The 4400

Season 4 Episode 9

Daddy's Little Girl

4
Aired Unknown Aug 12, 2007 on USA
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (8)

8.9
out of 10
Average
206 votes
  • A return to form in story pacing and acting with Mahershalalhashbaz Ali making his reappearance. Some nice commentary on faith and the hypocrisy of law enforcement.

    8.1
    Review of "Daddy's Little Girl" written by Ira Steven Behr and Amy Berg

    This episode's return to form for the series was perhaps due to the involvement of Ira Steven Behr. Even more superficial elements like the special effects of Richard moving objects and people looked great. I enjoyed that moment of dread from Garrity as he realized that Richard was about to fling him away as he'd seen him do before on surveillance video.

    Improved story pacing.

    The pacing of the scenes felt so much better than most of the episodes so far this season, except for perhaps "Till We Have Built Jerusalem" and "The Marked". This was especially observable in the subplot with Tess Doerner and Kevin Burkoff. What could easily have been edited down to the basics, according to the style of earlier episodes this season, instead was allowed to breathe. It illustrated quite nicely the threat Tess posed and how Kevin was coping with much more dramatic and suspenseful effect. As a result, this subplot had a naturalness, texture, and believability that sometimes is sacrificed by rushing similarly well-written subplots; many of the otherwise excellent scenes having to do with Shawn and Kyle's developments have occasionally felt this way in episodes up to "Till We Have Built Jerusalem."

    Tess and Kevin's great subplot, and the acceptance of her mental illness.

    The idea of Tess herself causing so much harm was a surprisingly great idea. Once again, the show has demonstrated its ability to write complex characters and "heroes" who have faults and can do the wrong thing, intentionally or not. The character of Tess is so fresh because it allows a rare depiction of people normally relegated to the margins in drama, let alone sci-fi, rather than treated as vital participants. By not having her problems taken away – at least not so early on in the series – the writers allowed her to still be portrayed as a contributing member of society, despite her mental illness. That was quite an interesting and respectful thing for them to do in depicting a member of the mentally-handicapped community. You don't have to be perfectly healthy to be a human being. Life for the disadvantaged goes on.

    Similar sensitivity toward portraying the homeless.

    In a similar way, Ira Steven Behr has a history of showing respect toward people on the fringe of society (whether politically or socially), including the homeless. In Star Trek Deep Space Nine's somewhat dull "Past Tense", Mr. Behr and fellow 4400 writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe sought to bring some understanding about the plight of homelessness at a time when they were appalled at such problems in modern-day Los Angeles. Many shows tend to use homeless people as reluctant or not-so-reluctant criminals; I remember a Hulk TV special in the late 80s in which, at the height of popularity of a Republican Party that criminalized the poor. Bruce Banner tells a young homeless man asking for change that he should get a job; in return, the homeless man later attacks Banner and faces justice in the form of the Hulk's wrath. This is not to say homeless people are automatically angels, but, like any human being, their desperate circumstances generally explain the resort to violence if this does occur among them at all. Most are peaceful. On The 4400, Ira Behr had Jordan Collier live among them and trust them in implementing the crucial first steps of his revolution; they were in charge of the distribution of promicin as well as carefully warning recipients of the shots' lethal risks. This showed them possessing work ethic and caring, instead of the bumbling, uncaring, selfish traits other shows tend to overemphasize.

    In the case of Tess, we're allowed to see how a perfectly decent person can be turned into a threat against society due to her illness, and it humanizes the problem of schizophrenia; even though one shot up Capitol Hill in 2000 and another may have been responsible for the Virginia Tech killings earlier this spring, the debilitating problem is not really who they are. Mostly, though, it was a nice bit of drama – not always exciting, but very good and somewhat touching.

    Okay drama between Meghan and Tom.

    The drama between Meghan and Tom was alright, but I can't help feeling it was slightly forced. However, that's inevitable, given Ira Behr's comments before the season aired about her being a love interest. I just can't help but feel that, while this kind of romantic drama is acceptable, it's just not why I watch the show. While it's not that interesting, I'll accept it as a necessary set-up to create better character dynamics -- as the two's professional and personal lives become entangled in their romance. However, Meghan really needs to be more clearly defined away from Tom. Ira Behr did an excellent job on DS9 of writing drama between Captain Sisko and his girlfriend Kassidy Yates. For a while, Alana seemed similarly interesting in that her identity as a 4400 was comparable to Kassidy's momentary identification with Maquis terrorists that put her at odds with Sisko on a professional level. Yet, with Alana gone, the dynamic of Meghan having to make tough decisions for NTAC – surely to be occasionally at odds with Tom-will have to suffice. However, more definitely needs to be done to make her more interesting to be worth all the time she's taking away from other characters.

    Richard Tyler's return.

    I watched this episode in two parts – the first roughly ten minutes before going to bed, and the rest the next day. Based on what I had seen, I was slightly unconvinced by how Richard was portrayed. In my notes when watching the first part of the episode, I wrote that his behavior seemed different, "dialogue seems a bit odd, out of character. The way he explains himself to Isabelle doesn't feel natural – like he's reciting a prepared speech. It doesn't feel like it's coming from him naturally. Not enough pauses and emotion in his face – even for Richard who's always been uncomfortable with his emotions." I went to bed very worried about the series. If the actor, writers and director couldn't get one of the most consistently strong and probably the most grounded characters in the series right nowadays, what did this mean for the show's quality? In its forth season, the show had stumbled quite a bit. What I expected to be the continuation of writing quality from the two-part third season finale had taken a probably network-enforced detour in creating more standalone plots that took away from great main and supporting characters. Even Jordan Collier's return hadn't helped the show as much as I'd anticipated, and Richard was gone since the actor was being filmed for a movie. Now that Mahershalalhashbaz Ali had returned to take up his usually excellently-portrayed and –written character, something seemed off in his performance. He hadn't just shaved his head and contracted a cold that made his voice sound unusually nasally, his speech patterns and reaction to his daughter were unlike him. It wasn't until I hesitantly began watching again that I realized why.

    Why Richard's hidden agenda didn't lead to the unlikely personality switch depicted in most shows.

    Richard didn't seem himself because he was deceiving his daughter and others long enough to get her away to knock her out and kidnap her. His behavior was appropriately odd because he must have been terribly nervous, and he couldn't quite hide this. As soon as he had his daughter back, the Richard I remembered was back. What an incredible actor Ali is! Oftentimes, shows like "24" and especially "Buffy" and "Angel" trick the audience into believing a character who is not what they seem by having them demonstrate all the genuine emotions and moments they're trying to convince others they feel, even when alone. Nina's switch at the end of 24's first season and similar arcs for many Buffy and Angel characters never felt realistic because of this approach of tricking the audience with implausible moments. The switch to convenient betrayer or friend (when a character initially appears hostile) always felt contrived for that reason. Having shown tremendous concern for Jack Bauer (as his ex-lover), his family, and her own safety in the face of the unknown threat – even in private -- Nina's entire personality changed when the revelation was made to the audience that she was a mole working for the bad guys. In the season finale, her face turned cold and her body language became stern as she was ready to kill them for profit. In this episode, the writers, director or perhaps just Ali realized the character had to be portrayed realistically. It would have been so easy to follow TV cliché and have Richard behave as though he were actually hot holding any feelings back – as if he were coming to stay with his daughter at Promise City, and show no signs of serious reservations about Jordan's movement by greeting the messiah figure with an excited smile and ready hand-shake. In reality, for non-professional spies, hiding ones own anxieties while hiding one's true feelings would be considerably difficult. Richard's seeming personality differences were in recognition of that. Other characters who didn't know him so well (like Kyle, Jordan, and even Isabelle who was more obsessed with Shawn than getting to know her own father) wouldn't have noticed. However, the audience -- which had spent so much time observing the subtleties of his behavior and how he expressed himself in watching his stance and facial expressions, and hearing his voice -- could detect his pretense and discomfort. What a brilliantly realistic decision!

    No explanation for Isabelle's self-awareness this season.

    One aspect of Isabelle's treatment this season has been her sudden self-awareness about what exactly she did that was wrong. Her arc in Seasons 2 and especially 3 made sense because her child-like selfishness had threatening repercussions because it was backed by so much power. She never had the time to develop socially by learning -- through the physical limitations naturally imposed on all babies -- to rely on her parents and behaviorally compromise with her surroundings by adopting their social mores. Isabelle never developed proper social skills or sensitivities toward the world because she never had any substantial checks on her power. She also grew up instantly, and her limited social education was accompanied by the physical wants of a young woman and the intellect of a genius. Despite her sociopathic tendencies, she remained a sympathetic character who didn't know how to patiently get what she wanted. Now, stripped of power, and having spent months in jail, Isabelle seems perhaps too socially developed. It has never been explained how she has adjusted so well. Perhaps her superior intellect, combined with how she has been treated by others since, has allowed her to realize her faults, and adjust emotionally. Still, without these explanations, her journey from child-like emotional maturity to sympathetic adult seems a bit convenient and unnatural. Instead of coming up with new standalone characters earlier this season, the writers should have given her character its due as they did last season.

    Richard's unconscious resentment toward Isabelle.

    A great bit of texture to Richard and Isabelle's relationship was his confession that he had unconsciously blamed her for her mother's death. While Isabelle unintentionally drained her life force to physically and mentally develop herself, she was innocent in the process. The writers could have simply blamed Richard's distancing from Isabelle on the massive power she wielded to get what she wanted and avoid parental discipline. He was shown throughout Season 3 as trying to raise and do what was best for his daughter to the point of almost being killed by her. The future's manipulation of their lives and his fear of his own daughter could have sufficed as the reasons she went astray. However, his resentment at losing Lily added an aspect to all these reasons that most shows would have avoided because it was not perfectly rational or fatherly of him, and might detract from the upstanding nature of his character. However, it was psychologically accurate. No matter how ugly and difficult to accept, it was very human and realistic for him to feel that way. This realization ultimately adds another level of motivation to his quest to raise his daughter.

    An accurate portrayal of the complicated nature of faith.

    This episode features some insightful commentary on the nature of faith. When Richard did abduct Isabelle, the writers chose this as another occasion to show more subtleties and complexities with Jordan's ideological bent. Instead of him obeying some nationalist impulse to protect all 4400s, he cooperated with NTAC to aid in Richard and Isabelle's capture. This was partly due to his ego-centrism and intolerance at being betrayed by Richard. It also reflected his distrust of Isabelle's true nature and unbelief in her potential to help to the cause, despite Kyle's relaying Cassie's assertions that she was essential. However, as Jordan clarified to Kyle, this further served a practical purpose of putting NTAC and Tom, in debt in case he needed a favor. The sacrifice of those two 4400s would be worthwhile in pursuit of larger goals that would benefit the movement.

    Cassie doubting Jordan also adds an interesting level of mystery and complexity I would never have predicted from her; I thought her constant upholding of Jordan Collier as a messiah to bring paradise would imply unquestioning faith. Enjoyable, though formulaic, shows like "Lost" often illustrate the dynamics of faith through the dialectic of characters either believing in it absolutely or being completely skeptical of it. Conversely, human behavior is not so consistent or neatly categorized. The vast majority of human experiences with religion or faith in any belief system or ideology are between those two all or none poles.

    Political parallels: Lenin's deviation from Communism with the New Economic Plan.

    Revolutionary and ideological leaders of many movements have an element of practicality to their actions. Vladimir Lenin claimed to follow Marxist principles in innovating the idea of Communism in one state. However, even this larger aim was composed of practical tactics designed to meet shorter term goals along the way; some of these tactics failed to adhere to any consistent ideological notions of Communism. He compromised his ideological policies with an environment hostile both at home among the reluctant Soviet peoples and abroad by implementing the New Economic Plan in the early 1920s. The NEP allowed for considerable social and economic freedoms (including some level of capitalism) that both satisfied the inhabitants and raised revenue to buttress the state against outside opposition. The NEP was a detour from straightforward state-centered control and planning that would have prevented the revolution from surviving in the long run. The NEP offended diehard Communists (many of whom would be killed by Stalin later on), but Lenin defended it as a necessary tactical move – an acceptable means to ensure the state survived long enough to reach its end of successful Communism. This example can be applied to most movements, especially those that fail to account for the complexity of the world in their planned ideologies; compromise can perhaps be seen as a sign of indispensable adaptation of the movement – for it to allow adjustments it had not foreseen in its original blueprint to now succeed more easily. Even among religious political leaders like George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden, one sees a lack of consistency between their policies and purported belief systems. Available for closer study, compared to the murky justifications of bin Laden, Bush demonstrates a complete lack of consistent principles (even among capitalism or conservatism) that guide his policies. Rare is the person who will sacrifice everything, including his dignity or notions of paradise in the afterlife, to completely abstract ideals. Practicality is a trait inherent to human nature.

    Kyle's complicated faith: doubting Jordan and trusting Cassie.

    For his part, Kyle's faith in Jordan's leadership was tested again – the last time being when he questioned whether Jordan caused Gabriel Hewitt's stroke. He disputed the decision to abandon Richard, whose protective actions toward his daughter were understandable, and particularly Isabelle. He had grown close to her in the last months and his personal loyalty to her meant he would not give up on helping her. While not splitting with Jordan outright, Kyle's venture to save Isabelle from Richard and NTAC was a significant step in the writers maintaining his ability to think for himself. However, this decision was also informed by his faith in Cassie's judgment, so there were several layers to his motivation. Thus, The 4400 shows greater realism in complexly portraying faith as qualified by some degree of practicality and doubt.

    NTAC's persecution of 4400s.

    The fact that NTAC was chasing Richard said something realistic about law enforcement tendency toward being unduly harsh and imprecise. Richard was a fugitive because he helped Jordan Collier carry out his plan to distribute promicin. However, upon realizing the chance of death from injecting the substance, Richard staunchly opposed the plan, and was confined by Jordan until the distribution was well underway. Richard's guilt was negligible and explicable in light of how hostile the government and especially Dennis Ryland have been toward 4400s. The identity politics of being part of a persecuted minority informed Richard's decisions at the end of Season 3, and should have been taken into account by any fair government to diminish his official guilt. However, governments are rarely cautious and reasonable, especially when dealing with people they see as threats. Placing Tom and Diana at center stage in enforcing government policy was a smart move in showing how good people can be implicit in – and responsible for -- carrying out unjust state policy. In a scene with Richard's friend, Michael Anselett, whom the NTAC agents suspect of knowing Richard's whereabouts, Tom and Diana cruelly threaten jail time if he refuses to cooperate. The menace carried special weight given Anselett's 4400 ability. Anselett was well acted and interestingly conceived as afflicted with the power to remember every detail of his experiences. As a result, he would compulsively write down memories to avoid such information constantly overwhelming his mind; I can relate to writing down my certain thoughts, especially political ones, to avoid a similarly taxing obsessiveness.

    In any case, Tom and Diana are rightly shown as believably hypocritical in being willing to save their 4400 loved ones from government mistreatment, but being willing to prosecute those unknown to them for similar crimes. A great moment showing the conflict between professional conduct and personal interests was when Tom confronted Richard. He initially approached him disarmingly in physical bearing and tone. Nevertheless, upon realizing Richard had pinned Kyle to the ceiling and might injure him, Tom instinctively aimed his gun at him in defense of his son.

    Political parallels: Richard's reasons for saving Isabelle as compared to parents wishing to save misguided Muslim youth from Al Qaeda-type groups.

    Richard's desire to remove Isabelle from Promise City and Jordan's revolutionary influence can be appreciated. It reminded me of Muslim youth in the West who are seduced, due to their own insecurities and uncertainty, by fundamentalist teachings into developing an identity that ties Islamic nationalism with their own sense of self. When Muslims are attacked or mistreated, they feel personally hurt, and propelled to take action. At some level, empathizing with others' problems is not a bad thing, and would lead to better treatment of all people. However, this kind of nationalism selectively sees offenses committed by non-Muslims and ignores those carried out by other Muslims. It also ignores actions taken by non-Muslims to save Muslim lives, as when the US and Western Europe saved Muslim lives in Bosnia and Kosovo, or when actions against Muslims does not have a discriminatory basis. Just as with nationalists of any kind, Islamic fundamentalist nationalism essentially fails to understand identity as dependent upon the environment into which one is born. In other words, one is usually upset by the difficulties facing a certain religious or ethnic group because one grew up around members of that group, not because there is necessarily a moral superiority to supporting that group over others. Ideally, one should try to see the other's perspective and aim to reach out of oneself to identify with everyone – a universalistic identity, which seeks equality of treatment among all. As evidenced in a BBC documentary "Fresh Blood for Al Qaeda", many parents are saddened by the loss of their children to groups that persuade them to perceive their identity in such a confined way that they engage in unjustified terrorism in the West or in Iraq and Afghanistan against Westerners. Even though the 4400 have been persecuted by the government and voting public, and many segments have engaged in terrorism and anti-state behavior, Richard has chosen a life away from the war. Horrified at his daughter's involvement in Jordan Collier's revolution, he sought to rescue her, so that she may have a happier life.

    A second chance.

    Where Richard's ambitions became ethically fraught was in his decision to give his daughter a literal second chance. He tricked her into ingesting a substance that would slowly reverse her aging, and erase the memories of experiences that shaped her personality up to that point. His intent was to make her into a baby so that he could raise her properly without interference from the likes of Matthew Ross, Dennis Ryland and other manipulative influences. Regretting his inability to shape her life the first time and avoid the horrific actions she took as a rapidly-aged adult, his decision was very understandable. With such a criminally destructive and unhappy life behind her, how could Richard not have been tempted to give his child the normal life she had never had? Even if it went against her will, it would be for the best, and she would be none the wiser once her age was fully reversed. I sympathized with his plight and fully supported this tough love approach because it served a greater good.

    Tom's respect for Kyle's rights versus Richard's tough love.

    At this point, it's significant to compare Tom's respect for his son's choices in contrast to Richard's disregard for his daughter's. However, there are limits to the applicability of this analogy. Tom later admits to being lured to arrest his son to protect him, but concedes that he would have had to imprison him to prevent his return to Jordan's movement. This was not a choice he was willing to make. Richard's actions against his daughter's wishes were a short-term measure until she'd been rejuvenated to a younger age, when she could be reared healthily. Also, Tom might have acted differently if he'd had Richard's abilities, and, unlike Richard, he'd already had a fair chance to nurture his son and inculcate him with his values. Richard never really had that opportunity.

    Richard persuaded by Kyle's actions.

    Nevertheless, as Kyle indicated to Richard, having Isabelle drink the substance would destroy her existing personality. Despite her past deeds, the person she had become since then was maybe worth preserving and loving. Richard admitted as much to Isabelle when he gave her a choice between possibly reversing the effects of the substance, which by then reduced her to an 8-year old, and continuing with a second chance. (By the way, I was glad they wrote for and hired younger actresses to play Isabelle, including, I think, the one who originally played her, because actress Megalyn Echikunwoke didn't look a thoroughly convincing teenager.) Rather than feel angered by Kyle's attempted interference, Richard demonstrated clarity of mind. He took Kyle's actions as a testament to the quality of both his character and the one she'd recently developed. Still, I was rooting for him having a young child so he could start anew; I wish I could do the same for myself. The predictable ending would have had Richard simply accept his daughter's choice to return to her adult self, and this would have been alright. In its place, the writers made a more gutsy choice, however temporary. Richard's reasoning persuaded Isabelle that he was acting in her best interests, and she willingly drank the rest of the substance. I was thrilled to see a baby Isabelle greet Richard! I can't wait for the next episode.

    8.1 out of 10

    (I should emphasize that only the rarest of shows get 10 -- only the absolute best episodes of The X-Files ("Talitha Cumi", "Paper Hearts", "Redux II", etc.), Battlestar Galactica ("Pegasus","Lay Down Your Burdens", "Occupation"/"Precipice") and Deep Space Nine ("In the Pale Moonlight"). I would give the best story of The 4400 to date, "Terrible Swift Sword"/"Fifty Fifty," around 9.0, and I really loved that.)
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