If the previous episode felt a bit more “stand-alone”, then this is a massive return to the strong continuity that has been the hallmark of this season. There are three major plot threads in this episode, and all of them promise to result in future plot twists. And then there’s the ending, which points to a finale with implications that far exceed those of the second season finale. Any worry I might have had about the pacing of the season has been addressed.
The main plot thread for the episode, of course, is the alliance between Dr. Burkhoff and Tess, the schizophrenic patient played by Summer Glau in the second season premiere. With her inclusion in the story, Dr. Burkhoff’s arc becomes a lot more substantial. Now the circumstances of his reawakening links into the current events, adding seemingly stand-alone elements into the big picture. I’m very happy to see that Burkhoff’s experiments are connected to his role as the “father of the 4400”, and I’m even more convinced that it ties into the catastrophe at the core of the mythology.
The question remains: will Burkhoff’s experiments, definitely known by Ryland’s allies within the government, lead into the “military applications” that Burkhoff mentioned in an episode earlier this season? It’s only speculation, but I would guess that Ryland’s interest in Isabel and her ability to produce promycin, key to her ability to save the 4400 at the end of the second season, is designed to level the playing field. Burkhoff would be the perfect case study to determine how best to use the promycin to create an “anti-4400” force. (And my guess is that the ensuing conflict will lead to the catastrophe, thus creating that time paradox loop that I’ve speculated upon before.)
Diana’s forced evolution further complicates her relationship to the 4400. The injections might have been stopped in time, but it’s also possible that permanent changes have been made to her physiology. If so, how would that compromise her position within NTAC? This could go in a lot of directions, because it’s quite possible that she could end up a renegade, with Tom forced to choose between allegiance to his partner and the 4400 and the demands of his superiors.
Back at the 4400 Center, Shawn is getting a chance to rebel, but that opportunity is also reminding him that his ability puts him in a bad position. He could easily compromise his morality and run off with the band, leaving the Center to Richard and damning the consequences. He’d have a lot of fun with the groupies, and since his new friends have a deathwish, who cares if Isabelle finds him and takes a few of them out as an example? Shawn, of course, is trying to deal with the fact that he’s trapped, and it’s taking him into a bad place.
Richard, meanwhile, is finally getting an interesting arc of his own. Along with some alone time with the gorgeous Heather, he’s also learning how to control his emerging telekinesis. He obviously intends to use that power to stop his daughter, and there’s an interesting possibility with that. Tom has a syringe with the means to eliminate Isabelle. Isabelle knows that Tom will eventually come for her, and she could probably deal with Tom. But would she expect her father to use his ability to drive the syringe into her with an ability he wasn’t supposed to be able to control?
Like many “4400” episodes this season, there’s almost too much to talk about and speculate. It’s easily the most consistent series of the summer, and it’s driving towards one hell of a finale. With only four episodes left for the season, there’s a lot to cover. But something tells me that the writers are more than capable of the challenge.
(As a sidenote: I also have a podcast associated with my various reviews called “Dispatches from Tuzenor”. Recent episodes cover the “The 4400”, so it might be something of interest. Go to http://entil2001.libsyn.com if you want to listen!)