Coming off of “Colony” (2×16) and “End Game” (2×17), we’ve been on an adrenaline rush. And judging from the first part of this teaser, you’d expect that to continue. There’s an incredible, invisible force tearing through town and causing thousands of dollars in set damage. But by the time we see a dying elephant lying in the road with children weeping over it, I already know that something has gone horribly, terribly wrong.
If I’m to understand this properly, aliens are abducting animals for genetic testing and conservation purposes since we humans aren’t stewarding the planet the way we ought. Said aliens have such advanced technology that they can travel light years through space, abduct animals out of their cages without unlocking them, but they can’t. put. them. back. They’re so worried about preserving these animals that they impregnate them, steal their babies, and then drop them among human beings who they know will kill them if they’re on the loose. Not to mention these animals are so scarred by the abduction experience that they all seem to be in need of a psychologist, or at least Dr. Dolittle.
Mulder gives a vague explanation about how there’s some astrological issue with the space-time continuum that prevents the aliens from putting the animals back safely. So… what? They couldn’t wait a few days till the stars were aligned and the issue was resolved?
More time is spent in exposition about the plight of animals in zoos than is spent on the plot itself. This is Steven DeJarnatt’s only writing credit for The X-Files. Funny, I only have one episode to go on but I think I have a pretty good idea of his political leanings.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not unsympathetic. In fact, I’ve never been fond of traditional zoos myself. I too watched Dumbo as a child and pitied the poor little elephants bound by chains for gross human consumption. That said, I’ll give up my two little doggies for no man. They’d barely last an hour in the backyard let alone in the wild. “Objects for [my] own selfish pleasure?” You bet they are.
I’m being sarcastic. I don’t truly believe this episode is espousing the more radical view of the fictional WAO, but it does have a moral to the story that’s written in all caps. It forces the viewer to mentally engage in a political debate rather than in the story. This isn’t Law & Order, this is a show that features green-blooded alien bounty hunters. Green-blooded.
Here, instead of aliens, you’ll find animals in crates everywhere. And I’ll give the creators some credit; it does serve to heighten the tension. Mulder and Scully are walking around with a relatively small barrier between them and a vicious death. But the underlying plot is so absurd that I find myself not caring. Lovely, frightening wild beasts can only take a story so far. I should care by the time Mulder gets trapped in a room with Sophie and witnesses her abduction, but the climax is so decidedly boring. I admit, however, that watching Willa cry over Sophie’s body did make me a little sad.
You know what makes me sadder? This episode.
An episode about straight-up cattle mutilations would have been more interesting. As it is, the whole premise of “Fearful Symmetry” ends up being mire that quickly swallows the episode whole. That this episode comes directly after the pinnacle of “End Game” only makes things worse.
Does it sink to the depths of “3” (2×7)? Few episodes can. Is it quite as dull as “Space” (1×8)? Humor saves it from that ignoble fate. Its only saving graces are a chance to see Angry Scully and the all too brief appearance of the Lone Gunmen.
Ah, the Lone Gunmen. Too bad one of their funniest scenes is lost in an episode that’s mostly forgotten. They easily steal the show in this one. Not that that’s hard to do…
So, overall, how did it score on my “Reasons I Watch The X-Files” test?
- Did it make me laugh? A little.
- Did it make me happy? No.
- Did it stir my imagination? No.
- Did it move me? Eh.
- Did it freak me out? Heck no.
P.S. In case you think I’m exaggerating about how hard they drive the “Save the Animals” point home, try to make it to the end of the episode and listen to Mulder’s closing voice-over. I rest my case.
Ed Meecham has worked at the zoo for years. For what? So he can torture animals for fun? It makes no sense that this man would spend his life caring for animals when he’s not an animal lover. Worse, why does everyone look at him in horror when he shot the tiger that was about to maul Willa Ambrose to death? Heaven forbid.
If an animal has already killed someone, isn’t it policy to put it down? I don’t think Willa Ambrose would have had the authority to order Meecham, or for that matter, the police, not to shoot on sight.
Mulder: I’d be willing to admit the possibility of a tornado, but it’s not really tornado season. I’d even be willing to entertain the notion of a black hole passing over the area or some cosmic anomaly but it’s not really black hole season either. If I was a betting man I’d say it was, a…
Scully: An invisible elephant?
Mulder: I saw David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear once.
Scully: What are you looking for, Mulder?
Mulder: Oh, a local paper. I want to see if David Copperfield is in town.
Mulder: It’s all happening at the zoo, Scully. (A Simon & Garfunkel reference, for those of us too young… or too old to remember).
Mulder: Alright, you keep an eye on the WAO.
Scully: And where are you going?
Mulder: Talk to the animals. (AKA: The Lone Gunmen)
Frohike: Beam me up Scotty!
Mulder: Did anybody ever tell you the camera loves you, Frohike?
Frohike: Yeah, the arresting officers at the Free James Brown rally.
Byers: What’s this costing the taxpayers, Mulder?
Mulder: Uh, about 150 bucks an hour.
Frohike: Ouch! Almost as much as Bill Clinton’s haircuts!
Mulder: Where’s Langly?
Byers: He has a philosophical issue with having his image bounced off a satellite.
Frohike: If that’s the lovely Agent Scully, let her know I’ve been working out. I’m buff.