X-Files Flashback: ‘4-D’

X-Files 4D

Season 9, Episode 4
Director: Tony Wharmby
Writer: Steven Maeda

If “Daemonicus” reflected The X-Files channeling Silence of the Lambs, then ‘4-D’ is a lighter, less direct, reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The parallels are there in the episode’s main villain, Erwin Timothy Lukesh, and his relationship with his mother, Miriam. Of course, this being The X-Files, it’s all buried beneath an increasingly tiresome parallel universe plot that feels at once incredibly dense and yet nearly insulting in its resolution. Fortunately, Dylan Haggerty’s chilling performance as Lukesh pairs nicely with Annabeth Gish’s breakthrough Monica Reyes episode, even if Gillian Anderson’s Scully is left out in the cold.

The prologue shows Reyes and Doggett on a stakeout for serial killer Lukesh. Reyes’ throat is deeply cut, and Doggett, having tracked down Lukesh, is confused when Lukesh seemingly disappears from eyesight only to reappear behind him, shooting him in the process with Reyes’ gun. We then shift to Reyes’ apartment where Doggett arrives bringing food. Neither agent has the slightest scratch when A.D. Skinner calls Reyes with the news that Doggett has been badly shot. Confused, Reyes turns around, but her Doggett is gone. Given the testimony of a meddling Lukesh and a ballistics test on the bullet identifying it as Reyes’,  the FBI looks to Reyes as the primary suspect. When Doggett regains consciousness, he tells the story seen in the prologue.

Lukesh, meanwhile, is seen living and sleeping in the same bed as his mother. She has a shrill, annoying voice and a lot of demands given her frailty. Clearly, Lukesh is taking out his frustration on various women, including Reyes, by slicing their throat and cutting out their tongues. Later, when the FBI reaches out to her, Lukesh kills her as well. Back in Doggett’s hospital room, Reyes stumbles upon the truth and tells Doggett they’re victims of a parallel universe. Doggett tells her that perhaps the only way to restore reality is to allow him to die. In an effort to trap Lukesh, Skinner tells Reyes to go back to her apartment, certain that Lukesh will try to kill her. He shows up, and agents storm the room, killing Lukesh before he can hurt Reyes. With Lukesh dead, Reyes returns to the hospital and turns off Doggett’s respirator, killing him and returning the two to their original, safe, reality.

The main problem with “4-D” is that it isn’t a very scary episode. Sure, Lukesh is creepy, but the parallel universe plot blocks any sense of urgency or danger within the episode. It’s also a huge leap of logic to have Reyes so correctly guess the root cause of their problems and correctly guess that killing Doggett would help restore order. It does offer a nice opportunity for Annabeth Gish to showcase her above-average acting chops, something that nothing else in the series has allowed her to do. But nothing else in the episode really works all that convincingly. Lukesh’s Norman Bates-like character feels ripped from Psycho for no real reason. The mother-son connection and the annoyingly nagging mother voice are really the only points of connection. Lukesh doesn’t kill out of sexual guilt as Norman Bates does – he kills because his mother drives him nuts. The character additionally lacks any of the nuance and subtlety that Anthony Perkins so brilliant imbued in the role. It’s just a Hitchcock reference for reference’s sake, and nothing more.

In the end, “4-D” may feel like a success because it isn’t as bad as the Season Nine mythology, but that doesn’t make it a good episode. It’s just one they didn’t fully screw up. Critics reacted kindly to it, but they were being too kind. Call it a case of lowered expectations.

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