Most TV series going into their thirty-third episode would only be midway through their second season.Â However with the quickly evolving format and content segmentation of cable television shows like USA Networkâ€™s The 4400 are well established over several seasons by this point.
The 4400 is the story of four thousand four hundred people who were mysteriously abducted over a period of sixty years and miraculously reappeared on a Seattle beach one night having no memory of their time away and showing no signs of aging.Â Â
Compounding this extraordinary event is the evidence that 4400 returnees were exhibiting supernatural abilities such as healing, telekinesis and even precognitive abilities.
The series centers around National Threat Assessment Command (NTAC) federal agents Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) and Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie) who are the agents assigned to monitor the actions of these people with extraordinary abilities.
The inaugural season, or mini-series since it only lasted five episodes, was primarily an introduction to the series.Â It dealt with the issue of people having to re-adjust to life after loosing up to sixty years. It is in this part of the show that we learn that the abductors are not aliens, as you are lead to believe throughout the first few episodes but rather people from the future trying to save themselves from some catastrophic event.
Season Two spends most of itâ€™s twelve episode run introducing a new returnee and their powers.Â Meanwhile Tom and Diana also deal with Jordan Collier (Bill Campbell) who has leveraged his marketing prowess to create a faux religion around the 4400 returnees. The second season moves from comments on religion to an exploration of secret government programs.Â Â One of which was a program to keep all returnees from developing their powers by injecting them with a Promicin inhibitor. Promician is the chemical that all 4400 returnees have in their body
The third season builds on the second by bringing back some of the now established characters and their powers. One of which is Isabelle (Christie Laing) the offspring of two returnees (widely accepted to have been conceived while the abducted were away) who is now suddenly an adult. She is now a central character who must deal with suddenly being an adult, but without the natural progression of life experiences under her belt she is unable to comprehend real good verses evil issues.Â The season ends (and at the time of filming it was potentially a series end) with a mass distribution of Promician to anyone in the country who wants an injection. The upside, you may get super powers, the down sideâ€¦ thereâ€™s a 50/50 chance you could die.
This brings us to season four, which premiers Sunday June 17 at 9:00 on USA.Â Â According to the seriesâ€™ official website this year will deal with the war over Promician.Â A â€œPro, Undecided, or Antiâ€ graphic on the front page draws immediate reference to the abortion issue.
Over the first three seasons, and specifically season two, the series dealt with social issues but in the context of the showâ€™s continuity.Â Â The dealings with these issues is easily lost in the fictitious details and not followed-through as to make a political point.Â The lack of blatant social commentary is welcome, especially if you only have twelve episodes to tell the story about a yearâ€™s worth of drama.
This is a good thing because once season three came along the show finally hit its pace with a good overall plotline and consistently good writing.Â The writing is really with drives the show.Â It is easily compared to a cross between X-Files and Heroes (or X-men) but on a much lower budget.Â Â
The writing does carry the show past itâ€™s limited special effects budget and the ensemble cast does work well together, probably better than youâ€™d expect a company of relatively unknown actors to perform.Â That being said, cast members are showing up more regularly as guests on other series now.
Since the TV industry has changed quite a bit in the past ten years, and is still in a state of flux, if not perpetually, shows like the 4400 film their finales before knowing weather or not they will be renewed.Â Consequently last seasonâ€™s finale was filmed as both a season finale and as a series finale.Â
Expertly filmed, the third season ended with a man handing out Promician injections, turning to the camera and offering one to the viewer.Â This leaves us with what would have been an acceptable ending, but a much more effective cliffhanger and sets the stage for a bigger story in season four.Â Â
Â Though in an interview with TV.com Executive Producer Ira Steven Behr said, “We have at least two more seasons planned. If we were forced to go on, I think we could figure it out.”
Season three began with an all out media blitz on USA with marathon episode runs and online interactions.Â This year the Series official site is choc full of interactive information, but the on-air presence is lacking, and this could be the final season if ratings decline.
The show has been consistent on that front and also nominated for several Emmys as well as won several other awards.
â€œFiguring it outâ€ as Beher puts it, would likely lead the series in a way that the story is not intended to go. Hopefully they get those two seasons (the quote came at the announcement of renewal for season four).Â Much like Lostâ€™s recent announcement of a definitive end date in 2010 a series that takes the audience to the end of the story is better for the audience rather than a story that takes a series to its end.