“The Gospel According to J.C.”

The 4400 was among the first of the “everyman gets powers” idea (think: Rising Stars, Heroes, or newuniversal). The 4400 in question are how many people were abducted through time and then returned to Earth in our present time. They have been tasked with preventing some future disaster. Now in its fourth season, the show continues to both impress and frustrate. There are so many new ideas, characters, plots, and sub-plots going on (how the show stays fresh and interesting) that at times watching the season recap and premiere, I had to wonder if I saw all of the episodes from the previous season.

Ostensibly, the show centers around two agents of NTAC, Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) and Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie)–the Mulder and Scully of the show–who investigate all things 4400 related. The leader of the 4400, Jordan Collier (Bill Campbell), having returned, has made Promicin, an ability giving drug, available to all non-4400s, so that everyone has a chance to become gifted. Promicin only has a 50/50 chance at working: either you get an ability or you die. The decision is yours.

“Absolute devotion is a rarity in this modern age. It might bring a sense of purpose to life. A clarity.” -NTAC lab rat

The themes of this show is how ordinary people have been extraordinarily gifted (healing, time control, prophecy, bending wills). I kept wondering why the number 4400 kept sticking in my head with familiarity, then I realized that if you put a “1” in front and a “0” behind it, you have the 144,000. Another small group –a community called out for a purpose, an ekklesia, if you will—to lead the many.

In a lot of ways, Promicin is the Gospel message.

“You know what I’d be thinking? People were praying to the wrong guy.”

Obviously, the Gospel can be used for an individual’s own purpose rather than in service to some greater power (such as “The Future” which the 4400 work for/toward). In the season premiere, we find Graham Holt (Cameron Bright) doing what so many of us do: making a god of himself. His kingdom extends and revolves around his own life. We each have mini-kingdoms, the range of our individual wills, yet our lives, our individual stories, are caught up in a greater story. Graham creates purpose at a cost: free will is denied and conformity is forced.

“The world doesn’t need you anymore. It has me.” –J.C.

Enter Jordan Collier.

Jordan Collier (J.C., get it?) brings Promicin like Prometheus giving fire to the world. Along with it, he brings the message that anyone can be extraordinary. J.C.’s vision was that “through Promicin, the gift I brought you and that you accepted. Together we have created heaven on earth. A time of joy, endless joy, that we share as one.” Of course, people being people, have fought over Promicin ever since.

Jordan sees that folks who are living as less special than they should be when they should be about making a difference, changing the world. Having returned from the dead to lead people to a new way of life, he wants people to become fully human and to join in true kingdom work and “get on with your lives.”

“This new era, it’s not coming, it’s not on the way, it’s here. And we are now separated from our old lives …are you ready?” –J.C.

The Gospel is a proclaimed a message, not a product, making us newspeople, not salesmen. It’s an announcement that you don’t have to live the way you’ve been living. You don’t have to pursue empty goals of materialism and consumerism. That God is at work in every moment in every square inch of the cosmos. We were created in His image and our lives are gifts. As Jordan Collier puts it, “we’re all, everyone of us, making history now.” We can be about reconciliation, between God and humanity, each of us to one another, and humanity to creation. We can be about the pursuit of justice. We can be about freedom, since we have been freed from the chains of sin and death. Kingdom living begins now. We live in light of the Gospel message. The call is for us to respond to the news because “Each of you has a role to play.”

4400 were taken.
4400 were returned.
Each has a unique ability.
One among them has a message.
Anyone can become extraordinary.
The risk is great.
But so are the rewards.
And now there’s no turning back.

The series is shaping up to form a trinity of sorts: J.C.; Shawn, the healer; and Kyle, the shaman. Of course it appeals to comic book types: the Isabelle (Megalyn Echikunwoke) storyline had “Dark Phoenix” written all over her. At the same time, the show throws curves at us so that we can’t guess its every move (since there storyline heads in Phoenix territory, then veers). It also appeals to as many audience groups as possible with its mix of political thriller (with government/military conspiracies to deal with the 4400 and harness the abilities of these living WMDs), sci-fi (yay super powers! And time jumping!), action (sometimes rivaling the show 24) and soap opera flourishes (cause these folks break for the occasional love life). Sometimes I fear the show falling into a “monster of the week” trap (in this case, the “4400 of the week”); with only 13 episode seasons, the show doesn’t have room for that kind of padding. However, so far, the show delivers.

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