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.