Checking In On Bones: Was the "The Shot in the Dark" a Life-altering Episode for Our Dear Dr. Brennan?

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Feb 12, 2013

Bones S08E15: "The Shot in the Dark"

Bones has had a fine season so far, though it also hasn't been particularly special. “The Ghost in the Machine” episode offered a morbid twist on the POV episode, but it’s not like that sort of thing hadn't been done before. While Booth as a stand-up comic in “The But of the Joke” was amusing, the episode wasn’t stellar. And the while the dance audition that closed out “The Diamond in the Rough” was hysterical and wonderfully madcap, the episode overall sort of dragged.

To be fair, I don’t expect Bones to captivate me each week. I’ll take squick-inducing moments with remains, strong character beats, and humor each in place of compelling cases. I mean, even Pelant’s return in "The Corpse on the Canopy" was rather underwhelming as far as a longer story arc is concerned, but it did result in horrible scarring for Pelant and the draining of Hodgins’ fortune, both of which were probably more interesting than anything else that preceded it.

“The Shot in the Dark” pushed this balance of case of the week and character work in a big way, though it wasn't completely successful for me. Bones was shot at the lab following a fight with Booth over the idea of taking a family vacation to a cabin, with Bones arguing that Christine wouldn't remember the excursion, so what would be the point? She completely ignored the fact that such a trip would create memories for herself and Booth, with Christine in them as well.

Getting shot, as is so often the case on TV, resulted in Bones either suffering hallucinations as a result of the blood loss and being on death’s door, or having one foot in that door and gaining access to the afterlife, as she found herself in a simulacra of her childhood home chatting with a manifestation of her mother. Needless to say, Bones, one of TV’s few prominent atheists, had issues accepting the notion—and as the show seemed to decide, the fact—that she was dead and talking to the spirit of her mother.

Bones’ experiences with her mom recurred throughout the episode as she drifted in and out of consciousness and learned a bit about herself. Over the course of the series, Bones has mellowed from the cold, pragmatic, and generally socially inept scientist we met so many seasons ago to a woman with a good degree of empathy, humor, and even love. Sure, she sometimes struggles to express these things, but the feelings are there, and they've represented a real change for the character.

"The Shot in the Dark" argued that Bones’s emphasis on rational thinking grew out of a fight with her mother right before her mom disappeared with Max. It was a fight about a boy, and how young Bones was changing herself too much, acting too emotionally and impulsively, not thinking with her brain. As a result of her mother’s departure, Bones threw herself into only using her brain and shutting down her emotions as a way to survive.

It’s a reasonable explanation for Bones’ behavior over the years, and I really have no issues with that aspect of the episode. But I do think that even without this experience, Bones would've eventually come around to being a bit more spontaneous in her parenting because this series is about her transformation, much more so than it has been about other characters' (though Hodgins has calmed down considerably as a conspiracy theorist).

And I sort of take issue with the episode’s decision to link Bones’ visions to the afterlife, and the afterlife being treated as fact. To have Bones’ atheism questioned and directly challenged by the story—particularly that bit about Max’s gift—bugs me. The intrusion of a thing Bones doesn’t believe in, and that the episode pushed the interpretation that she’s wrong, felt unnecessary. It’s possible to be a logical and rational atheist and still be compassionate, loving, and emotional, and a good parent, and it’s easy enough to dramatize a shift in Bones’s attitude without an emphasis on a god and an afterlife.

Since the show seems interested in exploring this question and this change in its main character, I really hope it follows through. Bones exploring religions of the world, this time without her typical scientific approach, could make for some interesting stories and challenges for both her and Booth—the devout Catholic—to surmount, but I’ll say that I’d rather that journey end up with her achieving a sense of well-being through human connections, as she’s done for seasons now, and without the religion. No need to change her that much.


Notes & Quotes


– Bones’ “Goodbye!” as she slammed the door to the house, and the scene with her talking to herself in the bone room, lent themselves to some truly delightful line-readings from Emily Deschanel.

– I have no idea if the science holds up on a blood bullet, but I also don’t really care. It’s cool.

– Poor Sweets. Couldn’t make it work with Olivia, and even the sex “lacked fireworks.” But they’re so cute together! I also loved how Sweets made the transition from the $10,000 clock to their failed romance.

– Serious Quantum Leap vibes for that transition from the dream/afterlife to consciousness by way of hug. Perhaps appropriately, Quantum Leap’s series finale hit the religion/science split pretty hard.


What'd you think of this week's episode? How are you liking the season so far?

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  • JDintheOC Feb 17, 2013

    As the old saying goes "If it ain't broke,don't fix it"! And how many married couples do you know that still refer to their spouses by their last name or job description? She still calls him Booth and he still calls her Bones?

  • prowly Mar 03, 2013

    They're nicknames. They wouldn't stop calling each other by those names just because they're now intimate. My grandparents were named Wendell and Barbara, but they always called each other Wendy and Bobby.

  • chrelle66 Feb 16, 2013

    The science of the blood bullet, as it is stated by Hodgins, doesn't quite hold up.
    Lead is about 11 times as dense as water, not "about 3 times".
    Blood on the other hand is only 1.06 times as dense as water, so for a blood bullet to have as much energy as a lead one it would have to be travelling about 120 times as fast, even using an gas-gun I'm pretty sure that the air-friction alone would melt it.
    Minor points perhaps, but in a science based show these things matter, IMO.

  • connyisraelso Feb 16, 2013

    I watch Bones every week not because of the cases, but because of the people. I love being in the Jeffersonian world once a week and sharing a peek at the lives of Bones, Booth, Angela, Hodgins, et al. Lighten up, people! It's a delightful show.

  • mori1bund Feb 15, 2013

    Please, Fox, could you keep your religious mumbo-jumbo to your "news" propaganda outlet.
    Oh and Noel: "IT'S POSSIBLE to be a logical and rational atheist and still be compassionate, loving, and emotional, and a good parent"? Why thank you for admitting that I'm not a heartless, evil monster because I prefer FACTS over an invisible guy in the sky who tries to make me feel guilty about my existence. GRMPH!
    I think it's about time for me to stop watching "Bones".

  • pjt Feb 15, 2013

    I'm not Catholic. Worse, I'm an atheist. I'm probably not allowed to watch Bones anymore.

  • danweeks16 Feb 14, 2013

    I knew it. "Ghost in the Machine" was just the beginning. Verifying that, in the Bones universe, ghosts are as factually real as the psychic powers used to sense them. I was hoping that episode was just a fluke, a failed attempt at something different. This episode has confirmed that it was not.

    What the hell is going on with this show? This is supposed to be a show about scientists doing science, and Brennan's character being a believer in facts and evidence over faith in anything supernatural was central to this theme. This so-called epiphany goes against the very point of her character. More than that, as MatchooW pointed out, it blatantly perpetrates the worst misconceptions about atheists: That not believing is the result of something 'being wrong' with the person; that atheists are cold, emotionless people who live unfulfilled lives devoid of any kind of warmth or happiness; that Brennan's non-belief has somehow limited her in her life, despite the fact that she's one of the most renowned and successful experts in her field.

    In the end, this episode, like so many before it, but particularly "Ghost in the Machine," was nothing more than sloppy storytelling, lazy writing, and propaganda, plain and simple. And though I'm an atheist, I'm less offended by the (oh-so-common) prejudice against non-believers and more offended by the sheer absence of logical character behavior and progression.

    Get the fricken fairy tales out of this science show!

  • MatchooW Feb 13, 2013

    I'm a proud Atheist and I found this episode offensive. Dr Brennan has come under fire for the religious dis-belief in other episodes, but this one was a disgrace. The writers should be ashamed, they're entitled to their beliefs, but to push it on others in this way is wrong. The condescending attitude of Brennan's friends and family, the way they look at her in that 'silly old bones, some day she'll get it' way, even her dead mother speaks down to her during her religious epiphany, which thankfully she chooses to ignore. Worst of all was the attempt at explaining away Brennan's atheism as a result of childhood trauma, having her mother die and her final wisdom being 'follow your head and not your heart', also being a slight dig at atheists no doubt 'atheists have no heart'.

    Why can't the writers just let Brennan continue to be one of TVs only open atheists and leave it at that? Even her protestations about her 'visions' only being hallucinations brought on by the trauma and/or medication were made to look like drug induced ravings while her so called friends might as well have been rolling their eyes at her bedside in that 'that's our naive little Brennan' way, while ruffling her hair. A slightly less biased mix of arguments would have made this episode less infuriating.

    Just allow Brennan her beliefs as she allow others to have theirs, don't force religious experiences on her and pity her for the 'stupidity' of her genius.

  • AmericanInfidel Feb 13, 2013

    Wow! I have never seen so much anit religious bigotry as I have in these comments. Don't fret, the athiests still have Dexter, Eva and Boyd on Justified and any of the doctor/hospital shows.

  • Madelynn1984 Feb 14, 2013

    I just read down through all of the comments, and there wasn't a single bigoted one that I saw. Perhaps whatever bothered you has already been removed. None of the comments are insulting religious people, just perhaps insulting the writers of Bones for trying to force religion on a scientist who's obviously just fine without it.

    PS, as ruthles100 pointed out, having serial killers and drug dealers represented as the only atheists on tv isn't an improvement over having none at all. And actually, Dexter does a lot of religious questioning, moreso than Dr. Brennan, in some seasons.

    With Brennan, for once, here's a woman who has never committed any crimes, who is an atheist for the same reason the rest of us are, not due to trauma, but because of logical thought and lack of proof. She's much too logical and scientifically oriented to reasonably change her mind, not gonna happen, so the writers should leave it alone.

  • ruthles100 Feb 14, 2013

    A serial killer, a nazi and all shows with doctors? Bizarre..

  • ruthles100 Feb 13, 2013

    This comment has been removed.

  • noelrk Feb 13, 2013

    I think the reaction is not so much against religion (one or two comments aside) but the notion that Bones needs to cast aside her rationality to "flourish" as a human being, instead of just "surviving" since it's very possible to flourish as a rationalist.

    But the show also goes out of its way to say, rather explicitly, that Bones' atheism is incorrect, and that there is some sort of higher power at play, and it links Bones' atheism with rationality, and thus compounds the issue that to "flourish" she needs to surrender to these things.

    I seriously doubt the show will explore this with much depth. Unlike others in the comments, I don't mind the softening of Bones as a character because it has come due to an increased human and emotional connection between her and her colleagues, and now child. But I do balk at the notion that to more fully connect to people she has to upend her entire world view.

  • danweeks16 Feb 14, 2013

    I agree that the softening of Brennan's character would definitely be an interesting character progression. We've already seen the beginnings of this, what with the birth of her child and the love she feels for Booth and her friends, with all of whom she yearns to connect with. This is a universal human concern, and perfectly natural.

    But instead of exploring this aspect of her character, the writers instead focus on introducing spirituality and faith in the divine as avenues for her "humanization." This leap of logic and reason is what I find most objectionable. It just doesn't make sense!

  • Madelynn1984 Feb 14, 2013

    Agreed! I think most parents (this doesn't actually include me, but I've heard. . .) would agree that you find a whole new, deeper "level of love" than you knew existed when you have a child. As Brennan would point out, it's an evolutionary response we developed to want to protect our young at all costs. And her friends at work have been a major revelation as well. A group of people who love and protect her no matter what. All of that WOULD have an effect on your emotional development. But having good friends, lovers, or babies that change you is very different than finding god. Have they ever said if Hodgins is in any way religious? I wouldn't expect his character to be religious, but he has always had a handle on human interactions and emotions. The two don't go hand in hand. I'll kill anyone who messes with my sister, because I love her sooo much, but I don't believe in god. (In case there's any confusion, even though I'm not religious I wouldn't ACTUALLY kill anyone. I seem to have been born with the sense that killing is bad. . . No one had to tell me, "Thou shalt not kill".)

  • bluemorphotat Feb 13, 2013

    I particularly hate it when they try to contrive a way of "proving the existence of a god." If it can't be explained... then that is proof of god's existence... really? Why is it that some people feel obliged to shove religion down your throat?

  • AlfaMark Feb 14, 2013

    Actually, they did not prove the existence of a god. Try reading The Holographic Universe to see a serious alternate view of reality. Gods may exist or not, but the existence of a person after a mortal death is not precluded in any case.

  • danweeks16 Feb 14, 2013

    They HAVE to shove it down our throats because they can't change our minds by simply winning the argument.

  • shootingstar609 Feb 12, 2013

    For as long as Bones has been on the air, it's episode have been divided into two types of episodes: case-of-the-week centric episodes and character/personal/emotional centric episodes. The vast majority of the episodes of this series have been case-of-the-week centric episodes with bits of character storyline thrown in the mix, and these are the best episodes of the series. They have just enough character related stuff to keep people who like those aspects interested and keep people who are watching for the bodies/crime solving/anthropology/science aspects interested also. It's a win-win. When Bones decides to do a strictly character centered episode with bits of case-of-the-week thrown in, usually it is a bad combination. And not because either of the stories is bad, but it is because of the way they are combined together and which one gets the emphasis that they are usually bad. I like learning things about these characters that we don't know even after the seven seasons Bones has been on, but this needs to be doled out a little at a time in order to maintain the structure of the show (which works great).
    In this particular episode from last night, I felt like the circumstances surrounding Brennan's being shot had a lot of potential but nothing really came of it. The idea of "stealing artifacts from America and selling them overseas" is worn out and approaching cliche as a storyline element. Also, when everyone started suspecting that restorer who worked at the Jeffersonian as the shooter my first thought was "umm, motive?" I didn't see one. Even the explanation that Brennan was just in the wrong place at the wrong time didn't sit too well with me. Bones can definitely do better. But not everything about that story was a waste of airtime. How about the blood bullet? That was cool. It reminded me of an episode of CSI that featured a bullet made of meat that was frozen solid, shot out of a gun, and then melted and blended in with the rest of the person's insides. My first thought was, like Hodgins, of an ice bullet. When we think of melting we think of ice. But his experiments showed that a denser material than ice would be needed; which was also cool. This is what Bones does best, taking random elements of the crime situation and pulling them all together with science.
    As for the whole "Brennan being an atheist but now that she was dead for two minutes and saw some stuff and talked to her dead mother and now she'll be more religious (as religous as Brennan can get)" angle, I'm not sure that will happen. I think she pretty much took seeing/talking to her mother in stride. I know that loosing/not getting to say goodbye to her mother is something she's been dealing with for the entire series and her life since it happened so I am glad she was able to have an opportunity to talk with her mother again even if it wasn't really happening. It surprised me that she said anything to Booth at all about it, knowing all of the "discussions" they have had about whether God really exists, if the afterlife exists, etc. and knowing how they have agreed to disagree on each of those occasions. Brennan may be more open minded about things she can't explain now, but she's not going to go converting to Catholicism anytime soon.

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