Bones series finale recap: 'The End in the End'
I’m not entirely kidding when I say I didn’t think this day would come — the last Bones episode. Bones seemed poised to outlive us all. But it’s also a show about the basic biological truth that everything ends, coupled with the reminder that it’s up to us, for the duration of our little lives, to find the joy in that. And there’s plenty of joy in this episode. A few endings, too. Maybe.
We pick up in the bombed-out Jeffersonian, making dreams come true for David Boreanaz, who directed this hour. (He’s always said he wanted to drive a tank through the lab; they blew it up instead. You get what you need.) Booth, Hodgins, and Angela are quick to pull themselves out of the rubble, leading to a nice — in a this-is-already-ripping-my-heart-out kind of way — moment between Hodgins and Angela, who lean on each other as they worry about their baby. And while I’m glad this isn’t how it happened, since it’s probably not how science works, did anyone else half-expect Hodgins to be able to walk again after the blast? It was a bomb that put him in that wheelchair to begin with.
But it turns out two bombs don’t cancel each other out; they just make a bigger mess. Booth finds Brennan face down in the rubble outside what used to be her office. As he begs his wife to stay with him, he calls her “Temperance” for the first time in a while, which is fine, it’s fine, I’m FINE, OKAY. Brennan coughs and opens her eyes. Everybody breathe.
But something’s not right; she feels “different,” and she’s struggling to focus. There’s a paper in her pocket with the names of four bones written on it. “I don’t know what that means,” Brennan says — by far the most terrifying utterance of that phrase ever on this show. She clarifies: She knows they’re bones, but she doesn’t remember their significance to the case.
Brennan’s brain isn’t cooperating. When Angela, looking almost as worried about Brennan as she is about her child, enlists her help to check on the baby, Brennan is surprised to learn that a stethoscope and a beaker can be used as a makeshift fetal Doppler, even though she’s the one who taught Hodgins that trick in the first place. Afraid and frustrated with herself, she takes longer than usual to find what she’s listening for, but she does find it: a steady baby heartbeat. The women take a moment out from panicking to hold hands, because these last two episodes are really doing justice to their friendship.
Meanwhile, Booth and Hodgins are looking for another way out. There isn’t one (“ironically, for safety”), so Booth, desperate to get Brennan some help, grabs the bomb he managed to defuse. He’s ready to blow his way out of here, but this building literally just exploded; it can’t withstand another blast. “You don’t have to be a hero!” Hodgins yells. That’s usually Brennan’s line. Booth wouldn’t be Booth if he didn’t do the hero thing, but he doesn’t do himself or anyone else any favors when he carries helping people like a burden.
Hodgins rolls his way over to his friend and offers an olive branch, admitting that some of his insults about Booth’s sniper past may have been off base: “Killing Kovac’s father, that was the right thing to do.” I’m not sure I needed our big moment between these two to involve Hodgins endorsing an old war; I was happy just to see them fight again. But it is a truth universally acknowledged that pseudo-arguments between Booth and Hodgins must end in That Face David Boreanaz Makes When Booth Is Secretly Very Touched. And it is a truth unique to this finale that those apologies must then be interrupted by rescue crews tunneling into their workplace.
The Jeffersonian Four are free, much to poor Cam’s relief (get her a thicker shock blanket, stat), but Brennan isn’t out of the woods. Her CT scan doesn’t show any internal bleeding, but there’s a contusion, annnd for the first time in her life, Brennan doesn’t understand the medical jargon, so let’s cut to the chase: Brennan’s memories are fine, but her ability to process complex information has been compromised.
The idea that she’s lost her ability to do what she does better than anyone else is, well, too complex for Brennan to process. So she does as she always does and gets back to work, insisting that they don’t have time to waste if they want to catch Kovac before he strikes again. But she’s going to have to call in some reinforcements; every bone in the lab has been shaken out of its storage drawer. The bone room is just a huge pile o’ bones. It is haunting.
NEXT: The motorcycle bar diaries
Squinterns new and old, with doctorates and without, gather at the lab to sort through the bones and find the body they were investigating before the blast. They tell Brennan about “irregular projections” on sharp ribs like it means something, but she doesn’t understand anymore, not that she’ll let that stop her from setting the young scientists straight on her anthropological past. When Wendell compares the lab to a mass grave, Brennan shuts him down with a story of the horrors she’s witnessed. The bomb can take her intellect, but it can’t take her reverence for life.
It can’t take her memories with her students, either. Arastoo asks if she’s getting any better, and Brennan takes a moment to prove to her old interns that her memory is not the problem here. She remembers watching Cam propose to Arastoo, the cigarette Wendell tucked behind his ear, Clark’s “mawkish” book (poor Clark), “chirping” (tweeting) with Jessica… “And I remember fighting off attackers with you by my side,” she tells Daisy. Daisy nods: “In the Maluku Islands.” Brennan shakes her head: “I was thinking of the motorcycle bar.” Cut to Wendell looking delightfully confused — a perfect comic beat in the middle of a speech that had me in tears.
“I remember the day each of you was hired,” Brennan says. “I remember the name of every victim I’ve ever identified. I remember just how meaningful this work can be. But I don’t remember how to do it.”
Wow. Emily Deschanel told me that filming this scene really got to her, and it’s not hard to see why; I cried again just typing that quote. Brennan still remembers the name of every victim she ever identified. That’s so Brennan, and while I’m not at all surprised, it feels like we’re years past the last time she said anything like that. She used to worry that dead people were the only ones she could connect with; now, Brennan’s empathy for the victim goes hand-in-hand with her love for a group of (very much not dead) people she once tried not to get attached to.
It would all be uplifting if not for the head trauma. Is there anything worse than staring at the life you’re supposed to have and not being able to live it? (Brennan and Booth circa seasons 1 through 6 would say no.) Brennan asks the interns to give her some time alone with the bones, which has always been her thing, but it doesn’t help, and she misses the obvious idea to compare them to X-rays of the victim’s skeleton. So she goes where she always does when nothing makes sense: straight to Booth.
“So much of my life,” Brennan confesses to her husband in his office, “my intelligence is all I’ve had. I may not have had a family, but I understood things that nobody else could. My brain, the way I think, is who I am. Who I was… I mean, if the thing that made me me is gone, who am I?”
This is where the whole idea behind this episode starts falling into place: The last story Bones wants to tell is the story of who Brennan is. It’s a parallel to the first season finale, when she learned that her parents weren’t who she thought she was; her birth name wasn’t even Temperance Brennan. As she recited her name to herself, Booth came up behind her: “I know who you are.” Now, he sits down with his wife to remind her that’s still true.
“You’re the woman I love,” Booth says. “You’re the one who kissed me outside of a pool house when it was pouring rain, took me to shoot tommy guns on Valentine’s Day. That’s who you are. You’re the one who proposed to me with a stick of beef jerky in her hand even though you’re a vegetarian. You’re the Roxie to my Tony. You’re the Wanda to my Buck. Who else is gonna sing ‘Hot Blooded’ with me? And besides, we are way better than Mulder and Scully.”
(It should be noted that at this, I stopped crying long enough to full-on gasp, “You did not.” But, you know, A+ callback to the pilot, courtesy of David Boreanaz. And there’s no denying that Booth and Brennan are getting a much better send-off than Mulder and Scully have ever gotten.)
Then, because Booth and Brennan fell in love on the job, Booth answers the question she didn’t ask: He loves her even if they can’t do this job together. In that sense, this scene also has echoes of the season 7 finale, when Brennan assured Booth that she wasn’t just with him because they had a child together. Family and work are too important to each of them to be excuses.
NEXT: Give Booth a hand
Anyway, speaking of work, the investigation is still happening. Unlike Booth and Brennan, I cannot emphasize enough how much I’m not paying attention to it. Which is a compliment! The Gravedigger herself could claw her way out of the grave, and I would not have the emotional energy for her headless ass right now. The case in this episode is literally life or death, and it’s woven organically into the story, but it also unfolds in as little screen time as possible because Bones understands our priorities. We just got two speeches that were basically just lists of callbacks! I’m busy.
Here’s what you need to know: Booth, who has not worn a suit this whole episode, and long may his FBI T-shirt reign, did this investigation a real solid when he defused that bomb. The killer set it without gloves, and Hodgins is able to pull DNA from an epithelial cell — it’s a partial match to, get this, Mark Kovac. Since Kovac was still in jail when the bombs were set, his accomplice must be a relative. Booth’s magical gut instinct figures it out instantly: The accomplice is Jeannine. She’s not actually Kovac’s wife; she’s his sister.
When Booth and Brennan call her out on her deception, she keeps up the innocent act long enough to ask, “You’re accusing me of incest?” setting up Booth for this chestnut: “No, we’re accusing you of murder.” Brennan launches herself at Jeannine, yelling that she killed Max, but Jeannine tries to pin it all on Booth, as if he doesn’t pin enough on himself. He killed her father, so she killed Brennan’s. First of all, Jeannine, what did Brennan ever do to you?
Sister-wife clams up, but the squinterns are having some luck back at the lab, where Hodgins urges them to take everything they’ve learned and solve this case for Brennan. She said in the season 10 finale that she’d never be able to step away from her work without knowing the lab was in capable hands, and as sad as it is that she can’t solve this case, it’s still her victory that the squinterns can. They notice that the four bones Brennan noted show signs of lead poisoning, meaning the victim grew up somewhere remote — Kovac escaped with this particular prisoner because he had a place to hide. By taking a sample of tooth enamel, they find where that is.
One last time (at least on our screens), Booth and Brennan charge into danger. On the drive out to the farm where Kovac is hiding, Booth apologizes for inadvertently starting all of this, but his wife won’t hear it. After all these years, they’ve finally found the right balance between guilt and accountability: Booth takes responsibility for every shot he ever took, even though he was following orders, and Brennan tells him that she stands beside his choices. Then he asks Brennan to stay in the car, which has never once worked before, but ya gotta love him for trying. “Where you go, I go,” Brennan insists. No matter what state her brain is in, that never changes.
The partners share a casual pre-shootout kiss when they roll up to the farm with the rest of the FBI team, and Brennan lives out her season 1 dream of getting to carry a very big gun. (It’s so big! Is she certified for this? Does the FBI just give anybody an automatic weapon now?) They take out one of Kovac’s men, but Kovac is still on the loose, and I mean that in the most absurd way: He’s just doing circles on the lawn in a jeep. Why?! I Do Not Care.
Kovac makes a run at Booth, who rolls out of the way but hurts his hand in the process, and listen, no one has ever been so extra about a hand injury. Our former Army Ranger falls to the ground as soon as he and Brennan get away from the car, so Brennan takes a knee beside her dramatic husband and studies his wrist. A light bulb goes off: She knows what’s wrong. She rattles off some bone science and snaps his wrist right back into place, because nothing brings Brennan back to herself like having to fix Booth. She lights up — she did it.
When Booth’s hand was hurt, my first thought was that it should have been his heart to balance out Brennan’s brain, but it couldn’t be his heart because then he’d be dead. Now I think his hand might actually be a more fitting counterpoint: Booth, as a sniper, and Brennan, as a scientist, have both allowed their steady hand and sharp mind, respectively, to define them at times. But they’re both more than that. I was worried for a little while that by taking away Brennan’s intellect, this episode was going to suggest that Brennan needed to change while Booth didn’t — that in the debate between heart and brains, the scales had just tipped in favor of the heart.
But even without her ability to look at a bone and know how someone died, Brennan is still defined by her brain. She leans on her memories with her coworkers and with Booth, so her unique, logical approach to empathy is still intact. This episode had to walk a delicate line: affirm Brennan as a whole person with more to offer than her ability to solve crimes while still celebrating the intelligence that sets her apart. I believe that it did that, especially because Brennan gets that intelligence back. It’s an important part of her; it’s just not the only part.
Meanwhile, Mark’s still driving that jeep. He takes another run at Booth and Brennan, and Booth shoots him square in the head, right where he shot the shooting range target in the scene that we all know is the reason the pilot got picked up to series. The jeep drives off an embankment and crashes into a bunch of barrels; Booth and Brennan watch the explosion like they’re taking in a nice fireworks show.
NEXT: Did you ever see something great that almost ended, and then it didn’t?
There are still 11 full minutes left in this episode, and nothing bad happens in any of them because this is Bones, and Bones loves us. Back at the Bureau, Caroline bustles into Booth’s office and, as always, speaks for us all: “You and your damn sense of duty. Do you have any idea how stressful it is for me to have such a brave friend?” Amen. But she’s just going to have to live with that stress; Booth has no plans to ever stop nearly getting killed. At least he’ll have Aubrey with him — Uncle Aub got an offer to take over for a retiring agent, meaning he gets the same promotion, but in D.C. And Booth and Brennan get to keep their babysitter.
On his way out of the office, Aubrey runs into Karen, who heard about his breakup and decided to send him a consolation gift: two buckets of fried chicken. He invites her to join him, and you just know they’re going to get together. I tried for about two seconds not to find this adorable, but I do — and not even necessarily because they’re cute (but they are! Sue me) but because this is the most Bones thing. These people aren’t allowed to date outside the team, and these people must date.
Back at the lab, Brennan gives Cam, Angela, and Hodgins the good news: The doctor says her agnosia is almost gone, and she’s going to be okay. Cam’s news is a little less happy — repair work on the lab starts tomorrow, so they’ve only got today to pack up their things — but these people just survived an explosion, so putting a few things into boxes doesn’t seem so bad. They study their burned-out but still sunny husk of a lab and get meta, in the way all TV series finales must. “They won’t change it much, will they?” Angela asks.
“They try not to,” Cam answers, “but you know how it is.”
Bones has always been good at finding the bright side of change, but as Angela said in the season 5 finale, that doesn’t always have to mean picking a fight with your old life. As the team packs up, we get the chance to say goodbye to that life: Hodgins’ rubber band ball (which he throws away along with the band on his wrist), the book of Farsi poems Arastoo wrote Cam, a photo of Max on Brennan’s wedding day, the dolphin he left at her mother’s grave (now on a necklace), a photo of Hodgins and Zack in the season 1 Christmas episode, the salt and pepper shakers Cam shares with Michelle… It’s a lot. Moby sings in the background (I’ll decide at a moment’s time/ to turn away/ leave it all behind).
Hodgins and Angela stumble upon a project they’ve been working on, and the team gathers to look: It’s a pop-up children’s book about all of them, but they’re farm animals for some reason. It’s a little out-of-left-field but very cute. More importantly, Cam has a confession: Her six-month leave of absence isn’t a European vacation after all. She and Arastoo have petitioned to adopt three brothers, who look to be teens or pre-teens, out of foster care, and they want to give the family time to settle in. They are perfect humans! Brennan already knew this, and the look of appreciation she, as a foster child, gives Cam is the perfect wrap on their relationship.
And there’s one more surprise: The position of interim director of the lab goes to Hodgins. Jack Hodgins is officially king of the lab.
That brings us to our last Bones scene, set to John Lennon (out the blue you came to me/ and blew away life’s misery). Booth — wearing his cocky belt buckle — strolls up to a bench in the Jeffersonian garden and sits beside Brennan, who isn’t quite ready to leave the lab. (Booth says it’ll be back up and running in a couple of weeks, which seems… optimistic?) “It’s a special place,” she says. That it is.
As if we hadn’t all cried enough at callbacks already (not that I’m complaining), Booth rummages through the things Brennan is bringing home from the lab. She’s got Sweets’ book, cueing up one last look back on the team’s baby duck. She’s got Jasper, the toy pig Booth gave Brennan to comfort her after she took her first life. It’s Brennan’s turn to dangle him in Booth’s direction now. And she’s got a drawing Parker gave her 11 years ago. He told her he liked her. Like father, like son.
The last thing in Brennan’s bag is one analog clock, lightly singed, frozen at 4:47. It stopped when the bombs went off, and Brennan wants to hang it in her new office. “Why would you want to be reminded of the moment when everything almost ended, Bones?” Booth asks. Brennan smiles: “Because it didn’t.”
I don’t know about you all, but this is the only resolution I needed to the “mystery” of 4:47, which has been popping up in Booth and Brennan’s lives for years. The meaning that matters is the meaning they take from it, which is also a good lesson to take from this finale: Everything ends, but endings are rarely absolute. Brennan said it to Angela in season 1: “Nothing in this universe happens just once.” For Booth and Brennan, 4:47 is what keeps happening, usually when they’re on the precipice: of losing each other (season 4 finale), leaving each other (season 5 finale), or getting together (after Vincent’s death). They could have ended, but they never did.
With that, the partners hold each other’s gazes for a while and then set off to retrieve their kids from the diner, bickering all the way. In the place where they chased each other and then got married, in an image that echoes the end of the pilot, Booth and Brennan walk off into the night to keep solving murders.
Bits and pieces:
- Hodgins thinks their baby is going to be a boy; do we think he’s right?
- All these years, Angela’s been listening to Hodgins’ conspiracy theories. He’s never loved her more.
- I tried making an anagram out of the four bones Brennan made note of, and I only got as far as “Cam naps.” Let Cam nap.
- The fact that everyone gets to keep working together has me very emotional.
- Check out Emily Deschanel’s thoughts on this finalehere and co-showrunner Michael Peterson’s thoughts here. And thanks for joining all these years. It’s been a pleasure.
- “Squints of the world unite, baby.”