Monday, July 16, 2007

The 4400: What a town with abilities can do

There was no shortage of symbolism on The 4400 this week. There was Maia's dream, fraught with Holocaust echoes, of promicin-positive people being forced to wear armbands and carted off to prison camps. There was Jordan Collier bathing, baptism-style, in a lake. And that was just in the first five minutes.

(Spoilers follow.)

What we also got this week was utopia: a little taste of the heaven on earth that the White Light book predicted. This was Evanston, a town in which everyone, in addition to being creepily, overpoweringly nice, had an ability. Tom followed Kyle there and was quickly welcomed/held hostage by the locals, who all the while told Tom how great their town was, how perfect it was, and how he should really try the pie. This pie, to which Tom eventually succumbed, allowed everyone to share a collective consciousness, communicate telepathically and frolic inside each other's memories. Tom seemed to like it, but having total strangers wander around my mind strikes me as overly familiar, to say the very least, and it made me want to learn Occlumency just watching it.

I guess that was the tough part of the episode – I wasn't sure how to feel about Evanston. It was presented as utopia, a town in which extra crispies could live without fear of persecution. But we were also invited to see it as too perfect, like one of those towns that were always on The X-Files, the ones that hid terrible secrets like vampires or garbage monsters. I suppose the show had a mixed verdict about the town as well, with Tom liking the people but not what the town stood for: producing more promicin and converting people to the cause. (I was never keen on the townspeople; to me, they were cult-like and entirely too willing to foist apple pie on everyone.)

But a mixed position, like the one on Evanston, is also what the show has taken on Kyle and Jordan's mission from the beginning of the season – it takes sympathetic characters, with sympathetic motives, and allows you to decide if what they're doing is right. I'm not sold on the idea of utopia yet, of course, but I appreciated Kyle and Jordan's decision not to force promicin on anyone, not even Tom (meaning that the shot Tom got was a sedative and not promicin). It was a principled decision, and it helped keep sympathy with them for the time being.

The episode ended with paradise lost: with NTAC onto the existence of Evanston, the townspeople had to leave, and make their new home in a new land, Seattle. Yes, Jordan's going to hide them right under NTAC's noses. If it were any other character, I'd say that the plan could end up being either stupid or brilliant. But it's Jordan, so it must be brilliant.

In pretty much the only other plot that counted, Maia finally got something to do and to say this week. She had dreams about people with abilities being arrested and imprisoned en masse, and Shawn's political rival is apparently the very leader whose rise will make this happen. More than that, though, we saw the beginnings of Maia's teenage sulkiness, as she complained about being taken back to Seattle, Ben's absence, and her mom calling her "sweetie" like she's still a little kid. It was definitely due, and I hope we'll see more of Maia growing up, because she's been a static character for a long time. Sad and prophetic half the time; cute and bubbly the other half. If nothing else, teenage tantrums, dating, and rebelliousness will give Maia something to do.


Bruce said...

I agree, more Maia is needed. Why can't I remember the actress who played Shannon (the psychiatrist rock creator lady)? Knew I shouldn't have deleted that from my DVR.