I’m a bit conflicted about this episode. It didn’t completely work for me on a couple of levels, but there’s a great deal here that I like, and some of it’s enormously important from a character perspective.
First, the nitpicks, just to get them out of the way:
The ticking-bomb plot:
As soon as the episode started, I knew how it would end: with them saving Rockwell with seconds to spare. This is just a personal preference sort of thing, but ‘defuse the ticking time bomb’ stories never really engage me, because I assume that of course they’ll be disarmed at the very last possible second.
To be fair to the show, though, the nephew I watch with – who’s seen every episode of Bones – actually thought they might fail, that they’d find the answer too late. The tension was real for him, so, just me, then, having that response. (Hey, I said it was a nitpick.)
The timing of the overall story:
I’m not talking about the mind-bending rearrangement of time and space where in the previous episode, Sweets has been dead six months, and in this one, it’s been over seven months since Rockwell was arrested – which was clearly after Sweets’ death. Oh, and Brennan is not noticeably more pregnant.
Though that sounds like a math story problem gone bad, I once spent a couple of hours trying to reconcile the time line between The Beginning in the End and The Bikini in the Soup, (hint: it can’t be done) and finally, for sanity’s sake, decided that Bones operates in a different universe than ours, on what I call BST: Bones Standard Time. In short, I take whatever they say in any episode that relates to time at face value and go with it.
But this feels a bit different, and I think it’s because, whatever is going on in the Bones universe, in this one, I had watched the events of The Baker in the Bits less than a month before, and that wasn’t enough time for me to relate completely to the time elements here – even apart from the idea that a capital murder trial/execution date could have happened so fast.
My initial reaction was that it might have worked better with more time between the two episodes, like, say, if Baker had aired last fall. But after thinking about it for a couple of days, I think I see the problem with that: as a standalone story, Baker is one where they failed. Not like in previous serial killer cases, where the team simply didn’t catch the villain right away, but one where they actually arrested the wrong guy. I can see why the show couldn’t wait too long to address that.
Tricky storytelling there, to show your characters making that kind of mistake, but doing it in such a way the audience doesn’t lose confidence in them. They did that very carefully, I think, by putting degrees of separation between the various bits of data Brennan needed to pull everything together, while emphasizing that she can’t see what isn’t there. Rather than discovering a single error that was made, we see her being given new information, and then pursuing it to find the truth.
And that gives us confirmation of what we already know: that they’re heroes not because they’re incapable of making errors, but because justice matters desperately to them, and they won’t give up. Still, in the conversation with Cam, what comes through is the toll the situation is taking on Brennan:
“Have you found anything yet?”
“No. I pride myself on my thoroughness, and not making mistakes, and yet I’ve made a mistake.”
“All the evidence pointed to Rockwell, including the knife they found in his car. This isn’t your fault.”
“Of course it is. It’s my work that put him on death row.”
Brennan knows that whatever the role the jury played, it was her evidence they were trusting, never mind that she didn’t have all the pieces at the same time. It reminded me a little of her reaction to finding out that her insistence that the jury follow the evidence in The Fury on the Jury had allowed the killer to go free. Other people make decisions, but she’s the one providing and interpreting the data for them.
Brennan’s not the only one feeling the burden of responsibility. When Rockwell says this to Booth, my heart aches: “The truth is, once I’m dead? After a couple of days I won’t even cross your mind.”
Because he’s wrong, and knowing he’d been responsible for an innocent man’s death is quite likely something Booth, like Brennan, would never have recovered from. Plus? I’m assuming that Booth is also viewing this through the lens of a man who spent three months in jail, awaiting trial for murders he didn’t commit. Yeah, that.
We see just how much it’s affecting him in the last scene:
“A society based on vengeance.”
“You don’t believe in the death penalty anymore?”
“No. Not after all this, no.”
The flat no is an important contrast to his words in season one’s The Man on Death Row:
“I have no problem with the death penalty.” (to Director Cullen)
“I think there are doubts, and when it comes to an execution, there shouldn’t be any doubts.” (to the judge)
(As an aside? I freaking love that this show gives us these moments, that we see them changing and growing.)
Another scene where that toll is clear is the one in their bed. They’re sleeping, but Brennan was apparently overtaken by exhaustion while reviewing case notes, and Booth is actually dreaming about it – either that, or is sleeping so lightly that his subconscious mind breaks through with an important piece of the puzzle.
I think this might actually be my favorite scene in the episode (and hey, that’s even with Booth wearing a t-shirt – did they not get the memo that David Boreanaz should be bare-chested whenever possible?)
Ahem. *Slaps shallow mind down.*
What struck me here is that their work partnership extends even to their marriage bed. There’s been a lot of discussion of what it means for them to be partners this year, and I know for a lot of people, they’re somehow not. I respect that, but as I’ve said before, for me, it’s the two of them, together, at the head of this team charged with catching killers. They work together to lead the team, tossing ideas back and forth, each keeping up with what the other one is doing.
They focus on their own areas of specialty, but they’re very much a unit when it comes to catching killers, and that’s never clearer than when they’re discussing a case in the middle of the night, in their bed. Once upon a time, they tried to establish a no-murder-talk rule for home, but that’s gone by the wayside. Murder is entwined in every area of their lives, and at one point, I would have said that was okay, that it was just who they are. But I’m thinking that what we’re seeing this season build to is…maybe not.
They’re not the only ones showing murder-fatigue. Hodgins and Angela are both revealing that they, too, bear some scars from the last year. It’s particularly telling, I think, that it’s not only Angela, who’ve we seen struggle before with a life focused on murder, but also Hodgins.
“I just started imagining what our lives would be like without all this death and shadow governments and serial killers. What a life would be like without my best friend’s house getting shot up. Where you could maybe teach at the Sorbonne, and I could paint stuff. Doesn’t that sound nice?” (Angela, when he finds her Paris research)
“If it were me, I’d vow not to put off any dreams until later, because later is not a guarantee… If you’d talked to me, I would have told you I thought you were dreaming a little too small. After ten years, I think we deserve to let life surprise us, don’t you?” (His later response to her, when he shows her his findings)
I’m tiptoeing here, because I don’t want to get too far into spoilers or speculation, but what we’re seeing is that all of them are damaged and tired, and that was before they nearly sent a man to his execution.
Writing on the wall, folks.
Finally, to end on a more cheerful note – how great was that scene between Aubrey and Christine? It’s a measure of the overall darkness of this one that the only humor was there, at the very beginning, but it was fun, and when I watched it the second time I was struck, again, by how happy I am to have another season getting to know these two. Whoo-hoo on season eleven!
“I’m starving. If I don’t eat soon, I’ll die.”
“What if I sneak you a snack?”
“Seriously? You carry snacks in your pocket?”
“Uh, yeah, in case of emergencies, like this one.” (Christine and Aubrey)
“I trust these two, your honor. If they say something’s hinky, then it’s hinky.”
“The last time I looked, hinky was not a legal strategy.” (Caroline and Judge Edwards)
“If it was Michelle on this table, I’d want the person who killed her to pay in kind. And so would you, if it was Michael Vincent.”
“I’d like to think that I’m better than that.”
“And I’d feel fine knowing justice was served.”
“And I’m grateful to finally be in a country where we can debate about this. But not right now.” (Cam, Hodgins, Fuentes)
“I’m not hungry.”
“Maybe you’re not, but that little person inside must be starving. It’s an eggless tofu omelet. Booth said it’s your favorite, which is upsetting, but eat, please.” (Brennan and Cam)
“Harbor no ill will.
Forgive those who might hurt and betray you.
Expect nothing, but give everything.
What others say is not who you are.
The love you hold inside is who you are.
Trust in the Lord for there is no other justice than in him.” (Rockwell’s final letter to his son)