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April 19, 2010

The 100th Episode of Bones (Spoilers Ahoy!)

TV: Bones

(I know a bunch of you were a week or two behind on Bones, so I hope waiting a week and a half is sufficient to avoid ruining things. You've been warned.)

There are so many things to say about this episode that I'm not even going to try to be comprehensive. Also, Alyssa said a lot of what I was thinking here, so make sure you read that. Overall, I thought the episode was excellent, almost perfect, and I was surprised that I was surprised, if that makes sense. I read a lot of spoilers - love them (and more on that in its own post soon) - and this episode got a lot of advance press. And yet, there were some things that happened that honestly astonished me. It's rare that that actually happens with TV (and yes, I realize it's my own fault for reading spoilers, but yes, I like it that way), so I'm very impressed with the execution.

It's also rare that episodes heralded as "game-changing" actually are. This one was. By flashing back to a year before the show started and having such major things happen in the characters' personal and professional lives, the entire framework of the show was called into question. The history assumed by the viewer was rewritten. And the kiss and conversation at the end of the episode, in the present day, also shaped the entire future of the show. It was quite the double whammy. (And I really need to stop for a moment to praise the excellent acting and wide ranges displayed by all the actors, but especially David Boreanaz and Emily Deschenel. There was more here than the show usually demands of them, and they rose to the challenge. This would have been a very easy episode to overact, but they didn't. Boreanaz was also directing, which makes it all the more impressive.)

It was somewhat surprising that they tried to rewrite the past and the future in one episode, but the really surprising thing was that it worked. Usually, when a beloved show decides to go back in time and change the past, fans are left feeling cheated and even betrayed. I haven't heard from anyone who felt that way about Bones (although I'm sure there's someone out there who will hurry to correct me on this). On the technical side of things, it helped that they were careful not to contradict anything that had been actually established about the past. They only contradicted what viewers assumed had happened. In that article about Agatha Christie I linked yesterday, Christine Kenneally wrote that "Christie's greatest talent, or at least the one for which her readers most adore her, lay in knowing exactly what her reader would think and feel, and in subtly exploiting that." This is what the Bones folk did as well.

And on an emotional level, this rewriting of history worked because it just made sense. I spent most of the episode saying (typing) things along the lines of "I can't believe this is happening," but by the end of the episode, it seemed impossible that it could have happened any other way. It's hard to make something simultaneously shocking and inevitable. What happened changed what we had assumed about the characters and their relationships, but ultimately, it changed them in a way that made them both more real and more like themselves. And going forward, of course, the challenge for Bones will be to resist ignoring these changes, and instead to move forward in a way that stays faithful to the new reality they have so masterfully established.

Posted by Kat at April 19, 2010 12:22 PM
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