I didn’t know how to start this post. I considered swear words, but I’m trying to find other ways to express myself these days.
I liked Aldo a lot. Like… a whole lot. Like… I sort of had a crush on him. (And I wasn’t the only one: pal Frankie and I have been having friendly fights over who gets him since season nine.)
Thanks to spoilers I couldn’t seem to dodge, I found out last week that he was the victim, and since then, ran the gamut of typical grief responses, from denial (I spent the week pretending I didn’t know what I knew, which worked about as well as you’d expect) to even a bit of anger – not over his death, but in response to the reveal that his life had self-destructed.
I did not want to know that.
I did not want every future re-watch of his scenes in The Secrets in the Proposal, The Sense in the Sacrifice, and The Woman in White to be tainted with sadness.
But despite that, it was hard not to love this episode, and by the end of it, I’d sort of come to terms with Aldo’s fate.
Even while upset, I understood the decision. Sacrificing a character we know and care about makes a more compelling story than if they’d introduced someone new from Booth’s past to be the victim. The same reason this wrecked me is why it had weight: we’ve seen Booth turn to Aldo, and we’ve seen Aldo be there, not only for Booth but also Brennan. And he will always be a major part of the wedding.
(Aside: I still think you can make an argument for Aldo having had the most romantic line in the entire series so far, when he tells Brennan, “You, of course. It’s always going to come down to you.”)
Once the writers had decided to have Booth’s sniper past bite them in the hindquarters in a big way, Aldo was the most logical victim in terms of history, plot and impact. And still…damn it! Not Aldo! (Oops.)
Booth keeps losing guys who matter to him: Sweets, Jared, and now Aldo, and that hurts me for him. (Also: Aubrey should consider resigning and moving to Tahiti.)
But I was struck by how different Booth was with this than in response to those other deaths. With Sweets, he temporarily lost his mind, the pain so great he nearly killed an innocent man in his rage; with Jared, he came close to losing his own life in an effort to prevent the unpreventable.
But here? He’s pretty much the opposite of what we saw after Sweets was murdered. Calm, clinical, distant. Twice, Caroline nudges him to open up about what’s going on inside; twice he shuts her down. Not rudely, not rejecting her love and concern, but that’s just not where he is at the moment. In some ways, he’s like the Brennan we’ve seen for years, the one who simply shoves the feelings aside in order to get the job done.
I’m pretty sure this is Booth the sniper. There’s no room for emotion, just the job.
That’s not to say he doesn’t open up at all. He does with Brennan, more than once, and there’s never a sense to me that he’s emotionally disconnected from her. But that distance is there, subtly portrayed by their lack of proximity during both conversations at the house. I don’t read this as distance from her, by the way, so much as simply being what he needs right then to help him push the grief and guilt aside long enough to do what needs to be done.
And, being Brennan, I think she understands that perfectly, which is reason 1,447,447 why they’re perfect for each other, something never clearer than in this dialogue:
“Look, if you’re going to tell me to forgive myself, please don’t.”“Forgiveness would be ineffective.”“Okay, then what? What works?”“Revenge.”“That’s not me. I mean, there are rules.”“You will follow those rules. The act of bringing a murderer to justice is, anthropologically speaking, a form of revenge. You have suffered a loss. Making the killer suffer for that loss will help.”“Yeah, well, I hope so, Bones, because right now, I couldn’t feel much worse.”
She doesn’t offer him platitudes. While he’ll need to forgive himself at some point, or at least find a way to make peace with what happened, she knows he’ll get there by finding justice for Aldo. She words it as revenge because she understands that’s what he needs, even if the FBI agent is too much in control to acknowledge that. (And given what happened in The Lance to the Heart, she wouldn’t want it otherwise.) And because she knows him, she frames it as something he can do and still live with himself later: revenge via the law he serves.
Because she’s so matter of fact, it allows him to open up with her: “I couldn’t feel much worse.”
He’d told Caroline he’s not letting himself ‘off the hook for this one;’ we see that same kind of acceptance of blame at the VFW. Is it deserved? I don’t know. My gut is no. While it’s most marked in Ted McKinney, all of the guys seem to see only the good stuff in Booth’s life, and nothing of what he’s walked through en route to where he is now: false imprisonment, Sweets’ death, his gambling relapse, Jared’s death. In other words, he’s had a lot to cope with – and still, he doesn’t correct Caroline’s assumption that he tried to reach out to Aldo.
He can not be other than he is, and, deserved or not, I love his taking responsibility for what’s happened, as well as his determination to find justice for Aldo. When he rips the doorbell camera off Jake Thompkin’s house? That’s a new favorite Booth moment. While Thompkin complains about the cost, I know he should be shaking in terror at having contributed to the downfall of someone loved by one of the world’s most skilled – and most loyal – marksmen. Don’t screw with Booth’s people, ya’ll.
And that’s not so different from Aldo, really. While I am always going to watch the beginning of S9 with some sadness, now, I also see more clearly that Aldo’s story arc, like most of them on the show, is really about Booth and Brennan.
Brennan attributed Aldo’s self-destruction solely to brain damage, noting that despite the similarities between them in terms of concussive damage, she’s seen Booth’s brain scans and isn’t worried about his mental health. I disagree with her, though. I think Booth and Aldo are not only alike in terms of potential damage, but that Booth, with his gambling relapse, went down the same path Aldo did.
For years, we watched Booth fight that demon and win: the stress of more kills on his conscience, a brain tumor, broken relationships, Pelant separating him from Brennan and Christine…every single time, he resisted whatever pull inside him was saying, ‘just one bet.’ But gradually it all wore him down to the point where, a few months after Sweets died, he gave in.
When we first met Aldo, he seemed to be holding it together, despite the emotional wounds that had driven him from the priesthood. He had his own bar, and seemed to be finding a new path. Still, there were hints of his isolation, perhaps seen clearest in his pre-wedding advice to Booth in the The Woman in White:
“I’m jealous, okay? What you and Temperance have, it’s the reason we draw breath.”
Did something later happen to him that finally drove him to find relief in heroin? I doubt the show will have the time to tell us, but I’m going to assume there was, because I think parallels between Booth and Aldo are important here. Specifically, we don’t question that Booth remained a good man even after his gambling relapse – and so did Aldo, who resisted unspeakable torture and then killed himself to protect someone he loved.
Where they differ, though, is Brennan. And that’s where Aldo’s story is really about Booth and Brennan, because in this man who, despite the ugly turns his life had taken, thought of those he loved until the very end, we see Booth if there was no Brennan. This is a ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ story.
And Booth knows it: “You’re in my corner. That’s the difference. Aldo had no one.”
Brennan grieves for him, challenges him, and trusts him. In the end scene, she questions his theory of the murder linking back to his sniper kill in Bosnia in 1995, but once she’s convinced, she quietly says, “what should we do?”
This kind of story is why I’m grateful for how many seasons we’ve had after they became a couple. They need each other, and here, at the very end of the story, we’re still seeing all the ways that plays out.
Meanwhile, the show is also getting back to the story of Aubrey’s father. I thought working that in mostly via his and Jessica’s arc was pretty clever. The big picture is his father’s return, but that won’t actually happen until later; for now, we see some of the fallout in his relationship with Jessica. First, as he admits dealing with it is harder than he thought it would be, and second, as he reassures her he’s not like his dad. (Gee, have we met anyone else like that in the course of the show? *cough* Booth *cough*)
There was also that conversation between Jessica and Brennan, about Max. That was particularly interesting to me, because while I agree the situations are similar on the surface – both men stole and then abandoned their families – what we’ve been told about Philip Aubrey is quite different from what we’ve always known about Max. From nearly the beginning, it was clear Max and Christine left to protect Brennan and Russ; there’s never been anything to suggest Philip Aubrey left for any non-selfish reasons.
But while watching this scene, it occurred to me that we’ve really only seen Aubrey’s point of view on his father. So if there is anything to suggest Philip left for less selfish reasons, we wouldn’t have become privy to it yet. We’ll have to wait and see what story they’re telling here, whether it’s a reconciliation one, or one where Aubrey realizes he has the family he needs in the team.
Still, I can’t quite shake the feeling that what Brennan says to Jessica is less about Aubrey and more about her love for Max…which makes me sad, given the foreshadowing we got in The Brain in the Bot. My heart’s taking a beating this season even before we get to the end.
“We’ll get your dad to take the kids to the library and to read a book. Books are good for the soul.” (Booth, having just learned that water parks are full of fecal matter, aka poop, aka poo-poo.)
“This is a little Lepisma saccharina, aka silverfish. Their diet consists of cellulose and polysaccharides, basically anything you find in a house, so dinner is carpet and dessert is curtains.” (Hodgins)
“Aldo was a good man, Seeley. You have my sympathy.”
“You’re right. Sympathy sucks. What do we know?” (Caroline, Booth)