I’m not one of those people who’s threatened by the idea of formulas where my favorite stories are concerned. I like genre fiction (in both books and TV) and part of why I like them is that I know what to expect in terms of big picture: I like romance because I know the couple will be together in the end, I just don’t know how they’ll get there. Similarly, I like mysteries because I know the murder will be solved in the end.
Bones, like most procedurals, has a pattern: hapless ordinary people find remains, the team works to ID the body and then begin figuring out who the suspects are, there’s forensic work and FBI work, and, meanwhile, character stories are happening.
Make no mistake: I love that. I love my show, and love watching how they tell their stories, the journey they take every week from the body find to the end scene tag. It’s the how that’s important to me, not the what, as it’s a given that they’re going to catch the bad guy.
But I also love when the show steps outside the pattern, and tells the story in a slightly different way, because those eps often show us the characters in different settings than we’d normally see. Brennan on jury duty, for example, or both of them dealing with a killer going free.
“Justice is so…” (Angela)
Here, the show explores questions of justice: what it is, what it means, how it happens, all the while giving us some really lovely character moments.
About once a year or so, our news organizations pick a trial (out of a hat, as far as I can tell) and make it the Trial of the Century, complete with 24 hour a day coverage, testimony by ‘experts,’ etc. And armchair jurors everywhere decide the defendant’s fate, only to be collectively gobsmacked (and/or enraged, and/or relieved) when the verdict is returned. If it’s a not guilty when the collective consciousness has decided he/she is guilty, the WTF response is not dissimilar to Angela’s, ‘how could Brennan let this happen?’
The truth is, Angela, who’s testified many times at this point, knows exactly what happened: Brennan did her job. She did exactly what she was supposed to do, and led the other jurors in doing the same. It’s not the defense attorney’s job to prove that his client is innocent. It’s the prosecution’s job to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that he’s guilty. The jurors aren’t supposed to make a decision based on their gut, but rather on the evidence, and as Brennan points out – if it were us on the stand, wouldn’t we want the jurors to do exactly that? To decide our fate based on the evidence, not our emotions?
Only sometimes the system fails. For whatever reason (like, oh,another murder) the prosecution can’t come up with sufficient evidence, and a killer goes free who shouldn’t have.
And that’s what we have here: Brennan, who has dedicated her life to getting justice for victims, does everything exactly right, steers others into doing the same thing…and the guilty goes free.
It’s not just Brennan we see struggling, though. One of my favorite scenes is when she and Booth are on the phone, because we see how hard it is for the man who believes in the system to trust it. It costs him not to tell her what he knows, but he doesn’t do so.
“How are you? How’s your case coming along?
“I can’t talk about that.”
“Yes you can. It’s just this case we can’t discuss.”
For just a moment when I watched for the first time, I wanted her to figure it out. I wanted that connection between the two of them to fire up and for her to hear what he wasn’t saying when he didn’t answer her. And really, given her expression, I think she would have if the marshal hadn’t called time on the call.
But what would that have given her, really? Without any evidence, she still couldn’t go to the other jurors and say, ‘based on what my husband didn’t say, I think the other witness was murdered.’
So the trial ends, and she’s bothered, enough that she’s rehashing it, and I think, still trying to reassure herself that she did the right thing, as she’s practically babbling to him in the SUV. And then he breaks the news to her that Christopher Barnes was murdered. It’s such a beautiful – and painful – scene to watch. He knows what it will do to her, knows the effect it will have.
And he’s right:
“If I wasn’t there, the prosecution’s arguments would have swayed the other jurors. If it weren’t for me, he’d be in jail right now.”
And he knows what she needs to hear next:
“It’s not your fault. ..You know what we’ve got to do? We’ve got to catch him for killing Barnes. That will make everything right. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
What we generally see is them struggling to catch the killer and provide the evidence that will guarantee a conviction. What we’re seeing here is how they react when they’ve been part of a killer going free, however much that wasn’t their fault.
I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that Brennan is devastated by knowing that doing the right thing – getting the jury to do their job and follow the evidence – resulted in Kidman’s wife not getting the justice she deserved.
And Booth? He’s angry: for her, for what it says about the system, for all of it. And thus goes straight to what he knows: they’ll fix it.
They do, and then the episode shifts a bit to showing us their awareness that it takes both of them. Brennan has found forensic evidence, but is concerned:
“I’m not sure this would be enough if I were on the jury.”
“This is where I come into play.”
(We’ve seen Brennan fist bump before, but that’s okay. It’s freaking adorable watching her try to do so here, and hey, she’s had a rough few days.)
And so she effectively passes the baton to him, and he runs with it, though even in the interrogation room, as he gets Kidman to admit his guilt, he’s making her role clear:
“Oh, it will hold up. You should see her in front of the jury, not on it.”
Later, in the tag, we see their awareness of the yin/yang nature of their relationship again, that knowledge that part of the reason they’re successful is that they’re opposites in many ways, bringing different strengths to their partnership.
Meanwhile, Angela is seeking justice of a different kind. I said a while back that she’s been my least favorite of the six main characters, but this season is changing that – not lifting her above anyone else, but making me love and respect her as much as I do the others.
She may drive me crazy at times, but she’s a damn good person to have standing by you in a pinch, whether you need someone to help make the wedding you’ve given up on a reality, you’re growing a bug in your neck, or your identity has been stolen.
This ep, where we see her determination to catch the person hurting Cam, is exactly why I love this show. (I have to say it: Team moments FTW!) None of them is ever alone, the best, most truest definition of family.
One thing that strikes me as particularly beautiful here is that, as awful as it is for Cam to realize that it was a friend who stole her identity from her, it’s a friend who’s fighting to reclaim it for her. I love that.
The third character story going on here is Daisy’s. Can I say how much more I’m enjoying her stories now that they don’t seem to solely revolve around where she and Sweets are having sex?
She’s always come across as confident, and I’ve never known for sure whether it was legitimate, or whether it was an act, with her trying to emulate what she thought was true of Brennan. Here, though, it’s clear that it’s the latter. She’s aware, and, I think, afraid of finding herself in the position of lead forensic anthropologist. She wants to do a good job, wants to appear confident and assure of herself…and desperately needs the encouragement that both Cam and Brennan give her.
I think this is one of my favorite Brennan-as-a-teacher moments, ever, as she responds to a mistake Daisy made:
“I would have made the same assumption.”
“It’s natural. Trust me. I’m taking ownership of my position.”
“I understand, Ms. Wick, that while I was away, you were the senior forensic anthropologist, but I’m back now.”
“It’s not natural?”
“No, it’s not.”
I love that Brennan doesn’t come down hard on her, doesn’t rip into her. She acknowledges that she would have thought the same thing, and waits for Daisy to catch up with her. We know all of the squinterns would do anything for her, and this is why: she can be rough on them, but she’s fair.
Also? I love that they brought back the judge from The Man on Death Row, and I love that he didn’t acknowledge having encountered Brennan before. It struck me as an Easter Egg sort of thing for fans. (Plus? He’s obviously not forgiven her yet, for getting him out of bed in the middle of the night. LOL.)
“Excuse me, Juror 3. Are you the judge now?”
“Am I wrong?”
“No, but putting you in a cheap hotel would be very satisfying for me.”
“Can you blink once for guilty?” (Hodgins)
“Beaten, shot, and possibly drowned. This is very interesting.” (Brennan)
“You’ve clearly been bored.” (Cam)
“Barnes and Kidman had some kind of falling out. Or maybe he couldn’t live with himself. Or maybe he was having a fling with Kidman’s sister!” (Angela)
“Is it possible you’re watching this trial more as a sexy soap opera than the administration of justice? Of course not. What was I thinking?” (Hodgins)
“I’m still working on tracking that person down. I mean, she is still out there, spending money.” (Angela)
“Yeah. No guy buys that many shoes.” (Angela)
“There’s nothing like digging my hands in decomposing flesh to get my mind off my troubles.” (Cam)
“I’m missing all my shows.” (Unnamed juror, probably a fan of romantic dramedy proedurals)
“I can so rock this job.” (Daisy.)
“You’re very quiet.” (Booth)
“Because I’m not talking.” (Brennan)
“That must be it.” (Booth)