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X-Files Episode guide: Fearful Symmetry

X-Files: Season 2, Episode 18


Written by Steven DeJarnatt
Directed by James Whitmore, Jr.

Red Museum took a very confusing storyline, and then when you didn't think it good any more extreme, tried to attach it to the series mythology. This episode doesn't go that far--- mainly because there's only one real plot going on--- but it's a confused and sloppy episode all the same. And considering that it's airing right after a mythology episode doesn't help much.
This is something of a shame, because this is a show that, for a change, has it's heart in the right place. Animal conservation is a serious issue, so is the treatment of animals in captivity, and for the series to try and deliver a message is commendable. But they could've done it a much better script. This story doesn't make much sense if you add alien abduction, but it makes even less sense before it's gets involves. How are these animals being removed from the zoo and then being impregnated? Why is it they are suddenly being transported a couple of miles away from the zoo--- invisible? And how exactly do they become visible again even it seems to be only to die? Mulder and Scully never do some up with an answer to any of these question, and even Mulder doesn't seem to want to venture beyond speculation. It's not like he could sound any crazier than he already does.
If only the motivations for the aliens were incomprehensible, that would be par for the course. But the humans behind this seem to make even less sense. There's the conflict between Ed and Willa about control of the zoo and how to treat the animals, there's Kyle's antipathy towards everything that Ed and Willa stand for, yet they all seem to find the same motivations over a gorilla that can use sign language, which seems to put them on the same side, except that Willa seems to lure Kyle to his death... well, you see the overall problem. Maybe I'd be more inclined to be favorable if they weren't all agitated over the fate of a woman in a gorilla suit.
There are some decent setpieces here, which, for the most part weren't present in Red Museum, until you realize that essentially you're looking at the same setpiece three times. The teaser where an invisible elephant tears down a highway is very impressive, and it's given a certain dignity when the elephant dies looking into the eyes of a terrified child. But when the same thing happens with the tiger, you get a little repetitive. By the time poor Sophie disappears, it's almost become a running gag, and what should have been the most torturous moment at the end kind of seems wasted. Still, you can't really complain when your episode has Scully autopsy an elephant. You can legitimate say there's something you'll never see on CSI.
It's also a shame that the series wastes some very good actors. Jayne Atkinson has risen to become one of TV's great character actresses on series such as 24 and House of Cards, and her acting is very good here-- unfortunately it's not good enough to make you forget that she plays most of her strongest scenes with a gorilla. Lance Guest is also very good as the animal activist, too, but like her, he is severely undercut by the script.
Ultimately the problem with Fearful Symmetry is the same problem with so many episodes of the first couple of seasons --- it's being written by a first time author for the show, and consequently has no idea what supposed to work and what doesn't. So we have an alien abduction episode that doesn't fit any of the parameters of any of the ones on the series, an animal conservation storyline that doesn't seem to motivate its humans very well, and a final communication with a gorilla that doesn't make sense to either. The show's hearts in the right place, I grant you. It's a shame its mind really isn't.
My score: 1.75 stars.

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