Further Bones Thoughts: A Final Season For All

So I’ve finished my re-watch of S12, and I Have Thoughts about the season as a whole. I’ll say upfront that I don’t know how interesting this post will be to others. I like analyzing stories in a variety of ways, so seeing how they wove so many arcs together in the final season interests me, but it may bore others brainless.

Also, I’ll confess that part of what started me down this particular path of analysis was frustration over comments about all the ‘filler eps’ this season.

There were none. Nada. Zip. Zilch. It’s not that the show’s not done standalone episodes in the past, but there weren’t any this season. What there was, was a rather herculean attempt on the show’s part to satisfy the diverse range of people who enjoy Bones.

For years now, I’ve been listening to those who were hoping for different things from the show: fans who desperately wanted to see Zack’s story revisited; those who didn’t. Those who wanted to see Sully (or Hannah!) again; those who didn’t. Those who loved the extended family; those who really just enjoyed Booth and Brennan. Those who enjoyed S10 because of its darkness; those who hated it for the same reason.

I’m not Fox, don’t have access to survey and studies, but I’m convinced that that diversity is part of why the show went to twelve seasons.

Given that, what I see when I look at S12 is an attempt to honor that big, unwieldy group of eyeballs, and I wanted to examine the season from that perspective. I’ve done so by looking at what each episode contributed towards wrapping up the various stories and arcs in as satisfying manner as possible for the most people.

There are no doubt different ways of categorizing the stories they told, but I see the following:

  • Tonal variety: six darker, six lighter (I’m thinking…not a coincidence)
  • Resolving long-standing arcs: Zack, Booth’s sniper past, Aubrey’s father, Brennan and Max, Jessica and Aubrey
  • Future-forward: showing us what the characters will be doing after we say goodbye
  • Future-forward, Booth and Brennan edition – runs throughout the season (I feel a separate post coming about this…)
  • Favorite guest stars: Sully, Gordon Gordon, Dr. Mayer, Avalon
  • Other stories fans had asked to see: an undercover episode; Brennan’s birthday

No, not everyone wanted to see every one of those things. I didn’t, particularly, though I couldn’t be happier at what we got. But…diverse audience.

The Hope in the Horror:

  • Zack: The audience knew something about Zack that the other characters did not, which meant revisiting it as part of the end made sense. Plus, it not only resolved that secret, it gave us insights into the other characters, such as Booth’s Gut having always questioned Zack’s guilt.
  • Booth: It’s a minor one in the scheme of things, but I think the last season or two has focused more on Booth’s relationships with the other guys: Zack, Hodgins, Aubrey. He’s still ‘guy-hugs-are-only-for-Brennan’ Booth, but he’s a bit more open with his male friends.
  • Karen: Although she’s cast as a red herring here, particularly when she’s stalking Brennan around the bone room, we also see that Booth’s much more tolerant of her than Aubrey is (possibly due to his experiences with Sweets?) and yet she takes her idea of letting Zack look at the cases to Aubrey first. Beginnings of friendship? Maybe.

The Brain in the Bot

  • Hot Blooded: I don’t know if a song has ever had a character arc on a TV show before, but this one did
  • Zack: Brennan is reviewing her notes; for her birthday, Booth gets a trial date
  • Daisy: Although she comes back for the wedding/finale, this is the end of Daisy’s arc. We’ve seen her go from flaky and uber-annoying intern to a mature young woman strong enough to raise her son alone (with the help of the family.)
  • Max: As appropriate, Max gets a multi-part farewell. Here, the audience learns that he’s sick, which foreshadows his death while setting up the twist that he doesn’t die the way we think he will.
  • Brennan: We’ve been watching her grow and change for years, but this isn’t just where we see her keeping secrets and demonstrating a lack of competitiveness, but also that she’s self-aware enough to know the others would not expect either of those things from her.

The New Tricks in the Old Dogs

  • Future forward: Cam and Arastoo make plans to adopt
  • Future forward: Angela and Hodgins are again thinking about another child
  • Future forward: Booth and Brennan also discuss the possibility of another child, and wind up not ruling it out
  • Brennan: We see her reflecting on the fact that none of the things she values the most were planned

    “The unexpected happened. He fell in love.”

The Price for the Past

  • Booth: An early turning point for him and Brennan was when he shared with her the guilt he carried for his sniper kills. Revisiting that story now in such an excruciating way allowed us to see all the ways that his relationship with her has healed him.
  • Booth and Aldo’s friendship arc
  • Max: Although he’s not in the episode, Brennan’s comments to Jessica foreshadow her eulogy and remind us of the journey she and her father took over a ten-year period
  • Aubrey: His arc with his father, which began in S10, ramps up with the reveal that he’s in the U.S.
  • Aubrey and Jessica: While she obviously cares deeply for him (re: her conversation with Brennan) there are hints that he’s more invested in the relationship than she is

The Tutor in the Tussle

  • Aubrey: The resolution of his arc about his father
  • Aubrey: his relationship with Karen seems closer to friendship here, but he’s clearly committed to Jessica.
  • Future forward, Fisher: He’s capable of enjoying life, and we see how much Brennan loves him.

The Flaw in the Saw

  • Future forward: We see Booth and Brennan flirting and solving their parenting debates in a way unique to the two of them (log-rolling competition!) Although the show’s been giving us those kinds of moments for years, their taking the time to do so in the final season is part of the story they’re telling about what life will be life for these characters after we’re no longer dropping in on them
  • Zack: Hodgins has been working Zack’s case, but what he finds seems so unlikely that Cam accuses him of falsifying evidence.

The Scare in the Score

  • Max: The episode picks up with the health scare, which, while turning the foreshadowing from The Brain in the Bot on its head, also sets up how the safe house is detected.
  • Brennan: We see her dependence on Max, particularly where the kids are concerned. It occurred to me on my re-watch that the very thing that hurt her for so long (the criminal past that led to his abandoning her) was what positioned him to be the kind of person who could save his grandkids the way he did.
  • Booth: When he tells Kovac, ‘he was still your dad.’ we realize it’s more complicated, even, than the worst moment in his sniper past coming back to bite him: he identifies with Kovac as the son of a decidedly less-than-perfect father.

The Grief and the Girl

  • Brennan: Her feelings are a tangle of her own grief and concern for Booth’s guilt (revealed via the conversation with Angela), which struck me as very authentic
  • Sully: some fans have been asking to see Sully again for years, not as a love interest, but because they enjoyed the character and wanted to see his response to Booth and Brennan being a couple. We got all of that, in a way that wraps up Sully’s arc as part of Booth and Brennan’s story – which it always was.
  • Future forward, Clark: He’ll be leading an archaeological dig in Canada, and given what we learned in S11’s The Stiff in the Cliff, it’s an appropriate direction for the character. (Yay, Clark!)
  • Booth and Brennan: “I love you, Bones. Always.” No, there’s nothing new in that for those of us who know and love them, but hearing it again, in so many ways across the season, was the show’s final message for the shippers: their love will survive anything life throws at them
  • Max: The true end of his arc is here, in Brennan’s eulogy

The Steal in the Wheels

  • Brennan: while things are better between her and Booth, she’s short-tempered and impatient – both normal signs of grief.
  • Gordon Gordon Wyatt: While some fans wanted Zack’s story revisited, and others wanted to see Sully again, I wanted the return of Gordon Gordon. Also? Even here, there’s a character arc, as we’ve seen him move from shrink, to chef, and back, if not permanently to shrink, to someone who clearly misses that part of his life.
  • Zack: Cam isn’t the only one who thinks Hodgins is capable of falsifying evidence to help a friend – Brennan does, as well. But with Gordon Gordon’s help, he finds the dead apprentice.
  • Future forward: While we’re not told where Fuentes winds up, we learn that he’s graduated – and get to see the Ceremony of the Blue Jacket.
  • Booth and Brennan go undercover one last time as Buck and Wanda. Whether you love or hate the undercover eps, they’re important enough that Booth references them in the finale.
  • We’ve got this. I love you.” Not only will their love win over all odds, so will they – which was the theme of the season.

The Radioactive Panthers in the Party

  • Future forward, Wendell: During my re-watch, it struck me that in some ways, it would be odd if none of her interns ever realized their true calling was elsewhere, and Wendell seems the most logical choice to me for that.
  • Aubrey: This is the only subplot from the season that doesn’t work for me. I’m glad they wanted to give him an exit story, and can even see this particular one (possibility of a move cross-country, deciding to stay) making sense, but the way it played it out, it was mostly Booth giving Aubrey an opportunity to prove he could do what they’d already established he did after Booth and Brennan left at the end of S10. I would just as soon have had them spend more time on ending his relationship with Jessica.
  • Angela: Pregnancy hints.

The Day in the Life 

  • Zack: Murder conviction reversed, but has to finish his sentence for assisting a killer – an appropriate way of resolving that story.
  • Future forward: Cam and Arastoo’s wedding
  • Jessica breaks up with Aubrey
  • Angela: Her pregnancy is revealed
  • Angela and Brennan, friendship arc is touched on with the recall of Angela getting her to go dancing in S1’s The Man in the Wall.
  • Avalon returns
  • Hodgins: we see Hodgins in charge of Jessica at the crime scene; this struck me as more significant after seeing the finale
  • Future forward: Michelle has applied to Quantico
  • Booth and Brennan: the show has always been about how in sync they are despite their differences. That’s highlighted with both of them understanding that ‘we’re missing something.’

The End in the End

  • Booth and Hodgins: their story, of friendship developing in spite of their differences, resolves tension over Booth’s army past first established in S1
  • Brennan: S1 showed how much of her identity was tied to her intelligence and profession; here, we see that because of Booth, that’s no longer the case.

    “You’re my partner. Don’t forget that.”

  • Booth and Brennan: That kiss, which @boothalecs on Twitter described as, “I’ll meet you on the battlefield”? Yeah. That’s them. Love and fighting crime together.
  • Future forward: Angela and Hodgins are having a boy
  • Future forward: Cam and Arastoo’s three boys
  • Future forward: Aubrey’s not okay, but he will be; possibly with Karen

Long(er) winded Hodgins thoughts:

King of the Lab! I didn’t think of this when I watched the finale the first (or, er, second) time due to being gobsmacked, but his being made interim director doesn’t just give us a new take on his character as the show wraps up, it also addresses Cam and Brennan’s belief that he had – or at least, would – falsify evidence to save a friend. This was something I very much wanted to see after The Flaw the Saw aired, and, as per usual, the show gave me more than I wanted: while the issue isn’t revisited in an explicit sense, they both affirm their trust and respect in him by placing him in charge, and…I love that a million times over.

Long(er) winded Booth thoughts:

His guilt over his sniper kills was two-fold: general guilt over the loss of human life, and a particular guilt for having killed a man in front of his six-year-old son. Both were resolved this season.  When Brennan tells him she goes where he goes, and stands beside him (my brain unnecessarily adds ‘always’), it’s specifically in the context of his being a sniper. So great is her confidence in the man he’s chosen to be, that she holds a line for him: these lives are not on your conscience.

Meanwhile, Kovac is revealed as someone who had opportunities to lead a meaningful life (a normal childhood, a supportive extended community) but, unlike Booth (or Aubrey, for that matter), he instead chose to follow his father.  There’s no guilt on Booth for Kovac’s choices, either.

 

Happy indeed are those of us who enjoyed pretty much everything about the show (lighter, darker, Booth and Brennan, family, squinterns…)

 

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9 thoughts on “Further Bones Thoughts: A Final Season For All

  1. I just don’t like how Jessica and Aubrey ended. They built them up and she seemed committed in S11 and it seems she did a 180 for 12. I don’t see a bf/gf vibe w A and Karen. A few do but most don’t. I just feel like the producers liked JB and SR so they wrote Jessica different. Very sad.

    I did enjoy S12 a lot. I agree with you that they had to tie up a lot of stuff.

    • Well, in the dating world this is common. You’re into someone and then suddenly you’re not. Jessica was hit with that realization when Aubrey was going to move to L.A. She just had no interest in joining him, and that is what made her decide it wasn’t a relationship worth pursuing. I actually was one of those weird ones who immediately shipped Aubrey and Karen. I just thought they were great together. I mean, I enjoyed Jessica and Aubrey, but that’s dating for you. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

      • I liked Karen when we first met her, spent quite a bit of time disliking her, and then started to warm up to her a little, so they might have been able to convince me that it worked, but, as Laura says, the whole breakup felt too abrupt to me.

        I can buy someone saying, “I’m not ready to move across the country with you…oh, hey, maybe we don’t belong together at all.” But they were friends for such a long time before they became lovers, that the abruptness of it felt more like two people who’d met a few weeks prior and suddenly woke up and said, ‘nah…’ rather than what we saw with the two of them.

    • Agreed. They might have been able to convince me there was something between Aubrey and Karen, but it would have required a lot more effort – and a better close-out to J/A.

  2. Excellent post. What “filler” means is, they didn’t tell a story about the characters *they* cared about. But I think you document well how each episode pursued an arc for 1 or more characters. Here’s the thing: the broad audience is the point. Robert Bianco of USA Today aptly talked about how Bones is a show designed for a casual audience who may not tune in every week. It has to work for that audience while also giving more meat to more dedicated followers of the show. The trick is they don’t want the casual audience to get lost. So they pursue the A – B – C stories while making it accessible to someone who perhaps hadn’t seen the show in a while. This is not an easy task, getting the job done WITHIN an episode while leaving crumbs for those following more closely.

    I am amazed by how television is beginning to turn its back on this kind of storytelling (save CBS and the Chicago shows on NBC). These types of shows like the NCIS franchise are very popular internationally, BUT I think Bones had a lighter touch with more stories built around characters than the run of the mill procedural. I don’t know how the business model is going to work going forward. But we need more shows like Bones.

    • People mostly think they represent the default audience, that everyone feels the same way they do, never mind evidence to the contrary.

      I think Bones actually paid less attention this season to the casual viewer, in that they didn’t always explain as much about the context of stuff as they have in previous years – and, as a fan, I appreciate that, as I think it’s part of their ‘season for the fans.’ They’re unlikely to pick up new viewers at this point, so over-worrying about someone being confused or not just wasn’t a priority. But generally, it’s hard to balance those things, and the shows that don’t ever try? They’re taking a risk.

  3. I’ve realized that one of the reasons I enjoy reading your reviews is because you express in writing what I’m feeling about Bones much better than I ever could. Many times I have linked other fans who are annoying me to your site so you can express to them what I struggle to. Thank you, your work is very much appreciated.

  4. I think when some people were annoyed with what they called filler stories maybe what they were saying is that they were upset that there were only going to be 12 episodes. A friend of mine said she was unhappy with the radioactive panthers because in her opinion that episode could have been used to further the Kovac story. I don’t agree with her, but I can understand her point of view.

    I think the thing with the Aubrey story line that bugged me, and forgive me for repeating myself, is that it seemed like there was really no purpose in the break up between Jessica and Aubrey. In my opinion it was just too random to fit into what felt like an otherwise purposeful set of stories. I understand why Jessica would’ve been upset with Aubrey, but to invest the time to bring them together in to a close relationship during the last two years and then fracture it like that seems arbitrary instead of whimsical, which I think is what they were going for with Aubrey and Karen. Why change a good relationship in the last five minutes of the last episode? If they wanted to do that, maybe I would’ve understood better if it had occurred earlier in the season and then we could’ve seen a more normal chain of events, including the finish to the conversation that was started in the interrogation room.

    • In terms of your friend’s comment about Panthers…I get that. But it’s exactly what I meant here: to scrap that ep and tell another story about Kovac would have made the fans who like the darker stories (and the B&B ones) happy, but it would have meant that Steal in the Wheels was the only lighter toned ep in the entire second half of the season; it would also have probably shortchanged Aubrey and/or Wendell. And I know people – one of them in real life – who watches as much for the lighter eps as anything, and who also really loved Wendell.

      As to Aubrey and Jessica…they could have sold me on a break-up, absolutely. I mean, they’d dropped hints earlier in the season that maybe he was more invested that she was. The problem is, they didn’t sell me on it. As you note, it was too abrupt for a relationship they’d spent three years developing.

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