I’m as loyal a Bones viewer as any, having watched it since it’s premier four years ago, and loved nearly every minute of it, but I’ll be the first to admit the show is flawed. The quality of the writing vacillates wildly between episodes. Take this season. We have some truly brilliantly written episodes, subtly playing with the themes that will come to define this season, like “Mayhem on a Cross.” That final moment, with Booth gentle touching his pocket, was like the most romantic television poetry, gently weaving together the feelings these two characters have for each other and articulating them in a way that is at once infinitely clear and infinitely subtle.
And then, sometimes, we have talking cartoon babies. So much of last night’s episode, “The Critic in the Cabernet,” annoyed the hell out of me. The mystery of the week was fairly standard (in fact, for the first time in recent memory we don’t get an actual confirmation of who the killer was) because this episode was not about the mystery, even in so much as any Bones episodes are about the mystery. This was about Booth and Brennan.
In the beginning, the show continued its habit of treating psychology like a magical drug that brings out the truth. That’s mostly okay: I can believe that someone like Brennan would only be able to admit the truth to herself when she thinks she’s being tricked into it. But this week took this stretch a little far, with Brennan wildly shouting out during a free association exercise that she wanted a baby and she wanted Booth to father it.
Still, I could have easily forgiven that. Brennan is prone to flights of fancy and absurd declarations. But then it took Booth all episode to realize that he couldn’t just father Brennan’s child and then divorce himself from the operation. It was completely out of character for a man who’s made his stand so often on the importance of fatherhood and responsibility, and who, just 9 episodes in “The Salt in the Wound,” ended the episode with a long speech to a teenage boy about the importance of, you guessed it, taking responsibility for one’s sperm. He didn’t need a talking Stewie-baby to tell him that he wanted to be involved.
And let’s talk about that all important guest star, Stewie from Family Guy. I’ve known about this truly idiotic cross over idea for a while, and I guess that the actual cameo wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was unnecessary. Oh, sure, Booth was having anxiety hallucinations about fathering Brennan’s child, and Stewie’s a baby, but aside from this tenuous connection with the issue at hand (yes, pun very much so intended), there was no real justification for the inter-network synergy that results in a freaking cartoon character getting to define Booth’s emotional arch. It was sloppy, weak writing, made all the worse by the blatant FOX-ification of it.
So yeah, by the time Booth started seeing Stewie in the interrogation room, I was pretty annoyed. There’d been moments I liked during the episode (depressed intern is always a hoot, and everyone’s reactions to Booth/Brennan craziness almost made it worth it), but all in all I started pantomiming a shark and Bones jumping over it. They weren’t letting the storylines breath. It felt like every big moment was being crammed into this one episode, whereas a well plotted show would have it unfold naturally over a couple of episodes. From Brennan’s baby lust to Booth’s disease, it felt like they were just dumping all their left over plotlines into the soup of this episode and hoping it came out delicious.
And then, Booth told Brennan what he was hallucinating, and I’m reminded why, even when the writing falls short, I still love Bones. The acting is always freaking fantastic. The look of abject terror and concern that Brennan gave Booth as she insisted she get him to the hospital; the adorable way Booth looked around his hospital room, desperate until he saw Brennan; Sweets freaking out in the hospital room as Angela and Hodgins reconsidered their own relationship. This is the stuff that Bones is made of. It’s continually demonstrated its commitment to its characters, and it’s that reason why we should invest in the show.
At its heart, Bones is a screwball romantic comedy, and in that vein (and that vein alone) the end of this episode was a rousing success.
*All this being said, I literally tossed a pillow at the television when I saw the preview for next week’s episode. Anything advertised as “the wackiest Bones yet!” clearly doesn’t get what makes this show so fantastic, and was anyone exactly clamoring for a guest spot from the Motley Crue? On top of that, obsessively advertising B&B’s horizontal shenanigans just makes the network a pimp, peddling its leads’ flesh, which I suppose is always true, but at least they’re normally subtler about it. I hope I’m wrong. I’m hoping that next week’s episode manages to deal with B&B in a way that is both true to their character arch and satisfying. The only thing that would annoy me more than the show making too big a deal out of their having sex is the show failing to realize the importance of it; the show having mislead us this far with its promises of B&B sex? I guess that would depend how it’s done.