The X-Files: Aubrey

Case: A young woman detective is having vivid dreams in which she sees other women being murdered.

Destination: Aubrey, Missouri

The premise of this episode is that genetics may account for more than how we look; they may also account for how we behave. Being The X-Files, the writers of this episode take this premise and make it creepy and compelling.

For a MotW episode, there is a lot going on. The story is about evil and whether it can be passed down through the generations. Woven throughout this story, however, are fundamental issues of bringing the next generation into the world. Extramarital sex, pregnancy, abortion, and all the responsibilities they bring with them are clearly addressed.

As a critic, it is possible to approach this episode from one of two points of view. The first is that the feminist in me struggles with the fact that a pregnancy brings out evil in a woman. Although it is never specifically stated, it is clear to me that B.J. was "normal" until the pregnancy triggered the latent genes and she became homicidal. And, not homicidal on her terms; she was channeling her grandfather -- a man. Even the pregnancy has a touch of "bad" as it is the result of B.J. sleeping with a married man. It would be possible to write this off as the worst kind of misogyny.

The other approach is to take the episode as a story that is attempting to explore the nature/nurture aspect of our personalities. From this standpoint, it works much better. While B.J.'s genetic traits are taken to an extreme, it is an interesting idea and it is fun to watch Mulder and Scully reach this explanation.

Both Mulder and Scully are shown in a softer light than we have often seen in the past. Scully’s conversation with B.J. in the ladies room is a wonderful scene. By being quiet and caring, Scully is able to determine what lies at the heart of B.J.’s fears. It is she who has determined that B.J. and Tillman are having an affair, and surprises Mulder when she is proven correct.

Mulder has a similar moment. His questioning of Mrs. Thibodeaux shows a compassionate side to him that we have only glimpsed in the past. By being so solicitous and calm, he is able to intuit that she gave birth to a child, surprising Scully with his insight.

Although they both surprised the other this hour, Mulder and Scully’s relationship is continuing to evolve. They are clearly a team now, working together and obviously caring a great deal about each other. The feelings that they share are brilliantly portrayed at the end when Scully goes to Mulder after he is nearly killed. She very nearly cradles his head.

Their relationship is sharply contrasted with B.J.’s and Tillman’s. Here is another couple working together in law enforcement, yet they have taken their feelings for each other to the next level. Their affair has resulted in an unplanned pregnancy, a complication that neither of them is ready for. Yet, it is clear that these two people love each other. Tillman defends B.J. to first Mulder then Sully; he allows the FBI to meddle in a local matter to clear her name; he agrees to raise his child when B.J. is unable to.

I’m willing to accept this episode on its merits because it is scary and the characters are well-drawn. It does, however, skate awfully close to portraying the worst kinds of messages about women.

Other Thoughts

Terry O’Quinn, who has among the most sci-fi credits of anyone, makes his one appearance in this episode. He is one of the strongest guest actors in this season.

Mulder briefly touches on the studies done about twins who have been raised apart. The most interesting of these was done out of the University of Minnesota back in the 1980s. It found that identical twins raised apart had remarkably similar personalities and interests. Two of my closest friends in college were identical twins and, while they were distinct personalities, they were remarkably similar in many fundamental aspects of who they were.

One point that lands badly is Mulder citing Jung’s collective unconscious. The theory had absolutely nothing to do with physical genetics, but it sounds good in the episode.

Quotes

Mulder: “Yes, and also, I’ve always been intrigued by women named B.J.”
One of my favorite throw-away lines in the entire series. I’ve often wondered if it were ad-libbed. Duchovny’s delivery and Anderson’s reaction are perfect.

Mulder: “Well, I’ve often felt that dreams are answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask.”

Mulder: “You mean a hunch?”
Scully: “Yeah, something like that.”
Mulder: “That’s a pretty extreme hunch.”
Scully: “I seem to recall you having some pretty extreme hunches.”
Mulder: “I never have!”

Final Analysis: A creepy episode that touches on compelling issues. I just wish they had found another way to tell this story.

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.

2 comments:

drnanamom said...

I thought the same thing about the misogyny and the Jungian comment. Sometimes this show is just so 1990s :). Not that there aren't misogynist shows out there now but you don't expect such things from the smart, well-acted ones anymore (unless it's the Walking Dead)

Jess Lynde said...

Great thoughts, Chris. You know, I never considered the negative feminist implications of BJ turning evil as soon as she became pregnant. I always just thought of it as a good, fantastically creepy episode. With Terry O'Quinn! You'd think I would have been more sensitive to that kind of thing, coming on the heels of an episode with horrible attitudes towards rape, but I suppose I just didn't think about these things through a critical lens back when I was first obsessed with the series. And it didn't occur to me even now. Although, strangely, I was kind of bothered by Scully's sudden keen "women's intuition." It came across as somewhat out of character to me, perhaps because she just immediately intuited that BJ was pregnant with Tillman's child. It seemed a stretch.

That said, I did really love the little car conversation between Mulder and Scully about extreme hunches. "I never have." Love it.