Sunday, November 25, 2012


Seven seasons of Bones, and not yet finished.


This new series has a pilot and twenty-one more episodes, and to cover this series five years later you have to consider two things: the content of the episodes, or their subjects, and the characters and plot treatment.

The subjects are always limited in one episode and they are often dealing with immediate reality. There is thus no surprise to find one essential subject is the Iraq war in 2005. This subject comes back in several episodes and these show that the war itself was not very clean and they reveal one attitude only: anything unjust has to be redressed. It has to be redressed because the victims of this injustice have the right to know and because the author of the injustice is a plain criminal, murderer most of the time. This attitude is all the more emphasized and even dramatized because Agent Booth is a veteran of the Kosovo war and has seen, experienced and suffered some such episodes.

That’s the second thing you have to keep in mind with this series: Agent Booth is an FBI agent but also a Kosovo survivor. He merges a very military dynamism, extremely precise work, a great sense of logic and deduction, total commitment to fairness and truth. This is also very important when they deal with the case of illegal immigration and more or less clandestine and illegal refugees from the Central American countries that have been ridden with civil wars most of the time supported on the wrong side by the US. On the wrong side, I will say because of what we know today, since today in most countries the left-leaning insurgency has politically recovered and electorally re-conquered power. In other words the US support and at times intervention was wasted and badly advised. And that has to do with Iraq where such an ill-advised intervention was going on at the time.

The second main character is Doctor Temperance Brennan. She works for the Jeffersonian Institute and she is a bone specialist in all fields where bones have to be scrutinized, analyzed and reconstructed as to what they may tell about what happened to the person they belonged to once.  She is assisted by three people. First an art-trained person is there to recreate places and bodies from the remains or the memory of witnesses thanks to highly specialized software. Then another doctor trained in physics, chemistry and biology who has an extremely high level of knowledge in his fields and can analyze any matter, stuff or whatever that can reveal the circumstances of the death of a “patient”. Finally a young intern who is working on his doctorate thesis and is also extremely and sharply specialized and informed in the physiology of the body or the skeleton of any person. The boss of the Jeffersonian institute is a Black man who used to be an archaeologist but who remains discreet on scientific matters.

Yet the series avoids any kind of over-learned language that we wouldn’t be able to understand. Nevertheless it uses a lot of the paraphernalia of software and computer assisted and aided visualization to make laboratory scenes palatable and even interesting.

The final great point of this series is the very careful study of the relations between these people, administrative, authority, personal, even intimate relations and problems, knowing there are two women and three men and they all have personal lives. But the series insist on the background of Agent Booth but also of Dr Brennan: her parents disappeared when she was a young teenager, her brother abandoned her when he was 19 and is on probation for some crime. At the end of this first series the body of the mother is found, her death is clarified, Dr Brennan gets to some kind of reconciliation with her brother and the father remains alive, talkative on the phone but absent physically, in fact escaping justice as he would deserve due to his criminal past.  That’s where the plot sickens for the second season.



This second season is exploring new ways and avenues where bones are of course multiplying at leisure and for our best pleasure. Yet this second season is quite new in several aspects.

First and foremost the season is widely open to personal matters and it explores the private, and at times not so private, relations between the members of the team, after the boss has been changed to a woman, which rebalances the sexual ratios. Bones herself is courting and going out with an FBI agent who has temporarily replaced Booth while he was sort of suspended and deprived of a gun after shooting a clown on top of an ice-cream vendor’s van. But in the end she will not go through the process completely as far as leaving the Jeffersonian for a life of full leisure and farniente.

Zack manages to get his doctorate and to be hired in the job he was holding as an intern because he goes to Angela and begs for help on his  look and manages to become presentable, which means he can now stand in court and testify seriously in a deportment that can carry the agreement of the jury. So far he is no longer obsessed by sexuality but he encounters a great difficulty: he is summoned by the White House to go to Iraq. But this time this reference does not lead to any political dissertation or even cogitation on the subject. Political questions are systematically and carefully avoided in this second season.

Jack and Angela are finally realizing they love each other and even decide to get married and they finally find themselves in front of a priest (in fact a black priestess) in some church for the last step when the State Department steps in and reveals Angela is already married in some kind of broom stick over-jumping ceremony. More later, I guess.

Booth is entangled in the hands of a British shrink after his shooting the clown on the ice-cream vendor’s van and he is a perfect sucker, building a full barbecue for the shrink under the shrink’s blackmailing procedure of retaining the document he must sign. This same shrink will also step into Bones’ psyche as some kind of private counselor. Agent Booth and Doctor Brennan will not be able to establish some kind of personal relationship, especially since Temperance’s father reappears in her life and even saves the situation a couple of times. But he has to be arrested by Booth and be brought to court for his ancient crimes, including the attack against the deputy chief of the FBI, though this one was crooked to the utmost, his lips kissing the heels of his shoes or something like that.

Booth reestablishes for a short while a relationship with the new boss of the institute, Dr Camille Saroyan, with whom he had had a liaison some time ago in another life. But that cannot last more than one or two episodes. This is characteristic of all these people: they are unable psychologically or administratively to build balanced and normal relationships. Is it a side effect of their jobs or professions, we can wonder, or simply  personal immaturity?

That level of the season blurs out the various crimes and cases they examine and solve. And these cases do not deal with political issues or even with immigration, except one case about some strange Chinese practice of burying the bones of a man with the bones of a woman so that the man has some company on the other side of the road. Most cases are plain simple crimes in America and among Americans. But they often deals with social problems like the mother of a severely handicapped girl: what can the mother do to help her child the genetic victim of a deadly disease that keeps her retarded, even if it is only for a short time before she dies? Some of these questions are crucial: do we have the right to experiment on human beings new treatments that would enable astronauts to reinforce their bones that get highly decalcified due to prolonged sojourn in space?

Some of the cases are plain vicious crimes and it is fun to catch the killers who are most of the time not at all the one or the ones we were expecting. Suspense is always with us even if the personal and more sentimental level of this season makes that suspense not as intense as I would personally prefer it to be.



This third season was shorter than the previous ones, but it was particularly hefty in events and closures. And it is these closures that have to be examined.

The first one is the integration of the psychiatrist and profiler Dr. Lance Sweets. He officially comes to help Dr Brennan and Special Agent Booth deal with the stress in their relationship due to the extreme tension their work is bringing in and imposing onto them. He is some kind of relation counselor. At first they took it badly but little by little they accepted to consult him and to follow his advice. That brings some clarification in the warped relationship that develops between the two people concerned. Little by little too he is integrated as a profiler in some of their cases and even later in all of them. This is a new development for the series.

The second closure is really a closure. It concerns Temperance’s father and by ricochet her brother. He is finally brought to court for his killing of the FBI deputy head. Dr Brennan is not even called as a witness whereas all her laboratory friends and Special Agent Booth are. She stands with the defense and she holds her position well. The tactics of the defense is simple. Let the prosecution put down all their cards and then let’s deal with the jury’s most intimate conviction. In other words let’s give the jury some alternative hypotheses as who could have done the killing. Here Dr Brennan plays an essential role to save her father and set him free. Can such a flawless scientist accept to be doubted and even negatively represented even if it is to save her father’s freedom?

The third closure is Zack. He had been sent to Iraq at the beginning of the season but his absence had not held one full episode. He was brought back to Washington DC because of his disruptive role in a military team due to his inability to integrate. But his attitude and role is becoming overbearing with everyone. Some would say that he must be slightly autistic and that would be a mistake. He is a very fragile personality who compensates his weakness in character with over-competence in his scientific field. He is irreplaceable. Yet he can become the prey of any strong personality he would encounter. His enhanced scientific competence is over-normal but it is a way to hide his brittleness. This season will bring Zack to his doom but you will have to be discovered it by yourself.

The fourth closure is also contained in this season. It starts at the beginning of it and ends with its final episode. It is the story of a serial killer that appears in some episodes. This serial killer is obviously imitated from Dexter and his viciousness is even worse than anything you may examine. Of course he tries to penetrate and infiltrate the Jeffersonian Institute and he will succeed for a time, though his agent will not be the best he could have found. He is a cannibal, the heir and continuator of an old practice against secret societies. We can hear there an echo to some of Dan Brown’s cogitation about old secret societies and free masons. That serial killer will be destroyed and will finally exit the series under a nickname, Gormogon. He is nameless.

This last element is surprising in such a series because the series is hyper scientific and tries to reject and even rebut all superstitions, mythologies, beliefs and even religions. Dr Brennan should know that the unnamable, the one who does not have a name, the one whose name is unutterable us also the one who was, the one who is and the one who will come. To keep a criminal nameless is to deify or at least magnify that criminal just as if he were some kind of divinity.

That’s the last remark I will make on this third season. It deals with social cases more often than criminal cases, and the crimes in each case are the result of weak people who cannot cope with the stress of life. Gormogon is the exception. In one word the series gets better as for its thrilling, even frightening atmosphere and it analyses in fair and fine details the relations between the various members of the team, of the laboratory, of the people who have dedicated their lives to fighting against crime.



This fourth season is the season of all come-backs. The attempt to bring Zack back, but that is too artificial in a way, does not work beyond one single episode. Of course he is particularly brilliant but with this brilliancy that is so bright it dazzles us. We need someone more evanescent in this laboratory, someone who is never the same and always a come-back again on some rotating basis. So the extra lab-worker is the ever going project to bring back someone that cannot be brought back, hence the character that can experiment all kinds of profiles: English, Japanese, simple intern or certified doctor of something, Moslem or happily paired with a woman and not interested in the constant sexual innuendo in this lab, etc.

The second come-back is that of Temperance’s father as some kind of museum science guide for visiting children. That one is hard on Temperance who considers her father as a criminal and has not yet forgiven him for abandoning her when a teenager in the custody of her unworthy brother who left and sent her to a foster home in a way. But that ex-science teacher has the knack it takes to have contact with young teenagers and make them like what is in many ways forbidding and austere, or at least can be if you do not know how to make it an adventure. He is a genial awakener for Agent Booth’s son Parker and Temperance has to yield to that demand.

The third come-back is the British psychologist but in a less flashy role now his barbecue is built. His main role is to set Dr Sweets, the FBI profiler, in perspective, a Dr Sweets who is so shy and so flippantly uncatchable. But he is so efficient and efficacious with the criminals who have to be discovered and caught.

The next come-back is that of the Gravedigger, and this time for the finish of that case. The grave-digger manages to kidnap Agent Booth himself and to bury him in a navy ship just before it is blown down into the sea by the navy itself. The point that appears little by little is that the gravedigger has inside information and must be from inside the justice department or the FBI or some other Home Security agency. And that’s how they find out that serial killer. At the other end Agent Booth experiences a comeback of a completely different nature. On the ship, while he is trying to escape he is helped by some ghost from deep in his mind, the corporal who was killed practically in his own arms and who he took back to base. Strange come-back but quite natural for all of us: we find help in someone in our minds who makes us keep our cool and find the way out.

Then we move to the come-back of Agent Booth’s younger brother who is a pain in the back because he is not able to do anything right without the help of his brother and he fails in some situations systematically just to get that help. A come-back and a good-bye too since he goes to India for a motorbike tour, but alone without his big brother. Good riddance in a way and good morning Vietnam in another. But the little boy has to grow one day.

The best of this series remains the vast array of cases that bring up a vast selection of social and cultural situations that are all explored in some fine details revealing the horror of this society of ours. Of course there are a lot of winks to other series in the genre. The main wink is to Stephen King who once wrote: “If you can’t terrify your audience, then horrify them. And if you can’t horrify them, then gross them out.” And you can be sure the cadavers, corpses, bodies, bones and other dead remnants of human beings are gross to the utmost. We can of course see here and there an allusion to Dexter, or another one to Crime Scene Investigation. But the style is original and personal.

This season finally is very rich to reveal the deeper selves of the characters, with some strange a priori idea that Dr Temperance Brennan, Dr Lance Sweets or Agent Seeley Booth, just like Dr Zack Addy have had a youth of suffering and want on the loving side of life. And that would be why they are great in their present positions. That’s too easy. And the characters that are kept in second position like Dr Camille Saroyan, Dr Jack Hodgins or Angela Montenegro cannot qualify at that level.  In other words it is a cliché that one can only be great if they have suffered in their infancy and youth. But it definitely gives the characters some density on the screen.

The last episode is a complete reversal due to some brain tumor and I must say Temperance as the manageress of a club that has more to do with a brothel and an opium den than with a café is quite a change of perspective.



This fifth season is the saddest of them all because it has to bring the series to an end, though it will have to keep some door open for further reviving. We know from the very first episode that it is going to be so, that we are going to move to a close.  

The main change is in tone. The various episodes are centered on the personal dimensions of the various characters. Personal remarks and personal details are more important than the crimes under scrutiny and the lab discussions are some kind of permanent interweaving of small talk about personal matters and the real business at hand that is in many ways kept at a respectable distance. It is not even rare that someone has to call the lab back to order, i.e. to work. And the cases are often slightly superficial and the conclusion hasty.

Then all current business has to be dealt with. First Angela and Dr Hodgins will finally manage to get married but that will have to be under duress, and I must say that was a good punishment for them two. That poor Angela even created a panic with her pregnancy test. Pregnant? Yes, you’ll have to find out and from whom.

Then a touch of nostalgia with the first case on which Booth and Bones worked together, a long time ago. That brings Zack back into the picture for a short cameo. A sorry case and yet quite a case that made Dr Brennan punch a federal judge in the nose twice.

Then we have to deal with the little personnel, those laboratory people who are only interns and live on precarious scholarships. By the way it reveals how these younger people have it a little difficult in life, getting from one job to another, being an intern for some pittance, etc. This should be a good lesson to those who believe a scientist is at the top two years after his or her PhD. That is absolutely false for one and for two it takes many years of precarious and low-paid jobs while doing their primary research for their PhDs.

Then small little bits of business concerning Dr Saroyan who finds a good date in the gynecologist of her own daughter. Daisy Wick will go on a one year mission in Indonesia on Dr Brennan’s reference. Dr Sweets will stay behind and will be slightly abandoned.

The main changes are of course for Dr Brennan and Special Agent Booth. But that, you will have to find out all by yourselves. You must be big boys and bog girls after all.

On the other hand the Gravedigger is finally brought to trial and convicted. The main witnesses and testifying experts are the very victims of that gravedigger, Booth, Hodgins, Montenegro and Brennan, which is a difficult situation in front of a jury: you have to convince the jury that your evidence comes from your expertise and not from your desire of vengeance.

Then a little tidbit here and another little tidbit there and we are at the end of the season and the sad departure of everyone to the four corners of the globe, if the globe has four corners. The team is down. What will happen then? We of course know there is a sixth season going on right now, but that will change the general outlook. They may even bring in some fresh air, and the last case was a typical case of a completely locked up hoarder’s den or lair with fans to move the air around. Five years is a long time for a series. It needs some renewing. Check it on TV, if you can get it.



To resuscitate a dead team out of their scattered disappearance is not an easy task. Luckily the DA in Washington DC is a powerful woman, stubborn and resolute, and she generally gets what she wants. So she brought Agent Booth back from Afghanistan, and Temperance Brennan, aka Bones, from the exotic place where she was trying to get some archaeologically interesting bones with Daisy, Dr Sweet’s girl friend, and Dr Sweet from his hideout somewhere in Paris where he was having a showbiz career as a cabaret singer. They all come back, change clothes and back in the business in a jiffy they all are. Angela and Dr Hodgins are also back though from not so far away and Angela is pregnant. Don’t worry the delivery will go just fine, and their fear of some handicap will be unfounded. They will celebrate at the end of the season.

But this season is a lot more interesting than just those circumstantial collateral disagreements or pleasure.

As usual one case per episode, clean and neat, always dealing with a lot of bones, gross and dirty, soaked in a lot of decomposed muck with a tremendous number of maggots, worms and other corpse parasites. A series not to watch while eating anything more delicate than dry cookies.

The interest is first the relations among the people in the series and these relations include some personal data on each case. Dr Saroyan has the case of her daughter to solve who is supposed to start her college years. The mother cannot cope with the idea of her following her boyfriend to some community college in some county of some northern New England state nearly in Canada but is it ethical to cheat the system and get her accepted in Columbia University, if it is Columbia University (you can check that one out), on a fake file? It is amazing what parents are at times ready to do that is so absurd and goes against the grain of their profession and personality. Will the girl accept to enter a top university on a fake file? That is the real question. Will the daughter teach a lesson to her own mother? Not so simple.

Of course Angela and Dr Hodgins have a full plate with the pregnancy and the delivery of the baby. For them that’s enough and that will require some help from a friendly psychiatrist because it is hard for the father not to become overprotective and it is hard for the mother to accept the physical handicap this pregnancy may represent. Yet they decided that working with the people they are used to work and live with was the best thing for the pregnancy, the mother and the child. Angela was not alone at any moment of her days or nights.

Agent Booth brought a journalist back from Afghanistan, a sort of love substitute for Temperance. But will that not cause some problems, like conflicting interests between the two professions? And Booth with his own son is already very busy in life. Will that new woman in the picture be able to cope with a child, what’s more the child of another woman? And the question of marriage will come up sooner or later and how are the two going to react to that eventuality? Probably not very well, maybe not too bad. A decision that is always difficult to take for someone who is constantly in the field of police investigation and for a journalist just back from a war zone and who may consider Washington DC as another war zone. Do you get married and build a home and a family when you are in a war zone?

There is of course the case of Booth and Temperance. It did not work the first time, but will there be a second time? Why not? They are both young enough to think about their independence and old enough to start thinking about settling down in some kind of normal place. But of course Booth is not free and temperance is mature enough to keep up appearances.

Then you have the interns still rotating, the four of them. They are the surprise of each episode because they are so different and they can be so funny, though at times they are just funny for us because they are mismatched with what is happening around them, but that’s what interns are all about. Unluckily one will end up very badly. That’s not the first case, but so far none had ended up that badly. But a song will carry him through: lime and coconut, sung in a chorus all together, mellow and heart stirring.

There will be a case that will run over the whole season, the case of a sniper who had been a colleague and friend of Booth in Afghanistan and who came back slightly berserk and decided that what he did over there was good enough for the USA too and he started killing those who were rotten, and those who were in his way for his type of justice and these were only collateral victims for him, hence justified by the end. It will take the whole team to stop him and it will bring a lot of suffering and even mourning to that team.

Then there are 23 cases in this season and I would advise you to watch them if you haven’t yet or watch them again if you have already.



No surprise after all. That’s what happens when you get married, at times even when you don’t. Temperance got pregnant and this season we are going to see her delivering a child. To bring the father back into the picture because the plot needed it the baby is a girl? SO THAT Temperance is going to relive her bad experience with her father when she was a girl and he abandoned her, and her brother. But you all know that. They decide to name the girl Christine, I guess in honor of the film and the book by John Carpenter and Stephen King respectively.

This season knits together some cases that solved in one episode and a couple of others that go beyond the episode structure. In that case even one that goes beyond the season structure. Suspense requires such tricks. TV is a Trickster. My favorite is “The Don’t In The Do” in which there is no Indian but a hair fetishist who believe in scalping. Tie up your hair ladies, especially if you are gentlemen.

The series uses of course many interns, rotating interns, which enables us to see some faces only episodically from time to time but repetitively every two or three episodes. That concentrates our attention on the six or so regulars and at the same time that gives us some new blood that titillates our interest.

The mother Temperance is even worse than the doctor Bones. She is anxious, afraid, over protective, quasi paranoid, definitely on the verge of neurosis, which is anything but rational, and she turns every one around her completely upside down and crazy if they dare follow her along that line. You have to learn how to let the mother rant and rave about all the dangers that menace her child and hope one day she might let that child grow up, and some anxiety is needed to grow up, some challenge some would say.

The most interesting part of this series is that the crimes are always extreme cases of asocial behavior and at time sociopathic derangement. It is practically always some hidden situation unknown of everyone that produces a reaction that brings forward a dead body. But in this series they always choose the grossest way to deliver the body, to wrap it up, to make it decay and rot, etc. There is no end along that line. It is always possible to make a body look more disgusting than what you have achieved in the previous episode. The rule is that you need to see the bones and to deal with the bones. You have to feel it in your buns.

A last note will be about the follow up story that ends up unfinished this season. Temperance Bones is at stake and is menaced. She was too often over positive and over affirmative. It is her time to get challenged. First she is wrong about the age of the bones of a body by fifteen years over and then she becomes the main target. Luckily she has a daughter, a loving husband and a resourceful father. What will be left of her integrity after that? At least the child has been christened just in time.

One thing is sure: this series tried to follow the antics of Supernatural this season and they have a dead body on the set of the film that will come out next summer on Bones, “Bone of contention”. Real crime in a virtual crime story. In fact virtual real crime in a virtual virtual crime story. What reality is left after all that virtuality?


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