Stream On: What time is it? ‘The 4400’ and ‘Manifest’

By on July 22, 2021

These are among 4400 people who appeared at the base of Mt. Rainier. They had vanished, individually, from between 1946 and 2001, and have no memories of the intervening time. (IMDb.com)

The Twilight Zone featured many episodes of unexplained chronological displacement, or, as Kurt Vonnegut put it, coming unstuck in time. It’s always a good hook to hang a story on; character development can proceed with a clean slate when years are wiped away. Here are two tales of people suddenly returning from the void who have to start all over again. Not to mention the mystery of what on earth actually happened?

THE 4400

[IMDb.com] [trailer]

[Amazon.com; Netflix] 2004-2007 [TV14]

It’s a serial! It’s an anthology! In the pilot episode, a ball of light deposits a group of 4400 people in the Cascade Range foothills near Mount Rainier, Washington. Each of the 4400 had disappeared in a beam of white light in 1946 or after. None of them have aged from the time of their disappearance. Confused and disoriented, they have no memories of what transpired prior to their return.[^] Some have returned with various powers, such as telekinesis and second sight.

This unique setup enables several series-long arcs: Two Homeland Security agents investigate the strange appearance of the 4400; one of the returned is the nephew of one of the agents, and eight-year old Maia, who disappeared in 1946, and has no apparent relatives in 2004, stays with the other agent. Ben Tyler, born in 1922 and abducted at the age of 29 in 1951, was an African-American pilot in the Air Force, he had been seeing a white woman, which earned him a beating, after which he disappeared. His girlfriend’s future granddaughter, Lily Moore, was abducted in 1993 at the age of 27, and when she returned, found out that her own husband had remarried, as most of the 4400 were considered dead. Ben meets her when the group is in quarantine before being released; they bond and marry. But Lily is found to be pregnant before she consummated her relationship with Ben—she hadn’t been before her disappearance.

One intermittent arc is that of Orson Bailey (Michael Moriarty, Bang the Drum Slowly), vanished in 1979, an insurance salesman and partner in Kensington & Bailey. After being returned, Bailey’s emotional state, already dangerously chaotic, caused him to lose control of his power of telekinesis and suffer nosebleeds. Eventually this inability to control his power led to a man’s death.[^]

There are potentially 4400 stories, some of which are dealt with in one or two episodes, such as Carl Morrissey, a supermarket employee who uses his new enhanced strength and reflexes as a vigilante, while we await the bigger answers.  95% critics/84% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.


[IMDb.com] [trailer]
[Prime Video; Season 1 and 2, Netflix; Season 3, Hulustream or buy online] 2018-2021 [TV14]

On April 7, 2013, Montego Air Flight 828 from Jamaica to New York City is diverted to Newburgh, NY. The passengers and crew learn that the current date is November 4, 2018. (NBC)

“It’s been 14 years since Lost debuted and Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 crashed on a remote island, stranding its passengers. The series, which ran from 2004 to 2010, changed TV on multiple levels; arguably, it kicked off a new era of intense fan engagement and kept those fans engaged with its constantly evolving mysteries.

“A perfect example of this Lost phenomena is creator/showrunner Jeff Rake’s NBC drama Manifest, which is as on the nose as a series can be in terms of drawing Lost parallels. Its pilot episode revolves around Montego Air Flight 828 and the 191 souls onboard. When everyone onboard arrives safely in New York, they’ve all experienced nothing out of the ordinary except for some turbulence. Yet when they return to their families and the world, everything and everyone has moved on without them. They’ve been missing for five years.”[^]

Another engaging and sprawling ensemble drama, Manifest lays its premise out in the cold opening of its pilot episode. Michaela Stone, a NYPD detective, recalls in a voice-over, about how she and her family, flying home from Jamaica, had to split up as their flight was overbooked. $400 travel vouchers were offered and she, who was annoyed by her mother, and others in her family, got onto Montego Flight 828. She concludes, “Funny, how one litte decision can ruin your life. But also save it.”

The flight goes through a brief but intense period of turbulence during which the cabin lights go out amid apparent lightning, and when they approach New York, the tower asks the pilot to repeat his callsign, then asks his name and the number of passengers and crew on the manifest. They are rerouted to Newburgh, 68 miles from New York City, and when they land are greeted on the tarmac by police, emergency vehicles and ambulances. NSA Director Robert Vance informs them that they’ve been missing for 5 ½ years.

It’s another deep rabbit hole, in concept apparently not as far-reaching as The 4400, but time will tell.

74% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes; 7.2/10 user rating on IMDb.com.

Next time, know thyself! Who Am I This Time, from Kurt Vonnegut, and Regarding Henry.

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

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