Oh, Hodgins. Ouch.
Before I get to that, though, I want to give a shout-out to the cases. I don’t often reference them here, not because I don’t view them as important, but because the true beauty of the show for me is in the character arcs. But the cases are the framework without which those characters and their stories wouldn’t exist. Whatever we know about the kind of man Hodgins is, it’s in the context of his being the bug and slime guy; the story would be different, his story would be different, if he taught high school chemistry. (Still, wouldn’t he be a great high school science teacher?)
Because I’m mostly science-illiterate, I often learn things from the cases; because I’m a geek, this delights me. The writers have said in interviews that the worlds they explore (here, the meninist movement) are real, even if shown in an over the top fashion for entertainment purposes.
This one, though, isn’t as out there as you might think: more than once, I’ve gone down rabbit holes on the Web that led to blogs and comments by feminists calling for the oppression of men (turnabout being fair play, or something), arguments that men are unnecessary, etc.
Given that, what I liked about this episode was its balance. Equality is the goal, but for that to happen, we have to acknowledge when things are unfair to men, even within the context of yes, it’s still a man’s world, to quote Fuentes.
The cases also frequently reflect the characters’ stories. We see it here as they grapple with the relationship between inequality and bias: Fuentes’ assumption that men can’t be victims of domestic violence and that the killer is more likely to be male plays out against the backdrop of men who are being abused and Brennan behaving violently – even while noting that yes, anthropologically speaking, men commit more acts of violence than do women.
There are a lot of layers there in terms of why she decks Paul Walker, ranging from a reasoned desire to protect Booth (who, despite his muttering of ‘really want to punch this guy’ has shown great restraint to this point, but now Walker is going after Brennan, and no way that ends well) to her own simple desire to shut down an insulting misogynist. As she says later to Booth, it’s an “action which I regret, despite the enjoyment I felt in the moment.”
Meanwhile, the case also leads to the question of what it means to be a man with this conversation between Fuentes and Hodgins:
“I’m not surprised a jackass like this was attacked.”
“I agree. He had it coming. Because a man who treats a woman like dirt? He’s not a man at all.”
“Really? What do you call a man who not-so-subtly passes judgment on a paraplegic?”
“For being so honest, I’d call him a friend.”
It’s a valid observation because whatever is going on with Hodgins, however out of character we know it to be, there’s not much difference between how Paul Walker treats his wife in the interrogation room, and how Hodgins is treating Angela.
Despite what he says at the end, it’s not just anger. He’s being driven by a fear that if he’s not ‘king of the lab’ he’s not anything. He didn’t realize the degree to which being mobile contributed to his self-worth, but having lost it, his identity is now even more tied up with being the answer guy in the lab, and that’s translating to his having to be the only one who finds answers: he dismisses Angela’s rubberizing the paper, and he’s condescending towards Cam’s experiment (“If you can pull yourself away from the human sausage, I’ve got some actual information to share.”)
Yeouch! But as painful as it is to watch, I’m enjoying this arc for the same reasons I loved last year’s gambling arc, or Wendell’s cancer story, or losing Sweets, for three different reasons:
First, these types of stories reveal new depths to the characters. I’m trying not to overthink what they’re doing here, beyond knowing that we’re watching a man reinventing himself – figuring out who he is, where his worth lies, and what he values – in the context of a wheelchair. I don’t know if they’re going to heal him, but I do know this arc will end with him at peace, having discovered all the rich meaning his life still has. And that’s going to be so fabulous to watch. Not easy, no, but wonderful.
Second, when one of the characters is fighting a battle of some kind, that’s when we see clearest what all of them are made of, and the ties that bind them together:
Booth: I’ve loved his and Hodgins’ relationship since at least the diner scene in S2’s The Man in the Mansion, but there were quite a few years there where it didn’t get much attention from the writers. Despite my endless whining, I understood why: They’re not a natural combination to be in scenes together, and haven’t always appeared to have much in common. Still, the last couple of years, the show has found ways to highlight the friendship that exists between them, making me a positively stupid happy fangirl.
In the opening, I liked that they meet at the Royal Diner often enough for Hodgins to call it ‘our place’ – and for that to matter to him, even when he’s being such an ass, but I also liked Booth’s solution (granted, not without some self-interest) that they’d watch the game together, just the two of them. Booth is still coming across to me as the one with the best handle on what Hodgins is dealing with and the best way to approach him, and I’m assuming it’s because he’s seen this before. We’ll see if that continues. I’m still thinking a lot of his army buddy, Hank, the judge from S1’s The Soldier on the Grave, by the way.
Cam: What struck me here is how very tolerant she’s being of his rudeness and disrespect. We know that she’s capable of shutting him down, but she’s choosing not to. It did occur to me during my re-watch to wonder if she’s actually the best-suited to getting through to him: after all, when it’s clear that the work at the lab is his priority, his boss actually does have influence his wife doesn’t have. And yet, because she’s his friend, she’s letting him run with the anger – for the moment.
(The fact that fate took a hand and chose this particular moment for her to get a whole lot of payback on him for his past experiments which have gone awry at her expense…well, that’s just a bonus. (And funny as hell.))
It’s not wrong for her to be cutting him slack, because anger is a legitimate response on his part. The risk, though, is that if he doesn’t find a way through it, if he continues to feed it, that’s what will destroy his life, not the loss of his legs.
How his moving past the rage will happen, I don’t know. But I hope it involves Brennan. I’ve loved their friendship since Aliens in the Spaceship, and if anyone has a handle on how emotions can complicate life, it’s her, and that makes me wonder if she may turn out to be essential to Hodgins’ adjustment.
We tend to think emotions are straightforward, that it’s easy to articulate, for example, the difference between rage and despair, or between healthy anger and the bitterness that can destroy us. Brennan knows that’s not true, which is why I found this exchange so interesting:
“I have plenty of feeling. Anger. Rage. Biting sarcasm – though I’m not sure if that last one is a feeling or just a really pissy attitude.”
“It’s an attitude.”
“Thanks for clarifying that.”
There are different ways out of an emotional pit; we’ll see if she is one of those ways.
The third thing this kind of story gives us a new opportunity to appreciate the acting skills of the cast. It’s no secret that TJ Thyne is a gifted and versatile actor, but even when we think we know what he’s capable of, be it the comic genius of experiments in the lab, the love and hopelessness of his ‘I’m stupid in love with Angela’ in Aliens in the Spaceship, or his confusion at finding out the parents he loved had hidden a brother from him, I think this arc is going to showcase his talents in a whole new way.
For me, the most powerful scene in the episode, if not all season, was in the beginning when we see him come out to where the platform is. Directed by Ian Toynton (who is their producing director for a reason), it gives us a Hodgins’-eye view of the world, first as a crowd of people he views at waist level flow around him, and then as he focuses on the ease with which people go up stairs or walk together, including up to the platform where he belongs. It’s heartbreaking to see him realize he’s gone to the steps out of habit, and why not? That’s his been his path for over ten years. But now? To get up there, he has to take the slower route.
It’s brilliantly acted and directed, and not only excites me for what else we’re going to see as a result of this arc, it makes me proud of the show.
TJ isn’t the only one we’re going to get to see stretch his wings as an actor: Michaela Conlin is getting a chance to shine, too. Angela is the character I’m often most perplexed by, but here, she’s doing a fabulous job of trying to be supportive even when she’s most often the target of Hodgins’ rage.
Finally, because this is Bones, even in the midst of darkness there are lighter moments, compliments of Booth’s superstitious nature and love for the Flyers. I’ll just say that I don’t tend towards superstition, but still have some sympathy for him with his fears of a jinx – and it’s not even because I lived in Chicago for twenty years. So often have teams on winning streaks lost when I watched a game that I’ve had friends offer to pay me not to do so.
It gave us some great moments, though, from the chaos theory conversation, to Brennan’s efforts to reverse the jinx she doesn’t believe in with food that all begins with ‘F.’ Still, what I really want to know is…did it work? Did the Flyers win?
Asking for a friend.
“It’s sort of old-school Star Wars, but it’s the best way to cut through plastic.”
“Well, then, may the Force remain in your proximity.” (Angela, Brennan)
“You need to nip this one in the bud, okay? Trust me, as a lifelong Cubs fan, jinxes are real.” (Aubrey)
“How is the car autopsy going? Or would it be an auto-topsy?” (Cam)
“I did some digging around in the manosphere.”
“The online community of blogs and Web sites that focus on men’s issues.”
“Remind me why we love the Internet?” (Angela, Cam)
“One of the big reasons we’ve been growing so quickly is because of the wonderful online videos that Emil and Karen have been putting together. We just love going viral.”
“So do infectious diseases.” (Paul Walker, Brennan)
“It makes about as much sense as someone believing in jinxes.”
“Okay, what about the butterfly effect?
“You’re referring to chaos theory?”
“That’s right. I read all about it. A butterfly flaps its wings in South America, and it rains in Central Park.”
“Booth, I’ve told you this before, skimming Wikipedia does not bolster your arguments.”(Brennan, Booth)
“For example, I think that men are entitled to equal custody in divorce settlements.”
“Perhaps, but does it really justify the existence of a men’s rights group? Everyone knows it’s a man’s world.”
“Well, I think it should be an equal one.” (Brennan, Fuentes)
“You want me to take my pants off?”
“That’s what you want me to do? Okay, that’s sexist. Now you’re looking at me like I’m some kind of piece of meat.”
“I would never look at you like that. I’m a vegetarian.” (Booth, Brennan)