4400 Premiere Review: “The past is a prologue”

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The 4400 premiere, “Past Is Prologue”, will air on The CW on October 25, 2021.

When influencer Gabby Petito disappeared last month, the activists asked why so much attention has been paid to the disappearance of a young white woman as to cases of missing persons of color. This conflict is at the heart of 4400, The CW Reboot of the 2004 USA Network Series The 4400 around 4,400 missing persons who spontaneously reappear together. But the serious effort to reframe the plot as a racial justice narrative starts off badly thanks to awkward dialogue and an attempt to introduce far too many characters.

“Past Is Prologue” starts out quite similar to the original series, although the 4400s fall from the sky in a Detroit park instead of appearing in a ball of light in Seattle. In both cases, they are rounded up by agents from the Department of Homeland Security, who soon discover that those returned can be traced to missing persons cases spanning decades and apparently have not aged. since their disappearance.

The CW version features a predominantly black cast, explicitly describing all of the missing as marginalized or undervalued in their time. But the show’s seemingly tiny budget hampers its efforts to make the political arguments it strives for. The original series provided commentary on the growing state of security following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, examining the US government’s fear of threats within its borders and ways people might seek a chance for empowerment in a chaotic world. In its pilot, the 4400 are quickly treated and imprisoned, the characters widely introduced in institutional uniforms.

In the new version, they are strangely hidden in the lobby of a seedy hotel and left in their own clothes without any major medical exams. This despite being a post-COVID spectacle, with their guards wearing masks apparently just to make them more disturbing while the protagonists can show their faces and wear their appropriate attire for the time in a thin attempt to help us keep track of the immense whole. The series clearly wants to evoke the feelings and images of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, but there are too few guards, and those lack bulletproof vests or heavy weapons. It might be necessary for a future plot point, but it feels sloppy and dishonest. The fact that, although it is set in Detroit, it is shot in Chicago, also adds to the weakness of the setting. The inadequacy prevents a real establishment of place.

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Worse still, the dialogue. Rather than taking the time to slowly introduce all of the main characters, the writers of 4400 rushed to try and fit as many of them as possible into the pilot. The result largely leaves them feeling like slim archetypes constantly shouting their stories out to anyone who will listen to them. They regularly point out what era they’re from in the most subtle way possible, such as noting that the last thing they remember was watching Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, or asking if ragtime is still a popular musical genre. .

Most attention is paid to Shanice (Brittany Adebumola), a lawyer who disappeared in 2005 on the first day of her return from maternity leave. Adebumola does a solid job of describing believable panic and grief as she desperately tries to regain the life she left behind, but that makes the placid attitudes of the other 4,400 look silly in comparison. The only other inmate who’s even staged a big protest is party girl LaDonna (Khailah Johnson), and that seems like a horrible stereotype because all she wants is to get her phone back.

Screenwriters show a remarkable lack of confidence in their audiences.

While members of the 4400 might genuinely want to share their stories with each other given the shocking situation they find themselves in, it is truly inexplicable for their guardians, parole officers Jharrel Mateo (Joseph David-Jones) and Keisha (Ireon Roach), who throw their tragic motivations on each other the first time they meet for drinks. While the series clearly tries to go for the same partner dynamic with conflicting styles as Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) and Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie), who was herself a riff on Mulder and Scully from The X-Files. , the intimacy between these agents was forged over many intense episodes rather than in a single conversation.

As in the original, some of the returns find out that they came back with superpowers. Most notably, Claudette (Jaye Ladymore), a civil rights activist and preacher’s wife from the 1950s, discovers that she can regenerate after injuries. Watching her enlist other people to help her experience her abilities is lovely, but as LaDonna’s exasperated comments indicate that she is locked up with a member of the X-Men, it’s not exactly an original ability. . The 4400 broke with traditional superhero archetypes by focusing on powers that were more likely to change the course of the entire world rather than being of use in combat, setting that standard early on with characters with prophetic visions. and the ability to heal others. Despite all its political ambitions, it would be a shame if 4400 did not have the same vision for its speculative fiction.

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