This is it, folks — Bones’ last-ever season premiere! After twelve years, the venerable “crimedy” is bidding us all adieu in this final twelve-episode run, and if tonight’s episode is any indication, the show is determined to go out swinging.
When we last left our heroes, a thoroughly creepy serial killer was stringing up his victims like marionettes, the team raced against the clock to uncover his identity, and Brennan faced some of her own skeletons in the closet with the reappearance of disgraced original intern Zack as their prime suspect. Almost six months (and a new calendar year!) later, things aren’t looking too good for Dr. Addy, and we’re all wondering whether his isolation over the years really does harbor a deadly secret. Coupled with ‘Hope’ being Emily Deschanel’s directorial debut, this effort is sure to be memorable.
As someone who came into this show a few years in, I have to admit I’ve never been one to clamor for Zack’s return, as I felt like his exit in season 4 afforded him a modicum of closure. Yes, the audience knew that he was actually innocent of the murder for which he was institutionalized, but I honestly believed that that secret died along with Sweets. (Which, sniff.) After all, Eric Millegan hasn’t been on-screen since season 5. So color me surprised when the writers brought him back for last season’s twist ending — and seemingly as our next villain.
Picking up where we left off last summer, Zack kidnaps Brennan (though really— he merely took her to the Jeffersonian basement, so was that really an abduction?) to plead his case, and right off the bat, I loved their scenes together. They shared a unique bond back in the day as kindred spirits, and they understood each other better than any of his successors. It was fascinating watching Brennan instantly slip back into that mode with him, gentler and more affectionate than we’ve seen of her with her students in the last eight years. It may have been partially motivated by her, y’know, survival instinct, but it ran deeper than that.
I wasn’t shocked that Zack was not actually our killer, but my curiosity piqued by the idea that he was being set up and was trying to prove his innocence, though perhaps, as usual, a little misguided in his attempts to demonstrate that. I thought the show did a fabulous job of letting the weight of Zack’s experience of the last decade manifest through his behavior. At times, it was easy to believe he was the same kid who the Jeffersonian took under their wing, using his own flawed logic to show how much he cared, but then he’d come up with something so out of left field (see: kidnapping Brennan, or catfishing Hodgins) that you could fathom just how he got himself into this mess. I think that was important, because it acknowledges the consequences of his actions, and that he’s got his own demons to fight, too.
I appreciated seeing how scared Cam and Booth were of him, for instance, because while we know Zack didn’t kill anyone (though let’s not forget he was an accessory), they don’t, so it makes sense that they’d fear for Brennan’s life, and it underscores why tensions ran so high. On the other hand, I also like that we saw some of the cracks in Zack’s psyche, too— like the allusions to the break he suffered when Sweets died, or his obvious loneliness at his friends gradually losing contact with him. (That resentment of Booth for his role in keeping Brennan away from him? Touché.) He may once have connected with Brennan on an intellectual and personal level, but time has changed him as much as it has anyone else. That seems to be the theme of the season, and I’m anxious to see it play out.
One thing that struck me immediately about ‘Hope’ was how tonally similar it felt to the earliest seasons and the Gormogon arc, which given Zack’s involvement, probably isn’t an accident. It was even visually darker, and the camera work really did harken back to the days of yore. Speaking of which, I have to give major kudos to Emily Deschanel’s work here, because had I not known beforehand that she had been at the helm, I would have never picked it out — and I mean that in the best way possible. For a first-time director, I found that the pacing was top-notch, the tension mounting with each scene and the characters’ confusion palpable. There was a concerted effort to create a specific mood, which is no small feat going into a much-heralded season like this one, trying to tie in the present-day Bones world with its storied past. Needless to say, the pressure was definitely on, and I think Deschanel and the entire cast and crew delivered on that, big-time.
Actors often draw some of the best performances out of each other as directors, and I think that is true here, too. Everyone brought their A-game, but the standout performance of the night to me, hands down, was TJ Thyne and Michaela Conlin’s reactions as they realized, thanks to Zack’s confession, that Hodgins’ chances of regaining his mobility were virtually nil. From both of their utter resignation, to Hodgins doing what he does best by putting the brightest spin on the tragedy that he can, the scene was reminiscent of season six’s ‘Blackout in the Blizzard,’ when they feared for their unborn son’s health, and their interplay was heart-wrenching, yet completely believable. If this is the quality of work that we’ll be seeing in this home stretch, then I think we’re in for a treat.
There was much more to unpack in this episode, but we could be here all day if I got into it. Long story short, I’m intrigued at how the show’s roots will be exposed in the next few outings.
Did you enjoy Zack’s return on Bones? And do you think Booth and Brennan will clear his name?