It's rather depressing to me that the end of USA's seminal sci-fi series The 4400 sort of came and went without very many people even noticing. Sure, part of that is what comes from airing a season (or is it series?) finale opposite the Emmys, but the other is that The 4400 has long been overlooked by most people.
Which brings me to Sunday night's season finale of The 4400 ("The Great Leap Forward"), which played things rather like an episode of the old Twilight Zone, complete with a zinger of an ending that sort of tied things up in an unexpected way but left the door open for an eventual return to the concept, while also possibly being the very last thing we'll ever see of The 4400. USA, which was always a strange home for this daring, smart series, hasn't yet decided the fate of the series and is said to be in some discussions for ordering a fifth season of futuristic mayhem, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
Sure, there are still several dangling storylines: just what are Jordan Collier's mysterious abilities, which seem to include resurrection? Is Kyle's "ability" Cassie good or evil? Or both? Who were the other members of The Marked and are they still in power within the US government and several multinational companies? Will Maia's prophecy of 4400 concentration centers ever come to fruition? Were the "ghosts" that Maia visited in Promise City really those of her parents? Can Alanna ever be saved from the past? Will Diana and Ben ever get back together as they are fated to? And just what apocalyptic battle looms on the horizon?
In any event, I was happy to see that the series did resolve some of its ongoing storylines: restoring Tom Baldwin to his own persona after his "possession" by those tiny machines, The Marked; forcing Isabelle Tyler to make a decision about which side she's really on (and whether she's finally received redemption); and dealing with the fallout of Shawn's brother Danny taking the promicin shot. That last storyline is what propelled the plot of the finale, a decision which reverberated throughout Seattle as Danny unwittingly infected thousands of people with promicin, killing half and granting the other half with abilities in his wake. That weighty decision--to inject or not to inject--was taken out of the general populace's hands and decided for them, with shocking consequences.
The result? People were dropping like flies: patients at the hospital where Danny and his mother Susan were taken, NTAC agents back at HQ, people on the street. Some would remarkably be saved while others, standing next to them, were felled by this invisible killer. (Never was that 50/50 proposition more visual or terrifying.) One neat twist: that the writers wisely remembered that Diana had been injected with Kevin Berkhoff's experimental promicin trial waaaay back when and it rendered her immune to the promicin infection (but sadly once again left her on the outside of the group and rendered her useless to 4400 daughter Maia).
I loved seeing the NTAC agents deal with their newfound abilities: Marco being able to teleport (after seeing a location in a photo); Meghan has the ability to turn inanimate objects into plants; Garrity is a multiple man, etc. And I guess Meghan wasn't evil, after all. (Though I do wish the reveal of that had been a bigger deal.)
Much was made of the fact that the White Light's prophecy of a new and better Earth (and/or Paradise) would come when a long list of prominent citizens would take promicin, along with Tom Baldwin. The final scene between Kyle, who stepped up to lead Jordan Collier's movement during his abduction, and his father was fraught with tension and peril. Would Tom take the shot, as prophesied by that arcane text that Kyle holds so dear? And would that decision save the 4400 and the Earth... or doom them? We never do see whether Tom takes that fateful shot, but the final scene of the episode is nonetheless haunting in its implications: after Maia tells Diana that things will be better because the 4400 are now in power, we see a defaced Welcome to Seattle sign that has been vandalized to read Welcome to Promise City. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the future is here. But is that a good thing?
It's an eerie and subtle coda to a series that has been more about the underlying current of fear and dread than horror movie mechanics. And should this truly be the end of The 4400, I like to think that it's the perfect Rod Serling-style ending: open-ended, divisive, and imaginative. If nothing else, it will keep the loyal fans of The 4400 guessing and pondering for the rest of their lives. Unless, of course, USA decides to wrap up the ambitious storyline definitively. Maybe then we'll finally get to learn just what Jordan Collier's abilities really were...
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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.