The X-Files

Season 2 Episode 18

Fearful Symmetry

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Feb 24, 1995 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
334 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Invisible animals are rampaging through town, destroying property and trampling a federal employee. On arriving in town, the agents begin their search at a nearby zoo with the distinction of never being the site of live birth. Whether that's because as Mulder suspects, Aliens are 'harvesting'' the young or, as Scully insists, an animal rights group determination to close down the zoo, the only reliable witness appears to be a hand-signing gorilla named Sophie.moreless

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  • What do you know about alien abduction?

    The only interesting part of this episode was when the activist provided some facts about elephants. The motive that's presented to us (aliens abducting animals and impregnating them) feels weak and unbelievable.
  • Aliens abducting animals

    This wasn't the best X file episode but I am not really that bothered because of the two previous episodes.The episode started off with an invisible elephant running through the streets and it led Mulder to believe that aliens are abducting animals and impregnating them.Mulder and Scully found they could only trust Sophie the gorilla who can speak in sign language.After Kyle Leng was killed Sophie was the only one who helped them.moreless
  • Fearful Symmetry

    Fearful Symmetry was a perfect and very entertaining episode of The X-Files. I really enjoyed watching because the story was awesome and covered the interesting subject of animals in captivity. There was action, drama, intrigue and some mystery as brilliant white lights appear before each animal disappears. I like the possibilities Mulder throws out there and it was fun to think about. It was sad to see what happened to Sophie. The acting was superb and the ending was great. I especially liked the message on the church sign. I look forward to watching the next episode!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • Fearfully good

    Freed of the convolutions of the mythology, "Fearful Symmetry" sees "The X Files" getting back to the basics of telling a simple little story. And this has to be one of the most refreshing and compact stories they've yet attempted. Amazingly, this well-rounded and comprehensive episode doesn't have a high reputation among X-Philes. I, however, think it's one of the most satisfying stories from Season 2, which can only rank as high praise indeed. It also has some really interesting topics to broach. The treatment of captive animals is raised and, in typical X Files fashion, not commented on. But this is one of the strengths of a programme format now so secure in itself – it doesn't need to raise political flags. The clues are all there, you just have to know where to look for them, to paraphrase Agent Scully. But the bigger issue raised here is that of conservation. Most zoos now trade on the aspect that they are doing their utmost to keep various species going. Making aliens even more diligent than we at doing that – having them create a kind of Noah's Ark – is the real revelation of this episode. It's a great concept, and they really run with it. This involves some nailbiting setpieces with various animals suddenly disappearing and causing havoc in invisible format. The opening teaser, as an invisible elephant devastates a city street, is a superb one, and the subsequent imagery of the elephant suddenly emerging from the mists is equally lingering. It also means that Scully gets to do the biggest autopsy she's ever likely to do. Probably the one criticism here is that it's very hard to pull off a convincing gorilla suit, something the film-makers seemly dimly aware of – hence, said gorilla being shot in semi-darkness most of the time. But isn't it typical of Mulder to want to question the gorilla? And even more so, that he is able to bring Sophie's last message?

    Given that this is the work of a first-time writer for the show (and de Jarnatt's only contribution to the X Files juggernaut), "Fearful Symmetry" is full of nice little touches. Mulder's deadpan humour, Scully's imperturbable nature about having to do an autopsy where she has to physically climb into the body, the hilarious conversation with the newly buff Frohike. And you've got to applaud our two agents. Both of them are able to scale zoo fences in the dark of night while wearing their standard greatcoats. The episode also ends on a most affecting note with the death of Sophie, and her keeper's subsequent despair. But it's the bigger picture behind it all that provides the real food for thought as the 2 agents drive off in silence (a risky television move, that) while Mulder's voiceover ponders whether man will be able to save man, or indeed whether some other force will have to come and preserve us. It's a fascinating wrinkle to the aliens-here-on-earth argument.

  • Incoherent

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the entire point of this X-File is never, at any point, explained.

    Animals start disappearing from the zoo and returning crazed. Apparently they're being abducted by aliens for artificial insemination. Cool. But why in god's name are they invisible when they return? This makes no sense whatsoever and is never addressed again by the second half of the episode. Nor is it really explained why their invisibility eventually wears off.

    In addition to this, the alien drop off point for the animals is entirely arbitrary and just used to further the plot. At some point late in the episode, it is said that the animals are being dropped off 3 miles from the zoo. But earlier in the episode, the abducted tiger is returned seconds later right outside its cage just so it can kill that animal rights activist.

    Maybe I missed something. But anyone who could consider this episode "well written", especially by X-Files standards, is probably crazy.moreless
Jayne Atkinson

Jayne Atkinson

Willa Ambrose

Guest Star

Lance Guest

Lance Guest

Kyle Lang

Guest Star

Jack Rader

Jack Rader

Ed Meecham

Guest Star

Tom Braidwood

Tom Braidwood


Recurring Role

Bruce Harwood

Bruce Harwood


Recurring Role

Lenno Britos

Lenno Britos

Janitor #1 (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • The elephant "Ganesha" is named after the Hindu God

    • 1:44 Wire visible when road worker tossed.

    • 1:13 The car that gets smashed at the very beginning, the wires/ropes used to spin the car to the side are visible, at the left of the rear bumper.

    • Factual Error: When the invisible tiger attacks the WAO activist it is obvious that the victim is facing the attacker. Cats, whether domestic or wild, large or small, visible or invisible, always attack prey from the rear or the side. Their killing bite is usually applied to the back of the neck, biting into the brainstem and top of the spinal cord. People have been known to avoid a lion attack simply by staying in front of the animal and staring it down.

    • Mulder states that the animals are being returned miles from their cages by "an astrological variation." The correct word should be astronomical.

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Scully: (about doing a necropsy on an elephant) This isn't exactly in my job description.
      Mulder: And the next thing you know, they'll be doing it on MTV Sports.

    • Mulder: Sophie tried to tell me something.
      (He shows Willa the sign language.)
      Willa: That doesn't make any sense.
      Mulder: What does it mean?
      Willa: "Man save man."

    • Scully: Where are you going Mulder.
      Mulder: Talk to the animals.

    • 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 were a betting man, I'd say it was . . .
      Scully: An invisible elephant?
      Mulder: I saw David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear once.

    • Kyle: ... All animals should run free.
      Scully: Even if that means trampling a man to death?
      Kyle: Maybe he should have gotten out of the way.
      Mulder: I'm sure he would have if he had seen it coming.

    • Frohike: If that's the lovely Agent Scully, let her know I've been working out ... I'm buff!

  • NOTES (4)

    • Filming the elephant necropsy scene was one of Gillian Anderson's favorite X-Files moments.

    • The message that Sophie signed to Mulder before she was taken: "man save man," may have many meanings, but could also be the first hint of the prophecy that Krycek alludes to throughout the series, which stated that the fate of mankind may lie in Mulder's hands.

    • Blake Towers, where the tiger is found, is named after the poet William Blake.

    • 'Fearful Symmetry' is a phrase from William Blake's poem "The Tyger": Tyger, tyger burning bright / In the forests of the night: / What immortal hand or eye, / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?. The novelisation of this episode is called "Tyger, Tyger".


    • Mulder: Talk to the animals.

      This was the ethos of Doctor John Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. A human doctor who turned away from humans and learnt the language of animals.

    • Mulder: It's all happening at the zoo, Scully.

      Refers to the Simon and Garfunkel song "At the Zoo" off their Bookends album.

    • Frohike: Beam me up, Scotty.

      "Beam me up, Scotty" is a catch phrase from the original Star Trek television series. Ironically, these words are never uttered on screen by any of the characters.

    • Mulder: I saw David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear once.
      David Copperfield is an American illusionist whose most famous feats include making the Statue of Liberty disappear, levitating over the Grand Canyon and walking through the Great Wall of China.