Episode 2: The Cheat in the Retreat
By: Carlos Uribe
Bones is a show about a forensic anthropologist Dr. Bones who helps FBI Agent Booth solve crimes.
With this review, I'm introducing a new weekly feature where I pick an episode of a currently airing series I don't follow weekly and review it. Next week is: How I Met Your Mother.
It's quite an amazing feat in television to make it to the air. It's an even bigger feat to actually make it beyond the first couple of seasons as getting ratings is an impossible task to really predict. The producers sell a pitch to a network they think might make it based on what has made it before. This limits and creates creativity in numerous ways but basically it's what has led to the overpopulation of cop shows. This limits the number of kind of shows that appear on television but it creates creativity in trying to come up with your own unique version of the genre that adds a fresh perspective to often explored ideas. It's quite a challenge for writers. Bones is not the most original show on television. It basically boils down to two detectives who try to solve crimes. The first hook the show has is that one of the detectives is actually a scientist who uses her brain rather than her heart. She's forced to work with a partner who feels rather than thinks. Suddenly, you have two opposites that are able to bounce off each other for as long as the series lasts. The second hook is that because these two characters are of a different gender, there is sexual tension that helps to appeal to a particular brand of viewer who bases their enjoyment of watching on couples. Bones is therefore known as a show about two people who constantly court each other. It's been nine seasons and the two are only talking about getting married. The reason many viewers tune is because of their romance so it makes sense the producers would drag it out for so long. Once the producers pitch it, network executives have to look at the state of television and culture to determine if that's what viewers want. The problem is that network executives rarely have a clue what will do well or not. It's a huge gamble that's based on imperfect research. If a show breaks out, they get praised for their genius. If if flops, it's only their fault if no other show makes it. Bones has lasted nine seasons. It's managed to be a big hit that has likely led the way to another cop show, Castle.
The thing about lasting a long time is that every season comes with the very real chance of losing your edge. It's inevitable that the quality of the writing falls as it becomes more challenging to come up with new ideas to put characters through. There's been many series where previously strong characters are reduced to mere shadows of themselves. Bones has lasted nine seasons. I've never seen a lot of episodes but I sincerely hope this show used to be better. The weekly case this week was so dull and uninspired that it was obviously an excuse to get Bones and Brennan to attend an undercover marriage counseling seminar. This could have been a good approach at getting to some truth about their relationship but it's largely wasted as the only complaints they share are superficial. The suggestion that there's a secret that is coming between them is brought up but I get the sense that both characters already knew this. They literally learned nothing about their relationship from that counseling. The killers turned out to be rather obvious. There was nothing that suggested that anything surprising was going to happen. This is to say that Bones is currently a very stale show. I wouldn't be surprised if that the people who are watching this show are merely doing so out of loyalty. They fell in love with these characters earlier in the run. They have become so invested that they continue to tune in even though they no longer might enjoy the show. I could be wrong. It's possible Bones was never a better show and that the fans see something that I simply didn't see. I'm not sure because there is no reason I could see to watch Bones.
The thing about a cop show is that there are two real reasons to check it out: the dynamic between the team and the actual crimes being solved. The crime being solved in this episode of Bones? It was so weak that I doubt anybody was actually invested in figuring it out. Of course, it's possible this episode of Bones was simply off. The difficulty of only reviewing one episode is that there's a strong chance that you don't catch the series at it's best. You might get one of the weak entries even in a relatively strong season. At the same time, as a viewer can only judge what they see. If I simply tuned in to Bones for the first time then I would be given no reason to tune back in based on this episode alone. In that sense, my opinion on a series could very well potentially be defined by that one episode. There's no escaping this and as a critic I can't escape that I'm judging a series by a single episode but I also can't dismiss my thoughts because of this. The case was weak which means it's all up the dynamic. I simply didn't feel the dynamic in Bones. The two main characters are together at this point even if they aren't engaged. They have decent enough chemistry but I just didn't have as much fun solving crime as with Castle and Beckett. It seems like they've stopped enjoying the process because their relationship has overtaken their interactions with each other. The rest of the team was largely forgettable. One of the characters has had her identity stolen and the entire team rallies around her but I couldn't get myself to care. That's partially because I haven't invested into these characters but also because the plot line felt forced into the narrative.
It's quite a feat that Bones has lasted nine seasons. The premise was strong and the hook clearly got a lot of fans invested into the show. At the same time, the present state of the show might indicate that it's time to end it. The show simply feels stale. It doesn't have any real energy, the cases are weak, and there's no enjoyment in the process of solving it. The rest of the team is fine but the identity theft plot felt forced into the show. This was a weak episode of Bones that doesn't really give a good impression of the show. Overall, I figure the only reason Bones remains on the air because the earlier seasons hooked in enough fans to string them along.