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.