SERIES PREMIERE - Over the last century at least four thousand four hundred people who were overlooked, undervalued, or otherwise marginalized vanished without a trace off the face of the planet. Last night, inexplicably, they were all returned in an instant to Detroit having not aged a day and with no memory of what happened to them. As the government races to understand the phenomenon, analyze the potential threat, and contain the story, Jharrel, an empathetic social worker, and Keisha, a hardened community corrections officer, are among the civil servants called upon to deal with the uncanny refugees. The new partners clash in ideology and approach, but gradually find they have more in common than they thought as they become familiar with those under their care, including Shanice, a lawyer and resilient young mother from the early aughts, whose unexpected reunion with her estranged husband Logan and suddenly teenaged daughter Mariah is immediately rocky; Andre, a WWI Army surgeon fresh from the Harlem Renaissance; Claudette, an influential hidden figure from the Mississippi civil rights movement; Isaiah "Rev" Johnston, a black sheep reverend-scion born to a notable televangelist family in 1990s Chicago; LaDonna, a seemingly shallow but misunderstood D-list reality TV star from Miami, circa 2015; and two wildly different unaccompanied teens, Mildred, a vibrant girl, whose bell bottoms give away her 1970s upbringing, and Hayden, an introspective, prescient boy, whose origin remains a mystery. These unwilling time travelers, collectively the 4400, must grapple with their impossible new reality, the fact that they've been returned with a few... upgrades, and the increasing likelihood that they were brought back now for a reason they're only beginning to understand.
Logan snuggles up behind Shanice in bed and wakes her up for her first day back to work since paternity leave, during which she gave birth to a baby girl named Mariah. Logan stays home with the baby and helps Shanice get ready for work, and kisses her on her way out.
Shanice comes to a stop at a red light while on route to work. Static can be heard over the radio and a green light shines down before Shanice is pulled out of her car and dropped in Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan, 16 years later. In the field, she meets a young girl named Mildred and Andre Davis a doctor. They witness as thousands of people drop from green portals in the sky, and before long, they are surrounded by police.
The next day, corrections officer Keisha Taylor is instructed by her boss to go to a hotel downtown, where she is greeted by her girlfriend and DHS Agent Jessica Tanner. Jessica explains that thousands of people showed up in Belle Isle last night. The ones they've managed to identify are all missing persons cases from the last couple of decades. They're putting together teams of parole officers and social workers in hopes of gathering information from the returnees.
Claudette seems to have sustained a leg wound upon her return. The last she remembers, she was in Mississippi. Rev. Johnston introduces himself, explaining how he has inherited the position, but Claudette isn't interested in speaking with him any further.
LaDonna is under the impression that she's simply being pranked by her friends, but Steve, one of the guards, informs her otherwise. LaDonna insists that people are looking for her and demands to leave, but they can't allow that. Shanice interjects and demands to speak with whoever is in charge. Andre would also like to speak with someone regarding medical. Shanice then threatens to rain hell down on everyone who is party to their unlawful detention. When Steve reveals that the year is 2021, many of the returnees are in complete disbelief.
Keisha meets Jharrel Mateo, the social worker she's being partnered with to interview the returnees. However, the two get into a mild argument over the plexiglass. Jharrel explains that he works with immigrants and refugees and that it's difficult to connect with people through barriers. While Keisha respects that, she argues that the rules are in place for a reason.
Andre examines Claudette's leg and applies a bandage. He asks why she didn't come see him sooner, to which she replies that he could've been a charlatan masquerading as a doctor and that she's no stranger to pain. Andre assures Claudette that he's a real doctor, as he runs a clinic in North Harlem. After he bandages her leg, the two then examine the lobby, noticing white people in the room as well. Claudette and her husband have been jailed for organizing the vote for black people, and assuming they're truly in 2021, she had hoped there would be more progress.
Shanice recounts her abduction with Keisha and Jharrel — how she was taken by a green light while driving to work for her first day back from maternity leave. And now she's back, and 16 years have passed. Shanice simply wants to go home to see her daughter and husband, but they can't allow that just yet.
Shanice and Mildred are allowed a bathroom break. Shanice is overwhelmed by the entire ordeal. She's never been away from her child this long and simply wants to get back to her. Mildred takes Shanice's hand and appears to telekinetically redirect the cameras and unlock the back door, allowing for Shanice to escape and find her family.
Shanice boards a bus, observing just how much the world around her has changed. She then recalls the day she met Logan. She was at a protest shouting "No blood for oil!" when she was pushed into a cop. When the officer pulled his nightstick, Logan came to her defense. He then asked her out for a cup of coffee. When she turned him down, the reason being that she needed to remain focused with getting her law degree to fight for her people, Logan asked her out to dinner instead.
Keisha and Jharrel have interviewed 15 people and have gotten nowhere, though they have all cleared their medical screenings, which is enough of an indicator for Jharrel to presume they're not a threat, but Keisha isn't so sure. And when Jharrel suggests telling the public and alerting family members, Keisha informs him this wouldn't be a good idea. Jharrel leaves early as the final returnee for the day enters and asks for Keisha to conduct the interview solo. Keisha sits down with a kid named Hayden, though he hasn't spoken a word since he's arrived and doesn't intend to change that.
When Andre checks back with Claudette's wound, it has nearly healed completely. Elsewhere, Jessica calls Keisha out into the hallway to reveal that Shanice has escaped.
Shanice returns home only to discover that Logan no longer lives there. She looks through the window and sees the new homeowner on the phone with the police. And so, with the police on the way, she flees down an alley. Jharrel pulls up just in time to see her running away, but he doesn't tell Keisha, and instead directs Homeland Security to a diner down the street.
Shanice knocks on the door of Mrs. Grover, who is reluctant to open the door, but does so when Shanice reveals that she is who she claims to be, reminding Mrs. Grover how she changed her diapers, did her hair, and fed her every day after school.
Jharrel has tracked Shanice down and watches as she enters Mrs. Grover's house. He then gets a call from Jasmin, who reluctantly informs him that there were no signs of Manny at the facility she was assigned to.
While grabbing their dinner, Rev shows Claudette how to open a can of soda. Claudette then grabs a seat at a nearby table and attempts to cut herself to see if she'll heal, but can't, as they haven't been allowed anything sharp. She then notices LaDonna, who has sharp nails, throwing a fit at the next table over.
Mrs. Grover reveals to Shanice that she has Logan's new address out in Palmer Woods. When Shanice jumps back to her feet, Mrs. Grover advises her to get some sleep and find her husband in the morning. She's glad to see that Shanice isn't too much like her father, to which Shanice takes great offense, as she's nothing like him. She didn't abandon her family, she was taken. And now that she's back, she wants them back.
Claudette waits for LaDonna to exit the stall and asks the young girl to cut her. When LaDonna says no, Claudette threatens to tell the guards that LaDonna just made herself throw up. So, LaDonna relents and cuts Claudette's arm, which completely heals within seconds.
Claudette and LaDonna inform Andre of their discovery. LaDonna attempted to see if she could heal as well, but she couldn't. Gradually, Claudette has been feeling better, and now she's feeling great. Andre fears this could be detrimental to them all and advises them against telling anyone else.
Shanice opens the front door to see Jharrel waiting for her. He agrees that it's not right how they're being treated, but he's not in charge, unfortunately. However, he can arrange for her to see her family, so long as she agrees to come back to the hotel with him afterwards.
The returnees begin demanding their release, shouting "Let us out!" When one of the guards pulls out a nightstick, just for a moment, Mildred attempts to use her telekinesis to retrain him, but Hayden stops her. Hoping to prevent the situation from escalating, Rev. Johnston intervenes and suggests that the government show they're trying to help by at least opening up some of the rooms. Jessica initially tells him those rooms are closed, but Rev informs her it would go a long way as a good gesture. Andre is impressed by the reverend, but Claudette isn't as moved, explaining that much like her husband, who was also a reverend, Johnston just know how to use pretty words and that men like him are dangerous.
Shanice arrives at Logan's. She knocks on the door and 16-year-old Mariah answers. Shanice is in disbelief and realizes that she is in fact in 2021. Logan joins them and pushes Mariah inside. Logan isn't as pleased to see Shanice as she thought he would be. He even accuses her of walking out on them, but Shanice explains that she was taken. Homeland Security arrives with Keisha taking the lead. Just as they're about to take her away, Mariah exits with Bridget, Logan's wife, who he has been with for nine years. As Shanice is placed in cuffs and taken away, Logan reveals that he found her note.
Jharrel confronts Keisha for the destruction she has caused Shanice's family, but Keisha doesn't seem too concerned. All she wants to know is who helped Shanice escape in the first place, suspecting it could be Jharrel, though she is certain of one thing, that being that he is hiding something. Jharrel replies that she's a cop who believes in the system of humanity, and so he doesn't trust her either.
Andre welcomes Shanice back and consoles her as she reveals that her husband has remarried someone else, who also raised her daughter. When Shanice first gave birth, she wasn't ready to be a mother. So, she planned to run away and wrote a letter intended for Logan. However, Shanice got help and came to her senses. And eventually, she and her daughter grew into their love. Shanice can't believe that she missed everything.
Claudette thought LaDonna would be happier about at least getting to sleep in an actual bed, but she is simply still processing the entire ordeal while also feeling alone, and more than anything, she wants her phone back. One thing Claudette knows for sure is that that none of them are alone and that they're all in this together. She then heads over to the piano and plays a tune for the returnees to dance to. Shanice and Andre return, and he invites her to dance. However, one of the guards approaches Claudette and orders her to stop, which she does after tripping and hurting her arm on the piano. Rev. Johnston attempts to check on her, but she insists that she's fine, and Andre offers to check her out himself. Despite claiming she's unharmed, Rev notices a spec of blood left behind on one of the keys.
Keisha tracks Jharrel down to a bar, where she asks him if there is anything he wants to tell her, specifically a reason why he's so protective of Shanice. Jharrel is protective because he's seen what happens when the government treats people like they're problems. He fears how their government might react to the returnees. Truthfully, Jharrel reveals that his brother Manny is missing, and he thought he saw a green light out the window right after he left. This is the first time in a year that Jharrel had real hope, but there's no sign of Manny with the returnees. Keisha can relate to the feeling of losing someone that you're supposed to protect. Her sister was killed walking home from the library five years ago. She was shot and killed by a parolee who shouldn't have even had access to a weapon. They then notice a news report on the TV, detailing the mysterious return of 4,400 to Bell Isle two nights ago.
Claudette asks Shanice where she disappeared to yesterday. Shanice reveals she got out after a door opened on its own. Claudette concludes that this is why the guards are behaving as so, and asks if it's true that they're in 2021, which Shanice confirms. Shanice adds that they even came after her, which was a lot of trouble to go through for one seemingly ordinary black woman. She begins to wonder why they were taken and returned. For some reason, they're special, meaning they're not powerless and have value.
Keisha informs Jessica that news vans are outside and asks how she's holding up. Jessica is a bit overwhelmed. Some people they have no records of and others defy every logical explanation. The Pentagon is exploring every theory, including possibly aliens. Between the time period discrepancies and green lights, it's entirely possible. Jessica is at least glad that Keisha is near to help and warns her to be careful. As Jessica leaves, Keisha spots Hayden wearing a Missy Elliott shirt, which reminds her of her sister, who wanted to be just like the rapper, but Hayden isn't even familiar with her. He then tells Keisha to tell Jharrel that Manny is alright and that he's sorry for everything.
- The episode title is a reference to a quotation by William Shakespeare from his play The Tempest.
"Past is Prologue" • "All Things Are Possible" • "That LaDonna Life" • "Harlem's Renaissance Man" • "The Way We Were" • "If You Love Something" • "Empowered Women Empower Women" • The Kaminski Experiment • Great Expectations • Giving Up The Ghost • You Only Meant Well • Group Efforts • Present is Prologue