Bones really knows how to treat a girl right.
What better way to celebrate the day of love than with pain, torture and grief?
I’ll tell you guys, I sure didn’t need that punch in the gut, but Cupid decided to use something a little more destructive than an arrow to get his point across in 2017.
What, did you think Bones would go gently into the night? Not when there are serial killers on the loose, it isn’t.
It was obvious from the get-go that the stakes were high here, the fast pace of yet another torture killing initially juxtaposing a little curiously with the usual domestic repartee at the Booth-Brennan household in the teaser. Ever since the beginning of season 12, we’ve known something was amiss with Max, thanks to Chekov’s hospital bracelet. It finally came out: Max had a pacemaker installed a few months back, without telling any of his family, and predictably (and justifiably), Brennan was not pleased at his withholding this information.
This may have been the most at-ease and openly affectionate we’ve seen this father and daughter, so, again, it was inevitable that tragedy loomed not too far off the horizon. The teasing, the sharing, the banter about the kids— it’d be easy to forget the years of estrangement and understandable reticence between them in this moment, which makes what comes later all the more painful. Brennan has finally reached a place of peace with her father, and more than that, genuinely seems to rely upon his support, as he does her. We’ve seen their relationship develop over the decade from essentially strangers to close family, and if that teaser was where we’d left the Keenans, er, Brennans at the end of this series, it would have been a fitting conclusion to their journey.
But Bones is determined to go big or go home this year, so on this front, we couldn’t have nice things, which is where our vigilante friend comes back into play. It’s pretty typical of dramas that once everything looks like it’s going well — smiling FBI babysitter and all — that the you-know-what hits the fan, and so goes this show. Admittedly, I’m not keen on this latest sniper storyline, but I was taken aback at the slaughter at the safe house. Bones’ strength all these years has been finding the extraordinary and the tragic in the everyday, and though it has skewed these tenets once or twice a season during its Big Bad arcs, it always seems to right its course to that simplicity. The image of the victims’ desecrated bodies at the crime scenes, or the half-dozen dead agents at the house, were definitely meant to shock, so much so that I felt like I was watching a completely different show, as it was a level of gruesomeness even this series hasn’t often attained.
That being said, I long suspected Max’s end would come as a sacrifice for his family, as it would bring his story full-circle in many ways, and the fact that he apparently singlehandedly took down a gang of Serbian hitmen while also shielding his grandkids from any awareness of that event is pretty much who this character has always been. Yes, there was enormous whitewashing of the sociopathic conman we first met in season 2 in the interim, but I feel like the Max we saw here was probably the most like the father Brennan grew up with before he disappeared. Their final scene together in the hospital room was beautiful, perhaps the most at ease either of them had been. Thanks to the terrific work between Emily Deschanel and Ryan O’Neal, so many emotions at once radiated off the screen: regret for years missed, yearning for those already gone, fear over what was happening, and finally, the peace felt for a brief second before Max’s heart gave out for good.
I’m not sure if it was deliberate, but many of the interactions between Max and Brennan reminded me of their conversations in season 8’s ‘The Shot in the Dark’, when their roles were reversed, and in some ways this kind of bookended it. Back then, Max waxed nostalgic about another lifetime, missing his late wife fiercely as the memories came flooding back. So it was fitting that we leave him dreaming of simply riding in the car with his beloved wife by his side and his kids in the backseat cheerfully tagging along. Despite all of his problematic behavior over the years, it seems that, at last, he’s found his happy place.
Unfortunately, that comes at the expense of us leaving ours. Brennan absolutely crushed my heart, because in spite of the fantastic nature of her father’s death, the reaction to it was all too familiar. Anyone who’s lost a loved one knows that process— wishing you’d done more, spoken one last time, gotten to them sooner — but ultimately feeling completely helpless. The shootout may have demanded attention, but it’s the quiet moments like this— a father and daughter reconnecting, and a woman’s sorrow at losing her only remaining parent— that again speak to the real core of the show. Once more, I commend Deschanel at how she portrayed her bereft character’s sorrow, keeping in line with the Brennan we all know. There are no histrionics, but instead tear-filled confusion, and I’m so looking forward to seeing the fallout from this, as heartbreaking as it will be to watch.
When it comes to Max’s actual demise, I’m of two minds on the matter. On the one hand, it’s not like we weren’t prepared from the little anvil dropped earlier this season, and if Max had succumbed to a medical ailment, it would have been painful, but realistic. However, him going out in a blaze of glory at the hands of another sadistic serial killer — not unlike Sweets two years ago, or Aldo a few weeks back — felt like a bit of a retread at this point. I know it’s just my personal pet peeve, and I do appreciate that Max died the only way he would have wanted to for his family’s safety. I just wish that we, and Brennan, had a little more time to mourn, instead of getting embroiled in this latest nemesis. While it didn’t feel quite as manipulative as Sweets’ murder, I guess I just have to accept that I’m a girl who likes her family tragedies with a little more gravitas.
‘Score’ was certainly a rollercoaster, emotional and otherwise. How did you feel about Max’s swan song on Bones? What do you think the ramifications will be of his death on the Brennan-Booth family?