I often comment that people who enjoy Bones do so for a variety of reasons. We do not all want the same things, which, whatever else it means, means that some of us are at least occasionally disappointed, and that it’s a no-win for the writers.
It’s even more complicated in that those of us who generally do want the same things (Booth and Brennan’s relationship, for example) do not always want them in the same way. For example: I accept that their romance is a fantasy, but the more realistic they can get it, the happier I am.
I want some realism. Within the framework of ‘these two characters are living a happily ever after,’ I want to see them work for it. I want to see them overcome things, and want to watch them struggle to reconcile their differences. To me, that’s where the joy in their relationship is.
No, not every week. But I know what they look like when they’re happy. They look like this:
But it’s because of story arcs like this one that I believe they’re always going to have those happy moments.
Grief is a monster that not only kicks you when you’re down, it then stomps all over you with cleats. It’s also quite individual and sneaky, in that it seldom behaves the same way twice, even for the same person.
I’m going to get personal here for a moment, and I apologize for that. But my own experiences are relevant to why this worked so well for me.
I was fourteen when my mother died of lung cancer; eleven years later my father died suddenly of a stroke. The two experiences were quite different for me, but watching this, I felt like Karine Rosenthal had wandered around in my head at some point during the first few days after I lost my father.
I was in grad school when he died, some two hundred miles from my family. I remember, in the midst of nearly debilitating shock, being absolutely overwhelmed by the idea of going home and facing my family’s grief while trying to come to terms with my own. Apart from my three older sisters and a younger brother, my father had recently found love again (nine years after mom died) with a woman we all adored, and the idea of all that sorrow on top of my own temporarily broke something inside me.
My solution? To ask my roommate to go home with me. We’d not been sharing a room that long, she’d never met my family, and yet she said yes as soon as I asked. It’s still one of the most compassionate acts I’ve been the recipient of.
Once I was home, I have a vivid memory of talking with my oldest sister (who’d tried to be a mother to us after mom died) and refusing to cry, because I didn’t want to add to the burdens she was carrying – her own grief, worry for my brother, the funeral, the estate.
We’re a close family. I just couldn’t navigate my pain and theirs at the same time, and having my roommate there to talk to, someone who wasn’t grieving, made the difference.
Grief’s hard, exhausting, and irrational. (Side observation: Emily Deschanel rocked this episode. Hellooooo, Hollywood?)
Anyway, as Sully says, grief “mixes you up.” And while my relationship with my taciturn, recovering alcoholic father was complicated, I didn’t have anything approaching Brennan’s situation with the love of her life feeling guilty for the death. It’s a lot to cope with, and sometimes, you just have to say ‘I can’t,’ and hope the people around you understand and love you enough to be there when you’re ready.
That’s what Booth did for her. It helps, I think, that this is an area where they’re more alike than not – Booth did his best to shut her out in The Male in the Mail – and while he wasn’t happy about it, when she asked him to give her some time alone, he did.
Interestingly enough, I don’t think he felt threatened by Sully. Bothered that it wasn’t him, possibly grateful that there was someone she could open up to, but not threatened. And to me, that’s a testament to the strength of their relationship.
But what about Booth himself? He’s grieving, too, which was nowhere more obvious than with the creme soda. I think Booth and Max understood each other in a way no other two characters on the show have. And yet, he puts her needs first, as she has put his first in the past.
That’s what love does.
There’s more, of course, in that he is carrying the weight of Max’s death. The fact that it’s needless, that she doesn’t blame him, doesn’t mean the guilt’s not there. We see this the clearest when Kathleen says, “I may not have killed that girl, but if not for me she’d still be alive.”
The show surprised me here, to my delight. I thought Brennan might actually be angry at Booth’s role in Max’s death, know it was irrational, and yet not know how to work around it (not unlike his feelings at the beginning of season eight.) I liked this much better. Of course she knows he feels guilty, and doesn’t blame him, but she simply doesn’t know how to address that quite yet. The love is there, the understanding (on both sides) is there, but the energy for coping isn’t, quite, though they’re finding their way back by the end.
That moment at the end, where they reaffirm their love for each other in the midst of grief and heartbreak and guilt? It’s beautiful to me, and why I watch the show:
So what about Sully?
One of the negative comments I keep seeing is that Sully wasn’t necessary to the Max story line; specifically Brennan grieving. In some ways, I think this is true: they could have told essentially the same story with Brennan pushing Booth away and then later discussing the why of that with someone else.
But really, nothing we’re seeing this season is absolutely necessary to the story. In fact, I’d say that nothing has been essential in that way since the wedding, or, possibly, not even since The Memories in the Shallow Grave. I’m not bashing the show (hello, it’s me) but rather, if I think in terms of a beginning, middle and end to their story, the key components of a happy ending were in place when they exchanged “I love you” in that episode.
Everything since then has been amazing bonus on top of bonus – a series of sequels that I’ve been delighted by because they told the story of what came next for these two fascinating, complicated characters. But was it essential to the story to revisit an old relationship? Clearly not. (And if it was, we’d be seeing Hannah, as well.)
But that doesn’t mean the story they’re telling isn’t interesting, or doesn’t give us insight into the characters or their history. When handed a final season, the show could have said, ‘we’re just going to coast. Do twelve eps mostly focused on the cases, where we see the characters happy and content, and if we learn anything new about them, it will be what they’re going to do when they walk out the door for the last time.”
Would I have watched that? Of course. Would I have enjoyed that? Probably. Would I have been disappointed in some ways at not seeing the characters challenged, not seeing them continue to grow and change? Yes. Yes, I would have.
It’s not just that it came full circle when Brennan acknowledged the role Sully played in her long, slow growth process that allowed her to be with Booth. It’s also that we see Sully’s perspective looking back on the Booth and Brennan of season two: he knew. Even then, even when they were both denying it, he knew they belonged together. Knew he’d never win. That makes me grin.
It also explains something that’s always bothered me. If Sully loved her, if he understood her at all, how could he make her choose between him and the career she needed? I’ve always liked Sully, always known that the show saw him as a good guy (which was, in addition to what was obvious to me – that Brennan wouldn’t cheat – another reason why I knew nothing would romantic would happen between the two of them here) but that part puzzled me. This answered that: he did love her, but he’d figured out in some corner of his soul that she and Booth belonged together, and left before he got in deeper.
I enjoy the heck out of that, and I’m going to re-watch the Sully eps this weekend, just to see how it all fits.
One of the things that fans have debated for years is when Booth and Brennan fell in love/were in love/knew they were in love, and while that’s a topic for a post of its own, one of my favorite things has always been that other characters understood it long before they did. Like Sully, it turns out.
Beyond the three main players in this, there was the team. And they were great. It interested me that it was Sully and Aubrey who knew Booth and Brennan would be fine (and I love Aubrey for that a thousand times over.)
I spend a certain amount of time thinking about the differences between Booth’s friendship with Sweets versus his friendship with Aubrey, and while some of it is that they’re very different characters, it occurred to me today that part of what we see with Aubrey is probably due to how Booth lost Sweets. His instinct is still to push Aubrey away (which Awesome and Amazing Aubrey simply ignores) but he softens enough to thank him, and I think that’s because he’s lost too many male friends to not appreciate them. That’s growth.
Clark, on the other hand, I loved for the opposite reason: he’s not assuming Booth and Brennan will be fine, because he knows she’s vulnerable and he doesn’t trust this interloper. He’s suspicious of anyone messing with Brennan’s happiness, and that makes me tear up a little. More so when I realized that the Viking find was probably his farewell on the show. I love all of the squinterns, but it’s no great secret that Clark’s my favorite, mostly due to what we see here: his great love for Brennan.
Sigh. Show, I’m going to miss you.
“Special Agent James Aubrey. I work with Booth and Brennan.”
“Tim Sullivan, former special agent, now professional sandwich maker.”
“Oh, maybe my new idol.” (Aubrey, Sully)
“-but I’m just going to keep talking anyway. I don’t know anything, really, but whatever’s going on right now, I’m sure you guys will get through it.” (Aubrey, to Booth)
“I heard yelling. Did we find something?”
“Vikings, Cam. We found Vikings.”
(She looks at the satellite image) “Are they teeny tiny Vikings?” (Cam, Hodgins)
And because the show’s humor is sometimes non-verbal: