Bones postmortem: EP Stephen Nathan breaks down the finale's big changes
Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Bones season finale.
A couple did leave the Jeffersonian tonight—just not the couple we were expecting.
After Angela (Michaela Conlin) and Hodgins (T.J. Thyne) committed to a house in Paris last week, it seemed that they were in for a future of baguettes, trips to the Louvre, and learning bugs’ names in French. Until, at the last minute, Angela realized how much her husband would be giving up—and decided that they should stay. Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel), on the other hand, are taking off, trading dead bodies and FBI conspiracies for some much-deserved family time. EW talked with executive producer Stephen Nathan about the unexpected twist, how the experience will change Booth and Brennan, and the message he’d like the show to end on.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you have any idea what the future holds for Booth and Brennan?
STEPHEN NATHAN: We know the show is going to continue, but what restarts it is still being determined. We have a lot of different choices and different ways to approach it, and this is always a difficult time of trying to find the best way to bring the show back. It was a difficult finale, because it had to be a season and a series finale, so we have to come back from that. But we know who these people are and what they love to do.
Booth and Brennan’s love for this job has always been such a huge part of their identity. Can you talk about the choice to put their personal lives over the professional here?
It’s always good to see individuals and couples that you’ve grown to love meet truly insurmountable challenges. I think the show started out with such a clear delineation of passions, and they were all directed toward the procedural element of this show—not all, but to a large extent, they were directed toward just crimes. And as we’ve gotten to know these people over many years, that, by necessity, became personal, and the characters take precedence. So I think the two of them getting to a point after ten years of, “Come on, let’s not go turn a body over every week; let’s see what our lives hold outside of what we’re accustomed to,” I think is a very interesting thing. And they’re going to come back into this environment with this new experience, with what they’ve learned from getting outside and seeing things with some perspective.
It reminds me in a lot of ways of the season 5 finale.
Was there anything in particular—any moment of scene or episode from the past—that you were trying to evoke?
No, there was a similarity [to the season 5 finale] with everybody leaving—or thinking that everyone was leaving—but that didn’t seem so much a repetition as sort of a ripening of that desire and of that feeling. Angela’s always been antsy, as has Brennan in a strange way. While she loves doing what she’s doing and loves doing it there, you can see her quite easily picking up and going someplace else, because her work is separate from her personal life, most of the time. And I think the difference now is that’s not the case. They’ve grown. They’ve become different people now, and we want to see how similar situations affect them now.
How did you decide that Hodgins and Angela would stay? Was it ever the plan for them to actually go to Paris?
Oh yes, absolutely. They were going to go, but everything changed when we realized we actually had to do a series finale. And we couldn’t have everybody leaving—then it really felt the same as before. So we had to have them stay, and it seemed very logical. At the end of it it seemed like there could have been no other outcome, and that made it feel very right. All the planning, all the desires, the dreams—but when you really look at your situation and you see what this change will cost, then you have to decide if it’s worth it. I thought Michaela and T.J. just played it perfectly, and they just gave us room to examine Booth and Brennan and have them leave, and to really see how they could go—what it would be like. And I liked seeing them go—because now I know they’re coming back. But you know, it didn’t feel wrong.
Did you have any conversations with David and Emily about Booth and Brennan’s decision?
We talked about where we were going and what we had to do when we didn’t know whether or not the show was coming back. And the thing about Emily and David is that they really roll with whatever you throw at them, and they take what you’ve given them and they make it so much better than you could have hoped. So they really brought it in these last couple of episodes, and especially the last episode, with all of the terms they were required to make, in terms of realistically leaving a situation that they’ve been in for so many years. I just found it to be really emotional even for me to see. It was very satisfying.
Since this episode could have been the finale—what message do you want the show to end with?
We did one version of it in this episode. They’re gonna come back, but this is how they would have left now, if that makes sense. It brought them to this point. I think there are always going to be different reasons for leaving. There are an infinite number of reasons to walk through a door, and I think we saw one of them. I think what this show has always said is that everything is always in flux. Everything changes. One can never hope to have a definitive answer on anything, so this was the answer they got this time. This is what’s happening now. I would imagine the next time we see this show conclude, it will be a different time, and it will conclude in a different way, but I think the heart of Bones and the essence, somewhat philosophically or dramatically, is always going to be consistent because of the characters. Because of David and Emily and all of the characters.