Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Bones series finale.
Before Bones took its final bow, it threw Brennan’s whole identity into question.
At the end of the Fox drama’s penultimate episode, an explosion ripped through the Jeffersonian, trapping Brennan (Emily Deschanel), Booth (David Boreanaz), Hodgins (TJ Thyne), and Angela (Michaela Conlin) inside. All four emerged alive this week (read our recap here), but Brennan was left with brain trauma: Her memories were fine, but she could no longer process complex information. And as we all know, Brennan’s job is just a little bit complex.
Rest easy, squints: Brennan’s brain was on its way back to 100 percent — which is like 200 percent for the rest of us — by the end of the episode, and as soon as the Jeffersonian is rebuilt, she and Booth will be back to solve murders another day. But her identity crisis, the major focus of Bones’ final hour, was still rattling. EW caught up with series star Deschanel to get her thoughts on the story, what really defines Brennan, and what it’s meant to play her for 12 seasons. (Head here for our postmortem with showrunner Michael Peterson.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When the writers came to you with their plan for the finale, what was your input?
EMILY DESCHANEL: My character loses her ability to process certain information, and figuring out who Brennan is without the full capacity of her brain calls into question so many things, so I just asked them to dive even deeper with that and really explore her having an identity crisis… But ultimately it was their story. I just had thoughts on the character.
How did you walk the line with making sure Brennan is not totally defined by her intelligence but that it is honored as a huge part of who she is as a character?
That’s the trick. It forces her to look at herself and know who she is without her brain and her mind working the same way that she’s used to. I think that ultimately, you want people to recognize that a person is not just the sum of all of their brain cells — they are more than that, hopefully. Brennan would always say there’s no such thing as a soul, so this is all stuff she has to grapple with when she loses what she has identified as a big part of who she is.
Was there any scene in particular in the finale that really got to you?
There are so many scenes leading up to the finale that got to me, and then scenes in the finale. The last scene with the squinterns — it was really special because I rarely get to see them all together. We’ve all had so many different times, just personally, off camera, and so many things have happened for all of them and for me over the course of working with them over so many years. Carla Gallo started tearing up, and then I started crying… My character is looking back and thanking them for everything all of their characters have done, so that was an emotional thing on camera and off, and it really allowed us to recognize the importance of that time. And it was the last scene I was going to film with them. My last scene shooting with our other regulars, like Tamara [Taylor] and Michaela and TJ, was just funny because it was just kind of a crisis situation, what we shot last. But the one saying goodbye to the squints, that really got to me.
There were a lot of callbacks in the finale and across the final season to the early years of the show, like Jasper the pig in the last scene. Did you have any input on what references you wanted to throw in?
I know I talked about changing one or two references in that scene. There was a bit of input; I can’t remember all the details, honestly. In general, David and I talked to the writers about making sure they had [references to past seasons], and they wanted to, too. I thought it was really nicely done, you know, packing as many as you can into a finale without it taking away from the show itself. You can get to a point where you’re, like, only reminiscing over things, where you never have a story in the episode. But I thought they did a good job fitting a lot in but not weighing down the episode.
Looking back, what did playing Brennan mean to you?
I loved playing this character. I loved playing a character who is such a brilliant female in science who is also not shy about telling people about her brilliance, that has so many different ways of living her life. She’s not set by certain mores of our culture, and she makes up her own rules and is an independent, free-thinking, truly unique individual, and I loved that, especially a strong, powerful, successful, brilliant woman working in science. My favorite thing to ever hear from people who watch the show is to hear from young teenage girls that they wanted to become — whether it be forensic anthropologists or anything in science, or the character inspired them in that way. Also, to have a character who is not wonderful at social interactions. If it was a cable show, she would have had Asperger’s. [Series creator] Hart [Hanson] and I talked about that. I’ve heard from younger people who are on the spectrum or have Asperger’s themselves that they loved seeing a character who was not dissimilar from them portrayed on television, so that makes me happy to represent that. I know we weren’t truly representing someone with Asperger’s exactly, but there are qualities that Brennan has.
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What do you think made her relationship with Booth so appealing?
What drew me to the script in the first place, for the pilot, was that kind of witty repartee that the characters had together — that they have this kind of sexual tension and they disagree with each other, but they have mutual respect at the same time, which I think was so nice.
How do you want Bones to be remembered?
I would hope it’s remembered as the little show that could. It was a show that never got the attention of other shows, necessarily, but we went for so long, and our fans were so incredibly loyal.