Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, "Hell is other people."
Never has that statement been more apt or more true than in the latest episode of The 4400 ("No Exit"), which shares its title with that of Sartre's most well known work of literature, No Exit.
The 4400 continues to be one of the trippiest television series on the air, consistently delivering stories that veer sharply from action one week to psychological thriller the next. This week's episode presented an interesting dilemma for the series' diverse characters as one by one, both 4400s and NTAC agents found themselves inside NTAC headquarters during a security breach.
This being The 4400, a series that thrives on paranoia and finger-pointing, each group believes the other to be behind the attack. The Promicin-positive fear that this is the first step towards rounding up the 4400 while the NTAC agents believe it to be the opening salvo in a full-blown assault on their base of operations. But in order to survive, both groups have to work together to make it out of NTAC alive.
My first suspicion that not everything was what it seemed to be was when P.J. woke up, slightly more confused and bewildered than everyone else. He immediately seemed to be hiding something. And what clinched it for me that this was some sort of virtual world or alternate reality was when Meghan bit the dust. There's far too much going on behind her pixie face to kill her off right now. (Me, I'm convinced she's evil and working directly with The Marked or is one herself.)
Instead of granting its heroes typical powers like flight or pyrokinesis, I like that The 4400's writers have continued to grant Promicin-positive characters interesting and complex abilities (like Kyle's spirit guide). P.J.'s ability was one of the strangest yet: he was given the power to create a virtual world (or "game" as he called it) in which the participants have to work together to overcome obstacles and survive. It's more or less a vastly complicated mechanism to bring people together in a time of division and force them to, well, get along. PJ wanted to bring the 4400s and NTAC together and did. It wasn't hell, after all, but a virtual state of purgatory where both sides had a chance to redeem themselves for past actions.
I still have a long-running theory that for most (or all) of the Promicin-positive, their abilities stem from their own deep-seated issues. Take a look at Kyle's, for example. Poor Kyle has never fit in, with either the 4400s, the so-called "normals," or his father's compeers at NTAC and has always lacked direction of any kind (hell, the kid's body was hijacked by someone from the future, who assassinated Jordan Collier). When he takes Promicin, he literally creates a spirit companion that guides him through his mission. The same holds true for Diana's sister April, now working for NTAC; she was lied to by everyone and betrayed by Diana, who stole her boyfriend Ben. One dose of Promicin and people are incapable of deceiving her. Coincidence?
But back to the episode at hand. What was Jordan wearing when he woke up at NTAC? Judicial or academic robes, perhaps? Or did the messiah in hiding pick them up at half-price at some prophet's warehouse sale? Odd, to say the least. I get that he's become this cult-like religious leader but I liked Jordan better before he started wrapping himself in holy cloth and just, you know, wore suits.
Just when did Isabelle grow a conscience? I'm glad to see that she's been deepened as a character now that she's been depowered (and escaped government custody). But considering that, as a mass murderer, she killed numerous people last season and attempted to kill an entire classroom of children, why did she show any compunction about using homemade weapons in order to escape NTAC? Color me confused.
On a different note, I am happy that the writers are finally dealing with the fallout from Diana and Marco's breakup last season. The breakup was unexpected and completely fractured a relationship that I had been rooting for, so it was reassuring (as well as rewarding) to see Marco and Diana finally have an actual adult conversation (as opposed to the awkwardness in "The Marked"). It's been a long time coming and I hope that these two can patch up their friendship. Ben's supposed to be some dishy catch, but to be honest, I prefer uptight Diana with nerd god Marco. (Yeah, I didn't reveal my geek allegiances there or anything.)
But who do you think Diana should end up with? Ben? Marco? Or, hell, Tom Baldwin? Any takers?
Next week on The 4400 ("Daddy's Little Girl"), it's the moment we've all been waiting for as Richard Tyler (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) finally returns to the series! Just what will he think of his baby Isabelle (who was, er, up until recently a baby) joining up with would-be-messiah Jordan Collier's movement? And why has he waited until now to reveal his whereabouts? Methinks I smell an agenda.
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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.