Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Bones fall finale.
Someone get Hodgins a new rubber band to snap.
Thursday’s midseason finale of Bones detonated a bomb that sent both Hodgins (T.J. Thyne) and Aubrey (John Boyd) to the hospital. But while Aubrey’s injuries seemed to be more severe, it was Hodgins who ultimately suffered serious complications, collapsing in the lab with a spinal cord injury. Faced with the latest MRIs, Brennan (Emily Deschanel) gave Angela (Michaela Conlin) the sobering diagnosis: Hodgins is paralyzed.
EW talked with Michael Peterson, co-showrunner and executive producer, about the big twist, what it means for Hodgins and Angela’s marriage, and how Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan will get involved.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why tell this story?
MICHAEL PETERSON: A long time ago, Hart [Hanson, series creator] had pitched the idea of an intern in a wheelchair who just had this horrible disposition. That was something he had pitched not for Hodgins, but for an intern. And it always stuck in the back of my mind, because Hart has insanely good instincts, so I knew that would be something that we could play around with. As we were talking about various things to do, and as I was also going back and watching early seasons of Bones, back when Hodgins was a lot snarkier, the ideas kind of just melded together…What if Hodgins is the guy in the wheelchair? And that was a challenge that David Boreanaz set out to us at the beginning when we started here for this season. He said, “Go back and watch these early seasons. Look at all the dynamics that were going on, and see what of that magic we can capture.” We’ve tried to do that with Booth and Brennan, certainly — making sure they were together a lot more this season than had been happening in the last couple, and making sure that there was a good fire between them.
[Hodgins] is going to go through a heck of an arc. This is a big thing to have to go through, and we have looked at the stages of grief, whether you’re in denial, anger, depression, everything else. T.J. is such a magnificent actor, and Michaela as well. We’re looking forward to really letting them show off their chops. They are just loving it. I mean, T.J. has not left his wheelchair since this has happened. He shows up every day, and he’s in it. It doesn’t matter if he’s eating craft service, if they’re in between takes — he does not stand. He’s just absolutely committed. And they’re having fun. He’s sending me emails every day, like, “Oh, here’s another thing we can do!”
I think everybody feels that way. It just opens up a lot of possibilities, and it’s good for Hodgins’ arc. I think early on, he always looked at [Angela] as this golden goddess that he wasn’t quite worthy of. This is going to be really tough for him, because he finally got her and felt for the first time that he was worthy of having her, and this is going to bring up some insecurities for him… Will he push her away a little bit? How will she react to that? Because she really is going to bear the brunt of all of his emotions. That will lead to temptations. It’s going to lead to a lot of really tough decisions.
You mention temptations. Is infidelity a possibility?
I think everything’s a possibility.
So we’ll see Hodgins back in anger management?
Definitely. We’ve talked about the fact that for right now, he’s kind of more Dr. House than he is Dr. Hodgins.
What kind of paralysis are we talking here?
He has use of his arms, just not his legs right now… We don’t want it to be a TV-convention version of paralysis. It’s very real. And again, I’m just in awe of T.J.’s commitment. The other day, I think he was like wrapping bungee cords around his legs or something, just to feel what it felt like to have really no feeling. Our rule right now is we don’t want this to be like Downton Abbey where this miracle thing happens right away. It just seems silly. This is very real, and our people know medicine. He’s going to go through the ringer… Certainly when you first see Hodgins again, he’s going to feel like he’s going to be able to get back to his old self, and we’re going to throw some things at him, some road blocks. That’s his hope, but it’s not going to be that easy.
But there is a possibility that it might not be 100 percent permanent?
There’s always a possibility.
Does the hospital bear any responsibility? Is that something that the team is going to be asking?
That is a future storyline, yes. And I think it depends on what stage he’s going through — whether or not he believes someone is culpable or if he needs somebody to blame.
How did you tell T.J. that this was coming?
It was the first phone call. Because we had planned this as being a possible season opener, we told him at the very beginning of the year, and he was like a kid who’s been told that Christmas is six months away. He was just excited. He was like, “When’s it going to happen? I want it to happen.” He is just the most enthusiastic, nicest guy you can possibly ever work with, and great actors do that: “You’ve got a challenge for me. It’s physical. It’s emotional. I get to play a different person for a while.” He just ran right towards it. It was fantastic — never a moment’s hesitation.
Will there be a time jump?
A little bit. I think it’s about two months. We’re not going to see it directly after. He’s going to be in physical therapy and everything else. Everyone’s gotten a little bit more adjusted to the idea of this, although the concept of being ready for this and then the actual reality — I think the physical part is one thing. It’s really the emotion that nobody was quite ready for.
How will the team come together?
They always do. They are family. But it’s going to be difficult, especially when Hodgins gets to his darker places, because they’re protective of him, but they’re also protective of Angela, who’s really going to have to bear the brunt of this. There will be times when people fall on different sides of the line. There are different allegiances that are going to happen. But this is the Bones show. We always try to aim toward a happy ending eventually. But we certainly will put everyone through the wringer.
How are Booth and Brennan dealing with all of this?
They’ll be affected by what happened to Hodgins and what’s going to be going on with Angela as a result. I just got finished writing episode 13, and that’ll be also a game changer for them. That’s the introduction of a new serial killer. It’s somebody who’s killed before — not to give too much away, but it’s somebody who killed during the time Booth and Brennan were not working. So they have to look at their own culpability now that this person has killed again — whether or not they bear any of the responsibility. Would things have been different had they stayed at their jobs? This is going to be a repeating killer, so we’ll definitely see them in 13 and maybe one other [episode], but also the season finale. Which, the way we’re planning it right now, is one heck of a major, cliffhanger kind of twist.
Is there anything you can tease about that?
Just that apparently everyone’s worried about my mental health after writing it. It’s a little darker of an episode than we’ve done in a long long time. It’s a very twisted serial killer that we’re dealing with: somebody who really is truly unhinged… It’s the closest to a horror kind of episode that we’ve ever done. Don’t watch it alone. Make sure to bring a blanket and somebody else and maybe a large baseball bat to protect yourself.
To go back to Booth and Brennan’s reaction to the killer, guilt is something I think this whole team has in spades. How’s Aubrey going to respond to this situation, since he was also in the explosion?
Aubrey’s going to be integral to the Hodgins arc. Certainly, he knows that he is the one who threw him out of the way. There is some guilt going on, but mostly Aubrey is practical enough that he knows that if he hadn’t done this, Hodgins would be dead. And that is the most important lesson. It stinks to have to go through something like this, but life is precious. Yes, if you have a drawback or a handicap, that can be difficult for a time, but you can also find ways to make it a blessing. Eventually, he will be instrumental in helping Hodgins gain perspective. You allow the person to have those grieving moments, but at the exact same time, he’s alive, surrounded by friends. Life is good still… My wife asked me once if Hart was a hippie. I’m like, “No, he’s not a hippie.” She goes, “Well, because everything works out eventually on the Bones show.”
Is that a Craig Ferguson-ism? “The Bones show”?
I think Craig and Hart were pretty good pals.