Wow. That’s honestly all I could say to myself for about 30 minutes aftermy first viewing of the premiere. What a ride. It’s been well over five months since we witnessed Brennan waking up in a dark room with a familiar face looming over her. Zack is back. We have known that much throughout the entirety of this hiatus. What we didn’t necessarily understand was why has this character returned? What is his role (if any) in the latest series of murders? And what were his intentions in capturing his former mentor? These questions were answered, and then some, during the season 12 premiere of Bones.
I had been extremely forthright in saying that I was indifferent about Zack’s return. It has been one of the most popular questions asked to the cast in any interview over the last half of the series. But I have never felt as though it was essential to wrapping up the overall story. If the writers had a different plan for season 12, I certainly would not have noticed Zack’s absence. So much has happened since his last appearance. These characters have effectively moved on with their lives. And the show has certainly moved on. In my opinion, Bones was actually enhanced by the continuous cycle of interns. But this being a season dedicated to tying up loose ends, it makes sense that this would be one of the more major stories to resolve. Seeing the story played out on screen, I am so pleased with how it all turned out. Because it really was magnificent. From the moment it was confirmed, I never doubted it would be. If the writers were going to bring this character back, it was going to be in a smart and satisfying capacity. And that’s precisely how it all unfolded.
The last time we saw Zack was actually the “first” time we saw Zack. Because Eric Millegan’s final appearance before the season 11 finale was in the 100th episode. As we know, that all took place roughly a year before the pilot. Prior to that, he made an appearance in the season 4 finale. And that was not a story occurring in the traditional Bones universe. So really, you would have to go all the way back to 2008 in order to find Zack’s actual last appearance in this world. In The Perfect Pieces in the Perfect Pond, we learned that Zack never truly killed anyone. The team found out that he was Gormogon’s apprentice
in the previous season, and Zack eventually confessed to killing a lobbyist. When Sweets drops Zack back off at the institution (after escaping earlier in the episode), Zack admits that he never killed anyone. But claims he definitely would have if Gormogon asked. Sweets was beside himself, telling Zack that you never really know if you’re capable of ending a life until you are put in that situation. He always felt that Zack, at heart, is not a killer. Zack does not want anyone to know, as he wanted to avoid going to prison. He would not do well in prison. So he forbids Sweets from telling anyone. And Sweets, as we know, never told. He died with the secret.
I understand wanting to avoid prison. But Zack, when he was institutionalized, was stable and of sound mind. There were obviously underlying issues there that would make him feel compelled to work with a serial killer. I just have a hard time imagining that they could have claimed mental incompetence in this case. Maybe I’m wrong. I have to believe that even if Zack went to prison, he wouldn’t be there for an indeterminate amount of time. Instead, he sacrificed the rest of his life. He gave himself a life sentence in an institution. Why? Because up until the end of this episode, he truly believed that he would have committed the murder himself. And that alone makes him just as responsible as the person who took the life. Looking at it through that lens, I understand why the institution initially seemed like a far more desirable option.
Fast forward to today- Almost immediately in the premiere, Zack claimed he never killed anyone. He was really only referring to the latest series of murders committed by The Puppeteer. However, this would later encompass murders of the past as well. He only took Brennan so they could speak face to face. In his mind, this was the only rational solution. No one was very quick to believe him at first. Why should they? He betrayed them. And when Booth and Karen allow Zack examine the case files later in the episode, he even realizes that the evidence is conclusive. He had to have killed those victims, even if he cannot recall it. The term “Dissociative Identity Disorder” was thrown around in relation to the killer. Whoever the murderer was seemed to possess the appropriate markers for this disease. But thinking about it now, Zack’s lapses in memory are more likely due to the self-inflicted trauma to his brain. When Sweets died, Zack did not handle the news well. Sweets had been visiting Zack on a regular basis. And then, he was simply gone. With that, the only person who knew Zack’s secret was also gone.
This case probably would have played out a bit less intensely had Sweets still been alive. But then again, maybe Sweets would have been quick to notice that the evidence did not point to Zack at all. He would have seen that someone was manipulating the evidence. While the team had to determine whether Zack was telling the truth about the serial murders, they still believed he killed someone in the past. If Sweets was there to confirm that Zack has never actually committed murder, maybe they would have approached it differently. But maybe not. Evidence should always be examined objectively.
It wasn’t a surprise (at least to me) that Zack was ultimately exonerated. His doctor at the institution knew precisely how to steer the evidence in the direction of his patient. He likely spent much time with Zack, and had access to all his files. Roshan knew enough about his past at the Jeffersonian, and his relationship with Brennan. Karen was an interesting red herring, which I was not expecting at all. And there is still something very unsettling about Dr. Faulk. But all in all, I think it was an exciting fast-paced case.
What I loved about this episode (well, one of one million things) was that, yes, it dealt with the character of Zack returning. And that was something a lot of people have been anticipating for years. But more so, it was really focused on how the core group handled Zack’s return. Everyone had a different reaction. Because everyone had a different relationship with Zack. And that’s the aspect that really fascinated me.
Cam came into Zack’s life a bit later than the others. But she immediately forged a bond with him. She took an interest in Zack and who he was as a person. She took notice of his daily macaroni lunch, and gave him an personal and endearing nickname to reflect that. She was devastated when it was revealed that Zack was Gormogon’s apprentice. And from what we saw in the first scene in this episode, it’s still something that weighs on her. She once said that Zack is an adult, and there was nothing any of them could have done to help him. But did she actually believe that? Maybe she feels guilty for missing the signs. Who knows. But Cam looks on at her former employee. He appears harmless. He seems innocent. But all evidence points to the contrary.
I was most interested in Hodgins’ reaction to Zack’s return. They were best friends. It was a bit of an unconventional friendship. But it was genuine. Hodgins gave Zack a place to live. They shared such a pure love of science. And they battled for King of the Lab until the very end. Hodgins took Zack’s actions really hard. He blamed himself for always going on about secret societies. Hodgins even went to visit Zack in the institution in the beginning. I still don’t know what happened to cause his visits to stop. But when learning that Zack was involved with the latest series of murders, Hodgins was determined to find proof to convict- up until the point he realized that Zack had been the one responsible for returning feeling to his legs. Something shifted. He saw that his best friend was still in in there somewhere. Perhaps his methods were a bit unconventional, but his intentions were good. He was trying to restore some hope to Hodgins. And this was the only way Zack knew how, given his current situation. It was a beautiful moment between the two. They are so completely different, but Hodgins finds a way to uniquely bond with all the characters. I think these two are definitely in a better place by the end of the premiere. Especially now that Zack has proven that he has never committed a murder. It will be intriguing to see where they go from here at the end of the arc.
Angela loved Zack, of course. Angela has so much love to give. Though this episode didn’t provide much in the way of their relationship. Which is fine. There will be more on that in the future. Then there was Aubrey. It was surreal watching Zack meet the newest member of the team. I’m not sure how much of a liking Aubrey took to Zack. Especially since Aubrey is fiercely protective of Booth and Brennan. Aubrey’s first impression of this man and his intentions (in the form of a ripped photo) were not quite stellar.
Then there was Booth. Booth and Zack always had an atypical relationship. To Booth, Zack was almost alien. He had a really difficult time understanding Zack, and in turn, relating to him. But Booth came to respect this man’s intelligence. And he also knew that his beloved partner adored her assistant. Though they had their fair share of awkward encounters, Booth would have taken a bullet for Zack. Because he was a part of their makeshift family. Zack initially didn’t seem to be much of a Booth fan either, in the beginning. Booth was not a scientist, nor a literal genius, and Zack just doesn’t relate to Booth’s type. As time went on, I think Zack saw Booth as someone to respect as well. He even sought out his approval. So when he returned all these years later, it was startling to see him have such an apparent disdain for the agent. I don’t know if that was a result of the head trauma, or if he just perceived Booth as someone who took Brennan away from him (NOT in the romantic sense, obviously). By the end of this episode, they seemed to be back to their typical semi-awkward exchanges. Zack attempts to hug Booth, and Booth rejects it.
I want to point out that even though Zack was not necessarily kind to Booth in this episode, Booth was the one who stuck to his guns, so to speak. Initially he was incensed that this man kidnapped his wife. There is just no excuse for that- ever. But once his emotions settled, there was a nagging feeling from his gut regarding the case. Something wasn’t adding up. He just couldn’t shake the feeling that Zack was innocent in all of this. And moreover, he believed Zack was also innocent in the crimes from 8 years ago. He couldn’t prove anything yet. But he also wasn’t ready to blindly convict this man. Booth’s gut is nearly foolproof. There have been a few occurrences when it’s led him astray. But for the most part, it’s a reasonably decent indicator as to what’s really going on. It turns out, his gut was right. And more than that, Booth saw with his own eyes that Zack could not kill another human being- even in self defense. He owed Zack nothing at this point. But while Brennan still firmly believed in the evidence of the murdered lobbyist, Booth believes Zack. He tells him that they are going to help him. “You’ve served your time.” Some people have such a warped perception of Booth. But he IS a good man. And I’m not sorry for putting it in those terms. It can never be said enough. That is why Brennan constantly makes sure she tells him that. He needs to believe it. Because it’s the truth. Booth is all about justice. And he too has experienced being locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. So I have no doubt that he will do everything in his power to make sure justice is served in this case. And Brennan will not be far behind.
Brennan and Zack. So similar, yet so very different. It was extraordinarily interesting to see these two meet again after all these years. Though some may disagree, I do feel that Brennan is essentially the same person she was when the show started. She has grown and evolved over the years. Time changes us. Experiences shape us. And yes, she has retained her identity. But at the same time, she is no longer afraid. She is not afraid of love. She is not afraid of abandonment. She is strong, she is confident, but she is not impervious- to the good or the bad. Time has stood still for Zack. He is the same, though his head trauma and confinement have changed him a bit (hence the seemingly random disdain for Booth). Brennan still very much believes in evidence. And objectivity. The evidence points to Zack. But she also has Zack telling her that he’s not guilty. What is she to believe? While initially, the evidence proved that Zack was guilty of the latest series of crimes, eventually, the case went in a different direction. But while Zack was absolved in this case, she still believed he was guilty of the lobbyist murder. She can’t believe what he’s telling her because he already confessed to the murder of the lobbyist. It’s irrational to confess for a crime you did not commit. And the evidence pointed to him. I had previously compared this situation to the one with Clark last season. What’s going to happen now is that Brennan is going to reexamine the evidence from season 3. She is going to do so objectively, as that is the only way she can help Zack. Clark had begged Brennan to believe him. And while she never thought her colleague was capable of committing a murder, she also couldn’t let that cloud her examination. In the end, she and the team were able to prove Clark’s innocence. Brennan believed that Zack killed the lobbyist. But there is likely a shadow of doubt now. Especially since he was not able to kill the doctor, even to defend his own life. She will only allow that shadow of doubt to influence her decision to reexamine the evidence. Also, though she won’t necessarily admit it, I think there are times when she trusts Booth’s gut as well. She’s seen its success rate, and has collected enough evidence to prove that it does have credence. But let’s not get carried away here. She will reexamine the evidence as if she has no personal ties to Zack. That is the best way to help him. And make no mistake, she does want to help him. I am so curious to see how this will all play out later in the season. But I won’t wish for that day to come because I never want this season to end.
A few more comments:
The hug. The hug was just…I have no words. It was more than just a hug. It was one of the most intense moments I’ve seen between these two. It didn’t take Brennan long to realize she was not actually in danger. Zack was not going to hurt her. He wanted to prove his innocence to her. But Booth didn’t have that tidbit of knowledge. All Booth could really see was that his wife was missing. She was presumably in a dangerous situation. And he didn’t know what he would find when he ultimately located her. Would she be hurt? Or worse? When Brennan was taken, Booth was running on adrenaline. Yes, he was emotional and let stress overtake him at times. But for the most part he was just running from place to place, following the clues as swiftly as possible. Trying to find his wife before it was too late. He found her. And thankfully, she was unharmed.
In Brennan’s office the two of them were fighting. Yes, fighting. Not their sweet adorable routine bickering. Because Brennan wanted to see her children and jump right back into the case as if nothing happened. But Booth was still reeling. Brennan wasn’t gone for that long, but for Booth, it felt like an eternity. Remember- she was asleep for the bulk of it. Brennan didn’t quite understand that at first. The hug wasn’t about shutting her up, as I have seen some people attest. It was about feeling her in that moment. It was about comforting himself. After hours of not knowing if and when he would find her, now he knows she is there. She is real. And he was taking a moment just for them. Because once again, he could have lost her. She obviously needed it too, as she sinks into him. And it was a beautiful moment.
Finally, Hodgins. I have seen many different opinions on this. But mine has always remained unchanged- It’s not that I do not want Hodgins to ever walk again. But I never wanted the show to imply that there was something wrong with him the way he is now. I didn’t want this to just be a cheap novelty for a single season, and then life returns to the way it was. There is nothing wrong with him. His life has changed, yes. And he did experience a period of utter pain and hopelessness as a result of his trauma. He put his wife and friends through the ringer. But he made it out of the darkness. He and Angela made it through. And when she is crying at the end of this episode, it’s not because she’s devastated that he will never walk again. She is sad for him. She is upset because she believes he is upset. She feels his pain. But he takes her hand and tells her that he is okay. They are okay. More than okay. And they truly are. Hodgins has had to make a few adjustments, but his life for the most part is unchanged. I don’t like the implication that his paralysis is some kind of unmanageable burden. And something that needs to be fixed in order to attain any semblance of happiness or normalcy. I love that the story feels so genuine. And that it’s depicted in a respectful and genuine way. The mere fact that TJ stayed in the chair from the moment he got to set to the moment he wrapped every day on set already made me feel like this was going to be different from other shows. And it truly has been. I didn’t want them to cheat this particular story. Because it’s a reality for so many. And while there may be a miracle cure in the future, I think this was the right way to tell the story. I am pleased that the writers felt that way as well.
Emily Deschanel as director: BRILLIANT. I am so elated that she finally got the chance to direct an episode. It was beautiful. She and David are just wonderful, both behind and in front of the cameras.
I don’t know what the future holds. So many cryptic teases, and so much is going to be packed into the next few episodes. I am looking forward to a little levity next week. I need to take a few breaths. Though, I’m told that we need to watch until the very last moments, which leads me to believe that I may need a pack of tissues. What worries me is that Max is in the next episode. I won’t go into what I think is going to happen this season, but I suppose you can use your imagination on that one. Whatever they do, I know it’s in support of creating the best possible story. And I support these writers. Always.
See you next week for Brennan’s birthday!