Bones Theory

The Journey in the Theme

22 Comments

So I was talking to my mom one Friday morning and bless her heart, she brought up BONES.  She is pretty much my only live action person in my life who watches this show and does so with enough interest to talk about it.  This is not to say that she even remotely matches my obsessive nature, but I will take what I can get in the live action world.  I probably freak her out by the way I glom onto her words, “What did you think about…?” Well, Mom, let me tell you…  Hahaha!

Anyhow, we were talking about the Hodgins-Angela baby storyline from The Blackout in the Blizzard, and I gushed over TJ Thyne and his amazing performance and the full range of emotion he was able to convey in that episode and then…okay, getting off track a little bit.

But the point of that discussion is that it led to whether or not BONES would tackle a reality of having their child actually be born blind.  I think we both agreed that it was unlikely because it would require a little too much treatment (read: screentime).  While Hodgins and Angela are important characters, it might give them more of an elevated status than desired.  However, as I finally get to the main point of this post, I pointed out that in some ways I wouldn’t be surprised if they made that move because BONES does not seem to be afraid to tackle controversial issues, or storylines, for that matter.

The best episodes, to me, are the ones that give us character development within the thematic context of the case.  For example, on at least three separate occasions we learned more about Booth’s acceptance of same sex relationships, which gave me a fantastically refreshing characterization of a modern day Catholic.  As much as he struggles with pronouns in The He in the She, neither he nor any of the other characters express reservations with the choices that the victim made. (On a personal note, I absolutely love that Booth encouraged that tattooed son to take over his father’s ministry – spoke to my heart.)  Angela’s relationship with Roxie presented not only the respect of demonstrating a loving relationship, but also the respect of giving a relationship it’s due course with a mature ending.

I really love how BONES seems to so effortlessly weave in social issues.  Without a doubt it helps to be a socially liberal viewer such as myself. But, it is more than that.

The decision to make Zack Gormogon’s apprentice, to me, reflected a stroke of genius, even if it may not have been the original intention.  Having him be a victim to Gormogon would have been the easy way out.  Making an important character fall prey to a degenerative following creates a magnificent internal struggle for characters and viewers alike. I find this to be daring and innovative.  It is the episode that made me think, “wow”, and ensnared me once and for all.  I had been only a casual viewer before that episode.

The 100th episode demonstrated an equally audacious move.  To say that viewers might have legitimately expected a happy outcome seems fair to me.  To give them the opposite reflects sheer guts.  They didn’t try to indicate that these two characters didn’t love each other.  They didn’t try to indicate that one had been imagining the other’s feelings for him/her.  And the end result?  Clearly reactions were divided and extreme, at least as far as I can tell in the online world well after the fact.  I find that fantastic.

“Things had to change.”  Are you ridiculously tired of that phrase by now?  Probably.  I don’t blame you in the least, but I consider it yet another bold decision. Regardless of how they chose to do it, the change was made and agree/disagree with the how, I applaud the audacity, I really do.  This is why I watch this show.

There are many other examples of how this show has demonstrated bold shifts from the norm.  What examples stand out to you?

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22 thoughts on “The Journey in the Theme

  1. I think three shows that really capture how different this show is, are “The Man In The Cell”, “Aliens In A Spaceship” and “The Hero In The Hold”. These shows showed Brennan (the main female lead) as a strong character, willing and able to save her own life when needed and quite capable of saving others. We don’t get a lot of shows like that. The female usually has to be saved whenever someone is put at risk and yet on Bones, Brennan doesn’t sit around waiting to be rescued. She does the rescuing. To me that is so Bones and that is why I love this show. I also love the fact that Booth and Bones would do anything for each other; but, neither is portrayed as being perfect. They are flawed (read human) and yet don’t let those flaws dictate how they live. They fight daily to overcome their fears and strive to do good. What more can you ask for?

  2. My husband and I were talking about the Hodgela Baby storyline. I really do hope that they do have their child deal with blindness. Not because I wish that pain even on fictional characters, but because that is more real, and would provide such an opportunity for the characters and actors to grow.

    Our oldest child has special needs and the effect of that has had on our lives and marriage and everything about us has been immeasurable. Some of it has been extremely difficult, but we are much better people than we were before. I would like to see how Bones would treat such a sensitive issue and one that is almost always overlooked in fiction of any kind.

  3. One thing that stands out to me on Bones is that they are not afraid to do anything to their main characters in general. I’m thinking Zach here too even though I hated that storyline…but Bones and Brennan have had ridiculously terrible things happen to them (ie, Brennan’s fridge exploding on Booth) that don’t always happen to the main characters, usually you’d stick to the supporting cast for that. They also “go there” emotionally, such as the 100th epsiode, and splitting up the team, however temporary, its still a huge thing.

    An important epsiode for me that shows depth is Mayhem. Oh. My. Word. I watched it last night, saw Sweets’ scars, saw Brennan and Booth’s emotions and the end…I literally cannot breathe once Brennan starts opening up. I cannot think of another show that does that to me. Her reaction + Booth’s reaction to her = Wow. I cannot take my eyes off of DB in that scene. And our little Sweets just watching them, grinning. They are like a little duck family, aren’t they?

    The characters have such deep backstories (even though we don’t know everything yet) which makes them so three dimensional and real to me. So when you watch Mayhem, or PitSofW or End in the Beginning, or whatever…and you are sucked in so much that you can write paragraphs on a 2 min scene (guilty!), then you know you’ve got a unique and awesome show.

    I’m not sure though, if I want something to really happen to their baby. To me, it would almost seem expected now, since they brought it up, to give the baby problems. It would be unexpected for the baby to be fine. Its like the Angela/Roxie thing. I felt that was forced and ratings grabby, not a real storyline. These characters see such murder and sadness in the jobs and so much drama in their personal relationships, that I think it would be nice to just see them as a happy family with no big drama attached.

    Anyway, no matter what they do I’m sure the writers will work it out for the best with the characters. With the exception of the strike nonsense and the ridiculous (to me) addition of Stewie (and Brennan knowing exactly who he was, weird) I have faith in the writers to do the right thing for our beloved team!

  4. Certainly Brennan’s unabashed and unapologetic atheism is a different concept on TV. Unlike most TV atheists, her beliefs don’t come from a tragedy or time she felt betrayed. It’s just logic. And none of the other characters tries to change her mind either. Booth wants her to respect HIS beliefs, but not change hers.

    She has liberal views (in Woman in the Garden) but is also very pro-death penalty (Man in the SUV) and pro-military (shown in nearly every season), showing that labels like liberal or conservative aren’t one-size fits all.

    All the lead characters (except perhaps Hodgins) have some seriously major flaws that would make them quite unlikable if we didn’t know their whole story. Not just those “flaws that are really virtues” like Booth’s white knight syndrome. Booth is really insecure and needy. Brennan can be intolerant toward all religion (the way she treats Arastoo is often appalling). Angela has been cruel to her seeming best friend, Cam and Sweets both have extremely fluid ethics…

    These are good things, IMO. That is what makes us care about them and what happens to them.

    I also love that it’s the men on the show who are romantic and sappy and want to get married and the women are the ones who value their independence and don’t think marriage is necessary and that casual relationships are just fine.

    Although Cam did adopt Michelle, she’s been very firm from day one about not wanting a baby, and that’s a refreshing change from the usual “all women approaching 40 are baby-hungry” trope that is so often seen on TV.

    • I think that Hodgins tendency toward paranoia re: conspiracies is a flaw. Probably there are others, but this is the one that comes immediately to mind.

    • At the risk of being bombarded with flying tomatoes, I would argue that Hodgins DOES have some pretty major character flaws that could make him quite unlikeable. He’s a conspiracy theorist (which, while it’s always been treated with humor on the show, can often be quite polarizing) who, at the time the show began, was in treatment for anger management issues. When we first “meet” him in the 100th episode he’s actually quite unpleasant. He also took evidence related to the GD case at some point prior to The Hero in the Hold. Those actions were not only illegal, they were directly responsible for Booth’s abduction. And speaking of the Gravedigger, I’m with Angela. His glee at the gruesome way she died was somewhat over the top.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love Hodgins’ character, but flawless he is not.

      • no apologies necessary. I think flaws make for more interesting characters, so if Hodgins has them too, all the better.

        The conspiracy theory thing is more a quirk, IMO, than a flaw, but stealing evidence is definitely a bad thing. When it comes to the Gravedigger, he has a lot of unresolved trauma all around.

      • Every character on Bones seems to have flaws. After all Booth even remarked to Brennan and GG about this, “what are we the land of mis-fit toys?” (Mayhem On A Cross)

  5. The baby storyline makes me sad for one main reason – I feel like it’s the beginning of the end. Babies change things. Handicapped or not, I wonder how the stories will change with the addition of an infant. We’ll see less of Angela? Less of Hodgins? The baby will be in a basket in Angela’s office? Childcare on site?

    Every show runs its course, of course, and maybe the baby is part of the show outline I presume (hope!) HH started with. But, I feel like a baby is the opening scene in Act 3, The Epilogue and that makes me sad.

    On topic: shifts from societal norm. The sexual orientation themes have always struck me, mostly because I’m affected occasional by prejudice and judgment and I appreciate the way it’s handled on Bones, as part of life and not the subject of jokes (mostly). Aside from the attitude and comments about the androgynous Japanese scientist, that is, which were frankly offensive. Booth’s comments about his Aunt Ruth reminded me of the beginning of the gay rights movement, why a point was made that it was so important for gays and lesbians to come out so that friends and family could see that homosexuality doesn’t turn you into a monster. Altar Boy Booth might have been taught to believe homosexuals were going to hell but love for his Aunt Ruth tempered that training. It makes the prejudice more personal and more offensive when it happens to someone you know and love.

    • No offense but as a practicing Catholic I have to clarify…Catholics don’t teach that all homosexuals go to hell. The teaching is that God is merciful and that no one is beyond God’s redemption.

  6. OOH! Yes, yes, yes, I agree with this!

    The one episode that I can think of that hasn’t been mentioned so far is End in the Beginning. I mean, sure, it was pretty ambiguous and made people mad, but it was a daring move, nonetheless. It was basically saying “this is where we end up” and it had so many in-jokes it was just amazing. I unashamedly call it one of my favorite episodes for those reasons.

    Also, what about many of the story lines dealing with Arastoo? I think it’s pretty brave for them to have characters actually verbally and physically deal with problems that are still occurring now with perceptions of Islam. I especially love what happened in Devil in the Details, because it simultaneously dealt with current events and faith in one fell swoop (then again, I just plain love Arastoo because he reminds me of my very close friend).

    Blackout in the Blizzard amazed me for this reason. First, we have the case issues (human trafficking and the possibility of a deadly widespread disease), which are pretty big current issues. Then the setting — for those of is in the DC area last winter (and those up north this winter), we can definitely sympathize with the lack of electricity and the snow. And Hodgins and Angela? WOW. When Hodgins said “one in a thousand” I broke into tears (and I don’t cry when watching TV or movies that often). I have a genetic disorder that effects 1 in 15,000 people, and I have a 50% chance of passing it on to my children. It’s something that at times weighs upon me when I think about my future. To see that addressed… it was moving, to say the least. And then when Hodgins said “I’ll just have to take up the piano,” I was crying again. That he would do anything for his child just moves me so much, no matter the end result. I definitely think that if the writers decided that the child is blind, that they would handle it well. Disabilities are not something widely seen in television, still.

    I guess this is why I still have faith in the show. If they can handle these issues this well? Then, yeah, I’m fine with everything.

  7. Bones has always had a very interesting way of doing things. It’s rarely what I think is coming and this level of unpredicatability with the characters and their personal stories is what keeps the series fresh for me. While a general storyline may be a bit inferable (I knew after the 100th that somethng would happen and that Brennan would end up pining for Booth in the beginning of the 6th just like he pined for her in the 5th), the way they did it was definitely interesting even if not enjoyable for some. I really respect that there is a vision there that doesn’t often bow to audience pressure and I’ve come to trust that vision even during bumpy moments (and there were plenty earlier this season.) I realize that sometimes the story is not handled in the best possible way (ehem, Hannah’s development as a character, Zach’s limbo status), but overall I believe that most things ultimately work themselves out nicely. I think the baby will have on impact on B/B whether it’s born with a handicap or not and it will be handled in the usual imaginative way.

    I feel we’re on new ground here as far a six year old romantic/procedural is concerned. People may acuse the show of being many things, but boring is not one of them. Of course, many hate the unpredictability and the controversial aspects because they would like comfort food instead and I respect that. It’s just that for me personally, that dark night of the soul where I was disappointed and angry already came and went with The Beginning in the End (and what a time to be angry-with four months to go until the next episode) and now I’ve just sort of achieved some inner peace with it and I’m happily just going with the flow. For some the dark night was something else, maybe Zack or Sully or Hannah and they’ve either been able to stay and enjoy the ride or are trying to, or they already got off (some still hang on just to whine). Bottom line: the fact that the show manages to shake me or make me angry on occasion is a positive thing in my book. Do not go gently into the night and all…there’s nothing worse for an audience than a beloved show that has become so irrelevant that it just fizzles out at the end without raising a single eyebrow. I say keep shaking things up, even if it means some viewers are inevitably gonna get off the ride because they are unable to trust that there is a bigger picture or that things happen for a reason. (P.S-no doubting Thomas here, but there is a bigger picture, right Hart? Hart?)

    • I haven’t really had a point where I would consider quit watching the show; but, I can understand that some people want what they want and not what they are seeing. I agree with you. I have faith that there is a big picture and I don’t mind the ups and downs that we are being put through to see it. The show is so fascinating. I just love the surprises and quirky twists and turns. I haven’t been this interested in a show since Lost. (I didn’t discover Bones until Lost was in its final season.)

      • At the beginning of writing for the new season, apparently Hart Hanson sat down with the writers and asked them to come up with some ideas that would challenge what we would normally see. Out of that we’ve gotten some pretty good moments (and, admittedly, some I would not want to re-watch.) Brennan accessing her inner child as a Disneyesque character on a children’s science show? Cam reading a list of slave names brought to life by Angela? Booth, the ever-romantic, brought low by love and retreating into an angry cloud? Brennan confronting the possibilities of a life lived without feeling and love and taking a chance? Hodgins confronting his own child’s potential blindness?

        While the show hasn’t always worked for me this season, it has dared to go places that have given us additional insights into the characters. Wendell tells Brennan she can be abrasive. . . Clark reveals a bit too much of himself. . . Fisher goes happy. . . Vinnie makes amends. . . Daisy and Sweets, oh, well, we do learn what day of the week it is in Bonesville. TPTB could have left the squinterns to their old ways, but the show sometimes goes all out. Of course, it’s a bit like watching your favorite uncle rip an ice cream cone from the hand of a child and wonder what that was all about, but it does give us insights into the characters.

  8. Of course I was totally remiss in mentioned the love story…yes, the show went a whole different direction in the 100th and this season has been painful to watch but there is more than one kind of love story and this is one where the lovers part and reconcile. And that may not be what everyone in the audience wants, but that doesn’t make it any less a love story.

    B&B remind me of a poem by Michael O’Siahail. The first line in particular:
    That we can hurt each other deepest and still/To know that it always had to be you and me.

  9. It’s kind of funny you should write this, Janet, because as a very religious person, not to mention a social and political conservative, one of the things I appreciated most about the earlier seasons of Bones was their fairly balanced approach towards religious and political issues. Later seasons have definitely been less balanced overall, but I still don’t think they’re as critical of conservative viewpoints as some shows I’ve seen. Even the issue of the war in Iraq was given somewhat balanced treatment in The Soldier on the Grave. You don’t see that much in Hollywood these days…at least not out of serious, believable characters.

    It’s kind of funny, but I could have sworn, at least early on, that Booth was a closet Republican. (“What is this, NPR?”). Who knows, maybe he still is… 😉

    From a religious standpoint, I appreciate the fact that Booth doesn’t ever back down when he and Brennan are having a religious discussion – no matter how irrational his faith may seem in light of her argument or how much she ridicules his faith in God.

    As far as Angela and Hodgins’ baby is concerned, I’m not sure how I want that to work out. But regardless of what I think, I don’t doubt for a second that Bones would be willing to take the hard road and to do it with the appropriate degree of sensitivity and understanding. And again, that’s something I admire.

    • Stephanie, very well said. I too am a conservative Christian, and I think Bones does a very good job of treating different people’s beliefs. Booth is very God and country, while Bones, well not so much. But the great thing is that they still find common ground, and they each respect each other. Brennan may question Booth’s faith, but she doesn’t ridcule him, she just wants to know why he believes, his thought processes. Booth may not understand Brennan’s atheism, but he does respect and like her intelligence and her pursuit of truth. They grow and learn from each other. Even with Arastoo, there are some growing pains as they learn, but the learning does come. It is very refreshing to have a show that does have a religious character or two that are not treated as brainwashed idiots. There is a tolerance and respect there. Kudos to the writers for bringing up difficult topics and handling them well.

  10. Awesome post Prof 😀

    I both love and hate the show for it’s ability to make bold decisions. Most of the times i love it…it adds another layer to the show, knowing that you can never really be sure of which direction they are going to take. All you do know is that it will be unexpected. And this is good…but every once in a while i would like to be able to watch an episode and not have to worry about which direction they head off in. You know?

    Because while they do make excellent bold faced decisions…they also make some not so brilliant ones! LOL

    The 100th…the premise behind it was brilliant. I don’t think either Booth or Brennan were ready so the outcome wasn’t unexpected to me but it was guaranteed to divide opinions and get people talking. That is good. The execution, however, was poorly done.

    I think that’s the problem at times. The ideas are there to be shocking and to go outside the box, keeping us all guessing as they do so. BUT…i don’t think the writing ability is always there to pull it off. That’s just my opinion though 🙂

  11. There’s an old journalism story that has a person say that he doesn’t care what you write about him just as long as you spell the name right. That’s how it is with Bones. They will take on some pretty wild “social groups” (can you say, “Pony Play?”) and provide some insights into the wealth of human differences. Sometimes I wish they would go deeper, but sometimes they do just enough to grab the viewer and make you feel the enormity of emotions– can you watch Cam reading the names of the slaves lost at sea and not feel moved?

    The show has always been about character and the interactions of the people. The cases and the bodies and the grossness is just window dressing to seeing the characters react to the world around them. Sometimes they are uncaring or unthinking as in their treatment sometimes of Arastoo, and sometimes they are open arms and open hearts when they all go to the funeral of a young man, not because they knew him, but because they knew his mother would be alone. Yes, the show is strewn with life-changing moments for the characters, but it is also scattered with life-affirming moments for us all.

    As frustrated as I can get with the online community because people don’t always see the humanity in the show because they are looking for a sexual trampoline act to occur any moment (or shielding their eyes because the wrong parties are tripping the bed fantastic), I find the little moments in the show to be what keeps me watching. People change and grow and sometimes not in the ways we would like them to. (Just look at all the squinterns. . . do we really need to hear that, Clark?) That’s real life. Sometimes people say things that are just so inappropriate (“I find your lotion to be pungent as well”) or insensitive. It’s not just reserved for Brennan, but for everyone. That’s how people are. And sometimes people who have the biggest hearts also have the ability to open mouth insert foot.

    And that’s okay. Each person offers hard spots as well as soft spots and bruises that make them real. And sometimes they do something that is truly outrageous (eh, ever bounce a turkey off someone’s head?) But they humanize the victims and they humanize a workplace that could be ghoulish or cold-hearted. And they show us that love isn’t just about sex, it’s about bouncing back when someone rejects you and holding their hand when they’ve been rejected and not doing it because you are waiting in the wings, but because he’s your friend and he’s hurting and you know how that feels. It’s the little moments that sell the show for me.

  12. Thankyou for allowing us to think again about the wonders of this show. This ability to think outside the square, even in very subtle ways, is why I fell in love with this show. It is different. It is smart. It sets its sights to a higher level – and often reaches them.

    As for the Hodgela storyline – I am expecting the baby to be ok….but I think that if they did go down that path, the heartbreaking performances by TJ & Michaela that we’ve already seen will pale with what will come – and that will be mesmerising to watch.

  13. thank you for a thought-provoking post about sometimes difficult topics.
    Ditto what Stephanie and bb said above.

    I appreciate the portions of the episodes best where a moral lesson is presented without being too preachy (instead of the episodes that are meant to shock the viewer). For example: a. Booth telling the boy that got all those girls pregnant in the pregnancy pact one, why his actions didn’t make him a man or explaining that there is a difference between crappy sex and making love in Death in the Saddle. b. Brennan stating her opinions about all the wannabe actresses getting multiple plastic surgeries in the LA one or that the mothers shouldn’t push their daughters to the limits they did in the beauty contest one (Girl with the Curl?) c. Booth struggling with whether or not he could have saved Epps. d. Brennan struggling with accepting and forgiving her family. e. Hodgins stealing the picture from the crime scene jeopardizing the case.
    Other moral questions are not really dealt with but are there more for the shock value and are sometimes even out of character. For example: Daisy and Sweets having sex in the office or Cam cheating on her daughter’s admissions application or the team stealing the body in Double Death of the Dearly Departed.
    I too am curious to see how the show will deal with the Hodgela baby. I could see them going either way with that story line but I hope they don’t go with the baby being blind — it’s just too heartcrushing.

  14. The show was very unique in how it handled the Hannah situation. If this were like other shows, Booth would have realized that he was in love with Brennan and wouldn’t be able to go through with asking Hannah to marry him. And once his relationship with Hannah was over, he definitely would have been with Bones by now.

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