What an amazing, powerful, and gut-wrenching hour of TV. It’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll start here: it’s incredible to me that this show, starting its tenth season, can shake things up in such a way that it was trending everywhere last night, and that there were no tepid responses to it.
Although the episode is seriously jam-packed with great stuff, not starting with Sweets feels like I’m ignoring the elephant in the room. The difficulty is that although I was very much afraid that they were going to do exactly what they did in killing him, I’m still having trouble wrapping my brain around it. Or maybe more accurately, wrapping my heart around it.
I don’t know if it happens this way for others, and it doesn’t happen with every show I watch, but sometimes, characters become so real to me that emotionally, I respond to them as if they’re real. It’s not that I’m delusional, or don’t get that they don’t really exist, but emotionally, the connection is there. And I’ve known for a long time that’s true with this show, these characters.
I don’t always like what they do, and sometimes their choices are inexplicable to me, but they’re my people. Not mine to control, but mine to love, to care about, to respond to.
And Sweets? I’ve had a complicated relationship with our shrink, and yet, however bad of a psychologist he sometimes is (great profiler, frequently a lousy therapist), his heart is always in the right place. He feels deeply for others, especially Booth and Brennan, and wants to help. He always wants to help, and I can’t not respond to that, any more than I can the fact that their relationship began with them responding to his need for them.
They loved him, and so my heart is broken not just because I’ll miss him, but because they will.
(Did you notice that I referred to him in the present tense up there? I caught it after I wrote it, and decided to leave it, because it illustrates my point. No, he’s not real, was never real, and yet, emotionally, yeah, I’m there. I woke up this morning and had to remind myself that he’s dead.)
In terms of how they set up his death, I’m good with it across the board. I’m often sensitive (read: irritated) if writers bring a baby into a story just to punch up the drama of the father dying, but this didn’t feel that way to me. Maybe it’s because Sweets and Daisy were a couple on the show for so long, and maybe it’s because, with Carla pregnant in real life, she was probably going to be pregnant on the show, anyway, but rather than feeling like something they did to make his death worse, the pregnancy feels more like something that was already there, but which heightens the consequences. As in, you know, real life.
And unlike a story which might use something like that in a manipulative fashion and then forget it, we’re going to see those consequences play out. We’re going to see the team supporting Daisy, going to see what that means for all of them.
But getting back to this story, although there was some foreshadowing, it didn’t feel heavy-handed to me. The things they said which, on the re-watch had me going, ‘oh….’ didn’t seem odd to me at all when I first saw it, despite my forebodings about Sweets. They felt like normal Sweets scenes, only later taking on a new poignancy.
First, there’s the scene between Booth, Sweets, and Daisy. It’s significant, I think, that as angry and driven as Booth is, this is the first place where we see the man who lives behind the rage, the Booth who always goes soft at the thought of a new baby in the world. His whole demeanor changes, and I love his ‘seriously?’ response to Sweets noting that he’d not said anything because he didn’t figure his life was that important. Booth’s about family, always, no matter what else is going on, and it was wonderful to see that dynamic – Sweets’ uncertainty and pleasure at Booth’s reaction; Booth’s response to the godfather comment.
Second, there’s the scene between Brennan and Sweets at the diner. I’ve always loved their relationship (more than that of Booth and Sweets, honestly) and watching it grow has been a pleasure for me. The fact that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen her go to him for advice means that scene works perfectly, and would do so even without the death that follows. She trusts his opinion on what’s going on with Booth, and I think the timing of how messed up Booth is already is where Sweets’ loss will be felt the most, at least in the short-term.
And the death scene itself? It mirrored Vincent’s, and was the more heartbreaking for doing so, for recalling that loss in the midst of this one. But it also reversed it, as it’s Brennan who says, ‘he’s gone,’ while Booth struggles with denial. But we also see Brennan pace away, and all I could think of while watching was, ‘she’s having trouble compartmentalizing this, is literally walking away from the pain.’
As for Sweets? He thinks first of Daisy, and last of the two people who are in front of him, and I believe that’s a pretty good balance. He knows without asking that they’ll take care of Daisy and his son, because he and Booth have already had that conversation, back in the first scene between them:
“Thanks, by the way…she told me you were there for her, you helped out with the move, you were there for Christine.”
“It’s nothing you wouldn’t have done for me.”
And his last line, which damn it, makes me cry, reveals that he knows the struggle in front of them, particularly for Booth, and is doing one last thing to help them:
“You two…the world’s a lot better than you think it is.”
But however pivotal Sweets’ death is, and it is, there’s more going on here than just setting that up. In fact, thinking about it later, it really doesn’t feel to me like the episode is about Sweets dying. It’s about Booth, who starts the episode screwed up by the FBI’s betrayal, and ends it even more screwed up by his best friend’s murder.
There’s a lot to unpack between those two points.
The first is that from start to finish, David Boreanaz owns this episode. It makes me crazy that Hollywood will never acknowledge that, but that doesn’t make it less true. There are different levels of emotion here, from the moment he realizes what Brennan did to free him, to his efforts to acclimate to the new house, to his struggles to focus on anything other than the case, and Boreanaz nails them all.
Booth’s screwed up, and I think the exchange that best highlights that is this one, with Sweets:
“You sound like you want vengeance.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Usually you talk about justice.”
“Always ends up the same way, huh? You make someone pay.”
Booth has always been about that line between justice and vengeance. He suffered losses at the hands of both Broadsky and Pelant without ever losing that line. But here? It no longer exists, and that’s terrifying. (And that was before they killed Sweets. Woe be unto the conspirators.)
Only…Brennan. Sweets says to her that Booth no longer has an anchor, and I thought, ‘not true. He has her, and she will be his anchor.’
I love their relationship all the way through this. They argue about her methods in getting him released, but she pulls out the trump card: “If it were me in there you would have done the same thing. You know that that’s true.” He’s got no response to that, because she’s right.
In other words, while the episode is about Booth floundering in rage, it’s also about Brennan being there to pull him to shore. We see it as she blackmails a judge to secure his release, as she introduces him to the new house that she took such care to make his as well as hers, as she makes love to him, and we see it at the end, as they clutch hands for a moment before the autopsy begins.
Things are very dark right now, but they’ll come through it. Because the woman who has the guts to coolly say to a Federal prosecutor, “I’m new to blackmailing, but I think I’ve covered it all.” won’t let him be anything other than okay.
(I have to note, though, that when she says that, I smile, remembering that no, she once blackmailed an FBI Special Agent, just as successfully. But it has been a while.)
It’s not even only Booth that we see her standing strong for. The point at which I completely lost it in my first viewing was when she puts her arm around Daisy and walks off toward the autopsy with her. Whereas Cam would shield Daisy from it, Brennan understands the young woman’s need to be involved, because she’d need the same thing. I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of that dynamic.
And moments later, it’s Brennan that Cam looks to when she says, “I don’t know if I can do this to him,” and it’s Brennan who has the words to make it possible for all of them.
While Brennan’s leadership is particularly noteworthy, Hodgins comes through in a different way, and I actually cheered when he revealed that no, the bad guys hadn’t taken the evidence. When you’re butt deep in a conspiracy, trust your resident conspiracy theorist, because he’s going to come through: “There’s a conspiracy here. Whatever’s crucial to us we must consider is crucial to them.”
That’s important, because the story’s just beginning. Although they’re making progress, the conspiracy is still alive and taking huge bites out of them, and there are still as many questions as answers, including figuring out Aubrey.
I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on him as we go along, but for now? I liked him, more than I expected to. He’s snarky, which is always a plus with me, but more than that, I kept wondering why he was so solidly on Booth’s side when no one else in the bureau was. (And yeah, I know some people are speculating that he killed Sweets, but I’m going with no on that, because even dying, Sweets would have said something if the guy who killed him was standing there, a threat to them.)
But beyond that, here he is, a man Stark assigned to spy on Booth, and when both Stark and Sweets are saying that all of the other agents – including those Booth has worked with for years – think he’s a cop killer, Aubrey’s repeatedly shown as believing in him. Why is that? Inquiring minds are curious.
So, even as we brace for more heartbreak next week, there’s so much yet to look forward to. Stephen Nathan has said the conspiracy is mostly dismantled by the end of the second episode, but we’ll be dealing the consequences of this for the foreseeable future.
I can’t wait. I love these people and I want to watch them come together, both for Daisy and for one another, want to see Booth, with Brennan beside him, find his footing again, want to watch all of them find their balance between the sad and silly, because my life has always been made up of both, and that tension is what gives the show its authenticity for me.
Carry on, guys. See you next Thursday.
“No, you ordered me not to. There’s a distinct difference.” (Booth and Brennan)
“Lance and I bumped into each other a few times this past year and one of those bumps turned into a bump.” (Daisy)
“It’s nice talking conspiracy without being called a loon.” (Hodgins)
“It’s a brilliant way to get away with murder.”
“Except that I don’t intend for them to get away with it.” (Clark and Brennan)
“I fought back. You’d be proud.” (Sweets)