I remember watching Season 1 of 'The 4400' and being absolutely engaged. I could hardly miss an evening until it was finished. I was smitten by the personal dramas the protagonists endured. I was intrigued by the tales involving guest characters. I was moved by certain relationships as they existed at the time, and fascinated by the overall story behind everything.
This season, however, is missing a lot of the heart that was previously there, and feels less moving.
One unfortunate change is that the bond between Diana and Maia -- the heroine and the young returnee she took in -- has been significantly strengthened. On the surface, that sounds like a good thing, but in execution, it's a different story. What was interesting about their relationship in Season 1 was the fact that there WAS a hint of a slight emotional gap between the two (hence Diana's skepticism), thus making it all the more gratifying whenever we saw them display affection. Now, after a year together, the two of them have been given a routine mother-daughter relationship -- a scenario that can be called realistic, but is ultimately far less interesting than before. This is complemented by the words "mommy" and "my daughter" being pushed into nearly every episode, which doesn't come across as touching, but forced. In short, their state at the end of Season 1 should have been maintained, not evolved. Maia and Diana shouldn't have been given this level of closeness until the end of the series, because in making things typical you naturally make them less fascinating.
Also unfortunate is that Maia herself has been made a lot more emotional this season. This could be called character development, but it's a development that makes for a less interesting character than the unusually collected, almost apathetic figure from Season 1. It's also confusing that, after so much devotion to them last season, not only does Shawn not see Nikki, but he barely ever refers to her (odd because a situation in the second half here would have lent itself well to a reunion).
On the positive side, there's a very notable character-driven episode devoted to Tom called "Life Interrupted," which presents an intriguing if somewhat absurd scenario. Also notable is the establishment of Kyle's character this season, his bond with his cousin Shawn, and the addition of Alana.
The problem I found with the ongoing story line is that it feels like the show is desperately searching for direction, as though, already, there's barely anyplace left to go. A lot of what happens this season, to me, feels irrelevant and of little consequence -- from Richard and Lily on the run to the escapades of Jordan, Shawn, and their "4400 Center." This lack of consequence is why the occurrence of an event around the middle of the season comes off as a bit confusing. The show tries to include some of what worked previously (and should work now) by bringing in guest 4400s whose actions stir up trouble or controversy. However, this season we have scenarios like a 4400 who wants to build a strange monument, or a 4400 teacher who can increase her students' abilities. When one compares that to the sympathetic plight of Orson Bailey, the deranged Oliver Knox, or the vengeance of two mad brothers, the storytelling here just isn't as interesting as it was in Season 1, and neither are the antagonists.
What does manage to intrigue is the story with Kyle, though questions surrounding it still remain at the end.
First of all (and this is admittedly of minimal importance, but still...), the very look of the show seems to be slightly altered. I don't know the technical terms for the styles of film, but the first season had a more appropriate down-to-earth, up-close-and-personal look, while the second, right from the start, has a more detached, almost movie-like appearance. It becomes increasingly apparent, though, that the special effects have improved.
Some very nice episode commentaries with cast and crew are included.
Season 2 of 'The 4400' is at times well done, but just a bit lacking when compared to the first. Still a good show though.