Because there are so many things I like about Bones, rare is the episode that doesn’t work for me on some level. But when I enjoy most of them as much as I do, that makes it hard to find the words when a really special one comes along.
Like this one.
I don’t know how they did it. I really don’t. This should have been two hours long, given how much they packed into it (a case, spotlight on all of the characters at one point or another; revisiting the past, a subplot involving Brennan’s experiences at Christine’s school, a check-in with Booth on the gambling front, and a big turning point for Cam and Arastoo) and they did it all in about forty-three minutes, without feeling rushed. That’s incredible.
One of the things that I kept coming back to while watching it was what a great introduction to the show it would make for any latecomers who’ve wondered about it, but been intimated by eleven seasons. It finally dawned on me that that’s the point, really: we’re supposed to see the characters as viewers of the documentary would.
We’re familiar with them, but they – and their relationships – are being presented to us in a fresh way, as if we don’t know them at all, and that’s sort of fascinating.
Booth and Brennan:
In the introduction, Duffy, the documentary host, explains that it’s about the partnership between the Jeffersonian and the FBI, which has resulted in the conviction of over two hundred and fifty murderers. But while it’s true that it’s about the whole team, Booth and Brennan are the main focus, with no distinction between their personal and professional relationship:
“Now I assumed they was cops, but by the way they was arguing, I figured they must be married.” – Gary
(Am I the only one who at this point thought of the guy from the beginning of The Glowing Bones in the Old Stone House – the cop who responded to their bickering by asking how long they’d been going out?)
The bickering has its foundation in what’s highlighted all the way through this episode: they are very different people, and ten years of working together, being together, loving and raising a family together hasn’t changed that. They’re still opposites, with competing ways of interpreting the world.
They don’t even agree on whether what Gary witnessed was an argument or a debate – but whatever it is, it apparently results in Booth occasionally sleeping on the couch.
I like that, like that while the show is giving us their love, it’s not a fairy tale version of marriage. That authenticity makes it easier to believe in. Also? The fact that they’re willing to acknowledge those differences, rather than pretending they don’t exist, is why they’re so solid as a couple.
But as different as they are, they also have some important things in common, including love for their kids and a deep desire for justice. Oh, and they’re both as stubborn as hell.
The last one is what’s behind the name discussion, I think. If Brennan truly hated his nickname for her, she’d have made that clear years ago – not only to Booth, but also to Parker, the only other person on the planet she allows to get away with it.
But admitting that she likes it, has liked it for years, particularly in front of documentary cameras…well, that’s a different matter. But never mind. He not only knows how she feels about it, he knows why she’s stubbornly insisting she doesn’t like it.
Not every scene is about them as a couple. The episode weaves together moments which tell us who they are as individuals with ones that show them interacting as a couple (or as part of the larger team.)
I’ve watched the episode multiple times now, and keep coming back to… if this were the first episode of Bones I’d ever watched, what would I take away from it about these characters?
For Brennan, in her assumption that she’s smarter than Ms. Susan, I’d see both her intelligence and her confidence; in her flat rejection of the idea that they might never find the cause of death I’d see both determination and persistence. It would also be clear that she takes enormous pride in her profession and values learning enough to believe that there’s no such thing as age-inappropriate knowledge.
By the end, though, I’d know that no matter how brainy she is, or how great is her pride in being the world’s foremost forensic anthropologist, she loves her daughter more; I’d have also learned through Arastoo that that supremely smart, confident woman feels maternal towards her interns.
That whole scene, of Arastoo being the one to tell the story of Vincent’s loss, is a particular favorite for me in an episode of favorite moments.
In terms of Booth, I’d see his love for hockey, and that he’s the kind of man to play goalie with his six-year-old daughter. I’d also learn that’s he proud of his service to his country, that he cares deeply about other people and that he’s a recovering gambling addict with a desire to use even that to help others.
I’d also come to understand that he not only trusts his instincts where people are concerned, but that he’s right to do so.
In the context of revealing who they are as individuals, the episode kept returning to who they are together, and for me, the big takeaway there was how well they know each other: Booth knows that the reason she’s reacting to Christine’s rejection of forensic anthropology is because she’s interpreting it as a rejection of her; Brennan knows, and fears, that his identification with the victim’s father as a man enslaved to a gambling addiction is blinding him to the possibility that the guy is a murderer.
The fact that he’s right about Roy’s innocence doesn’t mean that she’s wrong about the risks of Booth identifying with a suspect. Part of what they do is provide checks and balances for each other. Objective science still has to be interpreted; Booth’s gut isn’t admissible as evidence in court. They need each other.
That’s never truer than when they talk about Sweets, and I love when he takes her hand in acknowledgement of how much they still miss their friend, and how costly their jobs can be at times.
The comment about Sweets probably being the reason they’re together is interesting to me. I would have said he was part of it, but not to the degree Booth seems to see (and which Brennan did not disagree with.) Maybe I’ll do a post later this summer on the turning points in their relationship. (As I see them, because I can about guarantee other fans will see them differently.)
Angela and Hodgins:
Did you notice that Hodgins never references his wheelchair? I find that fascinating. He enjoys the camera’s attention, delights in crowing about his skills (king of the swab!) and showing off the mass spectrometer, but he never mentions his disability, possibly the clearest indication yet that he’s moved on in terms of how he views it.
Angela mentions it, though, telling the story as a voiceover while we see them having supper together as a family with Michael Vincent. We can hear the remembered fear in her voice, and I think that’s actually a much more effective way of explaining to the audience what had happened to him than if we’d seen Hodgins reflecting on the turn his life has taken.
But what really struck me about their story were their responses to the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ question:
“I want to be somebody who sees the beauty in the world and is able to share it with those around her.” (Angela)
“I want to be someone who never stops looking.” (Hodgins)
As different as they are, they’re both about seeing the world around them: Angela wants to see and share its beauty; Hodgins wants to notice everything around him and then make sense of it. I like that common ground for them.
Cam and Arastoo:
About one thing in particular, the show’s been very consistent: Cam is a private person who does not share her life easily, even with her close friends. Repeatedly we’ve seen her holding back, or trying to prevent the others from knowing something, and that makes her intense desire to keep the documentary focused on her professional life completely in character.
Arastoo goes along with it out of love for her, leading to that amazing proposal, where, confronted again with his love for her, she completely caves to her feelings for him.
I’ve seen the same thing Cam has while they’ve been apart, and that’s intensified my rooting for him. Specifically, his response to their post-breakup life has been simply to love her. He respected her relationship with Sebastian, and didn’t push for more; here, his distress at the end is focused on guarding her privacy, and the reaction from her is simply lovely: she can’t do other than blurt out her love for him.
It took me a long time to get on board with the two of them as a couple, but somewhere about the time of The Murder in the Middle East, they hooked me, and the story this year has only intensified that. Go, Arastoo!
Aubrey’s not as spotlighted as the others, which is appropriate, given that within the world of the documentary, he’s not been a part of the team as long. Still, when the camera pans around behind him in his office, we see doughnuts, a game controller, a book on forensics, and a picture of him with his mom. That, with what we see of his relationship with Booth, paints a picture of a loyal, intelligent, young-at-heart man who’s earned the trust of his colleagues.
Similarly, since the documentary is looking at the team that’s closed so many cases over a ten year period, it’s appropriate that they take the time to reference those they’ve lost (Sweets, Zack, Vincent.) The overall effect is of individuals who are all part of a larger family. They don’t always agree, but together, they’re unbeatable.
“The only time a gut should be capable of opening a murder investigation is when it contains poison.” (Brennan)
“She’s used to it, okay? At home, you have pictures of dead bodies just lying around all over the place.”
“I’m trying to prepare her.”
“For what, therapy?” (Brennan, Booth)
“I just feel bad for the victim. I feel like he never found his place in the world.”
“Well perhaps he never found it because he was never really looking.” (Booth, Brennan)
“Given everything you’ve already accomplished in your life, what is it you’d like to be when you grow up, Dr. Brennan?”
“That’s easy. I’d like to be the mother of the world’s greatest car salesperson.” (Duffy, Brennan)