Messiah Envy: The 4400 Returns

I'm always slightly baffled by the fact that The 4400, which returned to the airwaves last night with its fourth season premiere, is on USA. It seems more fitting that the series would air on sister network Sci Fi (where it has its second window, from time to time) than on the same network that brings us, say, Monk and Psych.

In any event, last night's season premiere of The 4400 ("The Wrath of Graham") pushed the story along and introduced us to some new characters while dealing with the fallout from last season, where prophet/lunatic Jordan Collier (Billy Campbell), newly returned from the dead, decided to begin handing out promicin to anyone who wanted it. Meaning that anyone on the street could suddenly manifest a 4400 ability. Or, you know, drop dead, as the stuff has a 50/50 survival rate.

One of the ongoing themes of the series has been the battle between the haves and the have-nots, though those definitions have changed as the series went on. Some returnees wanted to return to their old lives as though nothing had changed since their abductions, jealous at the lives of the baseline humans around them. The 4400 were marginalized, objects of fear and loathing. But Jordan's decision has changed all of that. After constructing a public persona for himself before being killed, Jordan has shifted the position of the 4400 in a way that no one could have anticipated; not just as celebrities or heroes, but iconic representations of man in God's image. And now anyone can achieve that position, with a single dose of promicin.

It's no surprise then that two of the series' most malcontented characters--Kyle Baldwin (Chad Faust) and April Skouris (Natasha Gregson Wagner)--were seen at the end of Season Three about to administer a potentially fatal shot of promicin; if anyone was in dire need of a new perspective/reason to live, it's these two.

When Season Four begins, April's fate is still unclear. She hasn't been heard from in months, least of all by her sister Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie), ex-NTAC agent now living in Spain with her adopted 4400 daughter Maia (Conchita Campbell) and boyfriend Ben (Brennan Elliott). Diana's lured back into the NTAC fold with the promise of assistance in tracking down April, who has turned up on a list of people with promicin. Kyle, meanwhile, has just returned to Seattle after a stint of traveling only to find his father Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) a crushed, wounded man, still holding out hope that the missing Alana (Karina Lombard) will return to him. Kyle DID take the promicin shot, we learn, but so far has yet to manifest any abilities. (Hmmm, make that a rather big SO FAR.)

What's going on with everyone else? Shawn (Patrick Flueger) is still in a coma, following the attack on him by ex-fiancee Isabelle Tyler (Megalyn Echikunwoke), who remains in federal custody as the government determines just what to do with the psychotic would-be destroyer of the 4400. Jordan is in hiding with Kevin Burkhoff (Jeffrey Combs) and schizophrenic Tess (Summer Glau), who is quickly unraveling at the seams. It's only a matter of time before Jordan is found as Tess' power is the only thing that is keeping the conspirators hidden. No sign of Richard Tyler (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), though; but the fact that his loooooong name has noticeably disappeared from the opening credits makes me think we won't be seeing him anytime soon, sadly. NTAC Director Nina Jarvis (Samantha Ferris) is gone too; there's a new NTAC director, in fact: Megan Doyle (Jenni Baird), a blonde former think-tank member with a penchant for hanging up La Dolce Vita posters in her office to tick off her subordinates.

I thought that the case this week was an interesting one. A maladjusted youth (seeing a theme here) named Graham (Thank You For Smoking's Cameron Bright) takes a shot of promicin in the hopes of changing his lame suburban life and discovers that the promicin has made him into a god, one to be worshipped by the classmates who humiliated him and the girl of his dreams (who quickly offers up herself as a willing, er, sacrifice). Graham quickly seizes control of his Seattle suburb, setting up a fiefdom of converted worshippers (all dressed in his trademark black hoodie) who are more than willing to do his bidding, but Graham has bigger plans: he wants the world. The kid quickly takes over the military officers stationed outside his kingdom, goes on television to spread the Word of Graham, and sets his sights on taking down Jordan Collier.

We've always wondered just what Jordan's 4400 ability is and the series' producers have teased us with just enough information over the years. Is it an inability to die? To resurrect himself? Last night's episode lay down another piece of the puzzle as Jordan seemingly has the ability to draw a baseline human's promicin out of them and into himself, effectively robbing them of their abilities. He single-handedly takes down Graham with a touch, absorbing the kid's promicin into himself. Hmmm. I'm glad this ability doesn't affect the true 4400s, just the dosing humans, but it has some interesting practical applications and makes Jordan even more powerful than I had suspected.

Just who is Cassie, the mysterious artist who strikes up a series of conversations with Kyle? I'm very suspicious of her motives and why she's suddenly made contact with Kyle. He seems to be smitten with her until she suggests that Kyle overdose Shawn with promicin, as a possible means of waking him up from his coma. Hmmm. Her advice works a little too well for comfort as Shawn seems to flatline and then regains consciousness. Just how did Cassie know that would work? Is she a conduit to the Future? Or something else entirely different? I don't trust her a jot but Kyle's already fallen under her spell. (Did I mention how happy I am that Kyle is back? He's one of my favorite characters and obviously will have a big part to play this season.)

As for Alana, Tom has hit a dead end, until Megan tells him that Isabelle Tyler is now allowed to see visitors and she may have information about where Alana is, given her connection to the future. I'm very happy that the producers are keeping Isabelle around and that they have a gameplan for her, following her powers being taken away by her father Richard last season; just what that plan is I'm not entirely sure yet but I wouldn't discount this she-wolf from being the harbinger of doom that everyone makes her out to be. LOVED the reveal at the episode's end about just what happened to Alana as Tom discovers a 19th century French painting at the museum entitled "Alana in Repose," featuring, you betcha, his missing Alana.

That the Future would send her back in time like that definitely makes me think that they are mightily pissed off at Tom Baldwin and this is punishment for failing to kill Isabelle. And I, for one, can't wait to see what the Future throws at them next.

Next week on The 4400 ("Fear Itself"), Tom and Diana race to find a 4400 with the ability to bring people's fears to life, while Kyle's mysterious new friend Cassie leads him to a book containing a prophecy about Jordan Collier.

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Jace is an LA-based television development and acquisitions exec who watches way too much television for his own good and would love a TiVo for every room in the house. (He’s halfway there.) His blog, Televisionary, can be found at televisionaryblog.com.