Monday, September 24, 2007

Season Finale Review: The 4400

The 4400 [s4 ep13]: "The Great Leap Forward"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

In Brief: What's Good

  • Danny's Promicin-induced ability is one of the most bizarre (and there have been some bizarre powers this season), but it moves the overall story arc foward in an extreme and intriguing direction.

  • Stories about people with weird powers this season have paid off because everything has set the stage for the complicated yet exciting and satisfying chain of events that occur in this non-stop, epic season finale.

  • The distribution of Ubiquinone gives the government, NTAC, and The 4400 Centre a chance to work together, which might be a necessary alliance to wrestle control of Seattle back from Jordan Collier in season five.

  • Excellent performances, especially by Patrick Flueger as Shawn Farrell whose character must react to the death of his mother and the realization that he must kill his own brother to save thousands.

  • NTAC's computer geek, Marco Pacella, gets the best of the new powers from the Promicin virus. Able to transport himself to any place of which he sees a picture, his ability reminds me a lot of the use of Trumps from Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles, one of my all-time favorite book series.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • Sometimes this season's "heaven-on-earth" motif and references to Jordan Collier being some kind of modern day messiah seem cliche. Calling the agents from the future The Marked might also be a reference to the mark of the beast in Revelation. I sometimes feel uneasy when sci-fi tries to use the Bible as inspiration for some fantastical storyline.

10 Story
8 Performances
10 Drama/Intensity
10 Suspense/Cliffhanging
10 Nostalgia/Coolness
Picking up where the last episode left off, Diana has just shot Tom who is has been infected with an alternate personality from the future by way of nanites, making him one of the Marked. The Marked are a faction who want the future to remain the way it is and must stop the 4400 in order to maintain the status quo. They place their personalities in nine host bodies in order to manipulate things from our current time.

Rescuing Tom
To get the real Tom back, Meghan and Diana plan to inject Tom with a lethal dose of Polonium, which will kill the nanites, and then have Tom's 4400 nephew Shawn use his healing ability to repair Tom's body from the radiation. The plan works.

Later, when Tom is able to get to Jordan, he tells Jordan how to rid himself of his Mark, and gives him the names of the seven other Marked so that Jordan can free them as well. Tom feels Jordan should be the one to do so because NTAC and the government would never be able to get to the other Marked through official channels.

Free Promicin for Everyone, Not the Way You'd Expect
Meanwhile, Shawn's mother is rushed to the hospital after his brother Danny has told her that he took the Promicin shot and she started bleeding and coughing. Once at the hospital, others who come close to Danny start bleeding and coughing too.

Apparently, Danny's Promicin-induced ability is to spread Promicin like an airborne virus. Everyone who comes near him reacts as if they've taken the Promicin shot. They have a 50% chance of dying or a 50% chance of developing an ability. The virus eventually spreads to the rest of Seattle, including NTAC. In effect, he's spread Promicin to most of the city and has inadvertantly killed his own mother and thousands others in the process.

Dr. Burkhoff gives Danny the Promicin inhibitor, but without airborne release, the virus continues to build up in Danny, eating away at him. Meanwhile, the chaos and panic from the Promicin deaths get so bad that Meghan reluctantly accepts Kyle Baldwin's public offer to use 4400s and other Promicin-positives to restore order throughout Seattle with their special abilities.

Realizing there's no cure for his Promicin build up and that going off the inhibitor would endanger thousands, Danny asks Shawn to kill him. Shawn argues at first but reluctantly and painfully agrees. Shawn is forced to use his healing abilities in reverse on Danny. In a few seconds, Danny is gone, and Shawn curls up and cries beside the 2nd family member he's lost in one day's time.

Diana's Immunity = Key to Promicin Cure
Because Dr. Burkhoff experimented on Diana with an early version of Promicin last year, her body built up an immunity to Promicin. She never did develop an ability and still doesn't, but the Promicin virus doesn't kill her either. The immunity comes from a build up of Ubiquinone which is conventiently available to the public via an over-the-counter supplement. By telling people to take these pills, they can stop the spread of the Promicin virus (although they can't undo the damage that's already done).

The End of the Line for Isabelle
The Marked, in order to keep control of Seattle away from Promicin-positives, send Isabelle to Promise City to kill Kyle Baldwin, who's taken a leadership role during Jordan Collier's abduction. When Tom attempts to infiltrate the Marked by pretending to still be Marked himself, he gives away his cover with a slight flinch when told of the plans to kill Kyle. He's locked away with Jordan.

Isabelle goes to Promise City to kill Kyle. She tries but can't go through with it. Tired of being manipulated by people from the future, she fights against her handlers and their painful killswitch that they implanted in her, and she rescues Jordan and Tom. Isabelle's fight is her last act as the killswitch is enough to finish her off.

Eight Days Later
The best scene in the episode is the funeral of Susan and Danny Farrell, Shawn's mom and brother. Kyle stands off in the distance but comes over to Shawn after the service. Kyle and his dad Tom reconcile too. Tom hugs his son and nephew and says they'll get through this. Despite all the weird sci-fi elements, this show at its heart has always been about family. So, not only is this a touching scene, but Tom, Kyle, and Shawn now represent NTAC, Promise City, and The 4400 Centre, respectively. Despite a possibly dark future, this scene shows that the Baldwin/Farrell family will be the key to maintaining balance and hopefully, someday, bringing harmony to a world complicated by Promicin.

Meghan tells Diana that there are 9000 *confirmed* dead, which means there are also 9000 more Promicin-positive people who will now have abilities. For now, Jordan Collier's people are maintaining order, which is unavoidably necssary while Seattle is under quarantine. But Diana wonders whether Jordan will be willing to stand down when the quarantine is eventually lifted.

Jordan Collier gives the public a rousing speech about healing, the thousands of dead being "heralds" of a new age, and how he plans to guide the city into the future. Standing beside him is Kyle Baldwin, holding the book of Promicin-related prophecy he procured earlier in the season (in Revelation, I believe the anti-Christ has a chief priest; is that where they're going with these two?).

Diana and her adopted 4400 daughter Maia watch Jordan Collier on TV. They disagree about what they see, much to Diana's dismay:

Maia: See, I told you he was a good guy.

Diana: Maia, can't you see what's happening? Jordan Collier is naming himself dictator of Seattle. There's nothing good about that.

Maia: You're wrong, Mom. *We're* in charge now. It's better that way.

Meanwhile, we see the special abilities that survivors at NTAC have gained from the Promicin virus:

  • Meghan Doyle is writing something at her desk when her pen gradually turns into a flower.

  • Jed Garrity stands up from a bottom file drawer to see an exact duplicate of himself standing beside him.

  • Marco Pacella, with the coolest ability of all, skims through some photos of Promise City while in his office. After focusing on one photo in particular, he finds he has instantaneously transported himself there to that same spot in Promise City.

Jordan Collier: ...I've spoken to the world before of heaven on earth. Many of you thought it impossible. But, now, I'm convinced...WE WILL SEE IT IN OUR LIFETIME!!! {to great applause from the crowd around him}

Kyle Baldwin goes home to his dad. Tom is lamenting all the people he's lost. He wonders how to move on. Kyle lays the Promicin shot that his book of prophecy claims Tom must take. "Dad, it's time," Kyle says. Does he take it? Does he refuse? I guess we'll find out next summer.

In a closing shot of a highway, we see the Seattle skyline off in the distance. The camera pans down to a sign that says, "Welcome to Seattle." The word "Seattle" has been crossed out with red spray paint and painted over it are the words, "Promise City."

WOW!!! I'd say season five is going to be just a... Little. Bit. Different. I love this show, and this was a virtually flawless season finale. It was probably as good, if not better, than their season two finale, which also blew me away with its many shocking reveals.

In fact, I'd say I've enjoyed the season finales of The 4400 even more than the season finales of shows with bigger hype such as Lost or Battlestar Galactica.

For a summer season show that's only lasted 47 episodes so far, the story arc has moved much faster than it feels like it has. This show masterfully mixes sci-fi elements, an underlying theme of family, compelling drama, and exciting action. I can't wait until next summer!

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