To the best of my recollection, there have been seven serial killers on Bones: Epps, The Gravedigger, Gormogon, Broadsky, Pelant, The Ghost Killer, and now, for lack of a better term, the Puppeteer. Some day, I’m going to have to do an analysis of how they differed and what they accomplished in terms of story and character, because many of the plots and moments I’ve loved the most grew out of those arcs.
No time for that today, but while they were all horrible in different ways, this new one is way up there on the creep-o-meter. For me, there’s something about the idea of this guy living with the dead victims while he poses them as marionettes that tops even Gormogon snacking on his victims.
Some of the creepiness was due to the tone. Although it was intended as an homage of sorts to the X-Files episode, Home, it remained Bones, with lighter moments, and still,I can’t think of another episode that’s steered as close to the horror genre in terms of music, camera angles and overall mood. Season two’s The Headless Witch in the Woods, perhaps.
It’s not all about music and rain, though. Suspense can be built in different ways, and for me, the gradual reveals that this guy is after a good mom, that he viewed Allison as a failure on Gibbons’ part, that he was watching them when they were at the house, all followed by that final image of the hooded figure focusing in on Brennan? I’m officially spooked.
No, it’s not the first time she’s been targeted, but with Pelant, part of the point was that we, like the team, didn’t know what was driving him. For a very long time, we didn’t know Brennan was his goal. Here? Right from the beginning, we know this killer is fixating on her, and why: She’s not only a strong woman, she’s a good mom.
Speaking of that scene with Christine going into the closet? I knew she was going to be okay. I knew it, because no way this show lets something bad happen to one of the kids. It’s just not going to happen. And even being sure of that, I freaked when she didn’t answer their calls. Well done, show.
(Nitpick: One scene that wasn’t at all suspenseful was Booth and Brennan in the house. Due to promotional stills, I knew exactly what was going to happen. I don’t pretend to understand marketing, and I know that I bear some responsibility for not being spoiled, but seriously, it looked like a lot of thought went into making that scene just as unnerving as the one with Christine going into the closet, and it just wasn’t, at least for me.)
Because it’s Bones, it was the character interactions I truly loved in this, as always, and there was plenty to delight in:
Cam/Angela: Their relationship works much better for me when they’re friends facing problems together rather than when Cam being the boss is the problem – not because that shouldn’t be a source of story tension, but because the show struggles with how to show the friendship exists in spite of her authority. So the simple moments of shared support over Hodgins and Cam’s love life make me happy.
Brennan/Arastoo: I saw two things in that scene where she was suggesting tests they could run on Burkhart’s remains, and Arastoo kept saying he’d already done so:
The first was the context provided by what happened in The Loyalty in the Lie, when Arastoo failed so spectacularly in his mis-identification of Jared. On the one hand, I believe Brennan’s default will always be to assume that she’s thinking of things others aren’t, but on the other, when he says ‘been there, done that’ I think it’s possible that her rush to reassure him is because she’s remembering that time when he so disappointed her.
Second, when he says, ‘this isn’t on my conscience’ – it’s clear that it is beginning to settle onto hers, that fear that Allison lost her life because she and Booth weren’t on the job.
That question of responsibility then builds to my favorite scene in the episode, when they solve the puzzle of the holes in the bones.
It fascinates me that the show is still finding new ways to reveal things about the two of them as partners. Here, there’s a reversal of roles, which is pretty cool.
We see it first when they’re talking to Allison’s husband and Brennan’s the better interviewer. Unlike times when she’s understood the witness better than Booth (i.e., The Spark in the Park), here, it’s that she understands Booth enough to interpret for him, and I love what that says about them.
The reversal theme continues when he turns into a squint, figuring out the purpose of the holes in the bones. Imagination and life experience factor into puzzle solving, and while Brennan might have figured it out eventually, he sees it first.
Every episode is about the two of them working together to solve a murder, but because their fields of expertise are wildly different, we generally see them discussing the theories and findings they and their people are coming up with, rather than combining their talents to actually work the evidence together. The last time I remember it happening, in what’s still one of my all-time favorite scenes of the two of them, is when they figured out the location of the Hoover papers in The Lance to the Heart.
The scene also gives something else: a reminder of how they talk each other down from emotional ledges. When Brennan says she and the killer are similar, he sets her straight (“The killer is completely insane”) but also listens to her; when she posits that if they’d not quit their jobs, Allison Monroe would still be alive, he disagrees with her, but doesn’t belabor it, instead focusing on what’s important: the here and now.
I’m going to nitpick a little here, because while I agree with her overall point, that no one else can do what they do and there are consequences to others if they’re not doing it, I don’t entirely agree that Allison would still be alive if they’d not quit. Under those circumstances, all they would have had to go on was Burkhart’s partial remains. Nothing to lead them to Gibbons, nothing, even, to help them identify Burkhart, which neither Brennan or Arastoo were having much success with prior to finding the watch at Gibbon’s house.
And with only one set of remains, there wouldn’t have been anything to indicate they were dealing with a serial killer.
But whether or not they could have saved Allison Monroe, now they’re on the job, and both we and they know that will significantly reduce what the body count would have been.
Meanwhile, two other story arcs progressed in ways suitable to an episode otherwise focused on the introduction of a new big bad:
Cam and Arastoo: Fiction generally takes a black and white view of relationships: the couple is either together, or they’re not; they’re either fully committed, or they’re not. A climactic scene spelling that out is particularly necessary when the romance is the main story, but when it’s a secondary plot, as here, I think it can be told in a quieter way.
Their breakup wasn’t because they didn’t love each other – it was because they couldn’t figure out how to be together and have their careers. With Arastoo having resolved that by deciding he wants to be where she is, no matter what, why couldn’t their reunion be as simple as this?
The nature of her relationship with Sebastian is a factor, but I’ve not seen anything to indicate she’s fully committed to him. She responds to Daisy’s encouragement to open herself up more in The Cowboy in the Contest, but even so, at the end of The Doom in the Boom, she tells Arastoo she doesn’t know if it’s serious or not.
To her credit, she’s not rushed into a decision. Three months or so have passed since that conversation, and she’s still seeing Sebastian, even knowing how Arastoo feels. For his part, he’s demonstrated the depth of those feelings by not pushing her. I love that when she asks him to take her home, he doesn’t presume anything, simply tells her he’ll stay until Sebastian can come, thus making it clear her wants and needs come first.
The simplicity of her taking his hand as they walk out together felt like a quiet counterpoint to the more intense stories going on (the serial killer, Hodgins) and I like that a great deal.
Hodgins: His paralysis and the effect it’s having on both him and his marriage takes a bit of a back seat here, but we see enough to know that his behavior is taking a toll. Brennan and Cam both make it clear that there are limits to what he can get away with, and Angela is no longer trying to be positive in the face of his abuse.
Still, I was struck by his response to their ID of Allison. He comments on how happy she was, and when Angela notes that she’d vanished a week before her tenth wedding anniversary, Hodgins glances down. It’s the first time we’ve seen him react to another’s pain since being paralyzed.
Does it mean a breakthrough for him is imminent? Not necessarily, but it reassures me that the compassionate man we love is still in there somewhere.
The single thing that struck me repeatedly while watching this, though, was how great it is to have so many strong stories going on in the eleventh season of a show. Bones isn’t coasting in any fashion, and everyone associated with the show is bringing their A game. Good for them!
Better yet, good for us.
“Cray-cray? What’s that mean?”
“It’s slang for crazy.”
“What are you, thirteen?”
“No, I’m sorry. I’ve just been going through Dr. Sweets’ old files on the two of you, and in them he states that you” [she motions to Booth] “are easily annoyed by overly complex and officious sounding language. But I will make an addendum to that that says you are just easily annoyed in general.” (Booth, Aubrey, Karen)
“This is a perfect location for a serial murderer. The nearest neighbor is over a kilometer away, and give the loudest a person an scream is 126 decibels-”
“You know what Bones? There are some word problems that are not meant to be solved.” (Brennan, Booth)
“Cats – why did it have to be cats?” (Booth, channeling his inner Indiana Jones)