(This post should probably come with a ‘Random Thoughts Ahead’ warning.)
In my review of the Bones S10 finale, I noted that I approached The Next in the Last as a season finale rather than a show finale, meaning that I didn’t watch it thinking, ‘what if this had been the last episode ever?’
But if it had been? Honest to everything, I don’t know what my response would have been. Not because I wouldn’t have liked it for the same reasons I liked it as a season finale, because I would have. But the truth is that emotions are messy and confusing and not always straightforward (just ask Brennan) …and I have a lot of emotions tangled up in this show.
That’s a good thing, because to me, story is, first and foremost, about what we feel. But I can’t tell you everything I’ll feel when I hear, ‘what’s that mean?’ for the final time, because I’m not there yet. And many of those things, I’ll suspect I’ll be feeling regardless of what actually happens in the finale.
But I also know that emotions don’t happen in a vacuum. What we think about things influences our emotional responses to them (that’s a psychological truth, btw) so I tend to think that my response to the finale will be in line with my responses to most of the episodes of the show.
And this is where it gets sticky: I think a lot of why I’m happy with it is because I expect to be. Ten years, people. Ten seasons, and there are hundreds and hundreds of moments I love to watch, from the pilot’s “I’d like to help you with that,” to “I have faith in you.”
Does that mean I like every single scene, every single episode? Of course not. But on the whole? I’ve loved the show enough that I assume when I sit down to watch that I’m going to enjoy doing so. And if I don’t? If I’m disappointed? I’ll wait and watch again the next week.
But – and this is important – those expectations are of a general, not specific, nature. A few weeks ago I wrote about what I expected to see in the gambling arc, and the show didn’t fail me on a single point. But notice the lack of detail: I didn’t list any specifics, because I was content to let the them surprise me with how it all worked out.
And honestly, that scene where Booth’s in the interrogation room with the daughter of the victim in The Woman in the Whirlpool, and has his epiphany? I could never in a million years have articulated wanting that scene. Ditto how I felt during the diner scene of The Life in the Light. But both are now favorite show moments.
That’s how I view the episodes: I don’t think in terms of ‘I require this to be happy,’ or ‘that makes the perfect episode.’ I just watch and then it either works for me, or it doesn’t. And mostly it does, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
So if you’d asked me a week ago what I wanted/expected to see in a show finale, what would I have said? This, I think, as a minimum: Booth and Brennan, obviously together and solid, with some indication of what would happen next in the lives of the characters and, hopefully, moments between at least some of them reflecting on what they mean to one another.
Would I have wanted Booth and Brennan to be ‘happy’? Not necessarily, because borrowing something Brennan might say, happy is vague, and I’m not sure what it even means. Completely happy with their lives, where nothing bad could ever happen? Happy to be together? Happy in a general way for that one moment in time?
I think they love being together as a couple, but I don’t think they’ve been cloud nine happy for years, if ever, apart from the wedding. I wouldn’t say that they’ve been unhappy, exactly, apart from obvious story arcs, but I think life has changed them and even their view of happiness is perhaps different from what it was once.
That said, I think they were a type of happy, and relieved, and full of love, when Brennan said ‘I think you should stay the night with me,’ at the end of Life; I think they were happy at the realization that they could walk away from corpses and danger and just, ‘have the baby, and live our lives.’
In other words, the people they were in this finale felt pretty much in line to me with who we’ve seen them be for several seasons now, and I wouldn’t have wanted them suddenly to be different, just because it was the end of the show.
So, yes, I think the season finale would have worked for me as a show finale, in an emergency, if the renewal had fallen through at the last moment. But it’s more complicated than that because I don’t think this is what we would have gotten if they’d known from the beginning of the season that it would be a show finale. It left some things unsettled, and I think it had to do so, to allow for S11.
I’ve got a theory: We watched this looking for something concrete in the plot that would be where they left the door open for S11, but I think perhaps it was more the tone of the episode that did that. Watching The Next in the Last, perhaps we’re not supposed to be completely satisfied.
Also? I think something else that factored into that is that this wasn’t the story a lot of people thought it should be: it wasn’t Booth and Brennan coming to the realization that it was time to do something different; rather, it was the consequences and implementation of that decision. The actual deciding happened off-screen and worked (well, for me, at least) because it was a logical consequence of what they’ve gone through.
But I wonder… Pretend with me for a moment that season ten was always going to the final season, and they knew it, right from the beginning: What if they’d had an episode between The Light in the Life and the finale, where we got to see Booth and Brennan realizing that they couldn’t just go back to the way they had been?
If we’d seen that story as the penultimate episode, followed by the finale where they’re solving their final case while sharing their decision, saying goodbye, and making certain the squinterns are ready to take over…would that have felt more satisfying to people who didn’t like the story as it actually unfolded, at least as a show finale?
Maybe. Possibly. Depending on the individual and what they didn’t like about the episode as a finale, of course. But – and here’s the ah-hah of the piece – if that scenario had played out, if this had worked as the perfect show finale for everyone, would S11 have felt less necessary as a result? On a story and/or emotional level?
I think it might have, for me. I would always have still wanted another season, because, well, Bones. And I think this worked as a in-the-case-of-emergency-break-glass finale, should the expected renewal have not happened. (Certainly better than a cliffhanger would have.)
But things don’t feel completely finished to me, and I think that’s a good thing, if not outright necessary, as we head into S11.