The 4400

Season 4 Episode 6

The Marked

Aired Unknown Jul 22, 2007 on USA
out of 10
User Rating
242 votes

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Episode Summary

The Marked
Tom and Diana search for Curtis Peck, a 4400 film maker whose ability allows him to "know" the truth behind historical conspiracies. Jordan tries to recruit Shawn into his movement.

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  • The Marked

    The Marked was a superb episode of The 4400. I enjoyed watching this episode because Marco and the others show Tom and Diana an interesting movie that leads them to a missing 4400. I thought this was an interesting story and there was an interesting turn in the season's plot. Kyle arranged for Shawn to meet with Jordan which was an interesting scene. It was a little surprising what Shawn did to get back at Collier and his own conscience. Tom gets taken for psychiatric evaluation which was really some thing more. The ending of this episode had some huge implications. I look forward to watching the next episode!!!!!!!moreless
  • This episode begins with great comedic style and contains important developments for the mythology, but is the conspiracy going to be realistic and innovative in the genre?

    I had a complicated reaction to "The Marked" because I saw the first 8 or so minutes before going to bed and watched the rest when I woke up the next day. Based on the first part, I went to sleep exhausted but excited to watch the rest of what I thought would be a comedic episode; Ira Steven Behr wrote and co-wrote some of the rare science fiction stories that were actually hilarious, so I thought he was overseeing that same kind of work on this show. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately because of the later twists in the story, I was only partly right. The episode quickly shifted from the wonderfully light-hearted tone set by Curtis Peck's funny low-budget b-movies (including the music!) and the resulting characters' humorous yet appropriate reactions to them to seriously acknowledging the growing likelihood of a heretofore ridiculously convoluted-sounding conspiracy. Perhaps that wasn't a bad thing, especially for the deservedly serious Shawn and Jordan/Kyle subplots. Yet, while the grave resolution of the b-movie plot did break new creative ground for this series, that very resolution, in some ways, just felt less compelling and original in science fiction (with its mind-control, implants, and threats from powerful conspirators) than might have been a continuously comedic approach. It's admirable how Craig Sweeny's story self-consciously admits, early on, that such conspiracies are almost cliché in their use in bad science fiction and caricature-like in their preposterousness – perhaps as a way of pre-empting criticism for this new twist. Yet eventually having the agents won over from their skepticism to an X-Filesian paranoia due to overwhelming evidence hardly makes this development (however neatly executed) any more believable or interesting, nor does it reassure me it won't retread well-worn paths in science fiction.

    There were some nice developments among the cast. Marco had a meaty, but delightfully different role as an avid fan of Peck's films. Suspiciously touted as a potential love-interest for Tom, Meghan Doyle became instantly more interesting when she took on the adversarial role of allowing Tom's arrest and made Diana defensive. Even her reaction to the theory of the Marked was suspiciously fearful, and that intrigues me.

    There were also nice turns in the continuing story. I was happy to see my reservations from last week about Gabriel Hewitt simply serving a Hitlerian allegory corrected, when he seemed grateful toward Shawn healing his stroke and indicated a willingness to change. It seems there's an opportunity for Shawn's grace to show how a man potentially hell-bent on hatred and genocide may have his views changed. It's also a chance for this program to show how our opponents are not inherently evil -- how all people have decency in them and are not fated to do wrong if shown, and influenced to follow, a different path. Great! Also, there was some great drama between Jordan and Shawn that drew upon their history. There was also some nice political discussion. Jordan denigrated the nature of politics as compromise, and I loved how Shawn explained his distrust of those who sought power but were unwilling to specify their objectives. This was a great moment for Shawn in expressing a sentiment to which we can all relate, even if we don't always operationally hold ourselves and our leaders to those same standards. Even Isabelle and Shawn discussed their past, but I have one minor gripe about Isabelle's apology to Shawn and her admission of mistakes, including that they had not been in love. Still lacking a proper upbringing, how did she come to these realizations in solitary confinement without healthy social interaction? Is it that her highly-developed brain allowed her to recognize certain things about herself in prison? I'm just a little confused at how Isabelle arrived at these emotionally-rational conclusions (for regular people) when her powers had mostly prevented her from ever having to compromise and learn boundaries and social graces from the world.

    I'm conflicted about the unfolding mythology because I appreciate the ideas, but worry about the detailed execution. It was an unexpected surprise to see Jordan Collier's description in Season 3's "Terrible Swift Sword" of the coming catastrophe being caused by present-day elites now coming into clearer detail. The Marked are an interesting metaphor for the accumulation of power and favoritism that has occurred throughout human history, and is very observable today; for example, the Bush family has a privileged life and personal and financial ties to the very figures in regimes like Saudi Arabia who helped create and fund the ideologies that fuel Al Qaeda-type groups. Yet this metaphor, if it is to have any political impact in how people think, must remain grounded in recognizably human behavior people see in the world today – observable in the very news. Otherwise, it risks being the kind of extreme allegory science fiction often unsuccessfully makes without impacting the viewer. If the audience does not feel confronted by problems of discrimination in the real world as the stark contrasts portrayed in most fiction between good and evil, it is because discrimination is often unconscious, subtle, and involves popular participation. Such black and white fiction will not impel the audience to act upon the real problems of society to improve the world because they do not see the explicit circumstances in reality which moved them so emotionally in fiction.

    Conspiracies are tricky plot devices to credibly appeal to the audience. They always risk being written-off as implausible due to caricature-like assumptions about human nature in implying pure evil on the part of the conspirators. One of the best things The X-Files did in the middle of its run, climaxing in the middle of Season 6, was to explain the alien conspiracy facing the syndicate as a "Sophie's Choice" dilemma. The syndicate was doing terrible things, but for a greater perceived good of delaying colonization by collaborating. One of the realistic things about the Cigarette-Smoking Man is his depiction not as pure evil, but as a man whose dehumanizing activities to protect and preserve the project actually ruined his life. In contrast, the Well-Manicured Man served as the conscience of the group – always urging for restraint in their cruel methods – by appealing to their self-interest to protect the project by not risking wider exposure; he was able to raise a loving family. Comparatively, CSM's more ardent duty toward the project led him to give up on his personal life, on looking after his family and loved ones, and on finding happiness. The project was his obsession, his reason for living (he was partly suicidal). There was something so tragic in how this man's pursuits made him cold and removed from life, and, ultimately, made him almost incapable of loving healthily; he treated those close to him with demanding obedience and was quick to cut them off, if they failed him. One could say he committed evil acts, but there was always a psychologically-sympathetic and -accurate motivation behind his actions.

    The idea of The Marked being labeled seems a bit obvious, and reminded me of The X-Files' super soldiers in Seasons 8 and 9, though The 4400 has at least handled this with a subtle mark. The idea of the Bill Gates of The 4400 universe, Drew Imroth, as a conspirator is intriguing because I initially reacted to it as slander, but maybe that's why such conspirators are successful. I'd almost forgotten Gates himself has changed his image over the last decade from the ugly ambition behind one of the most successful companies. Microsoft was investigated by the federal government as a ruthless monopolist which would undersell the competition to drive it out of business or buy innovative technologies from smaller companies that might challenge Microsoft's dominance only to bury them. I suppose The Marked might have different attitudes and ambitions toward life than the rest of us because they're acting with an uncommon awareness of themselves in the scheme of things.

    I worry about the pod-people/mind-control type plots which may emerge with Tom as it has with Curtis Peck, which can seem very b-movie in themselves. I'd wondered if Tom and Diana's conspicuous encounter with Imroth in the parking garage was a bit much; if he'd just shut up, they'd have had their doutbs, but his coded message just made them more dedicated, though I can understand his desire to scare them off. The writers should perhaps place some humanizing doubt among the Marked. Successful zealots usually aren't doubtful, but -- as Paul Greengrass showed in his film "United 93" about the 9/11 hijackers -- they may still have some doubt and regret even if it's not enough to stop them.

    While Imroth calling The Marked heroic means they're at least not consciously "evil", more needs to be done to pull this off as believably as previous adversaries. Their perspective needs some degree of understandable credibility – just as Ryland's and the government's actions were understandable for being prompted by fear of loss of security and order. Then again, ideologies supporting slavery and discrimination had their backers, and people find no moral justification for either of these anymore, though discrimination unconsciously still occurs. So, perhaps the Marked are just a hierarchical group justifying their own selfish power structure, but they would probably find a reasonable-sounding basis for this – perhaps a self-justifying view of history or notions of social superiority that validates their power, just as colonialism and second tier treatment of non-Europeans were still popular with celebrated heroes like Winston Churchill at war's end. Also, modern parallels could be the unconscious discrimination of a US government that condescends to the Middle East with homogenizing assumptions about its peoples and controlling interference to ensure its interests (observable in their disregard for Hamas' legitimacy in Palestine and manipulation of Iraqi policy, despite hollow rhetoric about wanting democracy above all else). Then again, most cultures do this to one another. The key, I think, is to make this discriminatory belief structure motivating The Marked somehow relatable and illuminating about human nature by making it subtle and perhaps unconscious.

    For example, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were not outright racists, but they, especially the former, were operationally racist in pushing forth economic and social policy that disregarded certain minorities who were poor due to a legacy of explicit discrimination. When judging a politician's likely conduct, my older brother says it's not so much what (s)he believes in, but what lesser goals is (s)he most likely to first sacrifice in pursuit of higher priorities? Resources are always finite and tough choices are inevitably made. Clinton cared about liberal values and gay rights, but his positions changed when he prioritized winning the 1996 election. He avoided his longtime gay activist friend, and signed into law welfare reform and "three strikes and you're out" legislation that disproportionately discriminated against the poor. Similarly, it's not that the Bush administration's members consciously wish to violate civil liberties, directly or indirectly kill innocent Muslims/Arabs in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iran, wants blacks to suffer in Katrina in addition to many other ways, enjoy torturing mostly innocent people in Abu Ghraib and secret prisons, or are purely interested in oil for America's future, and wealth for themselves and their companions in the elite. It's that their selfish prioritization is such that their willingness to disregard human misery of some groups is intermingled with pursuit of self-serving nationalist and (conveniently inconsistent) capitalist ideologies and psychological insecurities (especially with Bush) that they have unconsciously engaged in colonialism abroad and fascist approaches at home. Not all politicians have to be so self-serving. While Lyndon Johnson engaged in a terribly racist foreign policy, he was still heroic at home. He was prepared to sacrifice his presidency to help the most powerless in society through his Civil Rights initiatives and the War on Poverty.

    In watching this struggle between future factions in The 4400, I'm reminded of a situation which developed in DS9 with a higher power struggle between the Prophets – wormhole aliens living outside of time and worshipped as gods by Bajorans – and the fallen angel-like Pah-wraiths who had more selfish pursuits. The latter's evil nature made them far less interesting because they were less complex among the traditional adversaries on the show: the Dominion, Cardassians, etc. Even Gul Dukat descended from a complex figure to one who became, in Seasons 6 and 7, either insane or so consumed with anger, nothing was left on his mind but vengeance; I've thought Dukat's end might have been more interesting if he'd sacrificed himself at the last minute for the Alpha Quadrant instead of just remaining mindlessly power-hungry. I see the same danger happening on The 4400. What's been great on this show is how the future people are far from all-knowing or even perfectly ethical. Yet I fear a caricature-like adversary in The Marked and their future accomplices, much like the Pah-wraiths, in never really finding out what motivates them emotionally and personally. What's it like for these beings trapped in the past? How do they stay motivated, if they are so far removed from the future benefits of their present day actions.? Might some diverge from the course? What specifically is it they cherish from their future that they risked this mission to combat the plans of the future people who sent back The 4400? It can't just be some future dominance they'll never enjoy, or, if so, perhaps their motivations need to be defined ideologically as well as practically. I'm hoping the writers do this and make the Marked as complex as Jordan Collier and Dennis Ryland themselves.

    Much depends on where this leads. Giving the writers much benefit of the doubt, I give this an 8/10, especially for the comedy.

    (I should emphasize the only the rarest of shows get 10 -- only the absolute best episodes of The X-Files ("Talitha Cumi", "Paper Hearts", "Redux II", etc.), Battlestar Galactica ("Pegasus","Lay Down Your Burdens", "Occupation"/"Precipice") and Deep Space Nine ("In the Pale Moonlight"). I would give the best story of The 4400 to date, "Terrible Swift Sword"/"Fifty Fifty," around 9.0, and I really loved that.)moreless
  • It is revealed, through the medium of film, that the future may have sent 10 agents to the past to fight against JOrdan Collier.

    Fabulous episode with some great story-writing.

    The subplot deals with Shawn's political opponent who may or may not turn out to be bad. When Shawn happens to mention this to Collier and Kyle, the guy has a stroke 2 days later. Collier swears he had nothing to do with it, Shawn doesn't believe him, Kyle does.

    I'm not sure what to believe.

    The main plot deals with a film director whose ability comes out when writing scripts. He's written a script about the future sending 10 agents to interfere with the past. Apparently, one of them was Matthew, the lobbyist killed by Isabelle. These agents, the Marked, can be recognised by a cross behind their left ear. Tom's attacked while in the hosptal and injected with something, which leaves a mark behind his left ear...moreless
  • Low-budget episode.

    This was maybe one of the poorest episodes of this season. Don't take me wrong, the twist was brilliant. But the filming was terrible, it looked like the movies "Curtis" was making. Take a look at the light setting for an example, it was so terrible that when I watched it I nearly started crying. It was so unnatural that the whole episode would've been better with a black screen and just the voices playing. If you ask me, I would have said that the old crew (editors, producers ++) were changed whit some newbies from the presidents office. (Excuse my English.)moreless
  • Great episode, one of the best twists so far.

    This episode was a little weird. We're introduced to an "Original Recipe" who has an apparent ability to reveal secrets and conspiracies though movie scripts. He makes movies out of them, movies that could be classified at D grade. However, this 4400 alerted NTAC that there are 10 agents from the future out to stop the 4400 from their mission. This was an interesting reveal. But, I felt somewhat, I guess you could say, annoyed that in the end he said he made it all up. There was this moment of "what the heck was the point of this episode?!" anger. So does this mean he didn't know he had the ability and thought that he was making it all up? Oh well, the fact that he was right and there actually 10 agents is awesome. Good to see more Jordan too, and we'll be seeing a lot more of him, so I'm happy!

    All in all, great episode, I hope all of them are like this from now on.moreless
Jennifer Spence

Jennifer Spence


Guest Star

Todd Giebenhain

Todd Giebenhain

Curtis Peck

Guest Star

Tim DeKay

Tim DeKay

Drew Imroth

Guest Star

Richard Kahan

Richard Kahan

Marco Pacella

Recurring Role

Sean Devine

Sean Devine


Recurring Role

Graeme Duffy

Graeme Duffy

Brady Wingate

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • Nitpick: Halfway through the episode as the camera pans across the space needle, various people on the space needle can be seen waving at the camera.

    • Goof: Kyle calls Shawn from an underground bomb shelter using a cell phone, where it would be impossible for signals to reach a cell tower.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Gabriel Hewitt: Thank you.
      Shawn: Don't thank me, just change.

    • Kyle: Was this you? Did you have this done?
      Collier: I did not.
      Kyle: I believe you. I'm sorry Shawn didn't.
      Collier: I'm sorry too. Shawn was like a son to me, and I've lost him. But I have found you.

    • Drew Imroth: Those look like x-rays. Is everything ok with you?
      Tom: It didn't work. Whatever you tried to do to me it didn't take. I'm still me.
      Drew Imroth: Of course you're you. We're all ourselves, aren't we? I mean, who else would we be?

    • Drew Imroth: Baldwin thinks it's some kind of play, mind game. When we need him, he will be there for us.

    • Jordan: (talking to Shawn) I understand that you want to build a bridge between positives and the rest of the world, but Shawn, I'm telling you, events are moving past that. We have big plans here, and when we're finished, the 4400 won't need the mainstream. The mainstream will come to us.

  • NOTES (1)