Monday, August 24, 2009

The 4400 and the military Messiah by Carl Liu

The 4400 is a science fiction TV series of USA Network, written by Scott Peters and Rene Echevarria, and it is never on a public television channel in Australia for as far as I know. The 4400 ran for four seasons including the first miniseries of five episodes and a special episode between season two and three.

The storyline starts with a comet, rather than crashing the earth, depositing 4400 people at Highland Beach, in the Cascade Range foothills near Mount Rainier, Washington. Every one of the 4400 disappeared at various times starting from 1940s in a beam of light. None of them have aged or remembered anything from the time of their disappearance except Lily Moore Tyler, who later found pregnant during the abduction.

Moreover a small number of the returnees begin to manifest supernatural abilities. The last episode of the first season reveals that 4400s were no abducted by aliens but by people in the future. And what they are about to do is avoid a catastrophe of humanity from a group of people called inhibitors.

In comparison of some other TV series about supernatural abilities such as Heroes of NBC, the 4400 gives us a broader view about how the Americans and their administration would react by letting the “gifts” from the future wide open to the general public. More significantly, Scott Peter successfully turned the series into a cult by using the generic “God” in its storyline starting from second season.

The most heated debate of the 4400 on various fansite as well as the USA Network Forum is whether one of the main characters John Collier takes the place as Jesus Christ, or he is John the Baptist, preparing the way of a later messiah. The advocates of John as Jesus simply suggest that apart from his foreseen death, the missing body and mysterious resurrection in season three, the most apparent evidence is he shares the same initials as Jesus the Christ. Those fans that don’t like this point may give various objections for the same reason: if bearing the same initials could be some kind of proof, then John might be Julius Caesar as well, and had you gone deeper into the episodes of the third season, you may notice that John Collier, rather being a benevolent savior of all humankind, is willing to sacrifice half of the population to the side effects of the promicin (a neurotransmitter found in the brain of all returnees, which is the cause of their superhuman abilities) in order to build a world purified from possible collapse of humanity. Some may also recall the fact that John took advantage of a bunch of terrorists named Nova Group. At the conclusion of the series, John Collier and his followers managed to build his Promised City in Seattle, a self-proclaimed paradise open to all people with superhuman abilities.

In my personal opinion, John Collier takes the position as Jesus with no doubt. However, he has never been as the Christ in the book of the New Testament, instead, he is the Messiah as a military leader, a concept of Jewish prophecy before the birth of Jesus the Christ. We can see clearly that John, in spite of sharing tears with the other half of the population who didn’t make through the promicin, usually take his time thinking of how to deal with the next move from the U.S. government.

Taught by God, the Messiah will be a righteous king over the gentile nations. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for all shall be holy and their king shall be the Lord Messiah.
He will not rely on horse and rider and bow, nor will he collect gold and silver for war. Nor will he build up hope in a multitude for a day of war. The Lord himself is his king, the hope of the one who has a strong hope in God.
He shall be compassionate to all the nations, who reverently stand before him. He will strike the earth with the word of his mouth forever; he will bless the Lord's people with wisdom and happiness.
And he himself will be free from sin, in order to rule a great people. He will expose officials and drive out sinners by the strength of his word.
[Psalms of Solomon 17.32-36]

Here in the Psalms of Solomon, the Messiah is presented as a wisdom teacher. And from this we can tell the origin of John Collier’s character and how he is different from the God we are familiar with.

And once we understand this, the next less important question about who John the Baptist is in the series is never a necessary one. The creator of the 4400 universe certainly brought along a lot of biblical element to fulfill the story, including Shawn’s healing ability, Maia’s Prophecy of John’s death and baby Isabella’s power of making food. “The Marked” in the last season seemed some kind of absurd, but it pushed the whole series upon a stage of future religious Armageddon.

Due to the Writer Guild of America strike, the 4400 had been cancelled in 2008 and there would not be a fifth season anymore. Fans of the show mounted an unsuccessful champion to resurrect the series from all over the world, sending petitions and sunflowers to USA network.


Cox, Greg. “The 4400: The Vesuvius Prophecy” Published by Pocket Star. June 2008.
USA Network Forums – The 4400 Forum
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