Serial killers are meant to be scary bad creatures of evil and ‘Bones’ has certainly made use of this plot device, so here’s a question for you: Can it be possible that serial killers bring good things at least to one Seeley Booth?
Take the case of Howard Epps, a creepy dude– especially in that orange jump suit. Brennan and Booth tried to nail Epps for three episodes and in ‘The Man in the Cell’, Booth actually tried to save his life. The fallout from the Epps case was epic for Booth. He was forced to face his buried guilt about his past as a sniper and go through therapy with Gordon Gordon Wyatt. Booth broke off his friends-with-benefits relationship with Cam and in that little speech at the merry-go-round drew a line in the sand with Brennan. She understood him to mean that they could never have a romantic relationship. And that led to her search for a Booth substitute. Enter Sully. The end of Epps led inevitably to Sully which resulted in Brennan’s realizing, whether she was willing to admit it or not, that a platonic relationship with Booth was more important to her than a sexual relationship with anyone else. By the final Sully episode, ‘The Boneless Bride in the River’, Booth had gotten his mojo back and was there for Brennan as Sully sailed away.
In the next episode Booth and Brennan were firmly there for each other even if it took a lie by Gordon Gordon to reconcile them. Until season 6, Booth never looked at anyone else seriously and apart from a brief exercise with the underwater welder/human vibrator Mark in ‘The Man in the Outhouse; (how exactly did she meet him?), neither did Brennan. Epps planted the two firmly on their path to each other.
The Gormogon arc could put in zoological terms. It drove the competing beta male from the herd and left an uncontested field for the alpha male. The only real male competitor for Brennan’s deepest emotions in the first three seasons was Zach. Zach acted as Brennan’s surrogate child or younger brother. Brennan always defended Zach to Booth and her close attachment to him caused her to shun Booth after Zach went off to Iraq. Zach was her go-to guy in the lab but he also acted as an emotional enabler who reinforced her cliquey sense of us – the geniuses – versus them – the not-so-smart’s. Up until ‘The Pain in the Heart’, Brennan treated Booth as one of ‘them’. With the exit of Zach and the discrediting of obsessive rationality (and we won’t go into how bizarre that whole thing was), Brennan lost not only Zach but the ego reinforcement that Zach gave her. Her emotions became wholly fixated on Booth. Booth stopped being ‘them’ and together with Brennan became a closed unit, not just partners but the center.
Which brings us to Heather Taffet, aka the Gravedigger. Hodgins and Brennan had a traumatic experience in that buried car (side note here: why didn’t the writers include a flashback to the terrified younger Brennan locked in the trunk of a car as a foster child as described in ‘Mayhem on a Cross’?). Booth’s experience on the derelict, dynamited ship while traumatic was also cathartic. Booth had carried around the guilt of Teddy Parker’s death for years and suddenly there was Teddy, himself, back from the dead in order to absolve Booth of that guilt. Not only did Booth find absolution for events that had shaken him enough to involve the naming of his son, but he learned that Brennan had moved heaven and earth, lied to the FBI, manipulated Jared and risked her own life to save him.
Compare the Booth at the end of the Epps arc in ‘The Man in the Cell’, traumatized and guilt-ridden, with the Booth at the end of ‘The Hero in the Hold’, calm, guilt-free and Brennan flirty.
Finally we arrive at Jacob Brodsky. Booth has known since ‘The Man in the SUV’, the first episode of the series after the pilot, that Brennan realizes how hard it is for him to kill. She says as much to him in ‘The Mummy in the Maze’. Yet in his continuing distrust of her last season, he was convinced that she saw him as just another killer like Brodsky. In ‘The Killer in the Crosshairs’ when Sweets asks him if he’s spoken to her about it, Booth says that he ‘doesn’t go there anymore. It’s over.’ This, to me, is the turning point in their relationship. At first Booth, who is still dealing with anger and mistrust, won’t talk to Brennan about her feelings toward him as a sniper, something that touches him deeply. But she presses him on why he’s angry with her, and their emotional bond has become such a habit that he can’t help himself. He blurts out what he is feeling and his doubts about her and she answers that she believes in him, that she is standing beside him and that she always will be. From there it’s a downhill run to Brodsky’s last stand which allows us to see Booth no longer internalizing the guilt of someone else’s death but able to put the blame where it belongs. It also leads directly to that now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t night in his apartment and Bang! Mama Bones!
So my question is, how do you think serial killers have affected Booth? Have they been good for Brennan too?