Review: Bones

Rasha: Shall we get down to it?

Gemma: We shall! I am only through season 5 of Bones. and when I say “through,” I mean I’ve watched the first and last of each of those seasons plus a few in between. I have read of what happens in Season 6, though.

Rasha: Ah, that’s still so early!

Gemma: Sorry! I really watched as much as I had time for!

Rasha: Meaning, before the show completely jumped the f’ing shark. I say that with longing. for the simpler times. The better, happier times.

Gemma: I am aware that they end up having a child together because I read any coverage of media ever.

Rasha: Eh, yes. Most inappropriate story maneuver in response to main character actor’s IRL pregnancy ever. Possible ever.

Gemma: Hehe. I know I keep comparing things to SVU, but my favorite maneuvers were on that, when Hargitay’s pregnancy involved several episodes in which she DID NOT STAND UP.

Rasha: I would prefer that so much!!! It is boogers. Most fans I know agree that the show jumped the shark when Bones/Booth got together.

Gemma: But to be fair to Bones, they did plant the seed of her wanting to get pregnant several seasons before. Yes, I totally just said “plant the seed”

Rasha: The wild seed. Planted and fertilized.

Gemma: But I wonder if that happened when E. Deschanel got married and mentioned the possibility to the showrunners. That would be interesting if so.

Rasha: Yes, I blame ED.

Gemma: I am giving them the credit that it didn’t come out of nowhere, that’s all. Storywise.

Rasha: Ugh. But it totally ruins the plot twist conceit that the show builds around and reveals in a later season—spoiler alert!

Gemma: Alerted.

Rasha: That Booth and Brennan kissed when they worked together on their first case and then decided not to pursue it. That worked for me.

Gemma: I believe that was an episode I skipped. I will watch it now.

Rasha: Yes, it is crucial, and I think: so smart. It explains for once the will-they, won’t-they cliched tension that plagues/drives so many shows. It is an actual adult reason. The answer: they already did. Although, I’ll give this to the show: they maintain the odd couple dynamic wellish enough even when they’re together.

Gemma: I do like the two of them odd-couple together, although I don’t feel like Boreanz fully inhabits his character.
He plays David Boreanaz, always. Although I’m a devoted Buffy/Angel fan, so I’m not actually protesting. It’s interesting that you went for him on that, because it occurred to me that Deschanel’s mannered line readings might be because she doesn’t actually understand what she’s saying. That’s mean.

Gemma: I like Deschanel. The mannered feels natural to me. It reads as an acting choice.
And yes, I really did dig their dynamic when I first started. I liked the internal and interpersonal contradictions they each bring. For a while, I found it satisfying the nuance that it felt like the show was playing with.

Gemma: I like the ways and moments the show finds to have them break through to each other.

Rasha: Yes, agreed. I also like the slippery way that each of them is both conservative and very compassionate at different moments.

Gemma: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think any show that sticks around for more than four seasons engages in the time-honored Olympic sport of sharkjumping.

Rasha: Who has won gold, though, is the question.
Sharkjumping gold? Dexter is def a contender.

Rasha: YES. Ah, gods.
I feel like Bones begins with a conceit that it plays out well, finds good storylines for, and then goes nuts. I’m watching at the go-nuts borderline at the moment. Though I have to say, the mere concept of Sam from Freaks & Geeks as psychologist was enough to make my brain explode

Rasha: :) Isn’t Sweets wonderfull!

Gemma: I haven’t clicked with him yet, but he doesn’t tend to figure prominently in the season openers or enders. So I’ll watch more. I really liked how they handled the Zach-cannibal’s-apprentice twist. It both strained my credulity and had some tremendous emotional moments.

Rasha: Yes, tell more.

Gemma: I loved how devoted Bones was to him. That moment between them when she & Booth confront him in the hospital and she leans into him and explains how he’s been emotionally illogical really hit something for me.

Rasha: In what way?

Gemma: Well, as you probably know, I always have trouble with the false brain-and-heart dichotomy, and I would think a show built around that conceit would bug me, which is maybe one reason I avoided Bones for so long.

Rasha: Ah. I think this show interrogates that conceit while excavating the realities that make it feel true.

Gemma: I thought in that scene, in that moment, all the actors and the script really found and held onto how confusing and circular this relationship, between brain and heart or whatever we’re calling them, really is. Bones had really, deeply believed in Zach, really loved having a protege. Booth had really loved knowing the way Bones trusted. And everybody is so confused, and still handling the situation as themselves, and that is how truth happens in fictional relationships. And nonfictional ones. I agree that the show interrogates the conceit, I just don’t think it’s advertised as doing such.

Rasha: Well, I’ll paraphrase what I’ve heard someone say: “it’s more complicated than that” makes a terrible advertisement. What do you think it means to behave with illogical emotion?

Gemma: Hmmm. No regard to or engagement with context or consequences maybe? That the actions stem only from an immediate response, in the moment.

Rasha: To me, it sounds like a way to talk about betrayal, deceit, dishonesty. To appear to offer trust and cooperation and then to work at cross purposes. I just looked up interview with Eric Millegan, who played Zach Addy. That was the season of the writer’s strike, which you called out.

Gemma: Yeah. 2007 was the writers’ strike. Every show ended early.

Rasha: And it looks like there had been plans to address Zach’s PTSD and trip to Iraq.

Gemma: You mean, the serial killer reveal still would’ve been the season-ender, but PTSD first?

Rasha: Unclear.

Gemma: Because it definitely felt like a season-ending climax.And I was surprised they could pull that off in the writers’-strike year. Few shows did. Does the article clarify whether Millegan had planned to leave and they built the storyline around that, or whether they made him leave to build the storyline?

Rasha: Yes, and the answer is no. It wasn’t his decision.

Gemma: Interesting.

Rasha: It was a creative choice on the part of the creator Hart Hanson, and Eric M has only in 2013 picked up a new piece of work, according to IMDB.

Gemma: Well, to be fair, he could have stage work. That doesn’t show up on IMDB. But still, yeah.

Rasha: It looks like he did have some stage work in 2005 (in Harold &Maude!), so yes, it looks like he works there too.

Gemma: I wasn’t aware that there was a stage Harold & Maude! But I bet he would have been super-good in it!

Rasha: Yes, agreed. Were there ways you wanted to draw out Bones wrt R&I?

Gemma: Well, the obvious parallel is the opposites-attract dynamic.

Rasha: Indeed. Which I prefer Bones for.

Gemma:Bones has the advantage of actually developing its characters, yes.

Rasha: Since we’re picking favorites.

Gemma: Which we always do.

Rasha: There’s the rationalist/intellectual/wealthy semi-orphan paired with the rough, blue-collar intuitive cop. I think Booth comes off more sympathetic than Rizzoli. His compassion balances the cop-swagger. Not so much that he’s no longer a cop, see Cop Show Traits. There’s more focus in both on character lines than in the CSIs or the L&Os.

Gemma: Yes, that is very true. I feel it with the secondary characters as well.

Rasha: Yes. I love in Bones how the show adapts to Zach’s departure by having rotating interns. Arastoo = awesome.

Gemma: Haven’t seen! Will go back and find! I’ve seen the ones with Daisy and Fisher

Rasha: Ah, Fisher. The Anal Pear. Oh, I enjoy them all! Wendell’s great. Dr. Clark Edison’s bristles with Dr. Brennan are so needed. King of the Lab subplots are very satisfying to the Mr. Wizard fan in me.

Gemma: I like the episode where Edison just leaves and says, “I actually want to do science, you guys.” R&I could never do something like that—it has no conscious metatext. It has no real idea of what it’s doing, no sense of humor about itself.

Rasha: Yes. I get the sense that fans of scifi are in general also fans of Bones, in the way that they are not fans of R&I. Also, in Bones there are non-white people kicking ass at science and the law.

Gemma: Yes, there are!

Rasha: FWIW to mark that in the sad world that it is worth marking it in.

Gemma: I read something in the past that was about the preponderance of Black judges on the Law & Orders, if I remember correctly.

Rasha: Hm. I don’t watch enough to know, but you have my attention.

Gemma: The question it asked: are we dealing with something powerful and awesomely aspirational, and/or are we ignoring racism?

Rasha: Yes.

Gemma: Yeah, that’s kind of how I feel.

Rasha: Or legitimating it by pretending like the folks doing the work in the legal/criminal/prison systems are like the people that are doing time.

Gemma: On the one hand, Black judges are real! See, they’re right there on TV! On the other hand, if there are already Black judges on TV, racism must be over, why are we white people giving Black people all these Special Privileges?

Rasha: …Ah, mine is more to the frame of TWAT-TV. Yours is more to beyond the 4th wall.

Gemma: I’m saying this is part of TWAT-TV on network. The question is what might the audience response(s) be?

Rasha: I don’t know that you and I are saying something that hasn’t been said before, but in case someone reading this has not considered either, they have now been notified.

Gemma: Are the shows “postracial” or “postracist” or both?

Rasha: Hm. Fuck both of those terms that they exist and have different meanings and are both at play. Damn. Ugh.

Gemma: I think I heard that distinction during the first Obama campaign in an interview with Melissa Harris-Perry back when she was still Harris-Lacewell.

Rasha: Yes, Bones is attempting to be Postracial by showing race-neutral casting in professional characters. And it is attempting to deploy that Postracial constructed reality to depict a criminal justice system that is Postracist. The result is that very little comes up about how race factors into “crime” and prosecutions. There are a few forays I remember with Arastoo’s character (he’s clear about being Persian, not Arab) and Edison’s, but the feeling doesn’t carry over beyond that One Episode Where We Learned Something About Race.

Gemma: But I do give a lot of credit to Bones. The POC are kickass scientists, and full characters with complex emotional lives. Even though they’re secondary characters and the central characters are two white people, their storylines aren’t always and exclusively beholden to the power of these central white people. yes, that’s a low bar to jump, but I do think it matters.

Rasha: I would chalk what you mentioned up to the Shonda Rimes effect. Grey’s Anatomy could be described in similar terms. As could Private Practice. And Scandal is so big because it can’t be. Although it has its own contradictions and heartbreaks.

Gemma: I intend to start watching Scandal this year.

Rasha: YES, PLZ. You must.

Gemma: I’m still trying to figure out what the racial Bechdel-Test-equivalent is, because I don’t think it’s precisely two POC talking to each other about something other than white people.

Rasha: Whew, I would want to do a lot of listening and reading before I presume to formulate one of those. I would posit that somewhere in the tremendous and compiled works of Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, and on… that there is plenty to define it. That work has been done. I think I’ve even seen a Toni interview that takes it. Maybe even Octavia.

Gemma: Well, the Bechdel test is specifically film-and-TV-crit, I think.

Rasha: I don’t think it’s for you or me to define or figure out.

Gemma: Fair, but I’d sooner look to contemporary TV critics of color than Toni Morrison for this particular tool. I think being specific to genre matters here.

Rasha: I could come up with one to offer for Palestinian angles, which is: tell the story of Palestinian peoples without making occupying powers the main characters. That’s formulated in the imperative, but well, it feels imperative. (I’m looking at you, The Promise)

Gemma: I want to say only one other thing about Bones, which is that I genuinely enjoyed the female serial killer. Something that impressed me, odd as this is, is that we saw genuine and interesting PTSD from Hodgins that didn’t change in substance after we learned that the Gravedigger, assumed to be a man, was a woman. And Deirdre Lovejoy, from The Wire, was awesome in that role.

Rasha: I hear that.

Gemma: Her gender was treated as a fact of a horrific experience they had, and nobody’s masculinity was threatened, and I enjoyed that.

Rasha: I had not thought of that, but I guess: yay for equal opportunity malevolence??

5 comments on “Review: Bones

    1. Yes!! I love the invitation, and I love the show. I was just talking with G last week about my lifetime crush on Lucy Liu. You might be pleased to know that Elementary gets a shout in our latest TGW recap. We’re working up to more regular recaps (right now, The Good Wife is the only one we’ve committed to covering episode by episode). I hear ya that the whole show reviews are unwieldy. Warming up!

      …except, wait, are you looking for another British series? And if so, how have I missed a show about Holmes? Please send the link and I’ll check it out.

      Also, how sweetly thrilled am I that you’re taking some time to read our TV musings? So much!

      1. oops. I am no good at leaving comments. I did mean the British one, and you got it: Cumberbatch. I want to watch Elementary–I have watched a few episodes on TV that managed to escape being dudded into Spanish (“Estás viendo… Ay-lay-main-tary”) but Netflix Nicaragua doesn’t have the whole series. But I knew when I saw Lucy, I’d get to her one day.