Mark Terry

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Griping about "Bones" season finale

May 20, 2008
Anybody see the season finale of "Bones" last night? Sucked didn't it? Unfaithful to previous scripts, illogical, weirdly and unsatisfyingly complicated, with a B.I.G. T.W.I.S.T. that is likely to just piss off regular viewers (like everyone in my family who regularly watches the show). In fact, last week's cliffhanger was so well done, I was all ready to download it and the season finale to my iPod until I watched last night's episode and decided, "Oh, to hell with it."

Way to go, guys. Cheat the viewers. And I hear the network has plans to move the timeslot not once but twice in the fall, first to Wednesday, then to Friday. This is a FOX show with good ratings, what USA Today has described as a good show with a potential to be a great show, but last night's episode was like watching a drunk shoot themselves in the foot with shotgun they think is empty. (And thanks guys. I only watch 2 TV shows regularly--Bones and House. Way to go.)

SPOILER.

Okay, if you haven't watched the show, here's the set-up. It's a team of forensic experts working out of the Jeffersonian in Washington, DC. There's "Bones" who is Dr. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist. Booth, an FBI agent. Cam, who is the boss of the department, a forensic pathologist. Jack, who is a double PhD, an expert in bugs and dirt; Angela, computer imaging and forensic artist; Zack, who is a forensic anthropologist. There is also a forensic psychiatrist, Sweets, who spends most of his time analyzing Booth and Bones.

Earlier in the season they were hunting down a serial killer dubbed Gormagon, who was killing people and building a skeleton out of various part, replacing silver parts from a silver skeleton (or vice versa, it was confusing the first time around and not much clearer after last night's mess). Gormagon had been around a while and in fact, somewhere along the line they found him in a nursing home with Alzheimer's. Because Gormagon, sort of like Sith Lords, had an apprentice. So they were trying to track down the apprentice, but now that they had caught Gormagon, the apprentice had become Gormagon and presumably was looking for an apprentice. (You know, maybe this story line was a bad idea from the very beginning. Hmmm.)

Now, if you haven't watched the show, the tone tends to be very light. The characters make up a family and one of the show's strengths has been the ensemble's interactions, built around very good mysteries, typically. Lots of humor, well-acted cast.

A recurring theme of the show has been Zack and Jack's "experiments" to see if they can duplicate some bit of forensic evidence. The first and most memorable was when they ran a frozen dead pig through a wood chipper. Last night they were trying to duplicate some ceramics and the upshot was it exploded with Zack in it, burning and damaging his hands and probably ending his career. The show can be a bit gory and the shot of his bloody, mangled hands was harder to take than your typical rotting corpse.

Then, by the end, we find that Zack, three months earlier, was recruited by Gormagon to be the apprentice.

I noticed in an interview I found today that the producer, Curtis Hanson, said he expected and hoped for a violent reaction from fans. Why he would want that is a mystery to me, given that the show's overall tone tends to be light. But then again, I'm often confused by the way TV people seem to sabotage their own shows. From a writer's perspective, I just don't get the changes. If it's some gimmick that went awry, it's still going to seriously affect the tone of the show, and if it's a "dream" which they've played around with a bit anyway, or a set-up, like the beginning of the show where Booth was shot at the finale of last week's episode, and this episode began with his funeral, which was faked (something they've done a couple times on this show, so the writer's really need to stop going back to that particular well) in order to draw in an unexplained killer with "national security implications", then the writers are pushing our credulity (of course, it's TV, so that's probably to be expected). I've just got to say, though, that I thought they were adding a tonal note, a very, very dark tonal note, to a show that has always managed to keep things light, even when it's at its most serious. Weird.

Cheers,
Mark Terry


27 Comments:

Blogger A.C. Douglas said...

Re, last night's Bones which I don't watch regularly (but know the show's premise and characters) but tuned in last night because I was waiting for the season close of House which I do -- my only regularly watched TV fare -- and had nothing better to do. Your expressed thoughts were mine as well -- almost verbatim. As tacky and inept a piece of plotting as it's been my displeasure to witness.

ACD

7:18 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Holy crap, was that a terrible finale! Arbitrary, manipulative, and pandering, I was insulted as a writer AND a fan. I couldn't believe the lengths to which they were willing to sell out these characters they've spent so long developing, and all for the sake of a lousy "Gotcha!"

And (SPOILER) irrefutable logic? Really? You're telling me there's something anyone could have said to Zack that would have justified in his mind the desecration of dozens of unidentified remains? Never mind the absurdity of the fake-out cold open, or the shoe-horned red herrings of Sweets and Hodgens.

The true shame is that the writers will likely point to such angry reactions on the part of their fans as evidence of a job well done. The truth is, I never much cared for Zack, and still I feel they did a great disservice to his character with such an ill-conceived exit.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Liz Wolfe said...

Thanks for the Spoiler Alert. I Tivoed Bones last night. I am so totally BUMMED that it doesn't live up to last week's cliffhanger. Makes you wonder why writers/producers/whoever is responsible does this kind of crap. And if they start moving it aroiund in the fall, the ratings will probably drop off and then they'll cancel it. Crap.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

AC
--on the other hand, "House" rocked.

Chris
--Bingo! We just don't buy Zack as going that route. He's a dork, but not an angry dork. And he's well aware of what he has in his job and the people he works with. Remember: when he came back from Iraq and the military told him he didn't seem capable of functioning outside the Jeffersonian, Cam told him he should probably ask himself why that was and be happy with it.

Liz
--Hope I didn't wreck it for you.

10:13 AM  
Blogger A.C. Douglas said...

AC-- on the other hand, "House" rocked.

Indeed it did.

ACD

10:25 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Sometimes I feel like I have to just shake my head and shut my eyes this time of year, because they suddenly go berserk trying to come up with the cliffhanger that will help persuade the execs not to axe their show, and get the fans talking so the execs won't axe their show.

It's a gimmick that just reeks of desperation.

"House" did rock. "Numbers" did not.

Personally, I like closure with a single, embedded hook. If it's a quality show, people are going to come back to it. But this isn't a chapter ending; we have to wait FOUR months, sometimes more, sometimes never, to hear what happens next.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

House sometimes drives me crazy, but it's been a good season and the 2-part finale was very, very well done. (Although the part about Hepatitis B was sort of lame, from a medical POV, but according to my wife, the medical technologist, the testing time period for the Rocky Mountain Fever was spot-on.)

I used to watch "Numbers" but my oldest son, then 13, was watching it with me and we got into an episode about a dominatrix and there was just too much explaining to do--on top of an episode about a high school shooting--and I decided the easiest way to keep him from watching it was to stop watching it myself. I hear Farr is leaving, which is too bad, I really liked her.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My thoughts exactly. Bones has been the only show I followed this year because of its intelligent plots and familial character interaction. I have to admit I loved the Zack/Brennan teacher and student relationship. His innocence was absolutely adorable.

I find myself torn between wishing I could believe this was the haphazard result of the writers' strike and the more reality that the writers did this purely for the shock value. Totally like a "drunk shooting himself in the foot." The twist was stupid and lowered my respect for all of the characters. Did anyone catch the part where Zack killed someone because Angela didn't "get him a girlfriend"?

Then they expect me that even though Zack purposely chose to kill someone, the audience should be happy that he got to (I think falsely) plead insanity, because that would make Brennan feel better. What?!?! Since when is justice dependent on how the aggressor's friends might feel about his incarceration?

I feel jipped. When the credits started rolling I had to go back and watch the season 2 episode with Gravedigger just to remind myself what this show is capable of doing. I though I would say this about any show, but I wish this was a dream sequence in Seeley Booth's coma.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

My thoughts exactly. Bones has been the only show I followed this year because of its intelligent plots and familial character interaction. I have to admit I loved the Zack/Brennan teacher and student relationship. His innocence was absolutely adorable.

I find myself torn between wishing I could believe this was the haphazard result of the writers' strike and the more reality that the writers did this purely for the shock value. Totally like a "drunk shooting himself in the foot." The twist was stupid and lowered my respect for all of the characters. Did anyone catch the part where Zack killed someone because Angela didn't "get him a girlfriend"?

Then they expect me that even though Zack purposely chose to kill someone, the audience should be happy that he got to (I think falsely) plead insanity, because that would make Brennan feel better. What?!?! Since when is justice dependent on how the aggressor's friends might feel about his incarceration?

I feel jipped. When the credits started rolling I had to go back and watch the season 2 episode with Gravedigger just to remind myself what this show is capable of doing. I though I would say this about any show, but I wish this was a dream sequence in Seeley Booth's coma.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I second (third? fourth? sixth?) the House finale rocking. In fact, Bones and House this week pose an interesting dichotomy, since both paint less-than-realistic pictures of people doing science (says this scientist, at least), which effectively nullifies that as a gripe when comparing the two. Strip away the dubious facts of each of the two finales, and with House, you're left with a startling piece in which nearly every character's arc is one of great emotional resonance. With Bones, you're left yelling at your television.

Oh, was that just me? That explains the looks from the neighbors...

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Sorry for the double post. I don't know why that happened.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Stephanie,
Absolutely! And you're right, in terms of suspense, the Gravedigger case is brilliantly handled and as Booth comments at the end, every member of the team had been necessary, even Bones and Jack, who'd done their jobs as captives and prolonged their lives.

Chris,
I'm a former scientist turned science writer and the science in both House and Bones are pretty out-there (as are all the CSI shows, as far as I'm concerned), but I thought the House episode was good from an emotional issue. I particularly liked how all the doctors who found themselves treating one of their colleagues (who they didn't actually like) found themselves kicking each other around to act professionally and get their emotions out of the way. And the way it sets up the next season between Wilson and House makes you look forward to the conflicts. Kudos to the House writers.

As for Bones, my wife and I were kicking around this scenario at lunch today:

Zack was approached by the Gormogon guy 3 months before as he said, and he goes to the prosecutor to tell her, and she insists he go along with it undercover and tell no one on the team, because there is still some concern that Gormogon or the real apprentice is part of the Jeffersonian staff (like Jack or, in my opinion, Sweets). The explosion was real and unexpected, and the murder was nonsense because Sweets did it because he's really Gormogon (remember where Bones confronts him about knowing an experiment when she sees one and he needs to stop treating her and Booth as an experiment).

I think it could work and would make sense out of Zack's behavior. My problem with it is that's essentially what they did with Booth at the beginning of this episode.

11:51 AM  
Blogger A.C. Douglas said...

.
One minor disappointment with the House closer.

I felt certain that the explanation for Thirteen's strange behavior, re, Amber, would be that Thirteen had had a prior affair with her as sly allusions to Thirteen's alleged bisexuality have been made off and on in a couple previous episodes.

ACD

12:19 PM  
Blogger A.C. Douglas said...

Oops.

My last is missing some words. It should have read:

One minor disappointment with the House closer.

I felt certain that the explanation for Thirteen's strange behavior, re, Amber, would be that Thirteen had had a prior affair with her, or yearned to have an affair with her, as sly allusions to Thirteen's alleged bisexuality have been made off and on in a couple previous episodes.

ACD

12:22 PM  
Blogger mokru said...

Bones and House have always been crap when it came to real science, but it was always very easy to forgive this because they seemed to understand the real draw and power of any show: the interaction of the characters. That is until now. Zack was hardly the most likable, but how are the familial relationships supposed to continue and grow when everyone suspected each other? The episode felt hazy and forced. Sweets seems much less likable. Bones and Booth are fractured, and the whole episode seems more like a studio execs way to kill a show with growing viewership than some impressive writing once the next season goes on. The only way it could possibly make sense is if the Gormagon story-line continues "unexpectedly." I doubt I'll watch next semester.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Liz Wolfe said...

You didn't ruin it for me, Mark (I skipped the spoiler). I watched the show tonight and The Husband and I kept looking at each other, shrugging and saying WTF. I kept trying to believe there was some 'reason' for the weirdness of the show, but, alas -- there was none.
House is also one of my favorites. I'll be watching it tomorrow night.

10:42 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Mokru,
I sometimes wonder when shows take a weird turn if the showrunner has had other offers or he's tired of the gig but can't get out contractually, so he/she starts deliberately sabotaging the show.

Liz,
The House finale is quite good. Enjoy.

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