‘Bones’ Finds A Brave Approach To Romantic Comedy And Motherhood

I’ve been writing a lot about the state of romantic comedy recently, and I’ll admit all of my thinking played into some anxiety I was feeling about the return of Bones. I know not everyone here loves the show or the character as much as I do, but I had a real fear that the show would decide that pregnancy would instantly transform one of the prickliest, most independent mainstream female television characters into a miraculously empathetic earth mother.

The thing about Bones is that a lot of the time, she’s kind of jerk, or refuses to behave in ways that would make people see her as a person and then gets frustrated when they’re hurt or angry with her. Sometimes, this can result in a breakthrough, as in the first-season episode where, goaded by a prosecutor who describes her as cold and unfeeling, she finds a way to explain how her extreme rationality is meant as a gesture of respect to victims. And sometimes, she just causes a mess, as when she tries to date two men at once, one for sex, and one for intellectual companionship, using technicalities to convince herself she’s not exclusive with either one and giving neither the respect of trying to engage with them on another level. But Bones has built a good life in part by making good use of her independence. She’s traveled and solved crimes around the world. She dates without anxiety about any artificial set of rules, which makes me more thankful than I can possibly say. When Sully asked her to quit her job and sail around the world with him, she said no because supporting him in pursuing his dream would have meant giving up hers entirely.

And so when she gets pregnant, it’s something she’s wanted, but the show also acknowledges that it comes with costs. When Angela told her on last night’s episode that she’d never be alone again, it was comforting, but it also means that Bones’ life is going to change radically, expanding in some ways that she can’t predict and being curtailed in others where she knows the concrete benefit. When she gets prickly about the prospect of giving up her apartment, it’s because we know that she has a really great apartment that’s a product of the money she’s earned and her travel. And when she gets all rigid and anthropological about Booth’s insistence that they get their own place rather than moving in to hers, it’s an illustration of a tough fact: that Bones may not really have the emotional skills to be in a long-term relationship yet, and she’s going to have to pick them up fairly quickly. That’s the basis for a really interesting and more-honest-than-usual romantic comedy.