Score: 8/10

Time is a tricky thing. So much can change over days, years and even decades. Yet, so much stays the same. For Black Americans, that’s especially the case with racism, police brutality, discrimination and micro-aggressions. Some of the greatest civil rights issues and injustices of 1991 still ring painfully true in 2021. 

“The Talk” Black parents must have with their kids about how to conduct themselves during a police traffic stop remains the same. The battles and all-out pleas for non-Black people to recognize our humanity play on repeat. The racial wealth gap is still wide and stark. 

It’s that complicated reality that The CW’s new ambitious series “4400” seeks to unpack, while mixing in sci-fi and mystery elements. The premiere episode, the only one made available for review, sets the stage for what could be a powerful tale on race and class for the network, if scripting and pacing continue to progress.

The new drama, which was filmed partially in Chicago this summer, is actually a reboot of the sci-fi series “The 4400,” which aired for four seasons from 2004 to 2007 on the USA network. The premise of the original was a group of people plucked from various points in time during the 21st century and arriving in the present day with no recollection of how it happened or who took them. Along the way, many of them develop superpowers. Back then, it came off as a mildly interesting and a more grounded approach to the superhero genre. Other shows soon bit off that wave, the most successful being the NBC show “Heroes.” 

The new “4400,” on the surface, could be advertised as the same exact thing, but in Black. However, it’s premiere episode signals it’s ready to dive deeper into some major societal issues such as racial inequity, bias and the criminal justice system. The synopsis for episode one describes the thousands of abductees as “overlooked, undervalued, or otherwise marginalized.” They all appear at a park in Detroit, with no signs of aging, and still wearing the same clothes they disappeared in. This makes for some interesting character moments, with the abductees marveling at some of the fashion trends of their past and future. 

Each of the highlighted characters were taken away from their lives during pivotal moments; an opportunity for romance, or even a career change, is all lost in an instant from some mysterious phenomenon. 

Immediately, the 4,400 nomads are seen as a threat by the government before displaying any abilities or powers. The group is quarantined in the present day, masks and all, and under the watch of police officers. These people — all minorities but mostly Black — have been missing for years, and in some cases decades, yet the authorities treat them as criminals who need to be watched instead of lost people looking for their home. This sets the new series apart from its predecessor in a bold new way, spotlighting the shared experience of people of color, often villainized before being humanized.

Photo Credit: Adrian S. Burrows Sr./The CW

In terms of tone, “4400” still feels like a CW show, at times showing some uneven scripting and clumsy dialogue, especially when trying to emphasize the different time periods these characters are from. But it positions itself as a series ready to spark some major conversations about race, state abuse, and who justice really serves, while delivering character drama that doesn’t fall into the network’s brand of teen melodrama. 

The show’s restraint in overusing CGI and other visual effects keeps it much more grounded than the version that came before it. Now, it needs to stick the landing by not letting the overarching mystery overshadow some of the weightier messages. The premiere episode sets the stage for that balance with intriguing supernatural themes along the way. 

“4400” premieres Monday, Oct. 25 at 8pm CT on The CW.

is an award-winning reporter, TV host, writer and podcaster who specializes in arts, entertainment and culture. Follow him: @bpopetv