The thrill is gone

6 01 2013

Bones should have ended awhile ago.

No, this isn’t a complaint about the eighth season—it’s like the seventh season, fine, not like the wretched sixth—but more an observation about exhaustion.

The show is tired, and that tiredness shows. The writers are practically shouting that Angela is going to leave the Jeffersonian, and the whole Cam-Aristoo thing? Hmpf.

The main problem, of course, is that Booth and Brennan have settled into domesticity with one another, and as much work-chemistry as the two had in the first five seasons, they have no home-chemistry. In fact, their lack of a home fire burning is dampening their work-mojo.

(No, I don’t hate that they’re a couple, although I would have preferred that they not be. I also think it would have been better, from a dramatic perspective, if they wanted to go with the whole Brennan-Booth-baby thing, to have had them either tried and failed to make a go as a couple, or have tried simply to figure out how to raise their kid together without the two of them getting together. But, y’know, they didn’t ask me.)

I still like all of the characters, and the plots, hey, the plots are fine, but the frisson has fizzled. There was an unpredictability in the early seasons, an unpredictability predicated in large part of the audience’s ignorance of the characters. As we got to know them, we settled into a kind of comfort with them, which is in and of itself not necessarily a problem.

But it did become one for the writers. Whereas before there was a sense of what if with the characters—a what-ifness heightened by or illuminated by the plots—now there is only a kind of here-we-go-again sensibility, i.e., the comfort with the characters’ quirks has deliquesced into laziness.

It was, I think, in reaction to the comfort that wrecked season 6:  the plots frantically tried to zap some zip back into the characters, so much so that I, as a viewer, thought, Shit, they’d never do that.

Consider the interns on an improvement kick: Clark tried to be more open, and Fischer attempted to find peace and happiness. Now, I’m not against change—trying to do a bit of that, m’self—but these attempts came out of nowhere and, more importantly, went nowhere.

And Brennan, well, Brennan they twisted around most of all, having her go back to patterns she’d dropped in the first or second season, upping her coldness factor and downplaying the curiosity that always took the edge off her clinical approach, and, worst of all, treating her emotions less as a dimension of herself with which she was not wholly comfortable than as something which occurred outside of her, afflicting her.

Example? There was an episode late in season six which involved a runaway deaf girl murder suspect. (Yeah, I know, but that’s part of the territory of police procedurals.) Brennan is just nasty to this girl, nasty in a way that she rarely was with any other suspect, and certainly more than she had ever been to any troubled kid. It took Sweets to remind Brennan of her own fraught childhood—something which never would have been necessary in the preceding (or succeeding) seasons.

Anyway, it seems in the current and last season that the producers figured out how they erred in season six, and returned us to the comfort the show had attained in season five. Clark is back to uptight, Fischer is back to dour, and while I still miss Vincent Nigel-Murray, the crew is complete.

Alas, completeness is the death of drama.

I still watch Bones, and will watch through to the end of the season. I just hope that this is the last.





The planners get embarassed when the plans go wrong

14 04 2009

Do you remember the story ‘Harrison Bergeron’? A dystopian bit on an egalitarian future in which every, last, bit of life was planned and coordinated by, hm, I guess the government.

I think I read it for an undergrad pol sci class; I probably have the story stashed away somewhere in my files. (Yeah, I know: hanging on to undergrad files. Well, I did. Some of them. So fuck off.)

Twenty years, and that story stuck with me—perhaps because of the finale, in which our hero skittles a bucket of marbles across a crowded platform or sidewalk, disrupting what should have been an orderly commute.

At least that’s what I remember. Why bring it up now? Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con had a bit on ‘Nemesis Visions‘, i.e., a great anxiety about what could happen. He cribs from James Poulos (no, I dunno who he is), who states that To qualify for nemesis status, a vision must be coherent, compelling, and viable on a mass scale. Rod feared the rise of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (don’t ask, but if you want to know, check out Philip Rieff), and others worried over the loss of Absolute Truth or the triumph of Absolute Truth.

My Great Anxiety/Despair? I offered my worries over the closing of the society, that is, that unpredictability and uncertainty will fall to ever-greater administration and planning, and a sense of wonder or unfolding or just not knowing will be snuffed out.

As I noted, I’m not against planning for specific programs—hello, universal health care!—and I’m the kind of chica who, for example, created a list on tasks to finish before her spring break concludes. I like to be on time for appointments, carry a Swiss Army knife, and am the person who will always have band-aids, ibuprofen, acetominophen, and tampons on her, just in case.

Still, there’s a difference between trying to keep my shit together and, as I noted, a general ethic which requires that every aspect of life be managed. I try to keep my shit together precisely because I expect things to go to hell, and I want to be prepared. And while it’s annoying as hell to have one’s plans fly apart, it’s good to be reminded that just because one’s afternoon or whatever went off the rails, one’s life continues, unabated.

Or, to sum up all the wisdom that can be contained in a bumper sticker: Shit happens.

The general ethic of planning, however, is designed to forestall any kind of shit happening. In fact, a sense of moral wrongness attaches to not knowing exactly what is to happen next.

What are you going to do with your life/When are you going to get married/When will you settle down/What about a pension/What about kids/How are your kids spending the summer/What about building a resume/How will you ever get into college/What do you mean you don’t know/don’t care/it doesn’t matter. . . ?!!!!!

I hope you know that this will go down/on your permanent record/Oh yeah/Well don’t get so distressed/Did I happen to mention I’m unimpressed?

Yeah, I could have gone with a disquisition on Arendt, but I think the Violent Femmes struck exactly the right attitude.

There’s a longer post lurking within this one, on the melancholy proposition that, maybe, this long moment of openness, begun around the time of the Scientific Revolution, is coming to a close. And perhaps it is. But as long as there’s a world, there is possibility.

And marbles. Damn, I really should rifle my files for that story.