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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

The 4400: The Complete First Season (review)

When precisely 4400 people — some of whom have been missing for half a century — appear in the Pacific Northwest in a spectacular cosmic event, unaltered and unaged and with no memories of where they’ve been, the world is stunned and mystified and afraid. Were they abducted by aliens? Why were they returned? Set in a nervous, suspicious America not unlike our own — in which the public demonizes a minority perceived as potentially dangerous and pseudo-fascist Homeland Security cops argue for the internment of the “returnees” and threaten snooping journalists with their vast, PATRIOT Act-powered authority — this powerful miniseries nevertheless resists letting itself be identified with any contemporary political position. Instead, its exploration of the realpolitik of a fantastical situation lives in gray moral shadows and finds all kind of new ground in unexpected places, as in the unusually complicated buddy-cop relationship between Homeland agents Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch: Minority Report) and Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood). Their distaste for and mistrust of each other taints their work as much as does the personal stake each has in figuring out what happened to the returnees, why they came back, and why some of them seem to have developed paranormal abilities. More sophisticated than the recent, similarly themed Taken, The 4400 is inevitably being compared, favorably, to The X-Files, and rightly so, but its layers of home-brewed paranoia mark it as the first a new breed of post-9/11 science fiction.

MPAA: not rated

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