If you thought we could get through the final season of Bones unscathed, well, you thought wrong.
It appears as though we have a new Big Bad, and as per usual, said villain comes after one of our own. And in its wake, we’re all left to wonder what’s in store for Booth and Brennan’s future, but not before going through a box of tissues with our tears. (Did I mention this week is sad?)
‘Price’ didn’t waste any time in breaking our hearts with the revelation of its victim’s identity. When Brennan was unusually quiet as the team went through the evidence on the latest crime scene remains, it was obvious that things were about to take a turn for the tragic, as such break in protocol on her part is generally reserved for the fate of family members. Sure enough, as the squints went through the markers of a life lived in disrepute— and piety— she figured out that the person on their slab was none other than Aldo Clemens (Mather Zickel), former Army chaplain and current Cinnamon Roll of our hearts.
It appears as though Aldo, still burdened by the atrocities he witnessed while stationed with Booth’s unit twenty years ago to which he once alluded, could no longer shoulder the load, and turned to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. We are left to believe that the man at one time so important to Booth and Brennan that he married them essentially dropped off the face of the Earth and was now killed on his way home from his heroin dealer’s. Talk about a fall from grace.
I have to get this off my chest right away: Aldo’s off-screen downward spiral rubbed me the wrong way, and I don’t really buy it, or at least, I don’t feel as though it was earned. I can absolutely believe that he would feel the strain of carrying this kind of trauma for decades, as this was already hinted at during his first appearance in season nine. It’s not that I don’t believe that sufferers of PTSD can resort to this kind of behavior to deal with their pain, because I absolutely can. What I’m trying to get at (poorly), though, is that reviving a character who we haven’t seen in three years (at least not in current-universe form) only to tell us he’d been through this massive life change and wound up dead feels cheap, and what should have been a poignant commentary on the plight of veterans instead seemed like a hollow ploy for shock value. I understand that these are merely my own sensibilities affecting my perception, but it took me out of what should otherwise have been a memorable story.
This isn’t the first time that a long-departed character has been killed off for plot purposes (see: Jared Booth last year or Agent Flynn in season nine), but Aldo’s death struck especially hard, not unlike Sweets’ murder the year before that. Mercifully, Bones hasn’t resorted to bumping off its regular or recurring cast too often in its twelve years, but four within the last four seasons, for the purposes of heaping more guilt onto Booth, is rather striking this late in the game. It also saddens me that we didn’t get more of Zickel before his unfortunate end, because he had terrific chemistry with both David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel.
That being said, the twist that our defrocked barkeep apparently died at the hands of someone mentioned way back in season one was impressive to me. When the cast and crew started teasing about someone from Booth’s past wreaking havoc on them this year, I joked with a friend that it would end up being related to the war criminal Booth shot in the Balkans mentioned in one of the earliest episodes, and it turns out the show actually went there! It seems like someone is out to avenge his death, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being the boy who witnessed his father’s assassination. Sure, the plot is completely absurd, but if the show is going to go there in season twelve, then I fully support it returning to its roots. It’s no secret I’m not particularly a fan of the villain arcs, but I supposed that in my resigned state in this final run, I figure they may as well go whole-hog in the bad guys. Given that Aldo died to presumably protect Booth and Brennan’s family, I’m definitely intrigued at what will happen next for our duo.
Especially if that explosion was any indication: the entire sequence felt like old times, high-octane mixed with high-stakes for the partners. Yet I also liked how it contrasted with the later scene at their home, at the other end of the spectrum in its quiet reflection. Again, these are the moments that truly set Bones apart, and I bet Deschanel and Boreanaz could carry entire episodes with exchanges such as these, with Booth voicing his guilt (because, Booth) and Brennan nearly silently offering a sounding board of wisdom and compassion. Though they both shone as they whispered in the dark, Brennan’s reaction to Booth’s trauma particularly stood out, and I give major kudos to the actors for conveying the characters’ histories in the episode’s closing minutes.
We’re also apparently revisiting Aubrey’s fugitive father, and I’m glad that intern Jessica Warren noted the similarities between his past and Brennan’s with Max. Though I don’t condone the whitewashing of Max’s actions over the years, it is beautiful to see the peace Brennan has found in their relationship, and the advice she can now offer to her younger friend in his dilemma. Which will make the Brennan family story all the more painful when his illness is revealed, but it will hopefully offer Aubrey a measure of comfort as he comes to terms with his. Character development, it’s what’s for dinner.
How did you feel about this trip down memory lane? Are you excited for the show’s last Big Bad?