Season 2, Episode 12: “Aubrey”
How much of who we are is out of our control? This is the question “Aubrey” poses. Here we have a rather dark exploration of free will, genetic makeup, and the ties between family. Sounds pretty lofty, doesn’t it? Don’t you worry. This time around, the writers know what they’re doing.
Poor BJ is the granddaughter of a man who committed a series of horrible murders in the 1940’s. This man, named Cokely, would kill people and then carve the word “Sister” or “Brother” onto their chests. One of his victims survived, but only after getting raped and pregnant with the killer’s baby, who would eventually become BJ’s father. Now, BJ, who works as a detective, is having flashbacks of her grandfather’s crimes. She’ll end up in places and never remember how she got there, each time revealing a new detail about the horrible murders.
What she doesn’t know is that she’s doing some murdering herself.
Mulder wonders whether or not BJ is having some sort of “genetic memory.” What if, he says, BJ’s memories and murderous actions are the result of some sort of predisposed genetic trait? What if BJ is a killer because it says so right in her DNA?
If that’s the case, then no matter how good a person BJ might seem – and she does – she’s bound to kill. That is about as dark an idea as it gets with this show – or with anything, really. Free will is a concept that has been debated again and again throughout history. The writers on The X-Files aren’t necessarily making a statement about it, but they are saying, What if?
It’s worth mentioning that this episode was written by one of the few woman writers on the series, and you can definitely see it. We have Scully’s “woman’s intuition” thrown in there, and a strong lead character who is strong not because she’s a woman but because she’s strong. BJ’s actions have nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman, and they challenge the idea that men are the only ones who commit these horrible crimes. “Aubrey” doesn’t challenge gender roles; it gets rid of them. We’re talking about a person here, and the fact that she’s a woman has barely any consequence.
This episode is a prime example of what happens if your premise is strong. With this sort of thematic idea, it’s almost impossible for this episode to go wrong. Combine that with a fantastic guest star, Deborah Strong, and you’ve got what is easily one of the best episodes of Season 2.
Final score for “Aubrey” is 8/10. An episode that poses some very deep questions without sounding pretentious or preachy.
- Mulder’s reaction when Scully says very matter-of-factly that BJ and Tillman are having an affair is like, “Hey, I thought I was supposed to have the stellar intuition. No fair.” You go, Scully.
- The directing in this episode is superb; some of the shots are absolutely fantastic. Kudos to Rob Bowman.
- At last, we have an explanation for the sunflower seeds!