that Kyle is out of custody, there are a number of things that he wants to do. He wants to get some semblance of a normal life, and therefore wants to get in touch with Shawn, who was his best friend before the whole abduction/coma fiasco. Problem is that Shawn is under the careful watch of Jordan Collier, who hasn’t exactly kept him in captivity, but isn’t exactly letting him go out whenever he wants. Like any good cult leader, Jordan keeps Shawn’s old friends away (he had security kick Kyle out when he said he didn’t need an appointment to see Shawn), as well as telling him that his old friends won’t understand his new life. To distract Shawn, Jordan is sure to provide plenty of money, a great apartment, and as many happy-ending massage therapists as a young man could need.
Despite all of this, Shawn is not happy. He doesn’t care what Jordan might do, he wants to see his cousin. Jordan threatens to cut him off, which we know is an empty threat, because a) Jordan still needs money for his centers and b) ever since touching Lily and Richard’s baby, he has these sort of seizures that wreck his body, and Shawn is the only one who can stop them. Shawn does finally get a chance to see Kyle, but the reunion is not like they planned. Kyle wonders why Shawn can’t just leave, and starts to wonder when Shawn starts talking like – well, Jordan Collier. Shawn is starting to believe in the centers, and Kyle thinks that Shawn is being used. Still in denial about what is happening, Shawn leaves his cousin to return to the 4400 center, where he finds Jordan Collier ready to welcome him back with open arms.
Jordan Collier has had an effect on other people besides Shawn Farrell. His book is selling millions, and everybody is trying to read it, include most of the 4400s. That includes Lily and Richard, who are anxiously waiting its appearance in their small town. Lily has a special connection to the baby Isabel, and the baby has been telling her that they need to get out of town. Richard noticed that somebody has been leaving some notes with Bible verses around town telling of the upcoming apocalypse and how God will punish this or that. Basically, some crazy man got hold of the Old Testament and is applying some crazy logic to justify his hatred for the 4400.
It turns out the guy (who is a cross between Wyatt Earp and Brian Dennehy with his trenchcoat and white hair) is a local reverend who gets worked up about things in general, and it is not the presence of Richard, Lily, and Isabel that is getting him in a tizzy. But he still hates the 4400 and wants to eradicate all mention of them in the town, which includes threatening the local shopkeeper with harm if he doesn’t get rid of Jordan Collier’s book. It just so happened that Lily was in the store to buy the book, and when the reverend notices Lily and the baby, and decides that they should be stoned or burned at the stake or something. Before he can do anything, Isabel, who is a very special baby if you haven’t guessed, conjures up some wind and blows out the windows of the shop. This is just enough to give Lily time to find Richard and prepare to escape.
Lily and Richard are packing up at the cabin. They are trying to pack up as much as they can, but the reverend finds them. They are able to escape because Richard removes the distributor cap on the reverend’s truck (I actually have no idea what he removed, but a distributor cap seemed sensible). Richard and Lily think they have gotten away with only minor damage (shotgun through the back window), but while on the road south, the reverend catches up to them. Since they aren’t exactly well-off, they aren’t driving any sort of performance machine and the reverend rams them off the road.
Lily and Isabel weren’t unjured, but Richard has a serious gash in his ankle, and it might be broken. Nevertheless, they try and get away from the reverend, now joined by his two sons, who are chasing them through the woods. Like any good psychotic, rural man of the cloth, this reverend knows how to hunt, so he’s looking at footprints, and sees blood, and notices where they stopped to eat some berries. With Richard’s injuries, they just can’t move that fast, and so Richard decides he is going to make a last stand so Isabel and Lily can get away. Richard was in the Air Force, so he does know a thing or two about survival, and so he is able to knock out one of the reverend’s sons and force the other one to give up his weapon. He can’t, however, figure out how to stop the reverend, who is able to get the better of Richard, and then goes off to find Lily and Isabel.
Now, we know that Isabel is not like other children. When she was still in the womb she was able to take out Jordan Collier, and she seems to have some sort of power over nature. It turns out you can add mind control powers as well. Richard hears a couple of shots and goes to find out what happened. He fears that either Isabel or Lily was hurt. When he gets to the scene, he sees that the reverend has shot his son, but is saying that “she” made him do it. “She” was Isabel, and she wasn’t through. She proceeds to give the reverend a heart attack, and when the second son comes over and sees what happens, he first aims his gun at the others, but Isabel is back at work. This time, she gets the guy to point the gun at the bottom of his chin and blow his head off.
This whole chain of events is disturbing to say the least. Not that these guys died, because who takes it as their mission to kill a baby. But god, that baby is able to control nature and get people to kill themselves, and she has no fears about being messy. Her mission accomplished, Isabel now lets her parents take control, and they hitchhike their way as far as possible from the triple homicide.
Back at Homeland Security, things are getting worse. They removed Tess, but the people from the hospital haven’t stopped. In fact, they have doubled their efforts because a fire destroyed some of their work. Tom and Diana are beginning to entertain the idea that perhaps Tess is crazy, but still correct. They smuggle her out of custody and back to the hospital, where everybody is placing the finishing touches on things. This doesn’t go well with the bosses, and so they send a SWAT team out to put an end to things. It turns out that Tess’s visions are almost verbatim from the works of a science fiction novelist. We thought that perhaps she really did remember what it was like when she was gone, which would make her the only person with memory of the abduction. Instead, she really is just insane.
Tom and Diana refuse to believe it, and Diana has even fallen under the spell, helping put together the final pieces of the structure. Tom is busy holding back the SWAT, but the structure is finished. Diana turns up the juice, and Tess awaits the return of the future humans to take her back. But there was no magic explosion or burst of light, just an ear-splitting sound, and Tess was still there when it was finished. She was in shock, but everybody else acted as if nothing had happened, as if they didn’t know they had been building this thing for so long. Tom and Diana were discouraged, realizing they had wasted all of that time on a dead end.
However, during the course of the investigation of the people at the hospital, there was one thing that was oddly out of place. One of the patients, who Tess had taken a particular fondness to, or perhaps had taken a particular fondness for Tess, was able to leave the hospital. His name was Kevin, and he was a researcher who studied ways to tap into the unused portions of our brain. He had a mental break and just stopped talking one day. After the apparatus was built and the noise knocked everybody out, Kevin woke up talking once again. It was determined that he was not crazy, and he was let go.
Why is this such a big deal? Well, it starts to get into that whole space/time fabric that we learn about in movies such as Back to the Future and 12 Monkeys. Kevin’s research on our unused brain, which represents 90% of our grey matter, was theorized by some people as the key to things like pre-cognition (telling the future), and telekinesis (moving things with your mind). Was it Kevin’s technology that, in the future, helped create the 4400? If that was the case, then they had to send somebody back who would set in motion the events to get him un-crazy. It was perhaps the first part of a ripple effect that would give them the clue to what was going on.
Overall, it looks like we should be in store for a good second season. The idea that every returnee was changed for a specific reason is interesting because it leaves you wondering more than, “oh look, that person can do some crazy shit.” You want to know why that person was changed, and how it ties in to saving the human race. We also got a disturbing look at what Isabel can accomplish, and as a nice little twist, we find out that Maia has not lost her ability to tell the future, she just said that so people wouldn’t think she was different. In order to not go crazy, she wrote her thoughts in a diary. Diana found it, and was reluctant to read it, because she was still trying to gain Maia’s trust, but knew that there might be important information inside. And she found out there was plenty to be concerned about. After reading some nice wholesome thoughts on things like Christmas and ice cream, we read that Maia wrote that “Mommy’s bosses would pay for keeping us in captivity.” Quite a juicy little bit of information there, because we think we know what it may mean, but aren’t too sure.
Sorry this recap was up so late, and now that I have plenty of background, I will try and turn up the snark meter. What did you think of the second season opener? Is it worth 60 minutes on a Sunday now that Desperate Housewives is on hiatus? How bizarre is the serial killer baby Isabel?