The Four Of Us Are Dying
A con artist with the ability to assume the visage of anybody he fancies begins to execute a plan to land him riches, love and more. All goes well, till it doesn’t.
The Four of Us Are Dying is a strange episode, but when talking about the Twilight Zone that means next to nothing at all, so I’ll refrain from saying it from now on. A strange, twisted little tale of an episode, without heroes or noble acts, but rather comeuppance and small minded acts of evil. The main character is a man by the name of Arch Hammer who has sufficient imagination to reach for personal gains, but lacks the vision that would allow his face-changing talent to be put to truly great use.
For example, I remember a 1980’s issue of The Dark Knight where a psychopath has the exact same ability as the man in this episode, and he uses it to lure people to his home and then adopt the guise of their greatest nightmare before killing them. However, Cornelius Stirk’s normal face looked like that of the Crypt Keeper, and he could psychically induce terror before eating out your heart, so the similarities aren’t all that huge. Here’s Cornelius smiling at you. Nice.
Our ‘hero’ in this episode lacks the rapacious mastery of Mr. Feathersmith from Episode 116; rather he has the dreams of any adolescent, and is completely amoral about getting them. Remember that old question: which would you rather have, the ability to be invisible or fly? Well, Arch Hammer is the kind of guy who would have picked invisibility just so he could hang out in the girl’s locker room.
What’s of interest is that his plan was working out well; it’s an accident that undoes him. Poetic justice to the rescue! Each time he’s about to get caught by the people he’s fleecing he does a quick face-change, and is allowed to walk off by suddenly confused pursuers. However, the only problem is that he has to actually visualize a face; in a moment of panic, that proves quite difficult for him, forcing him to turn all Verbal Kint and seek inspiration from the closest source. And it’s that inspiration that proves his downfall.
So, what’s the verdict? An interesting tale. Shape changers always come across as sad little beings, forced by their very power to lack a concrete identity of their own. This proves to be the case here. Rod Serling loses no time in informing us as to the petty, pathetic nature of Arch Hammer, and when his end comes, we feel no pity for him.