Bones is one of those shows I had known about for a while but never really felt the urge to watch. However, that changed last year (or perhaps it was 2015, I don’t quite remember). After finishing the X-files for the umpteenth time and feeling lost without a show to watch, I chanced upon Bones. Netflix alleged that it was similar to X-files and I having ended my last X-files binge and desperate for more, decided to take the plunge.
Like X-files, Bones details the lives of two ‘partners,’ FBI Agent Seeley Booth, played by David Boreanaz, and Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan, played by Emily Deschanel. However, unlike the X-files, Bones doesn’t deal with exclusively paranormal phenomena and is actually based upon the best selling books of an actual forensic anthropologist, Dr. Kathy Reich. In an ironic twist, Dr. Brennan actually writes book about her forensic adventures using a character named Dr. Kathy Reich (LOL). As such, the show is a tad bit more ‘science-focused’ than other procedurals. Oh I forgot to mention, Bones is basically a police procedural in that each episode features a new mystery. However it also follows X-files method of having an over-arching story-line as well. Whereas X-files focused upon government conspiracies, Bones focuses more on the lives of its protagonists. To be honest, I think that’s where the similarities between the two shows end. Beyond that, they are quite different (although it amusing to note that Bones has actually referenced the X-files and other pop culture phenomena in its show before).
In essence, the show is about how Booth and Brennan (also called Bones by Booth, hence the name of the show), use the bones of murder victims to figure out how they died and bring the killers to justice. Booth heads up the Major Crimes branch at the Bureau, while Dr. Brennan works at the Jeffersonian Museum (based upon the real-life Smithsonian Museum in the United States), in its medico-legal lab. Booth finds the bodies and brings them to Bones, where then she and her science team use the bones/ body tissue, and surrounding particulates, to provide clues about the dead person/ how they died. Booth then interprets these clues to narrow down on a list of possible suspects and find the killer (Brennan actually assists him with this as she often participates in suspect interrogation and active field work). Brennan’s team consists of the following: Dr. Camille Saroyan, played by Tamara Taylor, a forensic pathologist who actually heads the medico-legal lab, Dr. Jack Hodgins, played by TJ Thyne, an entomologist, botanist, and geologist/mineralogist, Angela Montenegro, the in-house artist and computer expert, and a variety of other forensic interns/ assistants. As a result, the show, at least initially, was quite science-y at its centre. Brennan and her team would often sprout real life facts about bones, insects, etc. in order to determine time of death, cause of death, location of death, etc. However, as the show progressed, the science took more of a back seat.
The show has actually been on-air for about 12 years, having first aired in 2005. And the first few seasons of the show are quite different from the later seasons. In fact, the first season all but screams that it was filmed in the mid-2000s with its equipment, clothing style, look, etc. However, that doesn’t mean it was bad. It was quite enjoyable and still fun to watch. Yet, the long duration of the show has had an impact on the characters, particularly that of Dr. Brennan.
When the show first began, Brennan was shown to be this socially awkward scientist. Possessing a genius level intellect, she often had trouble with pop culture, often remarking, “I don’t know what that means,” when it came to simple stuff like Booth referencing the team work of Mulder and Scully from the X-files. Yet, despite her awkwardness, she was still ‘relatable,’ for a lack of a better word. She understood some common phenomena like ‘booty calls’ and wasn’t overly detached from the world. Despite her awkward social skills, she still had *some* skills. She was also more willing to accept mistakes, was super confident and independent, and spoke normally; a pretty likeable character. However, as the show progressed, her character changed. Instead of progressing and maturing, she began regressing. She became progressively more and more awkward, possesses almost little to no social skills, and is incredibly arrogant. Her speech patterns have also taken on this odd random word-elongation tone. Like I read somewhere else, the writers took out all the stuff that made her complex and instead just heightened her more annoying traits. Sometimes, I legitimately do not understand how people stand her.
Which brings me to another point: the writers in the show SUCK at showing vs. telling. They always do the latter. For example, we’re constantly told that Brennan has a good heart, that she’s BFFS with Angela, people love her, etc. But we’re rarely shown it, instead people just talk about it (and the audience is supposed to believe it I guess). In regards to Brennan having a good heart, there have been episodes that have shown just how much she cares. Particularly in the earlier seasons, there were some really, really great episodes where she showed A LOT of heart (particularly those that dealt with foster kids). Yet aside from those few, she’s actually quite insensitive in many others episodes and its difficult to believe the repetitions of her being this really good hearted person. Like I mentioned before, she actually comes across as an emotionally stilted jerk a lot of the times. And regarding her friendship with Angela, I don’t always see it either. Angela always mentions that she loves Brennan, but as of late, the friendship and love are sorta missing. A lot of the time, Brennan just sprouts some logic or random anthropological facts while Angela doesn’t really understand it and talks about her own stuff. Or Angela talks about something and Brennan tends to just focus on her own stuff rather than talk about Angela’s issues. Honestly, these issues could easily be resolved, if instead of shoving down such dialogue, the writers just make scenes that show it instead. Showing stuff is always better than having people remark upon it constantly (and yes, I do mean it happens quite consistently).
And finally, as Dr. Brennan is a forensic anthropologist foremost, the initial seasons of the shows actually focused upon this. While on active field duty with Booth, Brennan would often make anthropological observations about the societies/ tribes/ peoples they were dealing with and it was often fascinating. However, as of late, I’ve begun to find that the anthropological focus has diminished a bit. Brennan no longer makes anthropological observations about the cases. A lot of the time, she just sticks to examining the bones and dealing with some discussion she and Booth are having. Now this change isn’t the worst thing in the world, and the cases they investigate do remain quite interesting as the seasons progress. However, I definitely do miss the science-y and anthropological focus of the initial show. In my opinion, it was what made the show stand out among the many police procedurals that currently exist.
However, even these complaints, I still enjoy this show, at least for the most part. I think the earlier seasons are definitely most enjoyable than the later ones. However, the later ones are decent as well. Plus, the acting in this show is pretty great as well. All the actors, not just the leads, are pretty consistent performers. However, my favourite thing about the show, is the fact that it has some really, really beautiful episodes. Surprisingly, for all its flaws, sometimes the writers manage to hit the ball out of the park spectacularly. Some that particularly stand out, are 2×09 “Aliens in a Spaceship,” 3×13 “The Verdict in the Story,” 4×26 “The End in the Beginning,” 6×09 “The Doctor in the Photo,” and 8×16 “The Patriot in Purgatory,” among many others. I have actually watched these and other memorable episodes countless times, but their impact never lessons.
My rating: watch it to enjoy a crime procedural with a science-y touch and to witness some fantastic, heartfelt episodes.