Meet Market Monday: Lance Sweets

Courtesy Fox

Today’s edition of Meet Market Monday is a little different. While our original intent for this feature was to focus on some of our favorite female characters on the small screen, we also welcome the chance for equal opportunity gushing when the inspiration strikes us. Due to recent events in the fall TV season, we thought this would be a great time to branch out and showcase one of our favorite guys, too.

Name: Lance Sweets
Occupation: FBI psychologist/profiler/lounge pianist/babysitter
Show: Bones (FOX)

He’s a prodigy who is wise beyond his years, but also acts like a little boy when he’s around his friends. He’s a hotshot psychologist in the FBI, but struggled for years to gain respect from his peers because he was just so young. He’s got multiple doctorates and has studied among the best scientists in the world, but he’s not above rocking out to his favorite metal music or hanging out at karaoke bars to sing “Put Da Lime In Da Coconut” in his downtime. He’s a former foster kid who inexplicably became the baby duck of the biggest bunch of misfits in law enforcement. Most of all, he’s got one of the biggest hearts you could ever hope to meet, and remains steadfast to his friends right until the very end.

Meet Lance Sweets!

(Warning: this post contains major spoilers for the current season of Bones.)

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

When Dr. Lance Sweets (John Francis Daley) first arrived on Bones at the beginning of its third season, he was a bit of a joke. Or, I should say, his role as a bit of a joke — and I mean that lovingly. Think about it: what other show would mandate its lead professional (and will-they-won’t-they) couple into de facto couples’ therapy, years before they were even romantically involved? It was a fan’s dream, and Sweets’ obvious youth and unabashed enthusiasm only furthered the wonderfully absurd nature of the premise. Of course the bickering partners’ problems could only be solved by someone who looked like he was twelve and had the cutest dimples you’d ever seen.

However, what started out as an amusing subplot turned into a regular role for seven seasons. Sweets’ aptitude for getting to the heart of Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan’s (Emily Deschanel) issues evolved into becoming the squint squad’s main criminal profiler in their murder investigations. Along the way, he served as a sounding board for the entire cast on a variety of issues, from failed romances for Angela (Michaela Conlin) or Hodgins (TJ Thyne), or parenting woes for Booth or Cam (Tamara Taylor), or social integration difficulties for Brennan, just for starters. They may have teased him like a kid brother, but they always came back to him for advice, when push came to shove.

Courtesy Fox

See? Whimsy. / Courtesy Fox

What was truly amazing about Sweets’ character is how unapologetically sunny his disposition remained, despite the trials he’d experienced in his life. The happy-go-lucky recent graduate we met in season 3 was masking a painful childhood: abandoned by his birth mother (a circus performer!), he was thrown into the foster system (not unlike Brennan), where he experienced physical abuse at the hands of unfit guardians, with the scars on his back to prove it. It wasn’t until he was adopted at the age of six by an elderly couple that he finally knew what the love of a true family was, but even that wouldn’t last, as his parents both died shortly before he started working with the FBI. Any one of these events could lead a person to be bitter and angry, but Sweets, without fail, chose to see the good in the world, rather than its betrayals. (More on that later.)

That moment where he revealed his traumatic history in season 4‘s “Mayhem on a Cross” was one of the defining moments of the series, and one of the keystones of his relationship with both Booth and Brennan. They’d always held the young shrink at arm’s length until this point, not wanting to reveal too much of themselves to his prying eyes. But the instant Brennan saw the welts on his back at that concert, she knew, and we knew, that that easygoing exterior was hiding a painful past. Brennan, whose heart Sweets knew was larger than anyone gave her credit for, immediately felt a kinship with the doctor. When Gordon Wyatt (Stephen Fry) shared that what Sweets was really searching for in this world was a place where he belonged, Brennan immediately accepted that Sweets had imprinted on them like a baby duck, and decided to make a place for him in their makeshift family. Brennan, who rarely shared anything about her own past, let him know that he wasn’t the only person with scars, even if hers were metaphorical, and with that, their fates as friends was sealed. That bond only grew stronger over the years.

Still images cannot capture the brilliance of this scene / Courtesy Fox

Still images cannot capture the brilliance of this scene / Courtesy Fox

Personally, one of my favorite developments in Sweets’ relationship with his friends on this show was when he moved in with Booth and Brennan in season 8, after his last breakup with Daisy (Carla Gallo). He’d always occupied a sort of brotherly role to our protagonists, but becoming their roommate only cemented that. We already knew that he cared for them, and they him, before he set foot in their house, but the months he spent there were marked by growth for him as a person and them as a family. They bickered, they teased, they cooked meals, they shared reading material in the bathroom (though not at the same time) — but overall, they loved each other, and it was so sweet to see. (Pardon the pun.) Sweets was an honorary uncle (and sometimes babysitter) to baby Christine, and a welcome addition to their ever-expanding family. From the breakup ceremony Brennan initiated for him when he first arrived, to the celebratory going-away toast she gave him when he moved out, it was clear that “Baby Duck” was as much a brother to them as their own flesh and blood. It was definitely one of the highlights of the season for me, and though I understood that he had to move on to grow up, I was a little sad that the “duck family,” as the online fandom calls them, were split up.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

While Sweets’ interactions with the entire cast were wonderful, it’s no surprise that his scenes with Booth and Brennan, together and individually, were some of his best. For instance, while Booth often dismissed him in a childish manner, Sweets took those comments in stride, and strove to impress his colleague and friend. Improbable as it may seem for a psychologist on desk duty, he took his marksman training and became certified, because he always wanted to have Booth’s back when they were in the field. He knew the depth of pains Booth hid beneath his cockiness, and always reassured his friend that the sins of his father did not transfer to him. Meanwhile, he was one of the few who recognized Brennan’s social unease as a coping mechanism for her own emotional trauma, and tenderly reassured her that she was not as cold as she thought she was, and that she was a good person who they all loved. To be brief, his love for his friends shone through all of his actions, without fail.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

I’ll admit, there was the odd time where I wasn’t entirely pleased about the way his character was used, particularly in the fifth and sixth seasons, if only because he seemed to be regressing in his understanding of his friends for the sake of the plot. (See: encouraging addict Booth to “gamble” on Brennan,  which was a valid sentiment but poor choice of word. Or telling visiting Dr. Filmore (Scott Lowell) that Brennan couldn’t empathize with other people, which he knew very well was untrue.) His initial meddling was funny in a kid brother kind of way, but sometimes it seemed like he was crossing into inappropriate territory. (Then again, what else is family for?) But you know what? Everyone has their faults, and most importantly, by season 9, Sweets had matured into a fine man, who knew how to strike a balance between being helpful, and letting his friends figure out their own paths to happiness. That’s what it came down to: as the voice of the audience who cheered for his two friends to work out their differences when they were blinded by their own hang ups, all he wanted was for them to be happy at last.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Then, of course, there was his relationship with Daisy. I thought they were pretty adorable when they first got together in season 4, equally matched in optimism and geekiness. They had their own rough patches — broken engagements and breakups among other spats — but I loved seeing them reconnect as friends in season 8. They displayed a maturity at that point they never really did as lovers, and I figured their romantic reunion was inevitable, but would be welcome, because they’d finally be ready for each other. Apparently that wasn’t far off, because as we found out in early season 10, Sweets and Daisy had reconnected on the sly, and were expecting their first child. They were obviously thrilled, and I had no doubt that Sweets was going to be an amazing father to his own children, thanks to everything he’d learned along the way.

Courtesy Fox

Sweets + Head Gear = Christmas / Courtesy Fox

The really wonderful aspect about Sweets was that he never lost his faith in the world, even when he had every right to despair at humanity. He suffered enormous pain at the hands of those entrusted to care for him, but was still convinced there were good people out there willing to help kids like him. (Case in point, Sweets volunteered his time to helping those less fortunate with pro-bono counselling.) He was surrounded by scientists and jaded cops, but celebrated the whimsy of the holidays and praised the importance of indulging in our inner child. He had an on-again-off-again relationship with Daisy, but never gave up on the idea of lasting love.  He saw horrific tragedy in his work with the FBI, but never gave up in believing in the good in people.

[major spoiler ahead]

In fact, right until his tragic exit, Sweets chose to see the light, and refused to give into the gloom. As he told an angry, vengeful Booth with his last breaths, “the world is a lot better than you think it is.” He’d just been fatally wounded in a senseless attack, and knew he wasn’t long for this world, but his priority was calling his closest friend back from the brink of darkness, because he knew this could very well send him over the edge. Sweets was selfless almost to a fault, and always put others’ needs before his own: after his assault in his final episode, his first thought was that Booth would be proud of how he fought his assailant, because all he ever wanted was to live up to his friend’s standards. When it came down to it, that’s all he ever really wanted — to know that someone was proud of him, that someone cared for him, that someone loved him. In return, our squint squad made it abundantly clear that he was, and always would be, their favorite baby duck, an integral part of their family. As Gordon Gordon intimated all those years ago, Sweets really was the best of all of us.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Sweets’ absence is going to leave an irreplaceable hole in the Bones universe. Not only am I going to miss his affable nature and incomparable cheerful outlook, but also his firm belief in the good things in life, and that anyone can overcome their burdens to effect change in their world. While it’s going to be devastating to watch our favorite characters mourn his loss, as well as watching his son grow up without the caring, compassionate father we know he would have been, we’re lucky to have had seven years of memories by which to remember him.

I think Booth said it best last year when toasting his friend’s expanding horizons: “To Sweets, my little brother who I never wanted, but I’m glad that I have.” Hope you’re putting da lime in da coconut wherever you are, kid.


Bones is currently in its tenth season on Thursdays at 8pm on FOX. You can catch Sweets in seasons 3 through 9 on Netflix and DVD.


All images courtesy FOX and found at Bones-daily.com.

 

Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

6 Responses to Meet Market Monday: Lance Sweets

  1. Great article. We’ll miss you, Sweets.

  2. Nels Nels says:

    Thanks, guys! As cheesy as it sounds, it was from the heart.

  3. Cacaw says:

    this is beautiful. Made me tear up. It encapsulates why I loved this character so much. His unshakeable faith in the goodness in the world, in spite of the pain he’d been through, and his unflagging optimism and enthusiasm. Thanks for writing this!!

    • Nels Nels says:

      You’re welcome! Thank you so much for your kind words! In the midst of all the trauma of losing Sweets, I thought it was a good time to remember why we loved him so much!

  4. […] to remember Sweets? Read Nels’ wonderful post on him or Buzzfeed’s “Nine Memorable Sweets Scene” feature, with JFD commenting on […]

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