Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bones: Psst. We Need More Conflict.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a civil fandom debate.

Right now, people all across the internets are debating the merits of the last dozen or so episodes of Bones. Most personally, it’s going on between Mae and myself.

See, she’s kind of not enjoying Bones right now. Part of that is, of course, her current obsession with Chase and Cameron on House. (No, seriously, she won’t shut up about them. Love you.) The other part is that…well, she just doesn’t really like it right now.

And although I myself am more invested in this show than I’ve ever been, I kind of have to agree with her. Because I feel like we’re on a rickety cart in a mineshaft going a million miles an hour, ready to fall to a sooty, painful death at any moment.

Here’s the thing. For a show that so heavily relies upon the sexual tension between Booth and Brennan, there’s sure not much tension this season. Sure, we threw in the potential of Brennan/Jared for about half an hour, and she was dating those two guys at the beginning of the season, and Booth flirted oh-so-briefly with Perrotta in “Fire in the Ice,” but the purpose of those insinuations had nothing to do with ramping up tension and way more to do with immediately furthering the Booth/Brennan storyline. At least with Cam or Sully or even Rebecca that one time, there was character development beyond what our heroes feel for each other.

Which is not to say that we don’t want our heroes to feel for each other. We do. Deeply.

It’s just that right now, they’re basically together. They don’t see other people (at least not seriously), they spend virtually all of their time together, and they touch each other all the time. (Have you noticed this?! Good God, Booth and his fingers are EVERYWHERE lately!) Even though they’ve been more adorable than ever lately, there hasn’t been any conflict or development all season, really. (I’ll allow “Con Man in the Meth Lab” and “Mayhem on the Cross” to act as exceptions to this statement.)

Right now, we’re in this mineshaft, and there’s a fork in the track coming up.
One of them leads to a track that’s going to get us all killed. That track is called “Booth and Brennan Hook Up, Confess Love, Artificial Reason Keeps Them from Being Together.” With the new promo pics that came out for “Critic in the Cabernet,” combined with what we know about that episode and the one following it, I’m so terrified for the end of that episode. Because it sure seems possible that, after going through a few days of baby confusion, ending with him exclaiming, “If I can’t be involved, I don’t want her to have it” to his hallucination, that he might be prone to a “Bones, I said that because I’d rather have a baby with you the old-fashioned way”-type confession. With all the recent discussion about Brennan’s incapacity to believe in love, it sure seems like the finale could bring an “I love you” from one or both of them.

And that would be bad.

The track I hope they take is called “Booth and Brennan Agree to Let It Out of Their Systems ONCE, Accidentally Get Pregnant, Are Forced to Live for Rest of Life with Consequence of Spontaneous Sexage.”

Basically they need to resolve the current tension, which has gotten dull over the course of four years, and add new sexual tension--the tension that comes with knowing what the other person looks like naked and feeling like you can’t act on it. What would be awesome is if they basically rope off one night, one night where they’re going to allow themselves to be together. And in the course of that evening, maybe “I love yous” are exchanged in the throes of passion, but they agree beforehand that what happens in Booth’s bedroom stays in Booth’s bedroom.

Plus, you add in this little baby, and there’s this added tension of This Is Not What We Planned. And they’re forced to work their life around what it means to have a child together, to affirm that they are, in fact, going to be part of each other’s lives forever. Heady stuff.

Episode-to-episode, I’ve never been as entertained as I have been by the last three. They’ve been an excellent balance of funny and angsty, built upon compelling cases that actually have me paying attention to more than Booth’s facial expressions. But how they’re operating now is an unsustainable model. They’ve got to do a few things next season to keep the show on track:

1. Get serious. Remember when Caroline accused Booth and Brennan of being “all Dr. Brennan and Special Agent Seeley Booth”? I have a feeling she wouldn’t do that anymore. When’s the last time a case affected them? Now, it seems they solve the case in 55 minutes and spend the last 5 talking about themselves, rather than spending the last 5 talking about the case and what that means for them. My two favorite B&B episode-enders are the ones from “Death in the Saddle” and “The Girl with the Curl.” Ostensibly, they’re talking about the case--it’s the subtext that gives these weight. Now, it’s just all…text.

2. Give me some angst, please! Yes, the B&B closers are cuter than cute. But for cripe’s sake, let them argue every once in a while. Take them back to their roots. Their hottest scene may still be the fight in the Pilot.

3. The baby thing is non-negotiable. It’s gonna give them something tangible to disagree about. They need to go beyond everyone and their mother thinking B&B are already a couple. Put them in situations where it would be correct to assume they are together, like a doctor’s visit or a trip to Baby Gap. (Two words: Tiny. Socks.) Ramp up the angst by giving Booth two people to be protective of for the price of one. And, finally, let Brennan experience pure, undeniable love the moment she sees their baby--and watch how this changes her relationship with Booth.

Yep, as long as they do exactly as I say, things will work out just fine.

2 Responses to “Bones: Psst. We Need More Conflict.”

Danielle said...

I'm a fan who started watching post-season three hiatus, which I know is when many felt the rot began to set in, so of course I love Bones at the moment. However, I would tend to agree that early season four was the weakest part of the series so far, with some less interesting cases and either absent or clunking character development. The last couple of weeks have been really wonderful though. I've loved every episode since The Bones that Foam, with the exception of DDotDD (which I had to turn off mainly because of my own crippling horror of having to sing in public).

One thing that's been consistent thoughout the season, though, is the relative lack of tension between Booth and Brennan. Part of it has been scripted (generally less bickering) and partly because things that were probably intended to introduce some tension fell flat (Perotta - somehow Coughlan and Boreanaz just didn't have any chemistry, so it was unbelievable that anything would come of it). The surrogate relationship of this season feels like a natural development; it allows the show to take its time while still seeming consistent with the characters. It's sweet and adorable and makes us feel all cotton candy inside. However, it allows for a lot of the niceness of a relationship without having to actually deal with the issues that actually being in a relationship would raise.

Part of the reason why CitC was so great is that (as well as all the touchy-feelyness, the wonderful tag scene and a case about weddings) was that old style bickering was back. Whatever happens with the B&B relationship, season 5 would definitely benefit from a return to bickering. I agree that actually having sex could be a great way to bring tension back, but it will need to be really carefully handled, because if they aren't going to be in a fully blown relationship and having sex regularly in season five it has to be for some reason other than because of Awkward And Artificial Plot Device.

I think when you have an obvious, anvil falling OTP in your show it's stupid and unrealistic when they string out their getting together for years and years, but I really hate when shows have OTP make up/break up cycles. Bones has avoided the first trap, now they need to keep out of the second too. They need to develop tension from the characters, not from manufacturing artificial angsty situations to put them in.

It's true that there hasn't been so much character development this season (for B&B anyway, I think Hodgins has had a great season). As you mention, a return to some more serious cases that are affecting on the personal level could help. It could also be done in a not so subtle way - all the Brennan family drama episodes had significant character development for both Booth and Brennan. This season the focus was more on Booth, but I was definitely expecting to see it as a more fully developed plot arc, with more explanation for how Booth is where he is today and allowing this to impact on both of them in the present. If they don't go the baby route (or even if they do) I would like to see this in season five.

It's not just the B&B sexual tension though, there's less tension in the show in general. Brennan and Cam are now friends, Angela and Hodgins are maintaining a good relationship post-breakup (and I maintain they were only broken up to allow for the B&B pseudo-relationship, but that's another issue), Sweets is now part of the gang. Having some more serious/affecting cases again could help with this as well as with

Hannah said...

I really feel like we're heading towards an early exclamation of love. There have been many signs leading towards this: Hero in the Hold, Cinderella in the Cardboard, and now Girl in the Mask.

Although I just started watching Bones last summer, I find myself enjoying this pseudo relationship B&B are in now.

I'm really just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best with the finale. I do like your theory best Caroline. It would not only preserve the tension, but bring it up a level and develop B&B's relationship.

On another note, tonight's episode seemed to be full of foreshadowing that OMG BRENNAN IS GOING TO WANT A BABY TO LOVE.