Hello, hello! I hope this weekend is treating you well so far.
I want to take some time to discuss my complete reactions to season six in full. (Warning: THERE IS A LOT! 😀 ) There were many moments I liked (stay tuned for Top Five Tuesday: My Fave Season Six Moments), but I also had some major issues with the season as a whole. I wanted to wait until the entire season was over to fairly weigh all of my thoughts. We talked yesterday a little bit about how hindsight can be 20/20 when it comes to BONES, and yes, it’s very possible that within a few episodes of season seven, I’ll be fondly looking back to the time when Brennan was left sitting alone at Founding Fathers.
Or maybe not.
And I think it’s fair and important to judge the season based on what occurred. Not on what any of the writers said later in interviews. Not what I or other bloggers justified as underlying motive. Not what I or others ‘want’ to believe, but what actually happened on screen on nearly two dozen Thursday nights. “Okay,” you might say. “But what you saw is different than what I saw.”
Yes, that is true—for each of us, as Booth said, “our perceptions are always colored by what we hope, what we fear, what we love. We do the best we can”.
But beneath that, is it possible to disregard expectations and emotional reactions and weigh the season as a whole? I think it is. That’s what I’m going to attempt.
When I do that…when I judge the episodes themselves, I come to four main issues:
- The over-use of under-developed plot threads resulted in lack of quality.
- Hannah’s character was unneeded, poorly executed, and thankfully had little to no effect on Brennan and Booth’s storyline.
- Booth and Brennan were treated unfairly as characters, and the ‘punishment’ they suffered did not fit their ‘crimes’. Likewise, the ‘fix’ they received did not resolve their ‘punishments’.
- From a season and series perspective, using the baby/pregnant storyline as a “gotcha” was evil, but not in the genius sort of way.
I’ve already written about 400 words—just in intro! 😀 Like I said, this is a long essay. It’s so lengthy that I’ve made it a three-part series. I’ll deal with point 1 today, point 2 tomorrow and I’ll delve in to points 3 & 4 on Monday.
Another quick note before I get started: Usually I try to give credit whenever I can, but in this instance, I will be very vague, “A friend said this,” or “I heard several people argue this” etc. I had many conversations with people who privately agreed with me on some points but very publicly supported season six. To be fair, I also skewed more toward the positive in public ( for example, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything” was my Hannah philosophy as much as possible), and the point of this essay is not to call any person out. I will leave it to each of you to eventually comment on your own actions and reactions, agreements and disagreements.
Okay, then, let’s get started!
Do Red Herrings Make For Blue Viewers?
A long time ago, I read a fan fiction story about Booth and Brennan getting together, and at the moment where Booth revealed he wanted more in their relationship, Brennan sort of pushed Booth away because she didn’t think she had what it took to make him happy. She said that she loved living in the city and didn’t want to have a big family and get married and move to the country. And Booth very calmly told her he’d never once said he wanted those things.
I can’t remember the name of that story or the author, but I know for sure that I read it before Cinderella in the Cardboard in season four, perhaps even before Baby in the Bough in season three. I don’t remember even where I read it, but I clearly remember my reaction, which was… “What?!?!”
Was that possible? Was it possible that Booth had really never said he wanted to get married and have more children? And at that point in the series, yes, it was true. That his desire to get married became canon later in the series does not negate the truth of what that fiction writer had written as early as Santa in the Slush. And it was the first moment I realized that I had made some assumptions and that assumptions were dangerous blinders. I had an idea of what ‘happily ever after’ would look like for Booth, and it was based on my personality and not the ‘facts’ of Booth’s actual words. Had he ever said he didn’t want to get married? No, so there was obviously some room for interpretation there. But the point is that where there was room for interpretation, there was NOT room for definitive statements. Does that make sense? Booth believes in love. Booth believes that making love to someone is more special than casual sex. Booth has never cheated on any woman he’s been with. Ever. These are all Booth statements. They do not mean he automatically wanted 2.5 kids in the burbs filled with nights reading the paper, smoking a pipe and waiting as Brennan set the table for dinner. (Note—this wasn’t what I had in mind or anything, but I certainly had equated love with other things, haha.)
Another sort of official “blink at the TV screen and say ‘that’s not what I had in mind’ moment” was in season three, after Verdict in the Story, when Brennan and Max were hugging and Booth was walking away. I wanted more. I wanted, I don’t know…some sort of group hug with Booth and Brennan and I guess maybe Max, but mostly just more BB hugging, and certainly NOT Booth walking away. So what I did after that moment (okay, after watching it 30 times) was to write a fanfic story where I ‘fixed’ the ending to how I wanted it to go. I’d been writing little fic stories off and on, and I really liked doing it. Now I read some (most) of those stories, and they are gaspingly terrible. BEYOND bad. And I remember getting reviews and some of them would sort of go like this “Oh, I love the Booth you’ve created here” or “I’m so glad Brennan said that because she would NEVER say that on the show”, etc. And while those were very complimentary ideas from the people commenting, I was left sputtering, something like, “What? No! I didn’t ‘create’ a version of Booth here. My Booth is THE BOOTH!” Hahaha.
But when I read them now, I see that it was true what they were saying—the stories were often more about me or what I wanted to see happen than what was actually true to the characters or in character. I was using those characters to fit a story plot I had in mind. Once I had that realization, I sort of lost the taste for writing ‘fics to fix’. Not to say I haven’t written other ones, but for the most part, non-fiction is what I spend the majority of my Bones-time on. The show’s the thing, so to speak.
But also at the time, as I’ve mentioned before, I was struggling with teaching, and then over the next few months, I was starting a new career, and Bones-world was very safe. I was using it to escape and to make new friends, and I liked it. But when my real-life issues were resolved (…ish, haha), then I sort of had to decide… did I actually even LIKE the show that much? And I have to keep asking myself this question: Do I like BONES?
When I did the 100 Days of Bones project, I was constantly caught off guard by moments I’d forgotten (good and bad) and by lines of dialogue I’d been mis-quoting in my mind. I don’t want to delve through all of that, but I’m just bringing it up to say that I know I sometimes view the show based on my own experience. But having said that, I also think I can separate from that and measure the show fairly. My criticism of plot threads that went nowhere is not based on my own personal reactions to the storyline but based the fact that the quality of the story suffered. I would have gone along with just about anything the writers did, so long as they’d actually developed it and wrapped it up. Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end, and this season had too many beginnings, almost no middles, and a few hasty ends. Every ‘ending’ should feel like a new beginning, but that’s not what happened here (with the exception of the final two minutes of the season—and we’ll discuss that more Monday).
In season six, I heard a lot of justification from fans, and I wrote a lot of it too. “Surely we just need to wait and it will ALL BE EXPLAINED! EVERYTHING HAPPENS EVENTUALLY!” etc, etc. To the tune of Dr. Wyatt’s “May I counsel hope on that front—hope and patience”, I was honest in my discomfort at the plots (for example: Hannah: Why I’m Nervous, Why I Shouldn’t Be and Morning After Q: Are You Okay?) but also willing to see how the writers wove everything together in a way that would make sense.
And as the season progressed and ended, there wasn’t really a finished tapestry—a mosaic of threads that formed a cohesive unit. It felt more like my 7th grade Home Economics efforts to make a pillow. In other words, a clear pattern, crappy execution, poor seams, but in the end, filled with enough stuffing that I can still rest my feet on it.
It’s not that I had a laundry list of demands and felt slighted when they didn’t occur my way…it’s that the writers set up plots and then never completed them. There are several, but here is a small list to show what I’m talking about:
- The coffee cart (From the season five finale)
- Booth and gambling
- Hannah being shot and Booth promising to go after the shooter
- The dramatic character changes in the interns
- The “We’ll be ready” written dates
Were these moments just red herrings to throw us off the scent of what would eventually happen at the end of the season? Were the squintern reversals a method to bring intrigue to see who would die? In my opinion, these methods were not justified by the resolutions involved. Did I need Booth and Brennan to have a conversation in which one of them mentioned the date he or she had written on their scrap of hot dog paper? Noooo, I didn’t need it, but I never would have ‘expected’ it if the writers hadn’t brought it up in the first place. See what I mean?
“Oh, that’s just one example, and Hole in the Heart cleared that up”.
Yes, it is just one example, but there are lots of others that can’t be solved by B&B making a baby.
“They can’t resolve everything. That’s unrealistic.”
No it’s not. Here’s the way to do that. Pick a couple of plots, introduce and develop them and resolve them.
“The show is episodic. They can’t have plot threads like that because new viewers won’t understand what is happening.”
Not entirely true. This has been proven earlier in the series, as many people have pointed out. Booth’s relationship with Cam, Brennan’s relationship with Sully, Brennan’s relationship with Max, Booth and Brennan’s reaction to the therapy they receive from Sweets are just a few examples.
Beyond what I listed above, there were more organic plots that never really went anywhere (Daisy’s misinterpretation of Brennan’s true motives, for example, as well as how this affected Sweets and his reaction to B&B. Or perhaps Angela and Brennan’s friendship and Brennan’s observations of Angela’s pregnancy. Cam’s accusations that though almost every person left the Jeffersonian, it was Brennan’s fault that things fell apart—causing Brennan to realize her value to the people of the lab is vital). None of these plots were intrinsically good or bad—they just were not developed, and THAT is bad.
Why bring them up to not resolve them? These aren’t novice writers—this is season six of a TV show. This issue isn’t new to season six by any means, and some of you might be thinking, “Well, some of them just haven’t been explained… yet”. I don’t want to be rude, but pardon me if I don’t hold my breath. I feel like that’s what we were thinking all season, and even last summer, before season six even started. When the news dropped that Booth would be returning with a girlfriend, I was sad. Not that ‘All Things BB’ have to be happy all of the time, but I just knew there was no way to end it well without characters getting hurt, and I dreaded that. Other people were giddy with the news, and as the first episodes of the season aired, it was more about proving that what was happening was all a set up to what WOULD happen. But those “what would happens” never actually ‘did’ happen.
“It will become clear to Hannah soon that Booth and Brennan are very, very close, and she’ll get jealous, but eventually she will see the light and help both of them come to terms with their feelings. This is why this is happening.”
Did that happen?
“All of the squinterns changing is a metaphor that Brennan is evolving”.
Was it really?
“Booth needs to come to terms with his past- his gambling, his father, his time in the military- and this season will be about Booth’s character development”.
Did that go anywhere?
“Well, something HAD to happen. Otherwise, they’d be exactly where they were after episode 99.”
Did it? Have they changed that much?
All of these statements (and more…and again, some of them from my own lips and fingertips!) were justifications, and over time, I found myself accepting the justifications as facts, when the reality is that the show doesn’t really provide evidence to support them as facts. Not everything has to have a ‘moral to the story’ or anything like that, and I can read between the lines, etc. But some of the issues were so blatant that to leave almost all of their resolutions up to the readers’ interpretation was not good. I don’t see anything wrong with analyzing and overanalyzing every moment and making predictions asking questions or anything like that—this blog revolves around that! But at what point do I allow those interpretations to overshadow the reality that some episodes just weren’t that good? That the plot diagram was discarded for whatever reason?
“Seels! Baby, this is how they chose to write it. They are the creative forces, and this is their show to do what they want with it” is what I hear.
And my response would be, “Okay, but creative power isn’t synonymous with quality. But where is that line? Is it absolute power, so to speak? There are things I don’t think were very well done. Hannah scenes were uncomfortably bad, for example. And not in a ‘this is a legit awkward moment between three characters in a certain situation’ sort of way, but just…cringeworthy. From a writing perspective, they should have chosen one or two plot threads, developed them from start to finish and brought resolution, also keeping the integrity of cases and the rest of the squint squad as B-plots.”
“Oh, yes, that makes sense,” I would receive in reply. “Those moments were bad, but…of course the writers have so many demands on them from the networks—really, they can’t always do everything the way they want to. It’s a shame they didn’t have enough time to tell their story.”
Okay…so which is it? Obviously it’s not a black and white issue, and the answer is most likely ‘both’. But the reality of that answer is NOT a justification for glossing over poor writing. Putting the ‘what I love’ moments (Adele’s Make You Feel My Love at the end, or “Eureka- a gathering of guidos!”) into the “Oh, the writers are AMAAAAAAAZINNNNNNNG” column while shoving the less than desirable moments in the “Oh, the writers’ hands are tied by pressures we don’t even know about” seems like lazy critiquing to me.
Was I happy this entire season? No, but that’s my reaction and that’s on me. Is there still room to recognize that beyond personal opinion, the flow was disjointed? I think so.
In the end, it’s not the plots that upset me, it was the way they were handled. When situations or conflicts are created but not resolved, the focus of the storyline is removed from the characters and lands on the plot, and that is what procedurals and sitcoms are made of. BONES has proven itself to be better than that–deliberately better.
“Okay, Sarah, so then aren’t you doing exactly what you said you didn’t want to do? Impose your opinion of what good storytelling and writing is on the writers?”
When you put it that way, I guess I am.
Peace, Love & Bones
PS…Since this is a 3-part series, I’m keeping the comments closed until Monday.