Bones Theory

Booth Week: Are Serial Killers Good for Booth?


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?

17 thoughts on “Booth Week: Are Serial Killers Good for Booth?

  1. Very, very, very interesting idea.

    I would say that it’s not so much that they’re “good” for Booth as that serial killers prompt Booth to deal with things that he otherwise wouldn’t which ends up being good for him. I think he’d be pretty appalled to think that they’re somehow good for him. But, that’s all a quibble.

    Very often it takes a crisis of some kind to finally face a crucial issue in our lives. It seems that these serial killers have been this type of crisis for Booth and for Brennan. The crisis clarifies what’s really important.

    i also found you’re analysis of what that business about Brennan not understanding in Killer in the Crosshairs was all about. It bugged me because she clearly has known this from nearly the beginning of the series.

    On the Brennan in the trunk flashback: apparently HH and co. didn’t know she’d been locked in a trunk until she told them in Mayhem. ;-D

    • On the Brennan in the trunk flashback: apparently HH and co. didn’t know she’d been locked in a trunk until she told them in Mayhem. ;-D


      **cough** Sorry. Back to the comments.

  2. Hmm…really interesting thoughts! I never really had thought about it from that perspective. I suppose arcs, like serial killers, help break up the formulaic-ness (new word?) that comes with a crime procedural and helps the characters be exposed to new situations and new people that can bring about more change than the typical ep. It gives the writers a bit more freedom.

    Another one that comes to mind is Fat Pam, she wasn’t a serial killer (although she could have been! missed opportunity there I think, she was CREEPYYY!!) because we got scenes like karaoke, Booth’s funeral, Brennan punching Booth, the bathtub scene…um, yeah….so thanks Fat Pam?!?

  3. Having to deal with killers who think life is cheap and their’s to end at will has allowed Booth to see that the reason the people he has killed in the past were killed was because he had to, not because he wanted to. Life is not cheap to Booth and because of the cases he has had to deal with while working for the FBI, he now understands he is not a bad man. ( I think deep down that may have been one of his fears.)

  4. Very interesting. I viewed Brennan’s POV on Broadsky as trying to understand Broadsky’s mind. Brennan does know it is difficult for Booth to take a life and with that in mind she is trying to rectify how and why it would be different for Broadsky since he and Booth had similar experiences and training. Booth put up so many walls regarding Brennan and when he tell Sweets it’s over and he doesn’t go there anymore it’s quite revealing. The serial killers have given us good chances to glimpse more into the minds of our dynamic duo.

  5. I agree with bb. Bones is mainly an episodic show, with some storylines that are picked up every so often, and others that should have been picked up, but weren’t. The arcs turn it into a serial of sorts, and allows for more time to explore an issue. It also makes the resolution of any angst the characters are feeling more believable, because they’ve actually had time to to think/talk about it (think-uhg-Hannah and Doctor in the Photo.) Although some single eps like Con Man are able capture and resolve internal struggles brilliantly, the arcs just seem to give you more “meat,'” with more characters able to chime in. With Booth this extra time is particularly important because he is such a private character and it really costs him to acknowledge and voice his fears.

    And by the way Sarah, brilliant analysis all over the place, especially of the Zack dynamic. I think you captured all the stuff beneath the surface perfectly.

    PS-the arcs are good for Booth, but they’re absolutely yummy for us. Gun/table, “this land belongs to Seeley Booth”, black swat gear and rifle with Gormogon, Brennan being pulled out of a taxi, Booth staying behind with Zach waiting for a bomb to go off, running down that hill, “Vega and the “you have three hours to live”comment…on and on. You get my drift.

    • Forgot jumping into the pool and wet tuxedo shirt…

      • Oh, yeah, we’ve definitely gotten some niiiice Booth shots in those serial killer episodes. I have very conflicted feelings on Broadsky because he did kill VNM but we also got that shot of Booth on the table with the gun and B&B baby making. Whew. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say there are plans for another serial killer/arc story in S7. It will be interesting to see how that arc may affect B&B and what it may reveal. Surely blending family and work will create challenges to explore…maybe we could get Gordon Gordon back to help. And I imagine fierce/hot Booth will make another appearance.

  6. Wow. This is a really great post. I wish I had something more to contribute, but I had never really thought about it in that way, so I guess I’ll just have to ruminate some more.

  7. I still find that “don’t go there any more” comment to Sweets in Killer in the Crosshairs perplexing. I’ve never been sure what it meant.

    Was it that B&B didn’t go into personal stuff any more with each other? Was it that he didn’t go into things with Bones? I’ve just never understood it. It seemed to me to be saying that they no longer had that type of relationship (where such a discussion was possible) and that seemed at odds with what was going on between them at that time.

    • I agree! I never really understood why he said that. Sweets wasn’t asking about anything very personal at all. He wasn’t asking about their relationship(for once!) just wondering if Booth had talked to her about the whole sniper thing.

      • I’d have to respectfully disagree on that one, Kira. Asking about Booth’s sniper past is a very big deal. And wanting to know if he had shared it with Brennan is a huge deal. Booth doesn’t share much about himself to anyone, except Brennan. And snipering involves killing people and we know he hates to do that. So if he was still sharing stuff like that with her, it would signify more about their relationship. Sweets was doing his usual poking around for information.

    • Hm…I think by saying, “I don’t go there anymore. It’s over.”, Booth was trying, unsuccessfully to set boundaries with Brennan. So that he can “move on” with Hannah, or just move on period. But we all know he’s full of it, because even when they are kind of out of sync with each other, like in Season 6, they still are connected, and always will be.

      And Brennan says:

      “I’m standing right beside you, Booth. Like always. Like I always will.”

      Aww…who can set a boundary against that? 🙂

      • I agree that Booth’s comment to Sweets is probably his attempt to distance himself from his partner. In fact, he’s doing everything he can to distance himself from Brennan and from Broadsky. It’s as if he doesn’t want to believe that she could possibly have faith in him– as if he’s punishing himself by punishing her.

        I really like the analysis of the serial killer arcs, but I think his feelings toward Brennan are more than he cannot trust her– it’s as if he cannot trust himself to believe in her, in them. It’s as if he’s picking a fight with her on purpose and she’s blithely trying to understand what makes Booth different from Broadsky. He then uses her questions as fodder against her. His inconsistency with her is part of his problem with her all season; he’s drawn to her but he cannot “pull the trigger” on the relationship because of Hannah, then because he doesn’t want to get hurt again and he doesn’t trust that she won’t just take off on him again. (He says something similar in Blizzard when he tells Sweets, “It’s over” when the young man wants to talk about their relationship. It’s not clear if he’s talking about Brennan or Hannah, but it’s clear he’s angry.) The lack of clear-cut answer with Booth is part of the complicated nature of the man; he seems pretty straightforward and then he throws a curveball and it isn’t entirely clear what he’s thinking.

    • I think that the two “it’s overs” are about different things.

      The one in Blizzard is clearly about Hannah, as I recall.

      In Killer in the Crosshairs, Hannah has been gone for at least one previous ep. Remember, this ep starts with Booth joining Brennan in the park on her morning run. Clearly he wants to spend time with his Bones now. This is why the “we don’t talk about that now” is so confusing.

      Maybe it’s just a way of deflecting, to keep from having to discuss Brennan with Sweets.

  8. Apparently not just serial killers, but crime in general is “good” for Booth. He just said he “thrives off of crime” in the last episode. Considering he was a sniper before, is in the murder business now, and shows no sign of stopping, Booth’s compartmentalization skills seem to be as good as Brennan’s.

  9. I just watched this today, and the scene between Booth and Sweets is still moving after all these years. Here’s my take on the “it’s over” statement. Booth told Bones after the Hannah break up that, in effect, they would be just partners. I think he’s feeling like he’s trying to maintain that…he thinks he doesn’t want to get emotionally involved again. That’s the part that’s over, in his mind. Of course the viewer knows it’s not, and I guess by the end of the episode he figures it out, too.

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