The X-Files #42: Fearful Symmetry

"Man has no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. Eccl 3:19."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Murders around a zoo where the animals are turning into phantoms and escaping.

REVIEW: An interesting change of pace that nevertheless taps into the show's preexisting concerns, Fearful Symmetry can be enjoyed as a skewed version of the program where the poltergeists are invisible animals (very cool effects too), the Scully has to do autopsies on elephants, Mulder interviews all witnesses including a gorilla who knows sign language, and aliens are building their own Noah's Ark with tried and true abduction methods. Simulated animal abuse (mostly inferred) will be hard to watch for some, though an elephant bearing down on an 18-wheeler, out of the fog (the episode has good BC-produced atmosphere throughout), is pretty damn cool.

A strong and heartfelt performance from Jayne Atkinson as a kind of Dian Fossey helps things along, though the male guest characters are fairly two-dimensional - a cruel and trigger-happy zookepeer and a cocksure radical animal rights activist who pisses Scully off with his talk of a natural order. The exception is a fun cameo by two of the Lone Gunmen - hilariously, Langley doesn't want his image bouncing off a satellite - which provides fringe info Mulder could have gotten various others ways. Gratuitous? Maybe, but then we'd have missed out on Frohike getting buff for Scully.

It was all heading for a Medium-High until the resolution, and then it all fell apart. While Mulder's alien abduction theory is interesting and fits at least some of the facts (the flash of white light, experimentation with embryos, missing time), it certainly doesn't explain the phantom animal rampages that have followed each disappearance! That's a terribly big plot hole - one an elephant can walk through - seeing as it's what they were investigating in the first place! To confuse matters further, there's a last-minute plot twist has Atkinson's character pay to have her gorilla abducted, simulating a phantom attack, before it happens for real. Bit of a jerk-around at the end there.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Do these events shed new light on the aliens' master plan? We know they've abducted people and stolen their DNA. They've been know to play with fetuses, though they apparently frown on the creation of human/alien hybrids. And there's that shot of Scully's abduction where they seem to impregnate her. Are they, as Mulder supposes here, recreating or preserving Earth's biosphere in genetic form? (And if so, why embryonic material as opposed to any cell culture?) Or are the animals taken as supplementary research on carbon-based life forms, using our genetic past to create a fuller picture of our genome?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - For lack of a coherent "solution" (and perhaps a coherent problem), an off-beat and otherwise effective episode drops leaves this audience member unsatisfied.

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