April 30, 2013



BONES brought out the big guns for its Season 8 finale–a long-awaited marriage proposal from Brennan (Emily Deschanel) to Booth (David Boreanaz), and the return of the show’s arch-villain, Christopher Pelant (Andrew Leeds).  Pelant is both a genius-level computer hacker and a serial killer who, the last time we saw him, had stolen Hodgins’ (T. J. Thyne) entire family fortune and acquired, thanks to Booth, a hideous scar across his face.  Naturally, he was out for vicious revenge.

As Pelant has become more of a super-criminal, the Bones episodes that house him have become increasingly atypical, not necessarily a great idea for a series that operates at its best within a very specific comfort zone.  The season finale, written by Executive Producers Stephen Nathan and Jonathan Collier, and directed by Boreanaz, had very little humor (there weren’t even any “squinterns” to help with the case) and an almost unrelievedly grim tone, uncharacteristic for what’s usually television’s most buoyant procedural.  The plotting on Bones tends to be workmanlike at best, and an episode like this exposes the awkward contrivances of the writing more than most, as it turned out Pelant was only able to put together his current plot by finding the child of an FBI agent killed in a Waco-like raid 10 years ago (in which Booth had also participated) who was both a sharpshooter and suffering from such an unbalanced grief disorder that she believed videos sent to her with CG of her 10 years-dead father instructing her to commit murders were real.  The big cliffhanger ending felt false, really, to the very spirit of the show, as Pelant told Booth to reject Bones’s proposal or he’d kill innocent people, and Booth simply acquiesced without even trying to let Bones know what was going on (and Bones never asked, although something was clearly wrong), a conceit unworthy of either their relationship over these 8 years or the series itself.

In each of the past two or three seasons, it’s seemed as though Bones might be approaching its end, as ratings have gradually receded and the series budget, top heavy with veteran stars and producers, has become more expensive.  But the series still performs moderately well for FOX, which aside from this spring’s The Following has been unable to develop any successful new dramas, so it’s made financial sense to keep Bones on the air.  This season, although the series is still entertaining, the strain of keeping it all going has started to show.  The major plotline of the early season had Sweets (John Francis Daley), having broken up with intern girlfriend Daisy (Carla Gallo), literally become a psychiatrist in residence by moving in with Bones and Booth, which made for some sweet scenes for the three, but also felt like a continuing pilot for their sitcom spin-off.  The idea of having Hodgins and Angela (Michaela Conlin) lose all their money was more promising, but the show hasn’t really made much of it.  More successful was having Camille (Tamara Taylor) get involved with one of the squinterns herself, Aristoo (Pej Vahdat), a relationship that paid off in a late-season episode where he had to allow himself to be poisoned in order for a cure to be found.

Part of the problem for Bones is that its inspiration early on was to meld murder-mystery procedural with romcom, but after 8 years most of the cast has been paired off:  Bones with Booth, Hodgins with Angela, Sweets (until recently) with Daisy, Camille with Aristoo, even Camille’s daughter with another intern.  The show, for better or worse, hasn’t chosen to introduce new regular characters to the mix, and now the romance angle is mostly played out–it’s become a procedural about couples, and while that’s an area with stories worth telling (the show has gotten fair mileage out of Bones’s idiosyncratic approach to parenting), it’s not the same as those seasons where one or another of the characters was courting.

It would be nice if FOX could declare upfront that next season–or, at most, one more after that–was going to be the last for Bones, so with the end in sight, the show could launch one big season-long arc with real stakes.  In the absence of that, Bones will likely keep drifting along, a decent diversion but always harder-pressed to keep its characters and tone at the same level of fun where they started.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."