Fearful Symmetry | Episode 4 (56)
Aired: September 4, 2004
Heroes: Supergirl, J'onn Jonzz, Wildcat, Shining Knight, Green Arrow, Dr. Mid-nite, Hourman, Black Canary, Question, Vigilante, Wonder Woman, Flash, Ray and Elongated Man
Supporting: General Hardcastle and Dr. Emile Hamilton
Objects: Kryptonite, Trick Arrows, Justice League Communication Link, and Hologram
Places: Metropolis, STAR Labs, Smallville, and Justice League Unlimited Watchtower
Beasts: Robots and Synthoids
Story By: Stan Berkowitz
Teleplay By: Robert Goodman
Director: Dan Riba
ReviewReview written by Alex Weitzman
The wary DCAU fan, after watching this episode, should now feel like he or she is standing on the precipice of a large, shadowy chasm. The chasm is far, far too dark to see into any further than past your own feet, but the very fact that you have made it to the chasm itself has already spurned your expectation and imagination as to what could be down there. You have an awareness that you are being shown the border of the darkness, but that you are miles from its core. Bruce Timm did promise us that the fourth episode of JLU would start a subplot that would run its course throughout possibly both seasons of the show, and Fearful Symmetry is that fourth episode in production order. And boy, did this baby deliver the hazy goods.
I feel a great deal like the Question himself after watching Symmetry, paranoid about motives and eager to make connections wherever I could. For the purposes of this episode standing alone, that is the exact aim of Fearful Symmetry. It is not designed to answer anything, but to set your mind humming with the questions. Indeed, we and the players in the plot are violently pulled out of the goings-on by an authoritative and altogether more powerful force - a force that at this point we can only describe as Snowball the evil hamster did in Pinky and the Brain: "They! Them! The they of them! Them! THEY!" But questions are sometimes their own form of satisfaction, and Symmetry is obviously only the beginning, which is hardly a proper time to start giving away the answers themselves.
Whatever answers they are, they must be whoppers, because Fearful Symmetry hints at the possibility of rewriting the rules of the DCAU as we know it. Most blatantly is the betrayal of Professor Emil Hamilton, a man who by all means was supposed to have earned our trust most implicitly. The man who revealed the protective power of lead against kryptonite to Superman, and assisted him accordingly in such protection. His fearful reaction to Supes in Legacy was seemingly just a sign of how badly Superman had been forced to betray humanity thanks to Darkseid's cruelty. The idea that Hamilton is now (or maybe always has been?) a key player in whatever insidious plot involving superhero-clone assassins is a dangerous one, for if Hamilton can turn so starkly, who else can? Suddenly, episodes like Over the Edge and A Better World lose their comforting positions as Elseworlds or nightmares. Green Arrow's presence reminds us of the question he subtly posed in Initiation - do you Leaguers really think you can control all this? The constant references in Symmetry seem less like window dressing and more like a sinister undercurrent; after all, it DOES follow suit that the government/military has always seemed to butt heads with superheroes in the past. The connections cannot yet be made, for at the point where Galatea might have revealed something (anything!), her superiors pull the plug and for good reason: these three heroes are getting too close.
The tantalization of this episode is almost too much to bear. The reuniting of key characters from past series, the wary eye of Oliver Queen, and the hushed, inviting tones of Jeffrey Combs as the Question make this the sort of episode that drives fans mad. It's a damn good episode; we can feel it. And once all the cards are played well into the future, a look back on this episode is likely to reveal it as a wonderful and evil introduction into the dangerous ground JLU seems poised to tread. But for now, it can only be excruciating in its power. We want to know. I want to know. But I know that I can't know just yet. It wouldn't be as much fun that way.