Friday, December 31, 2010

The Twist in Bones


For years now Bones has been high on my "eventually I really must watch that show" list. So finally I did. I've been working on it for a couple weeks. It's unfailingly repetitive and I've quickly gotten to a point where I can spot the murder by the end of Act 1. That said, though Brennan annoys me at times, the characters are generally fun and the dialogue quick-witted.

Tonight I pursued an epic marathon in order to get to the ending of season 3, the conclusion of the Gorgomon arc. Now, I will grant you that much like season 5 of Buffy if you know the deal with Dawn, season 3 of Bones suffered from my basic working knowledge of the series. What I knew going into the series was which actors appear in which seasons, that Angela and Hodgins eventually get married and that one of the team members was in some way entangled with a serial killer. From there I quickly figured out that Zack would be going down. But come on, you know Anakin will eventually be Darth Vader, isn't the interesting bit finding out how he gets there? (This is a hypothetical based on the non-factual principal that the prequel films are awesome). So anyway, I know I wasn't necessarily watching the way the show was meant to be watched, but I still think they could have done SO much better.

I've read a lot about this arc on various review sites. It seems, thankfully, that most viewers weren't buying one bit of what the writers were feeding them about Gormogon being Hodgins. As the season developed, hint after hint about Hodgins was thrown out and I (and, I'm assuming, everyone else who has any understanding of character at all) simply laughed and said "oh please, he's lovely, he wouldn't hurt a fly". Which is not to say that terrible writers might not have him be the killer anyway. But by the time I got to the finale and saw Cam was jumping in her seat at his sight and TJ Thyne's gigantic blue eyes being lit as creepily as possible, I knew we were in parody territory (unfortunately, it seems, not on purpose). Whether they knew basic actor contract information going in or not, anyone who thought a FOX show would sacrifice such a high-polling character and a major love interest in one fell swoop was simply off their rocker (not to mention the fact that every single thing we'd ever learned about Hodgins suggested empathy- he's not killer material).

The much more popular suggestion that the killer was Dr. Sweets was similarly ill-conceived, though a tad more understandable. For starters, the hints at him were at least a tiny bit more subtle (tiny being the operative word), he was a new and therefore slightly more ambiguous character (his newness also kept issues of audience loyalty and character interconnectivity off the table) and his timing seemed suspicious. But basic character simply wouldn't allow it. Sweets is, well, sweet. He brought with him exactly the kind of heart and humour the show was lacking and his presence gave Booth and Brennan interesting places to go. But most importantly, Sweets' entire existence is based on human connection, trust, understanding, kindness- he reads people for a living. You don't read people the way he does unless you fundamentally care about people; not the blood and bones conception of a person but what's important to Sweets- the subconscious, the soul, the beating figurative heart. One more for the "last person I would ever EVER put on the serial-killer-possibility list".

So then there's Zack, the absolute first person I would have picked. Objectively (which is how Zack would want it), he's the perfect fit. He's un-emotional, logical, systematic, almost robotic most of the time- makes total sense. Except that it doesn't. Because they didn't do it right. I watched the season knowing where Zack would end up and I'm here to tell you that that did not make sense. The Gorgomon was presented as heavily ritualistic, something Zack never showed any signs of. He lacked opportunity and motive. I'm sorry, but someone as loyal to Dr. Brennan as Zack would never actively work against her. Someone who challenges Hodgins the way Zack did in his contests to be "King of the Lab" would never blindly follow a master. Someone who worked with murder every day, the way Zack did, couldn't see logic in it. Oh, and the guy leaping out of the closet in the shot showing the murder that Zack supposedly perpetrated, sooo not Eric Millegan. None of it was set up, not a single thing. I watched Zack carefully all season. I stared intently at his face as he worked on the Gorgomon case... nothing. I looked for a change in him around the time that the killer was choosing a new apprentice... nothing. I paused the frame on that shot of the apprentice's face... simply not him. It wasn't him. I'm mean, I know it was him, at least that's the reality that the writers have given us. But in my fictional version of the fictional world of Bones, it's not true. The weak-ass "logical reasoning" for his actions is, well, weak-ass (he's weak-willed, impressionable, in need of guidance? Um, I'm fairly certain Zack was never persuaded into ANYTHING, that doesn't stand). And his thought process of "greater good" wasn't logical enough to suit the character (though I appreciate the poetry of the moment when Brennan points out Zack's own illogically humane action in saving Hodgins).

I know, I know, it was the 2007 TV season- strike season; the fraught writers were charged with telling 22 episodes of story in only 15. I still say it's no excuse. When you set up the serial killer in episode 1, you had freaking better know who your serial killer is, especially if it's going to be a series regular! This felt like they didn't decide it was Zack until they were writing the finale. And if it really was a matter of story-telling time, explain to me why the penultimate episode was about an ex-American Idol contestant. The whole thing sort of felt like what shows do when they realize an actress is pregnant and they need to get rid of her in a hurry (see ya Cordelia!) or the makeshift plotting that happens when a castmember dies suddenly (I actually believe that if John Spencer hadn't died in The West Wing's final season ,Vinnick would have won the election, not Santos). It was panic plotting; and if it wasn't, it was just bad writing. Those are the options.

That said, let's hear it for that moment in the hospital when Hodgins ups Zack's meds. I think it was supposed to look creepy, like he was trying to hurt him. But if you as the audience had it figured out, you knew that Hodgins was the only person at the time who could 100% have it figured out too (because of the explosion it had to be him or his best friend, it broke his heart that he knew it wasn't him). TJ Thyne absolutely nailed the possibly-ambiguous, wholly brilliant scene in which the truth quietly crashed down on him. It was a truly exceptional moment- in what was otherwise not a lot more than bollocks.

I was really hoping to like this show. And I do, sometimes. But not right now. Here's hoping (somewhat unrealistically I think, since I'm not a Booth/Brennan fan) for a better season 4.

PS: Hoping I'd missed something, I read quite a bit about the first 3 seasons tonight. It seems nobody likes Cam. Why wouldn't you like Cam? I love Cam! I would just like to put it out there, I think she's fun. And Angela's overrated, we hear more about her being a free spirit than we see of her being one. That said, my beloved Hodge Podge loves her so so do I. But seriously, Cam and Sweets, they're awesome- love them. That's an order.

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