Bones Theory

The Partners in Purgatory



Hello again, fellow BONES fans!

I’m back with a follow-up post for all of you Bones Theory readers who like to pick up a jeweller’s loupe and examine the gem that is BONES (Yeah, Mister Hanson & talented friends – that flattering metaphor is there just in case you’re reading – hehehe!)

Today, I’m going to discuss the ‘Partners in Purgatory’, which sounds a little bit like a fan fiction title…but I couldn’t come up with a snazzier moniker (feel free to suggest one :D). In early December 2010, around the time that the ‘Doctor in the Picture’ episode aired, I posted on the topic of ‘Hanson’s Inferno’, which posited that Booth and Brennan (and to some extent, the fandom) were in Hell. To make this assertion, I presented an amateur comparative analysis against the classic epic literary poem ‘Dante’s Inferno’, by Fourteenth Century Italian poet, Dante Alighieri. You may be asking why someone would do such a thing…it was really just me sharing how I worked through some of my disconcerting thoughts about where Season Six was at the time and dealing with some of the negative reactions that I had observed.

So four months have passed, give or take. I was lucky enough to spend St. Patrick’s Day (US time) online, watching the ‘Blackout in the Blizzard’ episode online, Twittering with BONES pals, and basking in the awesomeness of hanging with Hart Hanson during his Global TV live blog event. By the end of the episode, I realized that it truly was time to revisit the works of Dante; because as those two slips of paper were consumed by fire, I heard the gates of Ante-purgatory swing open and a sign lit up over the heads of Booth and Brennan saying: ‘You are now entering Purgatory’. For those of you concerned about my mental health, I didn’t *actually* experience auditory and visual hallucinations, I’m just employing a little creative license here.

It’s been a while of course, so if you’re racking your brains to recall my earlier musings on this subject, here is a link to the original post. I’ll attempt a brief recap before I take you on a trip through classical Purgatory, Booth & Brennan style.

Before I do begin waffling, I’d like to make a couple of acknowledgements. Firstly, to Seels for giving me the nudge to do this and being kind enough to post it on her site. Secondly, to BONES pal Angie, for some theological insights. Finally, my profound gratitude goes out to Adam, my brainstorming buddy and (evil) brain-twin, who deserves collaborative credit on this post, at the very least.

To recap, my theory is that the timeless journey toward fulfillment in the modern moral interpretation of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ can be used in a comparative analysis to explore the journey of Booth and Brennan on their journey to ‘eventually’. The epic poem was written by a deeply religious man who created an allegory tale (Think: Lord of the Rings, easy on the Hobbits), describing a symbolic journey focusing heavily on sins and virtues; a classical Dummies Guide for the medieval person wanting to get to Heaven. One of my main assertions was that even today the concepts from ‘Divine Comedy’ still apply to the modern world. We all have to face moral decisions and recognize that these decisions always have a price attached. A selfish decision may put a problem to rest, but it invariably comes back to bite you. One of the other points that I tried to convey in my December post was that working through issues to find peace involves change. Change is painful, even if it does deliver emotional growth. I also pointed out that some of the anguish in the fandom at the time could be related to the fact that the suffering of our favorite characters was perhaps a tad too close to home.

When we left Booth and Brennan last December, the wheels were starting to fall off. The veneer of acceptance and perfection, which I personally believe was embodied in the character of Hannah Burley, was showing flaws. I’m not really going to discuss everyone’s favorite journalist here, except to say this about perfection. I’m a card carrying perfectionist, but I don’t believe for a second that true perfection is attainable. Even the biggest, most expensive diamond will have a microscopic flaw in it somewhere, but we tend to look past that in the face of those pretty refractive sparkles…Booth didn’t see the flaw in his Pygmalion model of perfection, and we all know how that ended. Okay, let’s just toss that thought into the pool and get back to Booth and Brennan! 🙂

Between the events of Brennan’s anguished disclosure of regret and Booth’s post-ring toss disclosure of anger, has emerged a period of some painful truths; truths which had to be aired and faced…for all of the main characters on the show to some extent, particularly in the ‘Bullet in the Brain’ episode. Taking a helicopter view, ‘Headless’ Heather Taffett and Jacob ‘Bad-sniper’ Broadsky have injected a hefty dose of external pressure on the team. If we examine ‘Purgatorio’, this section of the epic poem opens after Dante and his hero companion poet Virgil have faced ‘The Beast’ in Hell and emerge under the star studded sky of Purgatory with Venus, the planet of love rising on the Eastern horizon.

To run its course through smoother water

the small bark of my wit now hoists its sail,

leaving that cruel sea behind.

Now I shall sing the second kingdom,

there where the soul of man is cleansed,

made worthy to ascend to Heaven.

Purgatorio, Canto I, lines 1 – 6

In the case of Booth and Brennan, they arguably emerged from Hell at the conclusion of ‘Daredevil in the Mold’, their relationship hoisting a feeble flag of ‘just partners’ and setting sail away from the angsty cruel seas of Hell. Purgatory is a mountain to be climbed, where the penitent soul who wants to get to Heaven has to undertake some serious spiritual growth to achieve true love; an examination of disordered love and recognition of the folly of falling into vices and sin. My theory is that Booth and Brennan have to climb this mountain before they can really move forward in their relationship. The mountain of Purgatory is depicted below. You will notice that there are two foothill levels called ‘Ante-purgatory, which I am positing aligns with the BONES universe period between the end of ‘Daredevil’ and the end of ‘Blizzard’. Symbolically, hanging around in Ante-purgatory allows for people with delayed or deficient approaches to true love to put aside their pre-occupation with distractions, until they are ready to take on the challenging path of true love…sound like anyone we know? For me, as mentioned above, the burning of slips of paper was the signal in my mind that Booth and Brennan were finally ready to start the journey; moving into Purgatory proper.

The seven terraces on the mountain relate to the motivations behind the seven deadly sins. The challenge to climbers ascending the terraces of Mount Purgatory is to correct their flaws and make amends. There has to be a recognition that bad things are done in the name of love, that love for something can cause harm to another, that taking a lazy approach to love is a deficient strategy *cough*Hannah*cough*, and that supplanting true love with a love of ‘things’ is not going to cut it either. When I was planning this post, my writing buddy and epic BONES pal Adam, pointed out that there are seven terraces ‘and’ just seven episodes remaining in Season 6! I like that kind of symmetry, and it was a little spooky (cue: X Files theme). J I’m not saying that there is a linear relationship between the terraces of Purgatory and BONES, but I’m hoping that our favorite non-couple get climbing those terraces and get to ‘Heaven’ – maybe there’s a coffee cart there. Who knows?

For each of the seven sinful terraces the key to overcoming the flaw lies in the accompanying virtue. Here are some of my thoughts on their context on BONES, which are by no means exhaustive:

The proud learn humility. Brennan in particular is as proud as they come. Her attitude toward most things in life is held up against her own scope of achievement. It could be argued that to address this character flaw, she needs to humbly accept that there are greater things than her own achievements if she wants to be open hearted.

The envious learn kindness and generosity. A big part of the B&B dynamic has been the dichotomy between brain and heart. They have openly shown envy for the abilities of one another and bantered about the superiority of their approach, despite the fact that Brennan has emotional skills and Booth has smarts. It is rare to see one defer to the other in kindness or generosity, causing unnecessary conflict.

The wrathful become meek. When we saw Booth at the end of ‘Daredevil’ he had been scorned and he was full of wrath at the women in his life. One could argue that his wrath stems from his inflexibility, which lead to his delivering ultimatums that those strong women weren’t prepared to accept. Is it possible for a man like Booth to put aside this anger and accept the limitations that love presents to him in reality?

The slothful attain a zeal for life and begin to care again. With respect to relationships, I think that Booth & Brennan have individually taken the path that is most comfortable; easiest for their personalities to handle. Although different in execution, they have both been remiss in the depth of their emotional investment in their respective love interests. In many ways over six seasons, they have each shown more due care and attention to their work partner than their love interests. The fact that B&B have really only had one truly honest conversation in five years could be labeled moral cowardice.

The covetous learn to be charitable. Over the years, the relationships that Booth and Brennan have had, have been subject to a fair bit of uncharitable ridicule. I’m going to go out on a limb here and posit that they coveted the benefit that the other received. Booth secretly admired Brennan’s uninhibited attitude, and Brennan has been more than a little curious about Booth’s emotional connections. The ‘Doctor in the Photo’ showed us a harbinger of this challenge where Brennan essentially admitted to coveting what Booth had, even if it wasn’t the right timing to say so. To her credit, she was charitable enough to acknowledge that Booth had moved on and that she would adjust.

The gluttonous learn temperance. Gluttony is generally associated with food, but my context here is that of emotional feeding, based upon Brennan and Booth’s long-standing mutual need for validation of who they are. Brennan wants acknowledgment and reinforcement that she is not a social outcast, that she has emotions. Booth carries guilt and feels that he is not perceived as a good man. He seeks out Brennan to cut through his guilt and validate the good man that she objectively sees him to be. So in this scenario, temperance (the virtue, not the Anthropologist) would be in the guise of B&B becoming more self-aware and self-sustaining emotionally. This would allow them to focus on a healthier relationship that would centre around their connection, rather than their co-dependence

The lustful learn the value of chastity…that doesn’t mean no sex in my humble opinion (Down, Shippers, down!). The opinions and approach of Booth and Brennan to sex, relationships and love have been at odds for a long time. Brennan has always been up front about her urges, whereas Season Six has delivered plenty of lusty Booth making up for lost time with his new love interest. Lust has been a source of conflict, entertainment and amusement for BONES fans for many years. The top terrace of Purgatory; that of the lustful; is surrounded by a huge wall of flame that must be traversed by everyone. It’s a line. It’s a burning ring of fire. <insert your own fiery metaphor for going there, here>

Of course this raises some valid arguments for and against Booth and Brennan ‘going there’ – but if we’re discussing the concept of true love here, which for want of a simpler explanation involves an honest relationship, a connection between two people and a dollop of sex to seal the deal (hahaha!)…can they survive the transition? It’s an interesting question that I’ve talked about at length with my BONES pals during the past year. Again, I’m going to refer to and paraphrase something that Adam said to me on the subject, when we were talking about the B&B elevator conversation:

‘For all that people talk about sex (and relationships for that matter), they never get into it at this level, it’s as if they break it down, it would lose its mythical quality for pleasure, when it’s more the opposite.’

The man has a point. When it comes to B&B, who are very complex characters, they need to go there…and by ‘go there’ I mean talk about it. Really talk about it. Approaching love from the somewhat opposing perspectives of the empiricist and idealist (on pretty much everything) is going to require some myth-busting, in both camps. When I initially wrote about ‘Inferno’, I asked BT readers to consider that the lessons being learned by Booth and Brennan are applicable to our own personal struggles to navigate relationships. I think it takes courage to talk openly about intimacy and relationships, because we fear that loss of the feel good magic factor. In case you missed any of my previous rationalist musings on this topic – magic does not exist 🙂

So now it’s over to you, BONES Theorists! Do you see Booth and Brennan on the redemptive path like I do? Can you appreciate the value of their reaching some sort of consensus on love? Do you think that they are already there and should make like pretzels already? Remember to keep it spoiler free and consider that this is just my humble analysis aiming to generate discussion – there is no right or wrong here.

More reading:


Author: Skole

I'm an irreverent Yorkshire lass, who got shipped to the colonies in the 80's. Taking every opportunity since, I've ended up with a cornucopia of mad skills and qualifications...think insufferable 'Jack of all trades' - everything fascinates me. The FOX TV show BONES is fascinating. I stumbled across it in 2009. Having worked clinically with bones (a decade of trauma Orthopaedics) I have a good LOL at the chest X-rays and CT scan slices of skeletonised 'victims' that have expanded lung fields, cardiac shadows and diaphragms...I could find a solution to that...Hart, call me. Despite being a fairly serious, reserved type; there is a flamboyant creative energy in me that simply begs to be unleashed. Writing is one way that I balance my brain-bending workload.

17 thoughts on “The Partners in Purgatory

  1. *head explodes*

    Awesome post Sam. I only understood every other word but what i did i liked!!! LOL

  2. Bones was always going to be a complex story. From the beginning we had an FBI agent, who we later learned was actually hated by the one person in the world he wanted to work with. He bribed his way into her world again by promising to let her work with him in the field. The anthropologist wanted to expand her world, to leave the lab and she needed the FBI agent to do it. It may have started out as a mutual users club; but, we saw that quickly change. They lost their antiphathy for each other, they worked well together, they solved crimes that seemed unsolvable, they became friends. That friendship grew into a need to be with each other. That need turned into a love that neither could admit. Booth could not admit it because he was insecure about his chances with her. He remembered the words she spoke to him on their first case, you are a very stupid man. These words seem to ride along with him. How could someone so smart be interested in him? How could he risk his partnership, his friendship to find out if Brennan was meant to be with him?
    Brennan could not admit her love for Booth. She fears of abandonment were so great that she could not risk losing the best friend she had. Love was meaningless and not to be trusted. What if she gave herself to Booth and the relationship failed?

    They have both been through a personal hell of their own making. Booth has loved and lost and loved and lost and loved and lost. He doesn’t know why. Brennan has fought the idea of love, denied it exists, feared what it could do to her. Both have fought the attration of the other. Both have feared that they would lose each other.

    Purgatory, yes, this is the place they now find themselves. They both know what they want. They both see that each other is free and the opportunity is there if they will just move forward. They still have overcome their fears of abandonment, their insecurities, their fear that they cannot find true love, their fear that they could still lose each other.

  3. Fantastic post. Took me a couple of reads for it to sink in.
    Ok I am not going to be anywhere near the vicinity of articulating myself as well as you have but here is how I have come to see things. I have likened them to have been climbing a mountain for 6 years. A long -very long- arduous climb that has worn them down almost to the point of giving up. With so many obstacles (different beliefs, other partners etc.) in their way they have eventually reached the top. But reaching the top isn’t the reward though, it’s the getting back down the other side intact. Now if they run full tilt down that mountain to claim their prize (each other) they risk falling over, hurting themselves & each other and in the mad rush to get there miss the well trodden path.
    But if they take the time to tread carefully & share their fears & insecurities together, then navigating the path (to redemption) won’t be so hard. They may just get down that mountain & out of purgatory intact and of course together.

    For me Blizzard was the top of the mountain and now they are on their way down…definitely on a redemptive path but at least together.
    Then they can make like pretzels.

    • Hi Skole, I have to go what Laffers18 wrote.
      I printed your Theory out and mark all the words I don’t know, to translate them or look the meanings up. I have done this with Hanson Inferno. Sorry I can’t reply.
      But thanks to Lenora and Leesa I can understand a little bit.
      Still thanks for the challenge.

  4. Brilliant post. You triggered a few “hmm, hadn’t thought about it that way” moments and I really love those moments! As for where B&B are right this minute…I can’t help but think of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. There are three trials Indiana has to go through to obtain the Holy Grail in order to save his father, who’s been shot. The third trial finds him at the edge of a seemingly impassable ravine. The clue for crossing, “Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth,” indicates he must have faith or fail, thus falling to his death and ensuring the death of his father. He stands for several seconds with his foot poised…does he have enough faith to make that leap and continue the journey? It’s a matter of self reflection. He either has the courage to take that step forward, believing in a better outcome, or he balks, choosing not to risk the safety of his current position. I think this is where Booth and Brennan are. They are standing together, feet poised over the edge of that precipice, evaluating the situation and deciding…do they have the faith to leap from the lion’s head? Do they step forward? Or balk? Is the potential reward worth the risk? I have faith they will hold each other’s hands and together, will choose courage over safety. They will continue their journey together through Purgatory. They will have those discussions they need to have before Paradise can be obtained. And hopefully will hold off on making like pretzels until this part of the journey is complete!

  5. Great post Skole, Hey I really hope you’re right and they’ll go through all 7 steps in the next 7 episodes. 😀 I do like the way you’re looking at/presenting this; all of the steps, the way you related themt to Booth and Brennan and their relationship (or lack there of) was very well done.

    I would try to add more here, but I had a monster headache last night and my brain is just not fully functional this morning. I just wanted to let you know this was a great post.

  6. Dear Skole

    What a superb post. And though I thoroughly enjoyed the parallel, I feel like saying “that is all very well but…” You see, I don’t want perfection. I don’t want them to learn all of this and take that one step towards sainthood.
    Nah. I don’t want my Brennan humble or my Booth meek. I think that can build a wonderful life from their flaws.
    The same way it can be argued that B&B need to evolve, it can be said that starting up at such a high mark of perfection will only mean a stagnated life from the moment they actually go there (and yes, I truly mean a relationship not just the talking about one- which is not the same as to say go for it now, mind you).
    People build lives together; they build out of the bricks of emotions and the mortar of the flaws. Perfection does not make for good building material, because evolution only comes from imbalance.
    I don’t want to see them taking their tour through the inferno.
    I actually think they deserve heaven just on sheer headcount: of their progress so far, of their deeds, of their suffering.


  7. There’s no doubt that TPTB are well-versed in classical literature and understand that story requires conflict. Dante’s treatment of the journey through hell describes quite well the journey that so many Bones’ fans feel that they’ve gone on this season.

    But I digress. I don’t know if the comparison between B&B and Dante is right on (it’s been a while since I’ve read his work), but I would agree that B&B are on a journey. They need to confront their own issues in order to be able to become a couple. Many people have proposed that they will more than likely have some sort of big fight followed by a big make-up (out for some of you, I suppose). I think your pathway is probably going to be closer to the truth since HH tends toward the understated. They really need to deal with their own issues as well as their issues that they face as two people who see the world so differently. I really believe, however, that it will be Brennan, in some ways, who will be the one leading Booth through the levels of their personal purgatories to take them through to the other side as a couple.

  8. When I saw the title of today’s post in my email I knew it had to be a follow-up to “Hanson’s Inferno” … and I think I squee-ed a little bit inside! I always enjoy reading your posts Skole – they’re so fun…and educational. 🙂 You’ve made some great points here – most of which I could easily jump on board with. It’ll be fun to see how everything plays out on the show.

    Oh, and I can wait a little while for the pretzel-making…as long as I get some nice warm cheese sauce to dip them in when they’re done.

  9. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but your theory does make a lot of sense! We have the xbox game Dante’s Inferno so I’m imagining B&B going through the levels with me. 🙂

  10. Love it! Btw this helps me in my personal life!

  11. Great post…email
    comment 🙂

  12. WOW….

    I agree…I think they are on the path but not ready yet.

    I want HH to do it well and do their story justice. I want to see the process of them getting to know each other again. No making like pretzels for a while I hope. We don’t want to wait forever but I don’t want them to rush it either!

    Very well written.

  13. Wonderful post; had a very hectic day, so I’m unable to come up with a response that does justice to it, but I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated it. It’s nice to have the old brain cells jogged into action! I do think B/B just came out of the hell that they descended into after the 100th; in a way, maybe they’ve both been there since their respective childhood abandonments. She closing herself off from meaningful relationships to escape being hurt again, he so beaten up inside that he can’t imagine being worthy of someone’s love. They’ve been pulling themselves up, together, by their bootstraps and only now does it seem that they’re willing and able to fully look forward and up, and not back to where the all-consuming fires of past hurts lie. Maybe they’ll get to heaven on butterfly wings or the wings of angels, but I do believe it’s coming. In any event, I think there’s always room for a little magic-that final leap of faith into love which they will still be required to make after all the talking is done.

  14. Way to peg the first one (in my humble opinion)!

    • Agreed! As soon as I got up to that part of the post I was like, “She’s right! Skole predicted the next episode!”

      Now I just can’t wait to see how correct you are on the rest of the season – I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the theory continues to work out!

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