Bones: Missing the show that disgusted and entertained


I never expected that the show that regularly features grotesque decomposing corpses would be a show that I looked forward to.

During the summer months, without a steady stream of new episodes from my favorite television shows, I tend to rely heavily on Netflix to fill the void. This summer, I have been binge-watching old seasons of Bones. When this show started years ago, I never expected that the show that regularly features grotesque decomposing corpses in various states of dismemberment would be a show that I looked forward to. However, now that it has officially ended, I will miss having a new case to solve each week.

Inspired by crime writer and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, the basic premise of Bones is as follows: a team of elite scientists help the FBI solve murders by inspecting the corpses of the victims. Together, they achieve justice for the dead. The show is as much about the interpersonal relationships of the characters as it is about the crimes they are solving. The interaction of the characters and they ways their lives became intertwined throughout the seasons keep the overall tone of the show lighter than most crime shows. Almost every episode is peppered with down-right funny scenes.

Most episodes begin with the discovery of dead body. The scenes involving the bodies, both upon discovery and in the lab, are often visually stomach-churning (I learned early on to never eat or snack while watching this show). Each episode plays out as a “who-dun-it” murder mystery, as we follow 1. the team of scientists from the Jeffersonian Institute inspect the body and research the victim’s life to discover clues and 2. the FBI track down and interview suspects, led by the clues discovered by the Jeffersonian. The story weaves back and forth from the lab to the FBI. Each victim’s story often mirrors a current trouble or trial of one of the main characters, pushing the story forward. Most of the time, the case is solved by the end of the hour. Each season also has an over-arching story that blends through each episode.

Palpable Danger

It is established early on, and reinforced often, that the main characters on the show are not immune to danger. Each of the main characters find themselves in peril at some point through the run of the show — some much more often than others. The characters survive being kidnapped, shot, stalked, buried alive, tortured and drugged. They survive assaults and explosions. Main characters die.  As I’ve written about before, fictional danger is more palpable for the viewer when we cannot be certain of the fate of a character. Having that gnawing sense of dread, that something bad could happen to a character you love, keeps you on the edge of your seat when they step into the line of fire. The surprising deaths of main characters and frequent recurring characters have significant impact on the storylines of the survivors furthering the story through multiple seasons.

Intelligent Women

Bones is unique in that it features a trio of diverse, highly intelligent female characters, who never — over the course of 12 seasons — compete with each other over a man. Never. The characters are written as full and complete characters unto themselves. They are not identified or defined by the men that they work and/or live with. Dr. Temperance Brennan, referred to as ‘Bones’ by her FBI partner Special Agent Seeley Booth, is the world’s most respected and knowledgeable forensic anthropologist. She is an unequivocal genius — just ask her. Dr. Camille Saroyan is a well-respected medical examiner/coroner who runs the Jeffersonian lab and keeps the team running smoothly. Angela Montenegro, Dr. Brennan’s best friend, is a brilliant artist and computer genius who digitally re-creates the faces of the dead and reconstructs what happened to them. These women may have professional disputes and disagreements, but it is delightfully refreshing that they never argue over the men in their lives. They are protective and supportive of each other always.

Heroic Men

If I am going to praise the use of multiple strong female characters, I must also laud the male characters. The Jeffersonian Institute team includes Dr. Jack Hodgins, who has advanced degrees in several subjects including entomology and botany. The self-titled “bug and slime guy” of the lab often cooks up outlandish experiments to help determine how the murders occurred. While he is most comfortable in the lab, or in the field collecting evidence, he proves over and over that he is also brave and unafraid to risk his life to protect the ones he loves. FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth is a former Army Ranger and highly skilled sniper. Booth is strong, cocky, determined and clever as he investigates each case. He does whatever it takes to bring down the bad guys. (He is often also as grossed out by the visuals of the decomposing bodies as the viewer.) Booth has a strong belief system in both God and country. Despite the horrors he witnesses over the years, his faith never wavers. Dr. Lance Sweets is an FBI psychologist who helps profile both the victims and the suspects. He is often called upon by his friends at the FBI and the Jeffersonian to help them out with personal issues, providing insight into the characters we love. Special Agent James Aubrey joins the team at the FBI in the last few seasons. He quickly meshes with the rest of the team in a way that makes it feel as though he had been with them since the beginning.

Clever Casting

After the first few seasons, the Jeffersonian lab plays host to a rotating cast of aspiring forensic anthropologist interns who work with the team and learn from Dr. Brennan — a clever ploy by the writers to bring in fresh energy each episode. The interns differ greatly from each other in personality and quirks, but they all aspire to be as skilled as Dr. Brennan. There are occasional notable guests stars, such as Betty White, who pop in to fill the intern role, but 6 or 7 main interns repeat frequently enough to become part of the longer storylines. A few even serve as love interests. In addition to the interns, there is an impressive cast of additional significant recurring characters who return season after season, popping in to serve the storylines.

More from Bam Smack Pow

I am well aware that there are a lot of crime dramas out there. Now that Bones is gone, I’m sure I can find another show to fill the void if I try. What I’ll miss about Bones is the way they told the often dark and disturbing stories without making overall the tone of the show too dark. I enjoy trying to figure out mysteries along with the characters. I don’t enjoy being creeped out as I do so — which often happens with the darker shows. Thank goodness for Netflix and the ability to revisit reruns, but here’s hoping that one of the many new shows on the horizon will be as equally entertaining as this one.