It’s hard to keep a story going for a long time. Long running series, whether TV or books, often eventually get stuck between the rock of people feeling like there’s nothing new for them to learn about the characters, and the hard place of the characters having been changed so much in a bid to avoid that, that they no longer recognize them as the story people they first fell in love with. Either way, they get bored and wander off.
Bones has been navigating that challenge for several years now, and every year, the bar gets set higher for how to keep things interesting. (This is no less true for several other shows I can think of.)
The key, as far as I can tell, is to begin with very complex characters and then let them gradually grow. This allows you to never run out of new layers to peel back, new things to reveal.
Bones is succeeding there, in spades.
My initial, honest-to-God response to The Brother in the Basement was this, via a text I sent to pal Natesmama immediately after we’d seen it:
I loved it. Also, I’m more in love with Booth than ever and how is that possible this far along? I mean, dude. When he cauterizes his wound, I was like, ‘whoa.’
Seriously. A full ten seasons in, beginning the eleventh year of the show, and I was blown away by Booth at several points in this.
It’s not that I didn’t know from day one that Booth was a hero despite his flaws (and we saw those on full display last season) but while we’ve seen him against the wall before, willing to do whatever it takes to survive (The Recluse in the Recliner, anyone?), this left me a bit breathless. It’s still the Booth we know and love, but …rawr.
I’m a sick woman. Because there’s just something about a guy so determined to survive that he cauterizes a gunshot the only way he can that makes me hot. (Seriously. What is wrong with me? Don’t answer that.)
The second thought I had while watching that scene? He may be surrounded by scientific geniuses, but he’s no slacker himself. (Would you know what to dump on yourself to seal a wound? Me, neither.)
The other scene that caused me, impossibly, to fall a little more in love with Seeley Booth was his insistence on being the one to torch Jared’s body. He’s spent nearly his entire life trying to protect Jared, and in the end, he not only couldn’t save him, but his own life is in serious jeopardy for his having tried. And yet, when he faces what will become his brother’s funeral pyre, there’s not only grief there, but, oddly, an intimacy. (“There’s a bond between brothers,” as Arastoo said last week.) If the last thing Booth can do for Jared is to be the one to commit his remains to fire, then he will be the one to do it, damn it, and no one else.
The episode is more than just Booth, though. It’s no secret how much I love Brennan, nor how awed I am by the growth we’ve seen in her, and that, too, continues here. This Brennan is a little different from season nine’s Brennan, but in a believable way.
In S9’s The Spark in the Park, she says, “If I lost Christine, and you, within a year of each other? The only way I would survive is to do my work. I’m not even positive that would be successful.”
And then later that season, in The Repo Man in the Septic Tank, there’s this: “You and I, we’re bound to one another. So much so that I don’t feel I could survive without you.”
At the start of this episode, she still doesn’t know the answer to that. She tells Cam and the others, “I can’t imagine a world where Booth doesn’t come home.”
But toward the end, she’s accepted that he might not, and is trying to plan for the unthinkable, for a life without him, one where she’ll need a job to keep her occupied…and her friends.
That shatters my heart into a billion pieces. (Never mind that it’s a muscle.)
That wasn’t the only place where I got something ‘in my eye’ – both of them – due to Brennan.
One cold winter morning when I was fourteen, my father came to tell me my mother had died, and I see the scene where Brennan talks to Christine through the lens of that memory. It’s not the same, but that awareness of how truly awful it is for a parent to have to find the words to tell a child their other parent isn’t coming home is there, and will always be a gut-punch for me.
Brennan handled the conversation beautifully, but I particularly liked Arastoo’s presence. Whatever is going on in terms of his work and future, he’s still family, someone she’s not afraid to lean on as she struggles for those words for Christine.
Fortunately, there’s another side to Brennan as well, and we see that when she does what she needs to do to get Booth’s location out of Metzger. My money was always on her, but watching it…yowser. (The Federal prosecutor she blackmailed in The Conspiracy in the Corpse could have warned this guy not to screw with her…) Booth will do whatever it takes, and so will she. And that’s part of why they belong together, why they fit so perfectly.
As to that reunion scene… It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve seen them come together after they’ve been apart. It never gets old, and that’s because each time, the show earns it. The characters earn it.
They need each other, they belong together, and the world settles back on its correct axis when they’re reunited. (And yeah, Brennan would tell me that she and Booth being together have nothing to do with how the earth is positioned. She’d be wrong, though.)
And finally, there’s the discussion in the hospital:
“I want you to know that I’m going back to my old job at the Jeffersonian. I think you should go back to yours as well.”
“Time out. We can’t do that. We both decided that we were going to stop doing this together. We quit our jobs. We’re done.”
“If you’re done, Booth, why am I sitting with you in a hospital room? You’ve always done this. Risked your life for the sake of others. The army, the FBI…”
“I can change.”
“I don’t want you to. Booth, you are the most bravest, selfless man I have ever met. As much as I hate seeing you here in pain and suffering, I also know this is who you genuinely are.”
It wrenches my heart when he says, ‘I can change,’ because it’s as if he thinks he’s failed her, that the man he is, the one he doesn’t know how not to be, isn’t good enough. Her reassurance soothes not just Booth, but us, as well, because she knows him better than anyone, and loves that brave, selfless man as he is.
I will say that I don’t think this is a new discovery on her part. She says to him at the airport in The Beginning in the End, “Don’t be you. don’t be a hero.” She’s always known this truth about him; I think here it’s just that she’s figured out what it means in context of their life together, and maybe, even, that he needs to be that person.
And Booth? As Avalon said a very long time ago, “he knows the truth of you, and is dazzled by it.” They get one another completely, and yet, here, at the beginning of season eleven, we’re still seeing them discover new things about one another. That’s incredible, to use the word of the week
The best ship in the history of ships, people.
But Booth and Brennan aren’t the whole show, and there were other moments here that I loved, too:
Hodgins acknowledges Cam’s grief over Jared:
“I’m sorry about Jared. I know when you and Booth used to date, he was a big part of your life.”
“Yeah. He was like a kid brother. The one that always got into trouble, but he was family.”
I like this bit for three reasons. First, when the show remembers its own history (and it does, much more often than not), it makes it easier for me to hook into the story as a whole; second, I love what it says about Hodgins and Cam’s friendship; and third, in some ways, I think Cam represents the long time fans of the show at this point.
No matter how frustrating Jared could be, I never forgot that when the chips were truly down, he sacrificed his career for Booth. He was unquestionably a mess despite that, but Booth loved him, and because of that, he was sort of our mess, too. So Cam’s grief, no doubt tangled with relief that Jared was the Booth brother who died, is ours, and the scene acknowledges that.
Cam and Arastoo:
However difficult their relationship was for me initially, Cam and Arastoo have been a couple for three years now, and we’ve seen them work through some pretty major stuff together. Because of that, I find that somewhere along the line, I bought into it.
Neither one of them is wrong here. He’s not ready to lead a lab like the Jeffersonian, and they both know it. But she couldn’t go forever without someone, and when Brennan wouldn’t sign off on any of the candidates, I don’t think Cam was wrong to say, ‘well, what about the guy who’s here now?’
What struck me, though, is how much I admire Arastoo throughout all of it. It’s hard to know you’ve done your best, and that it’s not good enough. It takes maturity and grace to recognize that the answer is to move on and take another job, one where not being Temperance Brennan isn’t held against you; more so when that decision means leaving behind the woman you love. But there’s no bitterness – not toward Brennan, who he’s unfailingly supportive of, nor toward Cam. And he’s wise enough to know that it wouldn’t be good for them for Cam to come with him. Yet.
Yes, yet. Because, as noted, they’ve grown on me as a couple, and so I’m going to hold out hope that they do get back together; that Arastoo finds a job that allows him to grow into his potential, but also somehow winds up back in DC. In the meantime, I’m interested to see how this changes both of them.
I had even more thoughts about the episode, about Booth’s grief, about Cam and Brennan’s relationship, about Angela and Hodgins, about Aubrey, even about Agent Miller. But this is already well past the point of ridiculous, word-count wise, so I’ll let those comments go. (For now. Mwahahaha…) I will say, though…what a strong, amazing start to the eleventh season these first two eps have been. There’s no resting on any laurels here, nor simply coasting. Well done, guys, and thanks.
“Agent Aubrey, this is not the time or place for a snack.”
“I’m not hungry – well, that’s a lie. But I always say if you really want to understand a man, look at his fridge. We’ve got some wine, some cheese…no beer, no cold cuts. Looks like a traitor’s fridge if I ever saw one.” (Brennan and Aubrey.)
“You’re sure it’s Chloe?”
“Are you still doubting the Jeffersonian, even after your lab somehow missed the severed finger next to a box of meat pockets?”
“Okay, Caroline, just relax. Agent Miller is just now realizing that every assumption she’s made has been wrong.” (Miller, Caroline, Aubrey)
“What I can’t believe is that a vulture would have gnawed on these bodies after they were doused in sulfuric acid.”
“Trust me. A vulture’s stomach acid is around a one on the ph scale. To them, battery acid is like a nice salsa.” (Arastoo and Hodgins)
“I’m okay. It’s just a scratch.” (Booth, with his entry in ‘The Year’s Biggest Understatement’ Contest.)
“Now this doesn’t mean you’re allowed to be reckless. Do you understand?”
“You do not have permission to die on me.”
“You really are incredible.”
“You already said that.”
“Well, I lost a lot of blood, here, Bones. At least half.”
“Not half. Two-fifths at most.” (Brennan and Booth)
(Blog housekeeping note: I’m going out of town tomorrow, and will be traveling for the next two weeks. I do plan to see the eps (because, hello, Bones) and will be working on reviews, but I don’t know enough about my schedule to guess when they’ll be posted.)