Intimate Threats: Ubiquity of Terror in ‘the 4400′

Curator's Note

The moral universe inhabited by the characters of the 4400 is complex at the best of times, and the clip you have just seen (taken from the closing minutes of the finale of the show’s fourth season aired September 16, 2007), demonstrates how this moral ambiguity permeates not only the interaction between the fictional National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) and “the 4400” returnees, but also relationships within families and between significant others, even those not necessarily involved in the central struggles of the show’s narrative. The danger posed by the defection of NTAC agents to Promicin advocates and “the 4400” at the beginning of the clip, is but one manifestation of the unpredictability and ubiquity of the sense of existential threat which pervades this series. Another interesting aspect of this clip is the fatigue and alienation that the costs of the struggle impose upon the NTAC agents. The agents and “the 4400” are commonly represented as having moments of indecision and lack of commitment to the struggle. In the 4400 the levels of alienation are portrayed as creating extreme moral fatigue in the agents, demonstrated in the penultimate segment of the clip when Agent Baldwin contemplates taking the Promicin shot offered to him by his son Kyle (and one of “the 4400”, an intimate materialization of threat that offers no refuge. Is the pervasiveness and intimacy of existential threat in the 4400 the manifestation of some unique historical discontinuity in the shadow of 9/11, or representation of a sense of alienation that has much deeper cultural and historical roots?


The whole Promicin-as-drug season has really played on that tension that occurs when the space between self and other is as blurred and vague as a having or not having a simple chemical - an almost arbitrary signifier - which posits everyone 4400, NTAC, the rest of the human race, as one big family, not a world of otherness and difference. Interestingly enough, it's the Men In Black - Dennis Ryland in his various roles and the shadow(s) of the US Government and secret services he represents - whom are cast as those most vested in reifying and maintaining a sense of us versus them. For me, though, the most powerful moment is when Maia, the iconic innocent 4400, but with prophetic powers, rebukes Diana's worries about Collier becoming the dictator of Seattle by saying: "We're in charge now. It's better that way." It's one thing for someone to hold that opinion - another for someone to look into the future and confirm a course of action that democratic principles really can't abide.

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.