I liked this episode a lot, even apart from the crossover aspect. It was sort of Bones Meets Indiana Jones in places, plus it had the witty dialog I love, humor in the pranking, and great character stuff. Even the case gave me something to think about.
But what I keep coming back to is Brennan.
I’ve written extensively in the past about how much I enjoy the growth we’ve been allowed to see in her; this week was about showing us how she’s still the same. That marches pretty well with real life: we can change in significant ways, while remaining true to the core of who we are.
In my comments yesterday, I noted that I thought the crossover worked because they were able to tell a story about Booth and Brennan remaining themselves as fighters of what I’ll call “natural” evil, even in a world where the supernatural exists.
The trick was how to pull that off without making these characters look naive for not seeing what’s in front of them. For me, the answer is that it’s been so well established that this is who Brennan is, that it was more of a ‘of course she won’t see the supernatural’ than anything.
While watching the scene where she and Ichabod discuss Washington’s letter, I kept thinking about season five’s Harbingers in the Fountain. All through that episode, we see Avalon knowing things that are never explained, with the team responding to that ambiguity in a variety of ways: Caroline remains skeptical until it no longer matters; Angela always believes; Booth seems to come to believe as well by the end.
But Brennan? Brennan never gives up wanting a rational explanation for how Avalon knows what she knows, even seeking her out in her home in search of the answer:
“I came here to see if you’d run away.”
“No, I’m here looking for clues. Something I might’ve missed.”
“What, in your cards? Because that is a waste of time.”
“You say that after I sent Agent Booth to save your life.”
“Well, you knew where the bodies were buried. You knew Dr. Leacock would attack me.”
“You are an abandoned child. The world scares you, so you wrap it up neatly in bonds of reason, education, and proof. All riddles are solvable to you except for one.”
“Yes, the riddle of how you knew where your sister was buried.”
Even as Avalon continues to reveal things, Brennan persists in wanting a rational answer about the source of that knowledge. She never gets one, but not doing so doesn’t change her view of the world at all. At the end of S10’s The Psychic in the Soup, when Angela and Avalon show up at the house, Angela explains their presence with, “It’s a long story, but most of it you’ll think is rubbish, so I’ll just skip to the happy ending.”
Bones has dabbled in the supernatural a few other times besides with Avalon, but always with a light touch: nothing has to change for the characters (or our view of the show) as a result. Whether we think Avalon is skilled at reading people and good at guessing, or whether we think, yeah, she knows stuff and must be the real deal, the show’s exactly the same. The supernatural is interesting for what it reveals about the characters without being a key part of the show as a whole.
Here’s the payoff for all of that: since we’ve seen Brennan reject things in the past for which she can’t posit a scientific explanation, it doesn’t lessen her in any way that it’s easier here for her to accept handwriting as an inherited trait rather than acknowledge the possibility that Ichabod knew George Washington.
Another thing that struck me while watching that scene was how intentional it is. The writers could have told the story without it. It could have just been a letter Ichabod was aware of, not one he wrote; Angela could have confirmed it was Washington’s signature without recognizing the writing. The fact that they didn’t go that way means that they wanted us to see Brennan reject any possibility of the supernatural. Not just miss subtle clues, but actively reject it.
That’s intriguing, because it seems more authentic to me in terms of the character than if they’d taken an easier way out. Brennan is a complicated, brilliant woman, with an established history of being remarkably close-minded where the supernatural is concerned. Unlike Sarah, the victim, whose near death experience of meeting her sister was ‘transformative,’ Brennan met her mother during hers… and attributed it to brain chemistry.
The truly important thing? It doesn’t matter. Brennan is still the lead forensic scientist at the country’s foremost forensic lab, and not only does she solve murders, Abbie and Ichabod turn to her for help later, and she comes through for them. She figures out the location of Washington’s tomb, and is instrumental in saving Sleepy Hollow, all the while being completely unaware of what the danger really is.
She’s a flawed hero, and is all the more compelling for being so.
There’s not as much story here for Booth, and I think that’s mostly because he probably would be more open to the supernatural, and since Bones needs to remain essentially the same, we don’t see him confronted with it the way Brennan was. But I like his scenes with Abbie, as much for what they reveal about him as her:
“Corbin was right about you – not one for following the rules.”
“You knew August Corbin?”
“Yeah. You know what, he mentioned you last time we spoke. He said that, um, you were a lot like me back in the day.”
“I cannot believe it. He thought that you and I were alike. That is high praise.”
“He said that you would have made a great agent.”
“Just don’t think that you have to save the world all in one day.”
Her comment about ‘this is high praise’ interests me the most because it sounds like she knew of Booth’s reputation prior to meeting him, and I wonder about that: how much she knows, what she knows.
Also? The same man who says ‘just don’t think that you have to save the world all in one day’ is the same man who just weeks ago was told by his wife, “You’ve always done this, risked your life for the sake of others…this is who you genuinely are.”
(Hello, pot. This is kettle….)
And speaking of pots and kettles, I liked the comparisons between the relationships, too, in part because I can see the potential between the Sleepy Hollow couple, and in part because it reminds me of those years when we were still waiting for Booth and Brennan to ‘get together.’ I don’t miss that at all – I’m still stupid happy that they’re together, married, raising a family – but I find I can be nostalgic for those seasons.
Finally, there’s the case. While I enjoy them – the clues, the red herrings, the cool tech – the cases aren’t usually what stay with me. But this one has, mostly because it touched in an authentic way on one of those life mysteries we all wonder about, while making no effort at all to answer it: Sarah had a near death experience that changed everything; her boyfriend didn’t, and it broke something in him. I love that ambiguity, love that the show simply put it out there.
I spent time yesterday and today trying to figure out whether there was some sort of parallel between that and Brennan’s rejection of a supernatural worldview, and still don’t know. It’s as if something about the whole thing tickles the back of my brain, but I can’t quite bring it into focus. The best I can come up with is that reality exists (I’m not a relativist)…but we don’t always see it; certainly don’t always see it the same way.
Deep thoughts for a television show.
“Murder is never humorous. Unlike my prank, which was objectively hilarious.”
“Okay, laugh it up there, squint girl.” (Brennan, Booth)
“Of course you have demon prescription lenses.”
“You don’t?” (Booth, Hodgins)
“What kind of parent gives their kid a weird name like Ichabod? It probably scarred him for life.”
“It’s a little unusual, but most names are. You got a problem with that?”
“Oh, right. I forgot. Nothing weird about the name Seeley.” (Aubrey, Booth)
“She made you think that you were eating human brains, so the only appropriate prank back would be to make her think that she’s eating something worse.”
“I’m thinking…I hate soy cheese.”
“She already eats that stuff.”
“Oh. Well then she’s in her own personal hell. There’s nothing I can do.” (Aubrey, Booth)
“So Howe’s skull giveth life and taketh it away.”
“Oh, come on. You don’t actually believe the skull has supernatural power.”
“Please. I’m a conspiracy theorist, not a supernatural nut.” (Hodgins, Wendell)
“So I just got back from the bar where Sarah drank that expensive champagne.”
“Oh, wait a second. You went to the bar without telling me?”
“Was I supposed to wait on you to fill out a permission slip?” (Abbie, Booth)
“I know he’s annoying, but what would you like for me to do, deport him?” (Booth, to Brennan, about Crane)