Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The 4400: Terrible Swift Sword

Terrible Swift Sword (episode 3.11)
Directed by Scott Peters
Written by Ira Steven Behr, Bruce Miller & Craig Sweeny
Guest starring Brennan Elliott, Summer Glau, Jeffrey Combs, Sean Marquette
First aired 20 August 2006
Rating 7/10

Previous episode: The Gospel According to Collier
Next episode: Fifty-Fifty

"Terrible Swift Sword" continues to escalate the notion that Jordan Collier is Christ. In addition to his leadership role and the apostelic presence of such figures as Shawn Farrell, Kevin Burkhoff, Richard Tyler, Tess Doerner, Kyle Barldwin and so forth, each with his/her own specific individual role amid the collective pursuits of the 4400, is a nicely framed shot of our Jesus figure (see above). The ripples in the water form a distinct halo, and the moon/planet looming overhead separates him from the Earth, while in the surrounding skies we notice a heavenly glow. Finally, behind Collier are three plaques, one of them in the shape of a pyramid; three plaques and a pyramid point directly to the concept of a trinity. And I haven't even mentioned that Collier looks like a conventional Jesus figure. It is appropriate that someone who once donned expensive suits and ties, and who later wandered the country in the habits of a hobo, has now merged the two and settled into the style of a clean-cut bearded dude dressed in the comfy yet nonetheless stylish jumpsuit that is not defined by any particular class. In fact, he's dressed like a senior citizen, but one who can afford the better brands.

The episode's title is from Julia Ward Howe's 1861 "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," which links the American Civil War with the final biblical apocalypse. This title is an appropriate capsule for the episode, which deals with a global civil war that is the biblical apocalypse. The plot is launched on the premise that the NTAC night shift took a collective nap while the captured members of the Nova group walk out of their maximum security cells. The initial assumption is that the Nova group is being reassembled, but the viewer is given (and expects) that instead the release is part of Collier's great plan.

The re-introduction of impersonator Boyd Gelder is a welcome addition to the story-line, and there is a well rendered scene with a twist as we are witness to an unusual flirtatious moment between JC and the beautiful Devon (played by the beautiful Jody Thompson) transform into something entirely different.

It's this Devon/Gelder scene that plunges us into yet another interesting character switcheroo, yet one an a psychological level. Once a vehement anti-Collier forerunner, Richard Tyler's loyalties are slipping from recent confidant Shawn and toward Collier himself and his greater purpose. Conversely, Shawn was once Collier's right hand and has always looked up to and admired him. The recent alliance between Shawn and Richard against Richard's own daughter Isabelle was the better portion of an otherwise often irritating plot-line. This duo took shape conveniently during Collier's absence, and now the two men, both presented throughout the series as upholders of basic moral good, are on opposite ground, at either end of the ambiguously moral Collier spectrum. This character parade is among the better conceived and played out portions of the series.

With the growing tensions of the 4400 situation, the previously interesting Diane/April/Ben triangle is diminished due to its small scale nature. To quote the great American prophet Rick Blaine: "it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." In light of the escalating threats of Armageddon, April and her heartache become almost irritating. The story-line is conveniently halted, which I approve of since it needed to be ended prior to the season finale, and because it needed to be done quickly so it doesn't usurp more time from the more interesting developments.

Another plot point that comes to an end is that of Kyle Baldwin. Now out of prison for killing Collier he is again set aside, this time with the purpose to extend Collier's regime. I've always liked Kyle, and I sympathize with the notion of losing him a third time (as in a sidebar Tom is struggling with the thought of losing him again: first through a coma, then through prison, and now through recruitment). There is an efficient and important moment of forgiveness between JC and Kyle that essentially shuts the door on the latter character and if we do meet him in season four it will likely be incidental.

(Kyle has helped to prove how my counting of 4400 members is pointless. For one thing, he was always number 4401 as he was the intended target for the spot that Shawn took. Though Shawn was taken in his place and enhanced with healing powers, Kyle nonetheless managed to become enhanced as well, and has hence always been a member of the 4400. In addition to Kyle, we will soon realize the vastness of 4400 expansion.)

Another recently returned character proves her necessity as a plot progression device. The not always interesting Alana Mareva appears to have returned so that Tom can have someone to privately vent his frustrations with (so the audience can eavesdrop) and receive emotional support, and to cook penne arabiata (so she claims). Yet really she is here to help plot progression. We are presented with the fascinating mystery of how did the NTAC night staff fall into communal platonic sleep while the former Nova members walked out of their cells. Instead of having our officers investigate and figure it out, we have former 4400 Centre instructor pop up with how she had a student who was able to alter oxygen levels in the blood. Must've been him. Mystery solved let's move on toward the finale.

The episode has among the strongest finishes we've yet scene, and plot aside, there is a strong element of unity among the more interesting 4400 members, which is strengthened by Shawn's own return to the Collier school of thought. Also good set-up for the fourth season.

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As of 24 December 2015