Early last week, someone pointed me to a condescending remark a reviewer had made about Bones.
That attitude isn’t new, and my response was about the same as always: to wonder why the reviewer thought insulting fans of a long-running show was the way to build an audience for her site. To be clear, not liking something I like isn’t a problem. I don’t like lots of shows other people think are the bees’ knees, and fair is fair. But being condescending about it always suggests that there’s something wrong with the people who love it, and that’s me, so…
I’ve long thought that what drives that attitude toward the show is a mix of derision over its romantic focus, and confusion over the ‘dramedy’ tone. It’s not a drama, it’s not a comedy, and too many people don’t really know what to do with something that doesn’t slot neatly into a category. It never seems to occur to any of them that being a hybrid of different genres might be a significant challenge, and worthy of respect even if you don’t like the results.
Anyway, I was thinking about all of that when on Wednesday, Michael Peterson tweeted this:
I noticed a few years ago that the show generally balances darker eps with lighter ones (i.e., The Suit on the Set aired right before The Past in the Present; The Drama in the Queen aired before The Recluse in the Recliner; similarly, they often have a lighter episode, or a run of them, after a darker story.) I didn’t really appreciate how important that balancing act is, though, until a casual viewer of the show said to me, “I don’t think I’ll keep watching Bones. It’s too sad now,” after The Lance to the Heart aired.
People watch Bones for many reasons: some like the cases, some are only interested in a single character, some want the humor, and some the drama. Right now, I’m thinking of two specific people I know in real life, one of whom prefers the darker, more dramatic episodes, while the other wants the lighter, funnier ones.
It’s easy to take that for granted, but stop and think about it for a minute: a show with that diverse of an audience is starting work on its twelfth season. They’ve managed to keep all those people, watching for all those different reasons, showing up for over a decade. That’s remarkable.
Plus? It’s not only tone where Bones walks a careful line. It also does so with serial/episodic storytelling. It’s considered an episodic show: the network, advertisers and casual viewers expect to be able to follow what’s going on even if they haven’t seen recent episodes, but at the same time, it’s often telling serial stories in arcs that continue from week to week. That’s damned tricky to do, and Bones does it well.
All of which leads to thoughts about The Jewel in the Crown.
It’s a fun episode, particularly if you like classic films (not only heist films get a shout-out, but also Ghost, Ghostbusters, and the Pink Panther films), but it also moved Hodgins’ story along, touched on Cam’s wedding plans, and gave us yet another view of Booth and Brennan’s relationship.
I’m a sucker for stories about pretty and/or historical objects, and even though this wasn’t a heist story, it had some of the fun of one, what with French nobility and a shiny dagger. What I particularly liked, though, was that it allowed us to see the team through the lens of another cop, because when Inspector Rousseau says this, he’s talking about all of them:
“Haven’t you ever had a case where someone powerful tried to stop you and you did exactly like I have? Went wherever you needed to, lied if you had to, in order to bring the killer to justice? Because if that’s not the case, you are not half the investigator I think you are, Agent Aubrey.”
Off the top of my head, I don’t think we’ve seen that from Aubrey yet (though his expression suggests he’s done exactly that in the past) but we definitely have from Booth and Brennan. I like that, like seeing how others view them.
Another thing the case allowed that we don’t often see is Hodgins working independently outside the lab. He meets with Rousseau, and when the other man convinces him that he has something to offer, he effectively reverses the decision Booth and Brennan have made not to work with the detective, encouraging him to send them the autopsy files on the French victim.
I like what that says about the team. Hodgins’ decision is based on confidence in Brennan, but at the heart of it, he’s certain that they’ll see the same thing he does in having an opportunity to examine the remains. (And how cool was that Anatomage table?)
Also, where the case was concerned…how did they manage to get this line, referring to the French Revolution, in an episode which just happened to air on Bastille Day?
“You see, the concept of nobility in France was deemed legally incompatible with the equality of its citizens in 1789.” (Inspector Rousseau)
Hodgins and Daisy:
Before I get to Hodgins’ paralysis and what this episode might mean for him, let me say how much I liked the references to Sweets. It matters to me that we see the characters remembering him in such a natural way. There’s nothing forced about it, just Daisy sharing things with friends who also loved him.
In particular, I was struck by her story of Lance appearing to her after he died. I commented last fall, when they first began discussing the crossover with Sleepy Hollow, that not only has the show never discounted the supernatural (although some of its characters do), but that more than once it’s explicitly told stories of a paranormal bent. (The Ghost in the Machine, The Psychic in the Soup.) Whatever Hodgins makes of her story, Daisy tells it matter-of-factly, and there’s no attempt to discredit it.
But what I really loved here – in fact, what was my favorite moment from the whole episode – was when she tells him her conclusion about the things that are moving around him. Because she knows him, she makes a point of including the hard scientific evidence she knows he’ll need.
I’ve said all along that, having gone where they’ve gone, I’d rather him remain paralyzed. While I generally want to see to my favorite characters ‘win’ their battles, there are different ways of winning, and not all of them involve getting exactly what we want. I think it can be important for TV to show that.
Even so, I got teary at Hodgins’ response to what Daisy tells him, and in that moment, decided I’m good with however they play this story. It’s not been a miraculous fix (and, indeed, they emphasize here that it’s not been – he switched therapists and is working hard) and later, I saw an interview with Michael Peterson where it sounds like they still may not go the route of him walking again. Given the unpredictable nature of spinal injuries, all of that’s believable to me.
Booth and Brennan:
In addition to everything else going on with this episode, it was also what some fans have termed ‘Booth-lite’: due to prepping to direct the finale, David Boreanaz had fewer scenes. Although I love Booth – he was the original draw to the show for me – I’m more of a ‘quality over quantity’ type of person, I guess, because these episodes never feel lacking to me in terms of his character.
After all, we have scenes between him and Brennan and between him and the suspects, and then we see the two of them together make the arrest. Meanwhile, there’s a plot for him which not only explains why he’s not in some scenes, but also gives us insight into him and their relationship before ending with a cute tag.
Although I thought his insistence that he’s ‘young’ a bit over the top (I know of no one in their mid-40s who still clings to that label, at least no one with any kind of self-awareness; claims from him that ‘your forties are the new thirties’ would have made more sense to me), his concerns about his eye sight as a marksman struck me as a valid. But the way they told the story, with the focus on his vanity and the issue being temporary, made sense given the need for this one to be lighter in tone.
Instead, what it showed us was how well these two know each other. That’s not news, certainly, but it’s something I enjoy seeing play out in different contexts. Here, it’s not only that Brennan knows him well enough to know that he’ll go to the eye doctor; she also knows he’ll try to hide it from her, and why. It’s also worth noting that part of why she knows that about him is that she’d do the same thing:
“Look, I will go and get my eyes checked, okay? But not a word of this to Bones, I really don’t need to hear her say, ‘I told you so.’ Only reason I’m doing this is so I can tell her, ‘I told you so.'” (Booth, to Aubrey)
As different as they are, at the core of things they’re in sync, which we see quite clearly when he says to Inspector Rosseau, “I’m gonna tell you what my wife told you. Your badge means nothing over here.”
That works for me because I view the two of them as co-leaders of the team. Granted, there’s a complicated dynamic there where Cam’s the boss at the lab, but it’s Brennan who shares the team leadership with Booth. She brings whatever the lab’s finding to the table while he brings whatever the FBI is discovering, and together, that arrangement works for everyone and they catch killers.
And in that bit of dialog we see just how in sync they are: he knows what she told Rousseau, presumably because she called and told him of the encounter, and he’s going to make certain that the other man knows they’re functioning as a unit. (Also, I love that he doesn’t bother with, ‘Dr. Brennan’ or ‘my partner.’ They’re a unit in every possible way, and he doesn’t bother pretending otherwise.)
Finally, there’s the tag scene, and how much fun was that? The show is still finding new ways to tell us about their love life, and that fascinates me. Booth knows he’s hot, but he’s self-conscious about what he views as unattractive eye wear. Only instead of viewing the glasses negatively, Brennan is turned on by them. And once he figures that out, he can’t put them back on fast enough.
Next week: tone shift for the finale! *gulp*
“Why are you talking in that ridiculous accent?”
“I’m doing Clouseau. From the Pink Panther movies. Peter Sellers. Or Steve Martin. Both comic geniuses in their own right.”
“Well, I’m not familiar with them, though I am quite sure panthers are never pink.” (Hodgins, Brennan)
“You know what the nuns in Catholic school say causes blindness?” (Aubrey to Booth)
“For a genius, you’re being dense.” (Daisy, to Hodgins)