Bones: skeletons, brains, and irony

All photos are © FOX TV.
In the investigative series scene, “Bones” has the originality to present for the first time on TV a forensic anthropologist, i.e. Dr. Temperance Brennan, played by Emily Deschanel.
Although the series presents a pair of main characters, with FBI Special Agent Seely Booth who would at least be officially in charge of the investigation in each case, the fact is that Brennan, who he calls just Bones and considers his partner (although she doesn’t belong to the bureau), is the one to be personally involved in their resolution.

I discovered this series when it arrived on Sky TV in 2008 (in Italy), out of curiosity, following David Boreanaz from his previous show, “Angel” (the vampire cursed with a soul from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, which I have never watched) and it immediately got me.
I loved the character of Brennan, extremely intelligent, pragmatic, rational, saying what she thought without filters, in practice a former nerd become successful, but without falling into a simplistic cliché. Brennan was brilliant both for her talent and the fact that it had been sharpened by the intense study and almost obsessive passion for the latter. I must say that in my small way, being myself a person tending towards perfectionism, I used to identify in her. These characteristics made her unpredictable - you didn’t know what she would say or do in each episode - and almost magical. In fact, with a simple look at the bones of the victims she could determine gender, race, sometimes age, and even the type of job they used to do.
The one between her and Agent Booth - intuitive, emotional, and a believer - was therefore an increasingly challenging conflict that kept the interest high, regardless of the individual cases.

As the seasons went on, something has necessarily changed. The two characters have come to interact until the obvious romantic outcome and the differences between the two have been blunted. As I said, it was necessary, because in so many seasons you could not expect to keep the same pattern, which would eventually become repetitive and boring, once exhausted the initial surprise, but maybe it’s also one of the reasons why such stories work better in a shorter context, such as movies and miniseries.



Faced with this change, the writers have done their best to increase the interest in the other characters, whose subplots are well-finished, while the various crimes have always been a bit in the background.
Exceptions are some stories that were spread across multiple episodes, such as the cannibal serial killer Gorgomon in the third season or evil hacker Christopher Pelant, who even appears in three of them (the seventh, eighth, and ninth), and of course the fact that each season tends to end with a cliff-hanger, thus ensuring that the story is resumed at the beginning of the next one.
The remaining episodes are stand-alone, and except for small elements of the subplots, missing some of them has almost no effect on the general understanding of the series.

The sum of the merits and defects of “Bones” has caused it to be renewed from year to year and now it has come to a twelfth season, which will also be the final one. No doubt it is therefore considered a successful series that reached its physiological term.

As many know, the character of Temperance Brennan owes its name to the protagonist of the series of novels by Kathy Reichs.
Actually the bond is quite weak, because the two characters have as common element, apart from the name, just the job of forensic anthropologist. None of the episodes comes from a specific novel. Indeed, it seems that the basic idea came from the project of a documentary on Reichs, who is in fact a forensic anthropologist, and then Brennan from “Bones” would be more like a transposition of the author on the small screen. Moreover, at one point in the series, Brennan began writing novels, whose protagonist is named Kathy Reichs, stirring even more reality and fiction. Reichs also says that the series could be seen as a prequel of her novels, since her Brennan is older than the character played by Deschanel.
Anyway you look at it, we are faced with a mixture of fiction, TV, and real life, which makes, if possible, “Bones” even more original.

Forensic science is, however, so quickly shown that, in my opinion, does not offer particularly interesting insights. The presence of physical evidence is functional to the killer’s discovery and the latter is facilitated by alternative technologies, actually science fiction ones, which have the purpose of entertaining, often through the comic element, rather than to let the public learn a particular scientific aspect.

Then there are a few interesting guest stars, like Ryan O’Neal in the role of Brennan’s father with a criminal past or the pop star Cyndi Lauper, who plays a psychic, - both recurring characters - and a good dose of dark humour, that hovers in all seasons, lightening the heavy themes.
In each episode there is, in fact, least one fleshless and/or dismembered corpse, but it is always represented in a not too gruesome manner, avoiding to keep the emphasis on the evident brutality of the crimes, even if the vision to children is far from recommended.
The whole is topped, in my opinion, with an excessive righteousness (typical of mainstream TV) and a clear distinction between what is absolutely right and what is absolutely wrong, leaving no room to the existence of intermediate situations, which are normal in the real world.

It is still a fun series that you watch without force yourself to too many reflections and that, like it or not, brings you to follow it to the end.