2011-01-02 Entry: "The 4400 - "Pilot""
Our first sci-fi show is a USA network show from 2004. It's also feature length.
Aspect Ratio: Some sort of widescreen ratio, but there are no black bars, so probaby 1:78:1
So we open with a young girl in an old car; then the caption saying this is Maia, and it's 1946. And then the glowing light and she disappears. Richard, is in South Korea in 1951 and his fellow soldiers don't like the fact that he's black and he's dating a white woman. And then the glowing light and he too disappears. Orson disappears in 1979. And then there's the two boys drinking by the lake, Kyle and Shawn, and it's 2001. Shawn disappears and Kyle ends up in a coma, as evidenced by the fact that he's still in that coma in the present day, where they're talking about a comet on the news.
Kyle's parents have split up, his mother, Linda, is having trouble spending as much time with Kyle as his father, Tom. Tom's also hiring detectives to look for Shawn, at least to find some answers about what happened. Tom also looks like he's not been getting enough sleep.
Diana Skouris, at the Department of Homeland Security, is called in for an emergency meeting as that comet appears to be planning to hit Washington State... as it keeps changing course and speed, so clearly it isn't a comet. And every country in the world start launching missiles at the thing. They hit it, but it has no effect. Lots of "the world is going to end" frantic phone calls. But it's alright, as the comet's slowing down, and coming in for a landing.
Turns out Tom also works for Homeland Security... sort of... so is he on leave? Suspended? Guess we'll have to wait to find out as Diana has to rush out to the landing site. Big glowing ball hovering over a lake, rolls towards the beach, shrinks down to a much smaller ball of light, and then explodes, knocking everyone off their feet. But as the fog clears, there are now a whole bunch of people standing in the lake where the ball was... including the guys from the start, Shawn, Orson, Richard, and Maia, unchanged from when they disappeared.
Tom wants his job back, as he's seen Shawn on the TV, but he's had a falling out with his boss, Dennis Ryland, after only putting in 5 months work at Homeland Security after transferring from the FBI before his "indefinite leave of absense." He gets paired up with Diana (who formerly worked at the CDC) and they're one of the teams trying to investigate the reappearance.
Tom interviews his nephew, Shawn, who has no memory of the night he disappeared, and no memory of the intervening 3 years. That doesn't go down very well with Tom who wants answers about what happened to Kyle.
Richard meets a Lily amongst the other returnees - turns out Richard's girl, Lily, is this Lily's grandmother. Orson's getting annoyed about being held indefinitely and he gets a nosebleed, but Maia brings him a tissue before the bleeding starts.
The courts declare that the people are going to be released. However Lily's release leads to disappointment - her husband has moved on in the intervening 11 years, and he's remarried. Her daughter Heidi doesn't know her. But there is a bright spot - she's pregnant, even if it does appear to be immaculate conception! Orson manages to track down his wife, Elizabeth, but she's losing her mind in her old age, and his partnership in an insurance firm has been bought out when he was declared dead. Shawn's reunion with his family goes smoother, but his brother's girlfriend, Nikki, clearly harbours a crush for Shawn. Shawn's also the first one something strange happens to - a bird flies into the window and breaks its neck, but it comes back to life while Shawn's handling it. Shawn's powers appear to have a downside - getting into a fight with a school bully, he appears to start draining the life out of the guy! Richard's old neighbourhood no longer exists and he's feeling very out of touch with modern life. And Maia gets taken by a foster couple who get creeped out by the fact she appears to be able to predict the future.
Orson lets his temper get the better of him and kills the current owner of his old firm - he appears to make his brain explode, but obviously that's rather difficult to tell without an autopsy. Orson is held by the police, and when Diana forcefully questions him he manages to crack the coffee pots in the room. When he subsequently finds out his wife has passed away overnight, he causes another disturbance, blowing out lights and shaking a hallway. Tom and Diana manage to track Orson down to a cabin owned by his wife's family, but Orson loses control of his powers, shaking the cabin to bits and nearly killing Tom... until Diana shoots him.
Tom and Diana are worried about what other abilities might be out there, but Tom's keeping Shawn's powers a secret from Diana at present. Shawn meanwhile is using them to bring Kyle out of his coma!
It's another big cast, but it manages to give them all a decent introduction due to the length of the episode - it's clearly easier to pilot a show with an hour and a half to work with rather than the usual 45 minutes. It's also very character driven - they're clearly trying to tease their way into the "super-powers" bit (as only Orson, Shawn and Maia have shown any signs of ability so far) and they've pretty much left the big questions untouched - Why exactly 4400? Why do they appear not to be leaving Seattle in any great number? Why do they have special powers? Where did they go? - So there's lots of meat for the show to get into later. I should probably also state somewhere that this is a show where the big questions don't really get answered, as it was cancelled with a million plot threads still hanging at the end of its fourth season (some do get answered, but they raise more questions than they resolve).
The lead duo of Tom and Diana are mostly likeable, and most of the returnees are also played up to make you like them and feel for them; Orson's the most dislikeable due to his temper, but even he's played as if the things happening to him are out of his control. Dennis Ryland is the only one I actively disliked, but then I may be bringing bias from later in the show's run.