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!!!!!!!
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.)
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...
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.)
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.
The director "returned" is a good idea for a new subtrama but the interest exposed from the "brains" inside the NTAC is fool... Marco is too intrigued for the truth in the Kennedy's shot and the Marked are too easy to discover (with a phisical difect) to be all located in the main chairs of the world (starting to the one who own the software company).
Own can these men be more powerful then the returned after having see what Shawn or other 4400 can do with their abilities?
Great idea, too much expanded in the first part of the episode and too fast burned in the rest...
This was definetely the best episode of the season, and for sure one of the best ever !!!
The last couple of episodes were good, but not as good as this one, i hope there are more of this kinda coming !
The 4400 ability was great, actually, was awesome. The whole story was interesting, too bad we didnt get to see Jordan a lot.
Shawn saving the "bad guy" maybe was a wrong choice after all, coz now he can actually do all the things that Maya dreamed of.
The ending was very interesting, now.... who are the other agents ?????
This episode surpassed in enjoyment from the previous episodes this season as of thus so far. The finalizing of the concept of having ten people from the future to come to the present time to stop Jordan Collier and the 4400 has now brought in new material for the show to develop and work with on the storyline is so refreshing. When the implant was placed into Tom, that was definitely a surprising twist in the show I did not expect. This is the show I have learned to love, one that does have twist and turns at every bend. That is what makes a good show superb.
It's now been confirmed that the Abductors--my own personal term for the beings who captured, then, returned, the original 4400--have a rival faction. One that wants the mysterious Catastrophe to occur just as it did the first time around (from their point of view). Two things especially chilled me. Tom's being injected with something that makes him one of the Ten's sleeper agents. And, that computer billionaire's half-serious assertion that the Ten are more like patriotic heroes than villains, with their willingness to live cut-off from their leaders in the future. Correct me if I'm wrong. But, weren't the Nazis under the same delusion prior to 1945? In any case, I am definitely watching the next episode. Later!
Know, this episode here was so captivant that at the end of it, it looked like I was watching for only 10 minutes. Ok now, that guy Curtis must be beated `till death. I mean, how can he leave things in air? But that is why we have Di and Tom :D for getting everybody's job to an end. Cause people like Curtis are to frighten to finish what they start. But I really think Curtis is to frighten and that's why he isn't writeing the script to an end, and his affraid to give names. But maybe it's better, cause in his script, Tom would appear there as a marked one. So ... it much more better if only Di and Tom would know it.
I hope after Shawn brought Hewitt back to life, he should stop and let Shawn do his job. And in this way Maia woun't have those creppy visions again!
After investigating rumors concerning people from the future trying to stop the 4400 by having their personalities implanted in regular people (possibly Tom Baldwin is now hosting one of them). This brings back the issue regarding Cassie - the personality inside Kyle. Is she one of THEM? Better check for a mark behind his ear....
The software executive, who is clearly one of THEM, is supposed to be Bill Gates of MICROSOFT; that was funny. The black and white movie version of the story as a subplot was a nice touch. Reminds me of one of those shows within a show plot devices like they did with STARGATE SG-1 with "Wormhole X-treme". At the end the guy who originally wrote the story about the 10 agents from the future has clearly been compromised and is now under their control. A 4 way battle is developing between the 2 factions from the future, the 4400 (and people with powers) and normal humans who could end up caught in the middle. Among the 2 factions from the future, we still dont know exactly who are the real good guys and who are the bad ones.
Overall its was one of the more enjoyable episodes so far. Lots of pieces to the puzzle and clues to remember as Season 4 builds to a conclusion. Hopefully it will be a cliffhanger into Season 5.
With the season marching quickly towards its midpoint, it makes sense that the series mythology would get a bit of clarification and complication all in one package. This episode takes a few loose ends (notably the question of Matthew from the second and third seasons) and gives them a satisfying and consistent payoff. Yet it also gives one central character another massive and unexpected turn.
In terms of the payoff, the questions surrounding Matthew are essentially answered. One lingering mystery was the revelation, early in the third season, that Matthew was working with someone against the interests of Jordan Collier’s legacy. This episode finally explains why Matthew would be taking such an action while working as Shawn’s apparent advisor.
I like the idea of the Future Elite, last discussed in the third season, seeding the past shortly after the return of the 4400. It continues to frame the series in a well-defined conflict with recognizable opponents. This does, however, bring up some interesting questions about the White Light cult and Kyle’s ability. Kyle’s ability is very similar to an implanted personality, and it’s possible that the White Light cult was designed to lead Jordan down the wrong path. (This would also explain why Kyle was led to bring Isabelle into Jordan’s sphere of influence.)
The existence of “the marked” certainly complicates Tom Baldwin’s life, since he’s now apparently a sleeper agent for the Future Elite. His supposed role as one of those destined to take the promicin shot and pave the way for Jordan’s movement to reach its goal could be derailed by this turn of events. Unless, of course, the previous suspicion about the White Light movement turns out to be true…in which case Tom’s pivotal role in the book could facilitate his role as a sleeper agent.
All of this is revealed in a rather unusual manner. One of the original 4400 has the ability to uncover conspiracies and secrets, but only in terms of creative writing/filmmaking. The irony is that he has very little writing ability, so his final product is more of a joke than a money-maker. This adds an element of humor and doubt to the exposition.
As if that wasn’t enough, the episode also adds an interesting wrinkle in Shawn’s political career. Shawn and Jordan confront one another on their methods, and Shawn reveals that his opponent is destined to persecute the powered. Shortly thereafter, the opponent has a stroke, and Shawn blames Jordan, who denies any involvement. The cause of the stroke is never revealed, but Shawn chooses to heal the man, rather than take advantage. The consequences of that choice should make things rather interesting as the second half of the season approaches.
A great mix of X-files and Twilight Zone. Just when I thought the show might start getting a little stale they kick it into overdrive. I was glued to the screen for the whole episode. Like the 4400 didn't have enough to worry about already and this storyline also gives credence to Maia's premonition of how the 4400 would start getting rounded up. It was a great twist on the whole premise of the existence of the 4400 saving the future and now it seems some in the future want to keep things as they are. So it seems the 4400 have a formidable enemy to worry about and will Tom be able to resist when The Marked need him to come into play?? Great epi!!
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