Hello BONES fans! I’d like to discuss Seeley Booth and Jacob Broadsky and how they stack up against each other, taking you on a journey into morality and ethics. I’d also like to compare how Booth and Broadsky match up against another protagonist/villain pairing: Temperance Brennan and Heather Taffet. Taffet has been called an Evil Brennan. Does Broadsky deserve the “Evil Booth” moniker? Let’s run a comparison to scenes from ‘Boy with the Answer’ to ‘The Killer in the Crosshairs,’ but with a slight fictional twist, adding a little subtext to the scenes. Bear with me; all shall become clear soon.
We know that Booth served in the Army as both a Ranger and a sniper. Booth left the Army as a Master Sergeant, which is considered a senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) rank. I would assume Broadsky was also a Senior NCO given that at some point, he had a mentor-student relationship with Booth. By virtue of their NCO status, both Booth and Broadsky were professional soldiers during their time in the Army. By professional, I use the definition proposed by Samuel Huntington, a prominent theorist on Civil-Military relations. A profession has three distinguishing characteristics: Expertise, Responsibility, and a Corporate character. Both men honed their expertise by attending numerous schools and countless training exercises. They upheld their responsibility by adhering to the chain of command and rules of engagement in their combat operations. And they were part of an organization (The Army) that provided a sanctioned outlet for their skills.
Booth has transitioned in his career to another professional group: law enforcement. He has retained his expertise in marksmanship and added new skills to fit his job. Booth also has retained his sense of responsibility as a sworn law enforcement professional in the FBI, which is an organization that enforces standards in relation to the conduct of its members – much like the Army does
On the other hand, Broadsky has his expertise (case in point Taffett…headless…1400 yards plus…enough said). But Broadsky has arrogated to himself the decision and responsibility for taking out ‘targets.’ There is no responsibility to society at large, nor a sanctioned organization. Broadsky is not a professional. Now, keep this in mind as we explore some scenes with Booth and Brennan in their struggles against the Gravedigger and Broadsky.
The first scene that we’ll revisit is where Brennan is expressing doubts about going head to head with Taffet.
BRENNAN: She was laughing at me, I – I can’t let her win.
BOOTH: She won’t.
BRENNAN: You hope. She may be amoral, but she is brilliant.
BOOTH: Well, you’re more brilliant.
BRENNAN: What if her dispassion makes her more logical. What if that gives her and advantage over me?
BOOTH: You know… you and Taffet are a lot of alike. You both use science and intellect to analyze and interpret forensic evidence for your own ends.
Wait a minute, Booth never said that right? In fact, he comforted Brennan and supported her efforts. Well, what about this scene? It is Booth telling Brennan that he dropped his charges against Taffet in order to be able to testify as an expert witness.
BRENNAN: Caroline said you can’t give expert testimony if she’s prosecuting your case.
BOOTH: I told Caroline to drop my charges too. I’m not gonna let you do this alone. She’s gonna see the judge tomorrow morning at 10 and then we can dive in on all this.
BRENNAN: Thanks, Booth.
BOOTH: We’re partners. That’s what we do. Right?
BRENNAN: If Taffet is acquitted on this count, she can never be tried again. Maybe that’s why she wanted us to find the boy.
BOOTH: Bones…I have to ask. Caroline told me about what you said on the platform, about getting some hard evidence they can’t dismiss. What do you mean Bones? Are you planning on…on manufacturing evidence, or are you going to do this by the book?
Now I know you are all screaming: Hold up! Booth didn’t say that either. He openly supported her efforts and even gave her one of his patented guy hugs. So right now, I’m 0 for 2 on scene accuracy. Let’s try some scenes from Killer and see what Brennan has to say about Booth and Broadsky. We’ll return to the different lines that I wrote and why they have meaning in this discussion.
The first scene in Killer is with Booth and Brennan on their way to Paula Ashwaldt’s cabin, where Broadsky had been experimenting with ammunition used in his kills.
BOOTH: Ashwaldt said that Broadsky’s been using her cabin because he likes to hunt.
BRENNAN: Well that’s an understatement.
BOOTH: Well, she’s going through her database right now to see what files might have been tampered with. We’re gonna get this guy, and he’s not going to keep doing this.
BRENNAN: Your words are quite ironic.
BOOTH: What do you mean?
BRENNAN: I would imagine that Broadsky would say the same thing as he stalks his prey.
BOOTH: Except, I’m the good guy, and he isn’t.
BRENNAN: Well, but you both led a life in which you were paid to take lives.
The second scene is just as Booth and Brennan are getting Booth’s rifle and then heading to the roof of the courthouse in an attempt to locate Broadsky before he kills again.
BRENNAN: Booth, I find I want to ask you a question, but I find it makes me anxious.
BOOTH: Okay, well go.
BRENNAN: Forget it.
BOOTH: Whoa whoa whoa. Wait a second. Partners don’t say forget it.
BRENNAN: Okay, here’s my question. Are you doing this so you can kill Broadsky or because it’s the best way to stop him?
Now let us return to the fictional statements I had Booth make to Brennan in response to her worries. Most of us intuitively understand why Brennan is not similar to the Gravedigger. But let’s analyze this in terms of a profession. Both women have specialized knowledge of their fields. Where they differ are in the second and third points. Taffet has inverted her sense of responsibility and is using her knowledge of the legal system and forensics to cover her crimes, while Brennan works within the system to serve justice. Brennan has remained within the constraints of the Medico-Legal lab, the FBI, and the Justice Department while Taffet has struck out alone, and for her own ends.
Looking at Brennan’s words in the first scene of killer, she has constructed a syllogism, which is a specific type of logical argument where a proposition is inferred by two others, known as premises.
When I was brainstorming ideas for this essay, my good friends Sam (Skole) and Andrea (AngieBC) came up with some interesting analogies. Sam made this argument as a comparison to what Brennan was thinking: Brennan analyses & interprets forensic evidence. The GD analyses & interprets forensic evidence – therefore Brennan is the GD
Brennan’s words to Booth are in the same form: Booth led a life where he was paid to take lives. Broadsky led a life where he was paid to take lives – therefore Booth is Broadsky
Both of these arguments rely on another, hidden premise: If one person does the same thing as another, then they are the same. The same in this case is meant to be the same morally. As we have seen however, the argument that they do the same thing leaves out all of the context that was discussed above. Booth retained his expertise, responsibility, and corporate character. Broadsky has retained his expertise, but has discarded the other two, and has acted as an escalating manner in his kills, from a convicted murderer, to a confessed counterfeiter in witness protection, to a cop who is still undergoing trial, in addition murdering to an innocent victim that he has termed collateral damage. Booth is not the same as Broadsky just as Brennan was not the same as the Gravedigger.
The second set of scenes reinforces the concerns of both characters. In each case the evil character has knowledge of one of the partner’s areas of expertise. In each case, the other partner calls into question the integrity of the challenged partner. Booth questions Brennan in the fictional scenario by asking if Brennan will manufacture evidence and Brennan by asking if Booth is going to kill Broadsky instead of attempting to bring him to justice. Each action would be outside the code of ethics for their professions.
How would Brennan have reacted if Booth had actually uttered those words to her instead of offering support and sympathy? My opinion is that the words would have distressed her, and may have even broken her further. I believe that Brennan’s words had the same effect on Booth. Yes, Brennan eventually stood by Booth, and that was important. But she spent the early half of the episode questioning him, and when she did support him, Brennan didn’t offer any line of thinking other than that she trusted him. That may be enough for Booth, but I think a lot of people prefer to be supported more than just because. As a person trained in cultural anthropology, Brennan should have known or been able to reason her way though this problem. That she doesn’t and that she calls into question Booth’s morality is a disservice to him, especially in the first scene, where she all but calls him a mercenary.
I believe that Brennan was out of line, but not out of character in her questioning of Booth. She was emotionally torn and hesitant to ask Booth the question in the second scene, and she did ultimately place her trust in Booth. The general tone of the season six has led many fans to give the benefit of the doubt and moral high ground to Brennan in any dispute. Perhaps the writers believed they could continue that trend here in Brennan’s questioning of his integrity, which was so different from ‘Boy in the Answer’, where the split in their partnership and personal relationship hadn’t yet developed and fans were still hoping for a Booth and Brennan reconciliation.
A final scene may shed some additional light on this analysis. It is where Booth seeks reassurance from Sweets about his actions and tries to understand why Broadsky is acting the way he is.
BOOTH: I don’t get it. Broadsky was a good man. I don’t understand what happened to him. I mean, what gives him the right to make these kinds of calls?
(minor transition comments)
SWEETS: Being the cause of someone’s death, no matter what the circumstances, leaves a man with a great burden. And people deal with that burden in different ways. You know, some, some celebrate it. They relish the power as a way of justifying what they’ve done. Others like Broadsky; they justify another way. They feel that it’s their destiny to mete out justice. They convince themselves that they have the moral high ground to make these calls. It’s the only way they can live with what they’ve done.
BOOTH: What about me?
SWEETS: From my perspective, you’re a healthy man. You can accept what you’ve done: the pain, the sadness, and regret that comes with it. You know, not everybody has the strength to deal with that reality. It’s a testament to you; that you’ve built this life with family and friends who love and respect you. Booth, that can’t be easy.
BOOTH: It kills me that Bones thinks that taking someone’s life means nothing to me.
SWEETS: Have you talked to her about it?
BOOTH: I don’t go there anymore. That’s over.
This scene takes place in between the SUV scene and the courthouse scene. It is also after Broadsky confronts Booth in his apartment. Booth is not a demonstrative man, but he is reassured by this conversation. Sweets takes an emotional tack here instead of logic, but his point is the same. Booth remained within the strictures of society and transcended what he went though: Broadsky did not. Booth’s anxiety and hurt over Brennan’s questioning of him comes out clearly here.
Was Brennan wrong in questioning Booth the way she did? I don’t think she was wrong so much as she was insensitive. Where I did think she was wrong was in not giving Booth the reasons behind her thought process and how she decided to trust and stand by him. She probed him and sought out his reaction. Brennan is using an empirical method of thinking and is testing out all the possible options. It was important to Booth that she did so, but I believe that he would have been more reassured if Brennan had done some of the same kind of analysis that was conducted here. Her words failed to reassure Booth until she said she trusted him. That led him to seek out Sweets, which is something he rarely does, and would normally be loathe to do after the events in DareDevil. Sweets offers an emotional analysis instead of a logical one, but it is one that points to the same result: Booth has acted morally, however difficult his circumstances, and he is significantly different than Broadsky.
Did Brennan need to analyze all of this in the way that she did? I don’t know for sure. I do think Brennan knows how sensitive the subject is to Booth, both because he seeks constant reassurance from her and because of the difficulty that he had in telling her about Raddick or about his kill numbers. In light of that, her remark about Booth leading a life where he was paid to kill people, while strictly accurate, was quite painful to Booth. In ‘Dwarf in the Dirt’, Brennan has a conversation with Dr. Wyatt in which he concludes by complimenting her for being able to distinguish between accuracy and truth after she reports the changed behavior in Booth after his brain surgery. If we apply that analogy to the scenes above, then Brennan is still accurate in that Booth received a salary while his primary duty position was as a sniper. As a sniper, he did have to kill people. But is it true that Booth was paid to kill people in the same manner that Broadsky was? It isn’t to me, even beyond the analysis of a profession. The salary Booth received was incidental, not fundamental, compared to his desire to follow his orders and his duty. Accuracy and truth were not the same here, and that led to some painful self doubts in Booth.
What do you think BONES fans? How did you perceive Brennan’s statements about Booth and Broadsky? And how do they fare in comparison to Booth’s actions in ‘Boy with the Answer’?
I’d like to thank Skole and Angiebc for their help and insightful comments while constructing this essay and Skole for a very helpful suggestion that improved the flow of my arguments. Special thanks to Sarah for suggesting the motive for the way the scenes were written in Killer and for the idea of the truth vs. accuracy comparision from Dwarf.
The title of the essay is a paraphrase of a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche. “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” Accessed from:
The concept of a profession was taken from my military experiences. I used this page on Officership as a Profession to help construct my specific arguments. Accessed from: