Forget the Bruised Brain
Bones is sublime. Unlike so many other forensics shows, it is full of dark comedy and genuinely appealing characters. It’s smart and never panders to the audience, knowing we care more about relationships and insights than guns and guts. The Season Five premiere, “The Harbingers in the Fountain,” brings Cyndi Lauper guesting as a psychic, the return of Seeley Booth’s funky socks, as well as the best screwball romantic team on TV.
Bones (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz) have long since forged a mature partnership, challenging and frustrating each other. Last season’s controversial finale had them married and living in alternate reality, thus briefly offering the fantasy viewers both want and worry about. The new season’s premiere, airing tonight, opens six weeks after Booth’s successful surgery for a benign brain tumor. Waking up confused about his reality, thus setting up a conflict between head and heart. When Bones wants to jump back into the week’s murder case, Booth needs a moment, asking “Let me just re-acclimate myself at my own speed here, okay?”
Encouraged by Lauper’s kooky psychic to follow his emotions instead of listening to doctors talking about what happened to his brain, Booth asks Cam (Tamara Taylor) to reassure him of his identity. She agrees with the psychic, telling him he’s a “sweet, kickass FBI murder solver with hard fists and a lionheart. Forget the bruised brain and go with the lionheart.”
While Booth is here urged to be emotional, the women around him are allowed to be smart. If her colleagues tease Bones for her Ms. Spock-style hyper rationality, her insistent intelligence grounds the show. She brings the logic, the love of empiricism, and the (almost unconvincingly ridiculous) inability to recognize her own feelings for Booth. He brings the courage, canny crime-fighting skills, and predictable refusal to acknowledge his own feelings for Bones. They also share a love of truth and justice, not to mention a willingness to validate each other’s strengths (“science” skills and “people” skills). Bickering like an old married couple, they regularly debate complex ideas and all the tough emotions the murder cases spark.
That’s not to say the show doesn’t have actual fun. Lauper’s performance this week as Avalon Harmonia recalls the Season Three episode, “The Wannabe in the Weeds,” when the usually serious Bones revealed her love of Lauper and expertly sang “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” at an ill-fated open mic night. The team’s artist, Angela (Michaela Conlin), just so happens to have a father who is in ZZ Top (and he really shows up from time to time). Such pop culture references lighten the tone but also contextualize the characters: they live in a world that is familiar to viewers. Booth teases Bones about her geekiness whenever she can’t recognize a reference, and loves it when she does. He wants her to understand him, and his movie and film references help shape his experience.
At the same time, in this episode as in all others, Bones and Booth find distraction and satisfaction in a solving a murder case, here involving a mass grave discovered under a fountain. The team splits on whether to buy Avalon’s mystic insights or stick to logic and evidence. Bones tells Angela she needs “actual evidence and not some mumbo jumbo from a deck of tarot cards.” And so Booth, outfitted with his “Cocky” rooster belt buckle, and Bones, most comfortable letting her geek flag fly in lab coat and hazmat suit, look forward to another season of entertaining banter and investigation.