I’ll often berate shows for getting stuck in ruts, repeatedly working through minute variations on a theme with the only alleviation being over-the-top sweeps episodes. Season 7 of Bones stood out from the other CSI variations because they finally committed to “will-they” instead of “won’t they”. That paradigm shift combined with a shortened season was like a shot of adrenalin to the series.
Disappointingly however, it had all worn off by the time the eighth season dragged its way through 24 episodes. So we’re back to the usual merry-go-round of gimmick episodes (Judge Judy, roller derby, ballroom dancing), heavy-handed issue based stories (9/11, animal trafficking) and ludicrous serial killers targeting our characters on a nice timetable to synchronise with sweeps weeks. The plots have never really been the height of subtlety, but they seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel (sometimes literally) for gimmicks. The recurring villain of Pelant is so ridiculous he’d seem out of place in a James Bond film and the science/technology has skipped all possibility of reality.
None of this was accompanied by any notable character development. Booth and Brennan’s relationship is still working well, but most of the excitement departed alongside the novelty. Brennan in particular is falling back into old frustrating personality ticks, with little empathy and limited likeability. Given that she’s surrounded by emotive and charismatic characters, she actually ends up being one of the weakest and least interesting characters on the show.
Not that the other characters get much to do. Sweets moving in with the couple provided some nice moments, but had limited scope. Hodgins and Angela had very little to do, and their child and Booth and Brennan’s must have exceptionally understanding nannies because they’re hardly ever commented on, let alone seen when their parents get called out on emergencies. Cam’s new relationship gave her something to do, but I wish they’d used her adopted daughter to drive character stuff more. It almost felt like the interns got more development than the regulars because at least in the three or four episodes they each appeared they got significant screen time.
Bones is kind of reliable in it’s mediocrity. I stick with it because… well… momentum I guess. I like the character of Booth a lot, the supporting characters are entertaining when/if they get to do anything, and I guess Brennan provides an interesting catalyst for them all. Other than that, it’s just one of those shows that can be watched with half an eye while catching up on ironing or something. It’s all a bit sad, because I don’t see any reason it couldn’t be more than that.