Bones isn’t a great show, but it gets a lot of things right. The dialogue is zippy, the stars are easy on the eyes, the makeup effects on the victims are the proper level of grotesque, and the mysteries are never too demanding. And that’s why the show has survived to its seventh season; it’s perfect background-noise TV, the type of series that’s easily digested in chunks of several hours while other tasks command your attention. Of course, when you sit down and actually watch the show, a lot of the things Bones gets right begin to reveal their flimsiness. But at least they’re propped up against a strong core—the relationship between forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan and FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth—and a workmanlike understanding of procedural television.
One of the defining elements of that central relationship is how it requires Dr. Brennan to lower her considerable guardedness. Bones has made a long-running gag of its titular character’s inability to empathize with her fellow human beings, and so the fact that she could trust, confide in, and eventually establish an intimate relationship with Booth means a lot. The pair jumped the final “Will they, or won’t they?” hurdle last season, and the show dropped the inevitable cliffhanger bomb that Brennan was pregnant with Booth’s child in the season finale. As such, showrunner Hart Hanson and his writers deserve some credit for monkeying with the winningest aspect of the Bones formula in “The Memories In The Shallow Grave”—Brennan has admitted that she’s had feelings for Booth several times, but by putting the character through a pregnancy, they’re effectively forcing emotion on her. And that reveals a new layer to the Brennan-Booth relationship (usually the series’ vehicle for change) while also placing the characters in consistently close quarters to one another. The show’s sixth season opened with Brennan and Booth separated by thousands of miles; in their first scenes together in the new season, they’re shoulder to shoulder in Booth’s laughably small kitchen. Brennan’s pregnancy will be the source of countless, obnoxious “baby bump” and over-detailed explanations about hormones for the remainder of this seventh season, but this is escapist TV, so you can easily tune those things out.
While those recent developments add a wrinkle to Brennan’s characterization, her and Booth’s colleagues at the Jeffersonian Institute and the FBI are starting to shed some of their defining facets. Many, more interesting interns have been sacrificed along the journey (R.I.P. Vincent Nigel-Murray, king of trivia), leaving the seventh season’s first lab assistant slot open for Michael Grant Terry’s kind of dull Wendell Bray. Now with a child of their own, Angela and Hodgins have had many of their rough edges smoothed—particularly Hodgins, once a rebellious conspiracy theorist who speaks an alarming amount of his “The Memories In The Shallow Grave” dialogue in baby-talk. Elsewhere, some characters just stay the same: Brennan’s boss Cam is as stern as ever; John Francis Daley is always a welcome presence (and his free pass from Freaks And Geeks received a five-year extension thanks to his work on the screenplay for Horrible Bosses), but FBI psychologist Lance Sweets continues to be little more than a head-shrinking gadfly in Brennan and Booth’s lives, the guy who’s always there to add an extra twist on a relationship development when the episode calls for it. In “The Memories In The Shallow Grave,” that means nudging the characters toward finding a new home together—as well as laying out a confusing timeline for the case of the week using Chinese takeout items.
Seeing as Brennan’s pregnancy essentially overshadows the murder of unfortunate amnesiac Claire Serrano, it’s appropriate that the events leading up to Claire’s death are rendered in a bunch of food. But the Bones writers have this stuff down pat at this point, and this is probably an example of them being distracted by a shiny, new overarching plot point. And so they throw out some suspects—Claire’s husband, who could’ve abused her; a patient who grew fond of Claire while they were being treated for their respective mental traumas; the doctor who treated them; a lowlife whom Claire joined on a robbery spree while in a fugue state—and distribute red herrings (Linseed oil in the grave!) and legitimate clues (A fracture at the very top of the inside of Claire’s skull!) in equal measure. It’s all pretty lazy, and the mystery isn’t compelling—and any sense of suspense is null; there’s no indication that any of these suspects will kill again, nor does it seem like they’re going to skip town—but if you’re tuning into Bones for the intricately woven cases of the week at this point, you obviously haven’t watched a lot of Bones. Still, it sure was easy to suspect the guy who could only talk while he was playing the violin though, wasn’t it? Can you imagine what his confession would’ve been like if he was the killer? Probably a bunch of shrill, rambling notes, followed by panicked pizzicato, and finally the slow, sorrowful chords of regret.
But that’s not really the type of thing Bones is into any more. The greatest mystery the show ever presented was “Will ‘Bones’ and Booth do it?”—all the Gravediggers and mad snipers and gooey eyeballs were just competently crafted window dressing for a relationship between two seemingly star-crossed characters. Now that Brennan is carrying the solution to that mystery, there’s the chance to put her and the baby in increasing levels of danger and have Booth fret about it but ultimately acknowledge Brennan’s right to make those types of decisions. (But not before the show wrings some more larfs out of getting a pregnant Emily Deschanel stuck behind a bookcase or something.) And Sweets will make sure Booth is giving Brennan the support she never received from her father, particularly once Brennan goes into labor, and Booth can’t be there immediately because he’ll obviously be out in the field. And then the baby will born, and everyone will stand around Brennan’s hospital room—Cam masking her pride by finding something to disapprove of, and Hodgins playing peek-a-boo with the newborn, as if he wasn’t the type of guy who used to think hospitals were really just corporate-funded organ-harvesting depots. And we’ll all sit idly by and watch, probably folding laundry or clearing the kitchen table, because, hey, look—Bones is on.
- I can’t believe they’re still making David Boreanaz wear that goofy “Cocky” belt buckle. At this point, we should just assume it’s from his personal collection.
- Has the show always transitioned between scenes in a burst of magical sparkles?
- It’s the season première, so the makeup effects need to be particularly over-the-top. The paintballer putting his finger through the victims rotting eyeball is just the right level of disgusting.
- Seriously: The ending was clear as soon as it’s revealed the doctor was a gambler, right?