From the promos we knew that “The Bullet in the Brain” would be a more serious episode of Bones. We knew that The Gravedigger, a.k.a. Heather Taffet a serial killer involved in the long-term arc of the show since season 2, would be involved. The Gravedigger hits the team on an extremely personal note: not only have they worked on her case for years, and testified at her trial, but she made several of them her direct victims. We knew she would be involved, but I had no idea how quickly she would be dispatched.
I’ve often admired certain quirks of the cinematography of Bones, specifically in the earlier seasons. Some odd jump cuts, quick strange angles adding a sense of uncertainty and bizarreness to the show…it’s the details. A warning before the jump, I’m going to get all sorts of shooting style nerdy, but bear with me, it’s part of what makes this show great, and makes it stand out.
Tonight, the opening scenes worked brilliantly through carefully set up of the shots to convey the sense of overwhelming confusion during The Gravedigger’s transport and then assassination. The usual openness of the exterior shots that start an episode of Bones were gone, and instead we were given a series of quick, jarring shots and strange angels to begin the episode. This was the first sign that something was up. I was disoriented and was already anticipating a payoff; the suspense was building right off the bat. The shots of the Gravedigger’s face were so close it took up almost the entire screen—I felt like I was inside the transport sharing the claustrophobic experience with Sweets.
The same style was used as we were introduced to the scene at the courthouse. A large crowd was protesting Taffet’s appeal and Booth, along with other officials, was trying to coordinate the transport and maintain order among the protesters. We were never granted a large establishing shot of the courthouse; we didn’t see the full extent of the crowd or the security perimeter. The shots were kept closer to the ground, not including too much at once. Again this put us in the centre of the action.
We’re being thrown between quick and jarring shots of the crowd, Booth, Taffet and Sweets and then it all stops when Heather Taffet, The Gravedigger, is shot in the head. Only a few minutes into the hour, and I was shocked. Not only because this is possibly the most gore we have seen on Bones to date (because I’m pretty sure it is), or because of the violence, but because there was so much anticipation and the payoff caught me off guard even when I was already on my toes. I think this worked so well because I was left feeling unsure, had no idea where the bullet may have come from, and was shocked at the shooting and its close proximity to Sweets (who was thoroughly splattered in blood and brains) and Booth. By the opening credits the show had skillfully controlled the mood of the episode and of the audience watching by putting us in the shoes of the Jeffersonian Team to experience the assassination and the fallout to come.
Now that I’ve spent more than my fair share on the first five minutes, I’ll try to keep my thoughts on the rest of the episode brief.
I really enjoyed the Booth-centricity of the episode. That the sniper was a direct challenge to him adds more layers to the story, and brings it out of the lab where most of the stories live. It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve really seen Booth do his thing, asking the right questions, looking at the people, and tracking down the culprit. I like that Booth is being given a storyline that revolves around him separate from Hannah, and even separate from Bones. I enjoyed watching him in his element, running through the woods and dodging explosions. It feels like it’s been a while since Bones has seen that kind of action, although I do love when Brennan is by Booth’s side with a gun and some sweet fighting skills.
While we were primarily away from the squints this week, we also explored Sweets who is situated, with Booth, on the FBI side of things. I always love when we get to spend time with Sweets, and appreciate that we don’t get there too often. As soon as the bullet hit Taffet I was frightened for him the most: I knew he hadn’t been hit, but I knew that witnessing the event would have consequences for him, especially directly following the hateful words she had spat at him in the transport only moments before her assassination. Watching Sweets listen to the tape of Taffet’s ranting on repeat would have been heartbreaking on its own, but the camera work and editing on those scenes, the quick cuts and disorienting angles both in his office and in his car added so much emotional weight to the scenes.
Now that I’ve rambled on and on… and on, I’ve just got a few more thoughts:
– I liked the return of Max, even if it was just to showcase Brennan’s personal emotional growth following her confession of love to Booth. I liked seeing her tell her father that she believed him without the proof. Whether she did or not really doesn’t matter; it’s her ability to figure out when a white lie is appropriate that does.
– Also loved Max’s confusion when he realized that Booth and Brennan are still not a couple, and the sort of pep talk he gave his daughter
– In earlier seasons we would often finish episodes with Booth and Brennan sitting together in the diner, the closing shot with Brennan outside and Booth looking out the window, through the blinds at her felt to me like a sign that we’re moving back towards that, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part.
One more thing… I promise!
Just like in Castle’s deeply personal episode last week “Knockdown” we agreed that it was only the license of television that allowed Detective Beckett to work on a case so closely to her mother’s death. The same rule of television applies here; why in the world would Sweets have been allowed in the prison transport with the Gravedigger, I’m sure the FBI has other psychologists. [side note: I don’t mind TV taking liberties such as this when they provide such great story!]