“John, what if we were both right? What if you were at my apartment, and I was on a stakeout with you at the exact same time. What would it take for that to be true?”
— Monica Reyes
When Doggett and Reyes are on a stakeout, their entire world turns upside down…
Max: Preventing our coverage for season nine from becoming an endless bitch session, “4-D” is actually a pretty decent outing that does a lot of character work for Doggett and Reyes, and takes a familiar science fiction concept and integrates it well into The X-Files universe.
On a stakeout with Follmer, Doggett and Reyes are on the hunt for Erwin Lukesh, a killer with a preternatural way of eluding capture. Unfortunately for our heroes, Lukesh knows he’s being watched, and takes advantage of the situation, slicing Reyes’ throat (killing her!) and shooting Doggett in the head. Yes, we at home are pretty sure that this isn’t the end for these agents, but it is a pretty effective cold open, and for me makes me interested in seeing how the writers work their way out of this one.
We come out of the credits with Doggett arriving at Reyes’ new apartment to give her a housewarming present. The moment is interrupted by a phone call from Skinner, who tells Reyes that Doggett was found shot in an alleyway, something she finds impossible to believe, even when Doggett himself vanishes from her apartment. Coming to the hospital to be filled in by Follmer and Scully, Reyes spends the rest of the episode puzzling together the strange circumstances that landed her partner in the hospital (alive, but probably paralyzed) and her as the lead suspect when ballistics confirms it was her gun that was used against Doggett. Communicating with Doggett via a computer device, Reyes posits a theory that Lukesh can travel between parallel dimensions at will, using that power to get a jump on the authorities, including our heroes, who Reyes believes are from this other dimension.
After almost being discovered by his overbearing mother who finds Reyes’ gun in a kitchen drawer, Lukesh dispassionately dispatches her as Reyes, Skinner, and company close on him. Captured by Lukesh and on the verge of suffering the fate of her parallel doppleganger, Reyes is saved and Lukesh gets a bullet in head — killing him. Later, at the hospital, Doggett puts his faith in Reyes’ theory and has her disconnect his life support, so that her Doggett can come back to this universe. It works, as we find ourselves back in her apartment, to a relieved Reyes and a Doggett who is unaware of what has occurred.
Parallel universes were used to incredible effect in Fringe, a descendant of The X-Files, and while our program only dealt with quantum phenomena on a limited basis, I think the execution here is mostly solid. Parallel universes let writers explore the road not traveled, allowing us to see different versions of familiar characters in ways that we typically don’t see in long-form mediums like this. While “4-D” — the dimension and coincidentally Lukesh’s apartment number — doesn’t give us time to see the differences, it does use the conceit to explore the relationship between Doggett and Reyes. The dynamic is similar, but different, to Mulder and Scully. He thinks her theory is a bit too much like Star Trek, but her gentle persistence brings him around, to the point where he is willing to gamble with his life to validate her beliefs.
Lukesh is a boilerplate villain, yes, but his role really is only as a narrative device to set the events in motion to bring Doggett and Reyes into the hospital room, piecing things together. Reyes gets short shrift from fans because her limited time didn’t give the writers time to develop her past her more obvious idiosyncrasies, but I think an episode like “4-D” makes a case for her beyond what my partner has said turned her off to the character back in the day. Doggett and Reyes may not have the storied history of their predecessors, but it works here.
Radhika: I find “4-D” somewhat weak, just as I find most of the episodes this season, but it’s a little more tolerable than its predecessors so far. Reyes is somewhat tolerable here too, though I maintain that she’s a generally poorly written character (and good writing doesn’t and shouldn’t require more time to make a character compelling). But I do like her interactions with Doggett — of the parallel universe and of her actual reality alike.
However, I feel the parallel dimensions aspect of this episode is severely underwritten. I don’t need to be transported into the different dimensions for this concept to work and I get that there’s a chance that there are very subtle differences between these worlds, but aside from the “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” moments where we see characters disappearing into thin air and Reyes’ theories about what’s going on, we don’t get many demonstrations of the phenomenon that this episode is supposedly about. One could argue that this is subtle. I argue that perhaps the concept is a little underdeveloped.
And while Lukesh provides a menacing presence in the episode, causing me to flinch a bit for his poor nagging mother when she meets her untimely end, using Psycho-esque elements to flesh out the character just feels stale and overdone to me. (And I say this as someone who watches the current Psycho prequel drama Bates Motel.) The trope has been done so many times, that I actually found myself thinking about what a “typical” killer this guy is, mommy issues and all.
The focus in this episode is largely on Doggett and Reyes — this isn’t an episode where Scully runs around screaming about her baby, this isn’t about Mulder, it just really is about these new characters that now carry the X-Files torch. Scully’s there to talk things through with Reyes, standing up for the agent when Follmer eyes her with suspicion. And of course, we have Skinner here now that he has a bigger role on the show, but he no longer has the final say on most things with Follmer around to request that he keep “the lines of communication” open. It’s a new world indeed.
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
The tagline bit for this episode is pretty simple, just a simple inversion of our usual item to reflect the parallel universes angle of the storyline. We got a tiny peak, but yeah, we do wish we got to see more of the parallel ‘verse.