Goodbye, BONES

BONES:  L-R:  Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz in "The Final Chapter:  The End in the End" series finale episode of BONES airing Tuesday, March 28 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on Fox.  ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Patrick McElhenney/FOX

If there is something I’ve realized after watching, or in the time leading up to, series finales – does it feel like many long-running and well-loved shows are ending in March, or is it just me? – is that many people love to share their experiences and their feelings about something they loved. It’s kind of like a wake: you celebrate a life well-lived by sharing nice memories about someone you cherished. You mourn by relishing in other people’s similar experiences, finding comfort in how they touched your lives in familiar ways. You talk about how you met, their impact on your life, and all the good times you had.

So I guess this piece is all about mourning and celebrating life, rather than lamenting death. In many ways, this is particularly relevant with a show like Bones: superficially about death (with its crime-solving premise), but actually about family, and the celebration of life in spite of darkness.

So I’ll toss my hat into the ring, and try to (briefly) share my background with the show…

I started watching over a decade ago, but for most of the first few months, it was background noise: in my home country, and the channel I watched it on, the show aired on Friday nights at 10pm. I am pretty sure it premiered while I was at summer camp (the one time I went to one!), so I didn’t start watching with my parents. I remember specific scenes, but I don’t think I paid much attention to it until the fantastic season one finale, “The Woman in Limbo.” So, going into season two (which premiered on February 2nd, 2007, and yes I remember the date specifically), I had a vague awareness of the show; mostly, my parents watched it, and I sometimes looked at the screen. It wasn’t until a little episode called “Aliens in a Spaceship” that I sat down to take it in myself. I was hooked.

I loved the team dynamics, and how they were trying to save Brennan and Hodgins. I thoroughly enjoyed the intrigue, despite knowing it wasn’t the show’s usual fare. To my 12 year-old self, it was obvious that Booth and Brennan loved each other, and that they would get together after all of this. (Oh, self.)

After that, I came back every Friday. (I eventually caught up with the summer reruns, and realized I had watched more than I thought by osmosis.) After the season two finale aired early in the summer, I found an online Spanish forum for the show; that fall, I actually joined. I don’t want to go into the ups-and-downs of the actual fandom experience, but I’ll say this: being part of a community, surrounded by people who loved the show as well, was something I’ll always be grateful for.

You know, I might have fallen out of touch with many, many people I met over the years, but I’m thankful for the memories I have of them. Luckily, I still keep up with a few of those people, and some others I met through ‘friends’ of ‘friends’ on LiveJournal. I might cringe remembering some of the things I’ve said or done in the past, but it doesn’t detract from how passionately I’ve always felt about the show. (Then again, I cringe about things I’ve done constantly. I’m not the best example.)

Many people have said, and will keep saying, that they grew up with the show. As you might have surmised, I am one of those. I found the show at almost 13; I’m almost 23 now. Real talk: part of my teens would have been very depressing had I not had the show and the friends I made because of it. I’m just thankful that it came into my life a decade ago, and that I’ll have it with me for the rest of my life.

Speaking of, it’s very hard for me to describe my relationship with the show, because it is just part of me, and has been for so long. For many years, I feel like I had a clandestine relationship with it — I tried to keep the fandom part of my life hidden from my parents, thinking they’d disapprove, but looking back, I’m pretty sure they knew and realized it had a positive impact on me— but never did I question my love for it. I often think of my relationship with the show as the longest romantic (or not) relationship I’ve had. It was my constant. In the past ten years, I’ve grown up in so many ways. I’ve also had to move to a different country because of my father’s job, willingly moved to another country for university, met important people in my life, fell out of touch with many others. (In between, somehow got to visit, and fall in love with, Washington, DC–  twice!) There have been a lot of changes in my life.

Like some other people in the fandom, the show was my home; a perennial source of joy when things were not going great personally. One of my freakiest qualities is being able to relate an episode to some special event in my life — oddly, the storylines in that episode would match up to my feelings that week. (I’ll never forget how much of the late season five arc mirrored my own life at that point. Or how Wendell’s cancer storyline matched up with my grandpa’s diagnosis, or how Sweets died when things were getting bad… Too many to mention. I’ll also cherish the fact four episodes aired on my birthday, which included big events such as Zack’s ‘betrayal’, Brennan’s pregnancy reveal, and the Mighty Hut shootout. I feel very fortunate.)

There is just not a lot I can say about the show that many other people haven’t already expressed better than I ever could. I do think the show has been underappreciated by many, so here are a few things I wanted to highlight today. Thank you, Bones.

Not your grandma’s procedural!

I think procedurals are less common as they were a decade ago, and I’m slightly sad about it. They are highly structurized shows, which can be limiting. However, some writers see the potential in it to create a fantastic world around the format.

I know plenty of people have dismissed the show because of its formulaic roots, but I’ve always found that to be an intriguing plot that made my stomach stronger. (Some cases were genuinely touching and important, other just silly distractions.) I have always believed that Bones was much more than a crime procedural — romantic crimedy is a fun thing to say, and closer to what the show was.

But, ‘don’t these people solve murders?‘ you say; ‘isn’t comedy the wrong approach for this?‘ No. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched an episode, but I believe all procedurals have dark humor about the crimes; when you work on it and are as used to it, I imagine it’s second nature that you would joke about the simplest details. Otherwise, it sounds like it’d be a depressing job to have.

When I watched the retrospective, the Executive Producers mentioned how this is a redemptive show — and it’s so true. The show is hopeful, the show is optimistic. The show believes in good trumping evil. Yes, there are a few bumps in the road there, but light inevitably finds a way in. I’ve always liked that the show never took itself seriously; that it never pretended to be more than it was. It was straightforward, but used the content around what was expected of them (murders) and filled it with love, hope, and friendship.

This is where it gets me: these people have a very unforgiving job, because (if I put myself in their shoes) identifying victims, and solving murders, is bleak. Yet, the characters (Brennan, particularly) humanize them, and try to bring them to justice. They know there is nothing they can do now, but they want the families to have that closure. Think about how Brennan felt guilty about leaving her job at the end of season ten, especially after learning a serial killer had started killing during that period. Yes, the show might crack a few one-liners here and there, but it never forgets that death is a serious matter with devastating consequences to those left behind.

Regarding romance — there is no denying Booth and Brennan’s relationship probably paid the advertising for many websites many years ago. Their long courtship, while their friendship and feelings strengthened, was the subject for debate. Obviously, this topic could be a discussion in and of itself, so it’s not worth talking about it now in this limited space. I’ll say this: their marriage has been every bit as interesting as their courtship, but in a different way. I am so glad the show lasted as long it did, and gave us an opportunity to see them thrive and grow together, while creating their own little family. I’m so happy I was there for it all.

They were not the only romance on the show: Hodgins and Angela, Sweets and Daisy, Cam and Arastoo, Jessica and Aubrey… (and these are only the ‘canon’ couples) They all had their endearing moments, and their hardships. Each of these couples are different, and each of the individuals in them have a different approach to sharing their lives. I truly believe you cannot write good romance without establishing a good character foundation, and a compelling argument for why they make a good pair.

This is a lot to just say: if you want a feel-good, escapist show to get away from reality, Bones is your show. It’s very likely it will have whatever it is you’re looking for, be it crime, drama, comedy, romance, or even action.

A relic of its time, but quite relevant

And not just in the sense that the early seasons have completely different technology, showing us how far things have come in the last decade!

The show started in 2005, back when procedurals were standard fare and a safe scheduling choice. Prison Break was FOX’s big bet. It’s a testament that Bones got quite a passionate audience that would follow anywhere, without it being a huge hit (mind you, it did really well on its own). Suddenly, the little show became Old Reliable, while the big bets… were supernovae (which burned bright but died young). Medium-sized stars, like the Sun, might be taken for granted, but can be pretty interesting, too. Not only do they have more life in them, but they can also take it.

What’s interesting to me is that I’ve realized the show liked to take its time developing the personal storylines. If you reflect on it for a second, most, if not all, of the main romances laid their foundation on friendship; some of them included the key “I’d hate to lose them as a friend” component. While it’s Personal Conflict 101, and a good way to delay the inevitable, it was an effective mechanism to let the characters evolve without them being tied down to someone else. (It’s also a pretty common situation in real life.)

In this day and age, with social media and binge-watching being the law of the land, there are many shows who write with those audiences in mind, and try to offer gratification as soon as possible. While I understand the panic at the thought of having your story not finish, I miss slow-burn stories. (They’re frustrating/fascinating to watch in real time, yes, but there is something so enchanting about seeing the characters take small steps towards each other, too!)

This has always been a staple on TV, but I am going to miss how this show aimed to be entertaining and tell a particular story in forty-two minutes through the means of solving a case, instead of worrying about it being artful, and having a message, and getting awards. (I also love those kinds of shows, though. But there’s room for everyone in this sandbox.)

Maybe I’m just going to miss everything Bones has done.

Look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!

If there is anything I hope the show is recognized for is its characters, especially its women. While this was very much Brennan’s  and (to an extent) Booth’s stories, all the characters got their time on the sun. They went through a lot in the past twelve years, and got to evolve as much as the leads. Brennan might have had the flashy character journey -because it was remarkable on so many levels- but she wasn’t the only one to evolve over the course of the show… and that’s so great. Seeing these characters grow and embrace who they were, and realize that where they are is a pretty good place, was one of the joys in my life.

But, let’s not get caught up on the journeys— much has been written about that, as it should have, but it’s not my point here.

I know many others will actually capture this, but as a woman in the science world (who started watching the show as a girl who knew she wanted to be a scientist), it is important to remark the good Bones has done by showing such fantastic (and diverse) women thriving in the scientific community in fields that are usually men-dominated. The show could be considered a fantasy world because of what it portrays, but it gives me so much hope that many girls like myself grew up watching the show, and may have been inspired by this. It constantly amazes me when I read that some people got into forensics, or forensic anthropology in particular, because of the show.

Bones might have not inspired me to pursue my career, because I would’ve always gone into science, but it did motivate me to apply to grad school, and it’s inspired me in so many ways since I started watching it. (Not going to lie: Brennan’s speech to Wendell two weeks ago hit close to home in my current state of affairs.)

(If you are wondering what science I am in: I’m going to generalize it with Space Sciences, though my degree is in Astro. Yes, also mainly male-dominated. My department only has one female faculty at the moment; there were two at a point. Some departments in other places have none. This is what I mean by Bones’ female-led lab feeling like a fantasy sometimes. And yes, having a killer be an Astronomy student last May was a dream come true — and it happened on my birthday!)

Moreover, the women themselves are remarkable humans — all from varying walks of life, with different upbringings and experiences. The show never pits them against each other; if anything, they lift up one another, and develop genuine friendships. It warms my heart to see that to see that kind of environment and friendship portrayed on television; these women might be beautiful and smart, but it’s not all they are. They are all strong in their own ways and complement each other beautifully. The fact that they were being written like this in 2005-2006 blows my mind, as does the fact that the show is rarely recognized for it.

Yay women in STEM! Yay role models!

A character bench so deep you might be able to construct a decent-sized tweet

I cannot not-touch on the characters, because it’s what’s  made the series pop for me. While the cases provided a basic structure for the narrative, the characters made the show: you always learned something new about them, or saw what made them tick in different situations.

None of the characters is ending the show tonight where they started it. They’ve all experienced bumps in the road, and grown because of them. They’ve all had clear journeys to where they are, sometimes questioning their choices, or learning to live with their regrets. They have all found happiness and love in their own way, while not letting whatever the universe threw at them dampen their spirits for too long. (Alas, a couple of our good guys left us, too. I’m too sad to talk about them right now. Goodbye, sweet princes. You were loved, and are dearly missed.)

The show was always Brennan’s arc, and we’ve gotten that in spades. Seeing her flourish and become the person she is today has been a pleasure. However, as I previously mentioned, the show never neglected the other cast — not even the recurring squinterns. They have all had a major storyline that has helped us understand why they are who they are.

Despite having a core of four-to-six throughout its run, with a few characters leaving here and there, it’s never felt like they left because they hated it all. In fact, it’s kind of remarkable the cast is almost intact from what it was a decade ago — especially when you see how original members leave other shows as early as their third season, because they are tired. This is all obviously reflected on what we see on-screen: the cast has an easy chemistry (one that cannot be faked), and seem to enjoy each other’s company. It is part of what makes the entire team click so well, and the general dynamic thrive.

Also, a brief note on the guest stars: I love rewatching early seasons and seeing people who would eventually find fame years later; I love seeing famous people who came visit the show, too. I want to especially shout out the recurring characters (squinterns, FBI protegés), who created such a fantastic, lived-in world out of this little show.

 

Booth first asked Brennan if she believed in fate, all those years ago. I just want to say that I do. I truly believe fate brought this show into my life, and I’m so thankful for the life lessons, the company, and the friendships I’m getting out of it.

I’ll miss you dearly, Show. I love you the most. Goodbye, Bones.

… is a young graduate student that has been way too passionate about television ever since she was little. While she insists she doesn’t have a specific type of show, they all usually have strong but flawed lady characters, some derivation of the stubborn friends-in-love/friends-to-lovers trope, and they all make her yell at her tv a lot. She just wishes she had more hours in the day so she could actually write about this.
You can usually find her on Twitter, Tumblr, and at cassidy at thankyoulizlemon.com

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: