Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The 4400 1.01: “Pilot Part 1”

“Don’t you lie to me. I’ve been waiting to hear the truth from you for three years so don’t you lie to me.”
- Tom Baldwin

So, in case you haven’t noticed, I am a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan. And way back in 2004 when this show first came on, USA Network took a chance in the genre and boy am I glad they did. What started out as a miniseries grew into a 4-season run. I will be covering that first season this summer. So let’s get started.

We begin in 1946 in California. A family of three is trying to have a picnic but the weather isn’t’ cooperating. But after some pleading, 8-year-old Maia is allowed to go out for a stroll so long as she comes right back. She wanders off to pick some flowers and suddenly a bright light appears. We cut to 1951 in South Korea as a black soldier named Richard is getting beat up for “crossing the line”. We see he had been with a white woman before the same bright light appears. Next, we find a man named Orson in 1979 in Washington State on his way for a fancy dinner with his wife when the light appears. Finally, two cousins, Shawn and Kyle, are doing some underage bonfire drinking on the beach in Washington when the light comes and Kyle ends up comatose and Shawn disappears. Three years later, Kyle is still in a coma and his parents have divorced due to the strain and his father, Tom, being obsessed with finding Shawn and waking Kyle up. As their family hangs in the balance, the Department of Homeland Security is tracking an incoming comet. Things go critical pretty fast when the comet changes course and accelerates. A plethora of missiles launched by numerous countries does nothing to stop it. And then, to everyone’s surprise and confusion the comet slows down, as if coming in for a landing. Director Ryland of Homeland sends a team to the probable location of where the comet is going to hit to investigate. I have to admit, it has been many years since I’ve watched this show and I forgot how intense the opening segment of this episode was.

Homeland personnel and news crews arrive on site and the comet turns into a giant ball of light. Then said ball of light begins to fold in on itself until it’s a pinprick and then it explodes, knocking everyone watching back. When the smoke clears, thousands upon thousands of people are standing there. The camera pans among the group and we pick out Maia, Orson, Richard and Shawn. It would seem they and a lot of other people have been taken and returned. A few days later, Tom begs Ryland to put him back on active duty. Sure part of it is because he wants answers for what happened to Kyle but he does genuinely want to help. He gets partnered with former CDC scientist Diana Skouris. They’re skeptical of each other at first but agree to work together. All the returnees (as they’re being called) have been locked up in a containment facility and have undergone interviews. It seems that no time has passed for them. Diana is intrigued by Maia, who seems to be fairly calm about the whole thing. Tom gets to interview Shawn personally and he thinks that his nephew is lying about what happened the night Kyle went into the coma. Maia continues to be kind of cute but creepy by handing Orson a tissue right before his nose starts bleeding. There is definitely something different about her. Oh, and Richard meets Lily, the granddaughter of the woman he was in love with.

Six weeks later, the government is releasing the returnees since the courts have deemed their containment illegal. Diana is concerned about this but she gets vetoed by Ryland. So the returnees start to head out. But it’s not all happy reunions. Sure, Shawn is happily reunited with his mom and brother but that’s really about the only happy ending we see. Richard goes to St. Louis to find where he used to live has been turned into an overpass. Orson finds his wife, suffering from mental illness in a rather decrepit place and Lily finds that her husband has remarried and her daughter doesn’t even know who she is. At first, some of the returnees, including Maia elect to stay in quarantine since they have nowhere to go. But eventually, Maia gets sot of fostered to a couple. She tells Diana that they’ll see each other sooner than Diana expects. At her new home, Maia carefully places her shoes on a chair in room, stating she doesn’t want them to get wet. That night, a pipe leaks and water floods into her room. IT seems she is developing precognitive abilities. And she’s not the only one. During a welcome home party, Shawn sees a bird fly into a window. It looks like its dead but after holding it in his hands for a moment, it comes back to life. And Orson, whose luck is so down he can’t even get a job at his own firm, ends up shattering all the glass in the current firm owner’s house and killing him.

Overall, I thought part one of the pilot was really strong and it sets things up for a lot of intrigue. Not only do we want answers to where all the returnees have been but how some are exhibiting abilities and what that means. Besides, it seems some of the general public aren’t keen on their being let out as evidenced by Shawn’s car getting vandalized. A lot of times, pilots aren’t that good and it takes a few episodes to get into the groove by establishing characters and what the feel of the show is going to be. I think The 4400 surmounted that problem by making things interesting and kicking off with a bang right from the get go.

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