When I started this blog, I made a conscious decision not to discuss spoilers, mostly because I don’t think people who don’t like them should have to tippy-toe around the Web trying to avoid having the show ruined for them.
But there’s so much, um, strong emotion floating around about those spoilers – you know the ones – that I decided I wanted to organize my own thoughts about them, and that this was the place to do it.
(So, if you avoid spoilers…now would be the time to go for an ice cream. Or a beer. Or an expensive coffee.)
(What are you still doing here?)
So…about those gambling relapse spoilers, specifically Brennan and Christine being in danger from Booth’s bookie while he’s out of the country:
Despite the opinions of a few people who aren’t interested in reality, I don’t automatically love everything the show does. There have been stories that I actively disliked (I just don’t keep complaining about them, as I’m not a card-carrying member of the beat-a-dead-horse club) and for a very long time, Booth gambling was at the top of the list of ones I did NOT want to see, for two reasons.
First, the more time that passed, the harder it was to imagine what could make him stumble, when nothing we’ve seen him face before has: brain tumor, Brennan rejecting him, returning to the army, Hannah’s rejection, Brennan taking Christine and leaving for three months, being forced to reject Brennan…it seemed to me that any one of those things could have been a tipping point, and none were. His kills tally hitting fifty sent him into therapy with Gordon Gordon, but even with that, there was never a suggestion he was about to fall off the gambling wagon.
But as stressful as those scenarios were, none of them involved being betrayed by the government, destruction of his home, three months in prison, and the death of someone he loved. Huh. Okay, show, I can buy that combination as a reason.
The second reason is trickier: I did not want Booth to no longer be Booth; I did not want to see him not be the good man we love, did not want to see him lose his ‘hero’ status. But I’m coming around on that, too.
Part of the problem is how we define a ‘good man.’ Booth has always struggled with how a man who’s killed nearly sixty people can be good; Brennan and those of us in the audience who love him understand that the very fact that those kills take a toll on him, that he pays a price for them, is part of why he’s a good man despite them.
I’m not interested in perfect characters – we can’t relate to them, and they wind up without much personality. Flawed heroes, though, we can identify with, and because of that, their wins mean more to us.
The question is how flawed a hero can be before he or she is no longer considered heroic.
Temper, impulsivity, depression…heroes can be any or all of those things, and still be considered a hero.
But addiction gets dicey, perhaps because too many of us have personal experience with the damage done by addicts to those who love them. I do – my father was an alcoholic; another close family member (it’s complicated) has compulsively gambled his entire life.
I know that addicts are capable of love, of being decent human beings, even of beating the addiction, as my father died a sober man. But it’s been very hard for me to reconcile the idea of heroic-Booth with gambler-Booth.
Maybe revising that view of both addiction and heroes is part of the point.
The Patriot in Purgatory was the very first episode of Bones to dethrone The Woman in Limbo as my all-time favorite episode, and I’ve been thinking a lot about Tim, the victim in that episode, as a I muddle my way through thoughts about Booth relapsing. There was no question that Tim hurt those who loved him, but his homelessness, his inability to remain in relationships with his wife and son…those things were only part of who he was. He was also a man who never stopped trying to get justice for the army buddies he knew to be heroes, and in the end, he died because he ran into a wrecked building to save three people.
If Tim was a hero, despite his PTSD, why can’t I see Booth the same way? Perhaps especially since they told us that he would experience PTSD as a result of his imprisonment? Why wouldn’t the man who faced so much else without relapsing into gambling finally do so in the face of that enormous betrayal by the government, those months of fearing for his life in jail, the loss of a man who was a brother to him?
Thinking of all of that, I’m suddenly very interested in this story. Although I don’t have a clue how they’re going to tell it (and would probably guess wrong if I speculated), I’m imagining scenes of Booth realizing Brennan and Christine in danger due to him, when he’s half a world away, or, alternatively, of Booth not knowing they were in danger until he gets home (which is worse, I wonder?), of Brennan and Aubrey (a combination I enjoy), of Booth’s response to the bookie…and that moment when Booth and Brennan come together.
Anger, sorrow, grief, guilt, shame, relief…underpinned and complicated by their love.
Yeah, I want to see that. Part of the appeal is that while I love seeing them happy, it’s just as important to me to see them struggle, because that’s real. Love is hard, marriage is harder, and I want to see them win over those challenges. It makes the victories sweeter, and when the show ends, I’ll be able to imagine them going on for those thirty or forty of fifty years, surviving and thriving through whatever life dumps on them.
In some ways, it’s a bit of cheat (though one that relieves me) that we already know they will win, that the relapse won’t be permanent. Bones is a dramedy, and never goes too dark for too long, so I’m confident that he’ll go on to be the good man, the strong man, the loving man we’ve always known.
And Brennan? I’ve seen people upset on her behalf (understandably so) who don’t see how she’ll ever trust him again. But in my review of The Putter in the Rough, I said this:
The degree to which we trust someone after they’ve hurt us is often influenced by the full picture of what we know about them, by our relationship as a whole. In 2013, when Booth broke the engagement, some fans were predicting that she’d never recover from that, that her ability to trust is so fragile (due to Max) that she’d never bounce back from it. But that didn’t take into account that her history with Booth is completely different from that with Max, that her knowledge of him is different.
There, my point was that no, she’ll never completely trust Max because her entire life, to one degree or another, has been shaped by his choices, whereas she’s had ten years of Booth being …Booth. A decent, honorable man who loves her, who would die for her in a split second, but also a man who has always been a gambler.
When someone lets us down, we always view that failure in the context of everything we know about them, and that history is what allows us to decide whether it was an aberration or a pattern, whether we can trust them again or not. I believe Brennan will do that, and that it will be a factor in what happens next.
Booth forgiving himself may be a different story, and I’m looking forward to seeing that, too.
Finally, about Stephan Nathan’s comment that the gambling ‘poses a big threat’ to Booth’s marriage?
Scary sounding stuff. But I think it’s important to remember that the purpose of promotion (spoilers, interviews) isn’t to tell us what’s going to happen – it’s to make us curious enough (or worried enough!) that we watch what happens.
It’s an important distinction. If Nathan had said, ‘Booth falls off the gambling wagon, but it’s no big deal and there are no consequences from it, he and Brennan are as happy as ever” – he’d probably lose his job, because there’s nothing compelling there. There’s no story there.
Maybe I’d have a different perspective on this if I hadn’t spent the last four years neck-deep in the spoiler section at Bonesology, but because I have, I remember previous interviews and comments that had us freaked out, like when Emily Deschanel said, about the season seven finale, “it changes things forever, and not in a good way,” or when Stephen Nathan said that what happened at the end of season eight (Booth taking back his acceptance of her proposal) would be ‘a big setback for Brennan and a big setback for the relationship‘
It’s not that it wasn’t, particularly in the season nine premiere. But it wasn’t as bad as people worried it would be throughout the hiatus, either.
A couple of days ago, writer Emily Silver said on Twitter: “I cannot stress enough how amazing each episode in the rest of season 10 is. Laughter, tears, & anticipation await you.”
It’s a given that not everyone will like the gambling arc or how it’s handled (let’s face it – Bones fans seldom agree on much, really); maybe I won’t, after I’ve seen it. But part of why I love it in the first place the combination of humor and drama and the way it makes me feel. So yeah, I’m excited. Bring on the rest of the season!