This episode of Bones
is busy in its simplicity, yet well-paced and resplendent with pure poignancy. It feels wrong to say that Bones
is winding down despite what our calendar tells us because the show is now and always has been (perhaps always will be) organic and dynamic. It is never ending, always changing and growing and beginning. "The Final Chapter: The Radioactive Panthers in the Party" is a well-designed microcosm of what Bones
is known and loved for on that macrocosmic level.
There is a springboard case. While not uninteresting, the death of the director of the campy thriller The Radioactive Party Panthers from Fort Lauderdale is clearly not the focus of this episode. Front and center are Aubrey, Brennan, Wendell and Booth in the understated throes of self-realization and growth, each in their own way taking a step on a path to their next adventure.
Bones Continues to Delight Us with Its Unpredictability
Perhaps the first indication of how this episode was going to go is with Dr. Mayer's metamorphic example. How surprising that she would change course in the twilight of her career? Even more surprising (though I should know better than to expect to not be surprised by Bones by now) is that the entire episode has me wondering where each little wandering thread is heading. All the different paths are like the marks left behind after a knot of worms has slithered away after the rain.
I keep wondering if Brennan is realizing she wants to leave forensic anthropology -- which would be a huge surprise to all of us and very out of character. It's clear that one of the purposes of the episode is to give Wendell a direction for his post-Jeffersonian life as has already been given to some of the other characters. But the way his story ends is a complete shock -- as is Aubrey's projected future. Quietly delightful throughout is how patient, thoughtful and supportive both Brennan and Booth are, despite Aubrey doing things differently than Booth tries to guide him to do. Here's how it all happened...
A Kaleidoscope of Visceral Activity
There's lots going on in this episode, as a lacerated corpse flies from a bridge straight into the windshield of a passing convertible. Betty White reprises her role as Dr. Beth Mayer, though this time she's studying the mating habits of small woodland creatures. Wendell is the squint on deck, stressing over the choice of topic for his doctoral dissertation. And Angela is crying over mattress commercials ($100 says we find out she's pregnant by the end of the season). Finally, Booth is letting Aubrey take the lead on the case of the flying corpse.
The Mattress King Who Would Be a Movie Maker
Our flying corpse is (was?) Ronald Bergman, owner of Snoozeland, the local mattress store. Bergman fancied himself an actor and director and was always featured in his commercials for the business. Away on sabbatical to pursue his dream of making a real movie, Bergman is waylaid by the conflicting dreams of a washed-up child actor who changes Bergman's entire script from a lovely tale about a young boy into a T&A slasher romp about Teletubby-esque manthers. It's not supposed to make sense, so don't even try.
Child star David Faustino (who plays himself) of Married with Children fame pretty much takes over the story once he gets on board, despite substantial artistic differences between himself and Ron. When the two fight, Faustino scratches Bergman with his fake claw and is afraid that Bergman would report him for the abuse. Why does Faustino care if he's not guilty of murder? Because he already had a bad reputation and he didn't want his career going further into the toilet.
Aubrey Gets His First Case as Lead Investigator
Booth surprises Aubrey by giving him the case. Booth does a pretty good job of restraining himself from strangling the younger agent, though the dynamic provides many an opportunity for humor: Booth gritting his teeth about Aubrey driving like a turtle and pestering him to interrogate a suspect more aggressively, for example. Fortunately, Aubrey has a healthy dose of confidence and humor and always does things his own way. Surprising Booth, Aubrey is quite successful and, by the end of the episode, gets a full confession from the killer. His future as a profiler looks pretty stellar at this point.
What surprises me and brings a tear to my eye is the final scene between these two when Booth informs Aubrey that he has recommended him for a giant promotion. Sadly, this means Aubrey won't be working with Booth anymore, but we all know that is part of the plan anyway. There is no sadness in this scene, but the affection and commitment between this crackles in the air. I pray, pray, pray that Aubrey will be in the final two episodes or I will be the one crying my eyes out. As if I wasn't going to be doing that anyway, right?
The Most Unassuming Characters are Usually Guilty
So if Faustino isn't the doer, who is? The amusement part owner next door had plenty of reason to off Bergman, but his greatest crime was trying to get into the pants of the bimbo he helped get the lead in the atrocious B-movie. The mother of the actor who was bumped for the bimbo was a piece of work, but she was glad her son was off the Radioactive Panther project.
The mauled animal tamer, whose poorly trained panther scratched Bergman, isn't the killer either. He thought Bergman was an idiot and he knocked him around a bit (or was that Faustino?), but he didn't kill him. In the end, it turns out that Linda Martin, the assistant manager who took over Snoozeland while Bergman was on sabbatical, was enraged when she learned that Bergman wanted to come back and manage his store. She was finally in the limelight and being recognized for her work. She had no interest in being Bergman's little assistant any longer, so she pushed him off the roof of the Snoozeland building. Case closed.
Wendell Struggles with the Most Important Decision of His Career
Throughout this episode, Wendell struggles to find a topic for his doctoral thesis. He tries several things out, but they just don't feel right. Brennan mentions that she wrote five doctoral theses. What? Are you crazy? Wendell is as aghast as I am, but this is all to make a point. Yes, she admits it was a lot of work, but she did it because of her voracious appetite for knowledge. Brennan offers to lend Wendell several of her unfinished theses to spark his imagination.
When Brennan asks to speak to Dr. Beth Mayer about what inspired her to leave forensic anthropology, I'm completely thrown. No way would this series end with Brennan walking away because she has fallen out of love with bones and murder and science. For a while, it looks like that's where things are headed. Mayer tells her that if you can imagine life going along just fine without you continuing in your line of work, then it is time to leave. Passion is important in your work, in other words.
Just when I think Brennan is going to offer Wendell the job as the head of forensic anthropology at the Jeffersonian, she tells him he should pursue another course of study and work. What? I can't really see him as the head of the Jeffersonian, but this comes as a complete shock, though oddly not out of character for Wendell. As he says, he enjoys his work but nowhere near as much as the others in the lab enjoy theirs. Wow. How very insightful of Brennan and perhaps the best piece of knowledge and advice she has ever given Wendell.
So is this the last we've seen of my favorite squint? He and all the other squints are listed in the credits for the final two episodes, but that could just be a ruse. How very Bones-y that would be, right? The actors have said they are open to a revival, but first they need a big break. What would you like to see happen in a reprisal? Will there even be a lab to conduct science in after the series finale? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
season 12 airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on FOX. Want more news? Like our Bones Facebook page