Perspective fascinates me. How and why the brain interprets what it experiences in such a way that two people can look at the same thing and yet see something completely different was one of the reasons I wound up with a degree in psychology.
Fandom provides plenty of opportunity for musing on it. Case in point: Pal Sarah wrote this great post over at Bones Theory, and while I agree 110% with her on most of it (including that we don’t know everything that’s going on behind the scenes), I don’t see the same thing she’s seeing in the show at the moment. And since I know neither of us are alone in our views, I thought I’d comment on it.
(But first, go read her post. It’s good! I’ll wait.)
Right. So here’s where we differ: the show doesn’t feel any different to me in respect to the number of Booth and Brennan scenes we’re getting.
Of course, even the meaning of the phrase ‘a Booth and Brennan scene’ is subjective: are we talking any scene with the two of them? Scenes where they’re working together (in the field, in the interrogation room, in the SUV?) or more intimate scenes at home? Does it only count if they’re alone? (Which precludes interrogation scenes, although I’ve seen people unhappy when she’s not there with him?)
I’m also aware that my own bias is relevant here – while Booth and Brennan are the primary draw for me, I enjoy both the other characters and the cases, so I’m less unhappy when neither of them are in a scene than many others are.
Admittedly, all that subjectivity makes it sticky, so I’m going to just go with what I see, fully acknowledging it’s not the same for everyone.
First, the show has always fluctuated in terms of focus and screen time for all the characters and relationships. I think nostalgia for the early seasons (which I love as much as the next person) often blinds us to the fact that, no, not every episode had them together constantly.
For example, there’s not a single point in season two’s The Man in the Mansion where it’s only the two of them for the entire scene. They are together in a number of scenes with the rest of the team, and they’re alone for part of the scene in the cafe at the courthouse and at the very end, but no field scenes, no SUV scenes, etc.
Regardless of the why (Brennan’s with Sully at that point, as well as the episode being Hodgins-heavy) the demands of the story they were telling took precedence over Booth and Brennan scenes, as it always has, and does still now. So an episode or two with fewer scenes of the two of them alone, while I understand why some fans don’t like it…they’re not new.
Second, the show has changed in terms of overall team dynamics. There has always been six full-time cast members, but for the first three seasons, five of them were in the lab. That meant more lab scenes, with or without Booth. Then Zack left and Sweets arrived, and some of the scenes shifted to the FBI. That’s a structural change (and one that’s still in play, now that the FBI scenes are Booth and Aubrey instead of Booth and Sweets.)
Third, the dynamic between Booth and Brennan has changed. It is true that we’re seeing a different story now in terms of their relationship – a married couple working together instead of a couple who are chasing one another. I respect that some people miss the earlier dynamic — I count as friends a couple of people who are honest enough to admit that the show lost much of its appeal for them when B&B got together, to the point that they’re no longer watching, or only sporadically. I appreciate that – and their honesty about it.
We don’t all enjoy the same things, and don’t all watch for the same reasons.
For me? I loved the chase, and I love the pay-off, of watching them be a couple, just as much. I think the fact that the show still has stories to tell about how these two very different people navigate marriage and parenthood is brilliant. Are there as many stories to tell about their relationship as there once were? Maybe not. I don’t know. But bearing in mind that I look back at the early seasons and don’t see every episode as being solely about their relationship, I don’t see a need for every episode now to be solely about them, either.
To me, the show is telling a story – a wonderfully long, complicated story! – about a scientist and a cop who, while falling in and then being in love, lead a team of people in solving murders. Every episode contributes something to that story, and in that sense, the focus of each one remains Booth and Brennan. The Man in the Mansion, where Brennan was with Sully and they had precious few scenes together? Still about Booth and Brennan to me, even if only a small moment in their overall story.
Because of that, they don’t have to be together for me to feel like the story is still about the two of them. In The Lost Love in the Foreign Land, when Booth reacts to Sung’s ‘she was my heart’? No one will ever convince me that he wasn’t thinking of Brennan there. (And in that sense, I think the fact that he was alone, that she wasn’t in the interrogation room with him, made the scene more powerful.)
Every episode tells me something about them, either as individuals, how they function as part of a larger family, as parents, or as a couple. (And I’m really sort of glad that every episode isn’t the same in terms of what it highlights.)
Fourth, I’m all about quality over quantity, I guess. When I say that, I’m not for a moment suggesting that others aren’t, but rather that I’ve never been able to get on-board with discussions of screen time. David Boreanaz regularly has less screen time in episodes prior to those he’s directing, but the scenes he’s in tend to count more: they’re the character moments, the Booth and Brennan moments, the ones that mean the most to me, so I’m fine with it.
Similarly, Brennan was in two interrogation scenes in The Lost Love in the Foreign Land: the one with Sandra Zins, and then the one with Tammy. If I were focused solely on the amount of screen time when she and Booth are together, that would be good, I guess.
But Brennan does very little in the Zins scene. She has five lines, and all are something anyone else could have said. There’s no interaction between her and Booth, and only a minimal amount between her and the suspect. In contrast, the scene with Tammy has her as an active participant, noticing the strap on the bag, testing it, etc.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not sorry she’s in the scene with Zins because her being so is part of what it means for them to be partners, i.e., she’s not only there when they’re making an arrest. But given a choice between several scenes like that one, or one scene like the one at the end, I’m always going to choose the latter over the former.
Finally, about that partnership…I’m also seeing comments about Aubrey now being Booth’s partner instead of Brennan, and that’s not what I’m taking away from the show, either. Booth’s training Aubrey, and that makes it a different dynamic than that of Booth and Sweets, but the amount of on-screen time feels about the same to me. Sweets would do interrogations, either by himself or with Booth; Sweets would be in the field with Booth on occasion, as is Aubrey; Booth and Sweets would talk in the FBI or the diner, with or without Brennan.
It’s possible that having spent so much time listening to people rage every time Sweets was on-screen (if he’s doing an interrogation by himself, he’s replacing Booth; if he’s in the field with Booth, he’s replacing Brennan, etc.) that I’m more aware of how similar the Aubrey structure is, despite the different dynamic between the characters. Because if it’s substantially different, I’m honestly not seeing it.
At the end of The Purging of the Pundit, Brennan forces Booth to take Aubrey into the interrogation room when they’re going to make the arrest because she knows he needs to be able to trust someone in the FBI. To me, that wasn’t about replacing her but rather a continuation of the false-arrest story line.
She makes it clear later at home that she’s not giving up her role as his partner, and that’s supported by her being in the final interrogation/arrest scene in every episode except Purging, as well as the interrogation with Zins, where she was present despite not having much unique to contribute. Granted, field work has been spotty, but the last two episodes were unusual in structure, and she was in the field with him in The Geek in the Guck.
Our perspective on things is influenced by both our personalities and our life experiences, and where a TV show is concerned, no one is wrong – we see what we see. But for the record, what I see is a new season of the show I love, about two people in love, working together with their team to solve murders.