Bones is always first and foremost about the characters and relationships to me, but before I get into that, I have to give a shout-out to the writers about the case on this one. Not only did I not guess Durant was the killer/head of the conspiracy, I was actually shocked when it turned out to be him. Also? One of the things I never fail to appreciate, even if I don’t always say so, is how the clues fit together: everyone contributes something to the whole of putting the puzzle together, and that’s simply brilliant.
I commented last week that The Corpse in the Conspiracy began with Booth screwed up by betrayal and jail, and ended with him even more screwed up by his best friend’s murder, and that’s where this one begins: Booth’s rage, fed by grief and guilt.
It’s not that the Booth we know is completely absent. We see him when he says, ‘He was family,’ to Brennan, and again, when she leads Christine to him and we see that while they’re a parenting unit at that moment, it’s apparently Booth who’s going to find the words to explain death to their little girl.
But he’s still very messed up, particularly in his pursuit of vengeance rather than justice – something Sweets had noted in one of their last conversations. Booth has dedicated his life to the latter, to balancing the scales, and that’s lost now, eclipsed by a vengeance focused solely on making sure someone, anyone, pays.
That’s what we see in his single-minded focus on Sanderson. I’ve got some sympathy for him here, because I kept losing sight myself of the difference between catching Cooper’s killer and catching the head of the conspiracy who was orchestrating lots of murders, and Sanderson made sense as the latter. But as Brennan and Caroline kept noting, there was no evidence to back that up.
Something Sweets could have told Booth is that emotions are tricky things. Expressing them in a way that harms no one is healthy; allowing them to control you can be soul-destroying. Booth is 100% justified in his rage, but in choosing to live in it, to feed it, he’s spiraling further and further away from the life he wants, away from the man he is. And he doesn’t care. He wants it over, wants it finished, wants someone to pay.
But that person? That person who doesn’t care about guilt or innocence, who’s willing to take a life without any evidence the man’s guilty? That’s not Booth. Last Tuesday, Natesmama talked in her Essentials post on The Man in the SUV about Booth requiring evidence, needing to know for certain he was about to kill the right person. This is not that Booth, this is not the man Brennan loves.
When he says to her, ‘you don’t need to know this,’ everything about their lives is balanced on a thin knife-edge: tip one way, and he kills someone who could be – and later is revealed to be – innocent, tip the other and continue rebuilding their lives. Brennan sees this, and does the only thing she can do: slaps him in the face with the full consequences of his choice. This isn’t Brennan threatening to take his daughter from him for some minor reason: he’s actively planning to kill a man they have no evidence is guilty. He can’t expect her to stay and watch him destroy his life, nor expect her to expose Christine to it.
For that moment, everything hangs in the balance. But because at heart he is the good man she knows him to be, he allows her to pull him back, choosing the life they’ve built, choosing to be the man he really is rather than the one his rage was making him into. And he does so completely, as the next time we see him, he’s back in his suit, reclaiming his identity.
Remember ‘the center must hold’? This is the center holding because Brennan won’t let it do anything else. And it’s not just Booth where we see that:
She finds Daisy sitting with Sweets’ bones, and, for the second week in a row, it’s a scene between the two of them that has me reaching for tissues. Daisy’s ‘please don’t go’ breaks my heart into pieces, and Brennan’s compassion heals it. She understands perfectly what Daisy needs from her, pulling on her gloves so they can, together, listen to the stories the bones tell them, celebrating Sweets’ history and life in the way only they can.
Cam, too, is floundering, and while she has to know she’s not doing anything wrong in planning for the funeral, she still looks to Brennan to affirm that, even as she looked to her last week for the strength to autopsy a friend. I love their relationship so hard, I can’t even tell you.
The scene in Founding Fathers with Booth and Aubrey is important, case-wise, due to Brennan’s ability to see an adult in the face of a child, but it also matters because we get to see Aubrey starting to understand not only her genius, but how she and Booth work together. (And am I the only one who sees in Booth’s ‘she’s always sure when she speaks’ a callback to the fight, when she said to him, ‘I always know what I’m saying’? Another way, I think, in which he’s affirming his confidence in her, not just in respect to the science, but also that she was right in having cleaned his clock the way she did.)
Finally, there’s the scene where the two of them put the pieces together in the FBI conference room. Yeah, Aubrey’s there, but this scene is mostly about the two of them turning to what Sweets taught them in order to find answers. The whole sequence, of them trying to think like Sweets, followed by the leaps to religion, a holy place, the FBI, Hoover’s office, and finally to the Jeffersonian, is brilliantly written because it’s them, and it’s Sweets, and it’s a logical progression to the answer that will break the back of the conspiracy – all the while Aubrey learns more of them and how they do what they do.
But even beyond being about Booth’s hitting bottom and Brennan pulling him back up, this episode is about the influence people have on us. We see it when Booth says to Stark he’s only there because of Sweets; when Daisy reveals that Sweets had wanted to name the baby after Booth; when Booth and Brennan, working together, each call on what Sweets taught them in order to find the answers, and it’s there in the end, when Brennan says this:
“I do believe Sweets is still with us. Not in a religious sense, because the concept of God is merely a foolish attempt to explain the unexplainable. But in a real sense…he’s here. Sweets is a part of us. Our lives, who we all are, at this moment, have been shaped by our relationships with Sweets. But each of us is like a delicate equation, and Sweets was the variable without which we wouldn’t be who we are. I might not have married Booth, or had Christine. Daisy certainly wouldn’t be carrying his child. We all are who we are because we knew Sweets.”
In The Doctor in the Photo, Dr. Gadh, one of Lauren Eames’ co-workers, quoted T. S. Eliot: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust,” adding that we ‘don’t actually fear death: we fear that no one will notice our absence, that we will disappear without a trace.’
At the end, we want to know our lives have mattered, that the world is different, and hopefully better, because we were in it. And here, Brennan settles that, not only for Sweets, but for all of them, noting that “But I believe now that remembering Sweets, seeing what he left us, that love cannot be explained by science or religion. It’s beyond the mind, beyond reason. What I do know…loving Sweets, loving each other…that’s what makes life worthwhile.”
Rest in Peace, baby duck. You brought love, joy, and compassion into the lives of those who loved you, changing them forever.
“Good people…they leave marks on each other.” – Booth, The Science in the Physicist.
“Be nice to the Millennials. We’ll be controlling your Medicare soon.” – Aubrey
“Where did you get this car anyway, a British toddler?”
“Excuse me? This baby is a classic.”
“People think calling something a classic makes you forget that it’s junk.” (Aubrey and Hodgins)
“This might be the best day of my life.” (Hodgins, on finding the files)
“You know, you tried to poison everything I love about this country. But you’re just a pathetic little man who’s going to die in prison, and you can’t control that. And that’s a promise.” (Booth, to Durant)
“Right now, I don’t need to know more than that. Which is embarrassing coming from an extremely intelligent fact-based person.” (Brennan)