I said when I started these posts that I was doing so because I didn’t know how to say goodbye to the show.
I really don’t know how to say goodbye to Booth and Brennan, so I began my prep for this one by spending several hours re-watching favorite moments. I still don’t know how to say goodbye, but I’ve got a fresh reminder on how much I love them, so I’m going to tell you about it.
At one point, I was silly enough to think I could combine everything I love about both of them into one post, and, well, no. (Stop that. Stop laughing.) So today, I’m focusing on Booth, tomorrow will be Brennan.
We’ve heard a number of characters on the show describe Booth as a good man, which is absolutely and irrefutably true, but it strikes me as inadequate. The terms that are lodged in my brain next to Seeley Booth are: “noble, honorable, loyal, dutiful, compassionate, responsible, intuitive, optimist, religious, leader, protective, determined.” By the way, the optimism is important: it saves him from being grim. The heavy load he carries is balanced by his ability to experience joy.
With that as a launching point, I’m going to highlight a few of the moments that shaped my view of Booth. Note that I’m saving some other scenes that probably feel like they should be here for a post about his relationship with Brennan. (Look for that on Monday.)
“Being a sniper, I took a lot of lives. What I’d like to do before I’m done is try and catch at least that many murderers.” (Pilot)
He kills because it’s necessary, but there’s a cost. Human life is still human life, however warped and dangerous to others it’s become, and that never stops mattering to him.
“I’m gonna need your help to keep the promises she made to that boy.” (To the prosecutor, after Brennan makes promises in his name to Shawn, A Boy in a Bush.)
There are two aspects to this for me: the first is that I’m convinced he would have had the same response to anyone making that kind of promise in his name to a child. Keeping his word matters to Booth – even if he’s not the one who gave it.
The second is that he understood Brennan was trusting him to do exactly that, and I think he would have crawled through fire rather than let her down, even at this early stage of their relationship.
This scene (from The Woman in the Garden:)
He does what he needs to do to protect her. I’ve seen fan discussions about why he didn’t tell Brennan, but I think it was pretty simple: in this instance, at least, her feelings about it were irrelevant. Her physical safety came first, and he didn’t believe there was any other way of guaranteeing it.
“Sir, you can’t go in there.” (The hapless person at the New Orleans hospital who tries in vain to keep Booth from the injured Brennan in The Man in the Morgue.)
He doesn’t play by the rules when someone he cares about is in trouble; for that matter, he doesn’t listen to Brennan herself telling him not to come to Louisiana. While we most often see that aspect of his character play out in respect to Brennan, it’s equally true of everyone he cares about.
Booth calls to take Brennan off the court roster when he identifies the victim as Christine Brennan (The Woman in Limbo)
It took me a long time to understand why I reacted so positively to that moment, but I finally figured out it was because there’s something wonderful about another person having your back, even if you don’t strictly need them to do so.
Caretaking while respecting another person’s ability to take care of themselves is a tricky balance, but Booth does it. Does he make a decision here without consulting her? Yes, and there are other times when we see her object to his doing so. But it’s simple to him: his doing what he can to take care of her doesn’t negate her independence.
Booth explains making love to Brennan (The Death in the Saddle)
“Here we are, all of us, basically alone, separate creatures just circling each other, all searching for that slightest hint of a real connection. Some look in the wrong places. Some, they just give up hope because in their mind, they’re thinking “Oh, there’s nobody out there for me.” But all of us, we keep trying, over and over again. Why? Because, every once in a while… every once in a while, two people meet, and there’s that spark. And yes, Bones, he’s handsome, and she’s beautiful, and maybe that’s all they see at first. But making love… making love… that’s when two people become one.”
While it’s clear from his relationships on the show that he’s no prude, this scene demonstrates that Booth has a high view of sex (in contrast to current cultural trends.) He sees it not just a source of physical release; it’s the ultimate way two people connect.
“I blame me, too.” (To Teddy’s ghost, about why he doesn’t try to talk to Claire, The Hero in the Hold)
He takes his responsibility for others seriously, but he doesn’t accept false guilt. Teddy’s death was on him; Vincent Nigel-Murray’s was not. The fact that he’s clear-minded enough to sort through the differences matters – and reveals another aspect of strength in the character.
His words to Clinton (The Salt in the Wounds)
“Your children, your responsibility. And what you do about that will define what kind of man you are. If you ignore that, ignore your children? That’s exactly what you’re going to become.”
It’s not just his belief that a man takes responsibility for his kids; it’s that Booth takes the time to explain it to Clinton. His sense of responsibility for others extends far and wide, and is one of the things I love the most about him.
Aside #1: The Critic in the Cabernet is one of my favorite episodes, but the first time I saw it, I was shouting at the computer, upset at the idea that Booth would give Brennan a baby and then walk away. My faith was justified when he said, ‘I can’t do it.’
Aside #2: Sometimes I wonder what kinds of stories could be told about the characters who have passed through these characters’ lives. Was Clinton changed by his encounter with Booth? Inquiring minds want to know.
Don’t separate Booth from his people (The Proof in the Pudding):
Okay, I’m never going to watch this scene again and not think of the end of The Day in the Life, but it doesn’t change what it meant when it happened: The team is his, they’re his people, and you separate him from them at your peril. Loyalty, commitment, responsibility, thy name is Seeley.
His leadership over the team as they flounder in the wake of Vincent’s murder (The Hole in the Heart)
“Guys, just listen to me a second here. I’ve lost friends in war…let’s take a little time and then like Bones says, tomorrow we’ll get this son of a bitch.”
Repeatedly, we see what a good leader he is. No grandstanding, no posturing, just him helping them get to what comes next. Here, he gives them the emotional resources they need to cope with what’s happened, then promises that the next day, they’ll get justice for Vincent.
We see the same thing in The Corpse on the Canopy, when he sets the parameters for how they’ll respond to Pelant. In that instance, they’re not happy about it (at least Hodgins isn’t) but they trust him enough to go along with what he says.
Delivering Christine in a barn (The Prisoner in the Pipe):
A barn instead of a hospital is not his first choice. So not. But Booth faces whatever life throws at them without flinching, whether it’s their daughter being born in a barn or a strike team attacking their house. Faces it and does whatever comes next.
He never stops being a caretaker, even to the point of taking care of Brennan’s emotional needs, should he die. (His recording for Christine, The Twist in the Plot)
“I’m the luckiest man in the world because I got to spend time with your mother, and with you…Help your mom to be happy. Because if she’s alone? She’s going to forget.”
He finds a way to get justice for Sari (The victim in The Source in the Sludge):
Booth believes in the system, but that hinges on the system being just. When the government turns a blind eye to justice for Sari, he finds another way.
We see at other points in the show his awareness that sometimes, what’s right happens outside the system, or in spite of it: he respects Max’s personal code despite it resulting in the death of the deputy director of the FBI, and his assessment of the killer in The Nail in the Coffin is, “Yeah, but who he killed… In the old west, they’d have made him a sheriff.”
Torching Jared’s Body, (The Brother in the Basement)
“You’re right. Everything’s got to go. But you’re not the one who’s going to do it.”
I didn’t realize when I started this post how many of the things I’ve loved about Booth have grown out of his sense of responsibility for others, but when I’ve looked at exactly why I love them, that’s what it comes down to.
He’s spent his entire life trying to take care of Jared, to the point that his own life is now at risk. Jared’s dead, there’s nothing left to do for him…except this: someone who loves him will be the one to burn his remains.
Hodgins’ recognition that Booth is in a unique class in respect to his honor, integrity, and love of country (High Treason in the Holiday Season)
I know I keep mentioning this scene, but I love so hard the fact that the others recognize Booth for what he is.
What makes Booth truly compelling, though, is that we’ve seen it’s not easy being the man everyone looks to, the guy ‘who’s always there for friends and family,’ to quote Brennan. He’s not Superman, not perfect, and in season ten, it all unraveled. He couldn’t get beyond his country’s betrayal, beyond Sweets’ death.
We saw the biggest contrast between who he is at the core and who he is when the addiction wins at the diner counter in The Woman in the Whirlpool. The man whose middle name is Responsible couldn’t – or wouldn’t – take responsibility for the danger he’d put his wife and daughter in.
It matters, because the good man that he is, is even more appealing now that we understand it could all be lost.
Tomorrow: An Ode to Temperance Brennan