My heart is broken. I know that Brennan has always made it clear that a heart cannot break. But mine certainly feels broken. Over the years, many tragedies have befallen the characters on Bones. And because these characters feel so much like family at this point, I always take on their feelings of grief as my own. I’m not sure anything in 12 seasons has hit me as hard as this week’s loss. It was undeniably devastating. It will have implications in the next few weeks, for sure. But it was certainly not in vain. It was not drama for the sake of drama. It was not a waste. It was meaningful. It was impactful. It was a tragic end to a beautiful story that came full circle in the last decade. And while the death featured at the very end of this episode would render me useless for days to come, I can find satisfaction in the fact that I saw some truly incredible performances this week. Yet another sad reminder that this show has enough energy, brilliance, and heart to continue on into the future.
I’m not sure if I can even call what I’m about to write “a recap.” I stared at a blank document for longer than I care to say. Days, really. Right now, after what we have just witnessed, I cannot seem to adhere to any sort of constraints. I cannot talk about the episode bit by bit knowing how it ultimately ends. So I’m going to just write exactly what’s going through my mind. Mostly unfiltered. And very much unplanned. We’ll see how it goes.
I do not represent everyone, of course. But I can at least speak for myself and say that while this death affected me in ways not even I expected (as much as I love this show), it meant something. It means something to this world. I do not think it was a mistake. I believe it was a tragic, yet poetically beautiful resolution to an long-running story. It’s not over yet, as we still must witness the aftermath of this character’s death. The loved ones he left behind. The grief his death has caused. The ripple effect. And as much as I hate seeing these characters in pain, I could never call this a mistake. Deep down, past all the grief and devastation, it somehow feels right for this story. Right for the show. I know many would disagree. And that’s perfectly fine.
From beginning to end, Max Keenan has always been compelling character. When first we met him, he was mostly shrouded in mystery. If he wasn’t dead as Brennan had previously assumed, then where had he been for 15 years? What were the circumstances behind Brennan’s placement into foster care? Why had he come back so many years later? If he loved her, wouldn’t he have come for her sooner? For anyone, it would be an impossible situation of which to conceive. But for someone like Brennan who finds it extraordinarily more difficult to trust than the average person- it’s astonishing to think about where we started and where we finished (as it pertains to just this story, of course. I still refuse to put any sort of “period” on any part of this show right now- or ever.).
The decision to come back into his daughter’s life couldn’t have been an easy one. But he came back into his children’s world for the same reason he left- to keep them safe. To keep them alive. Max has killed, yes. But never without a reason. Never in cold blood. All in the name of protecting his children. He quickly earned Booth’s respect. And with her partner’s encouragement, Brennan very slowly let Max back into her life. It was not easy. But Max proved time and time again that he was there for her. He even let Booth arrest him just to show her that he wasn’t going anywhere. Not if he could help it. And while she still had her reservations, she helped save her father from the death penalty. I’m obviously not condoning murder. And I also cannot look at this objectively, knowing these characters as I do. At the end of the day, Max never killed anyone who wasn’t a threat to himself or his family. Never. That’s why he was so confident when he told Brennan to look at his “rap sheet.” But this was long before that infamous discussion on “good” vs. “bad.” And even if Max had good reasons for killing, the fact remains that he still killed. Not in the line of duty, like Booth. Over time, Brennan would begin to more clearly understand that everything her father did was out of love for her. He would have died for her. He could have died if convicted of murder. But he didn’t. And both of them were given a gift- time. Time that they were never supposed to have together. Time which would allow them to repair what had been broken. It was never a question of love, but a matter of trust.
After Christine was born, Booth figured there was no one better to watch over her than Max. Booth and Brennan have dangerous jobs, and over the years we have seen that danger seep into their personal lives. Max loved his granddaughter with everything he had. He would do anything to and protect her. And he would love caring for her. Maybe Booth didn’t think his decision through at first, but his heart was certainly in a good place. And to be honest, he was right in thinking that Max would serve as the best choice to watch their daughter. Brennan wasn’t as easy to convince. She and her father were in a good place at that point. He was in her life pretty consistently- a normal amount for an adult child and her parent, I’d say. And their interactions had become far more effortless over the years. But something about trusting him with her daughter felt different. It drudged up unpleasant memories from her past. She loved her parents. And one winter morning she woke up and they were gone. She would never see her mother again. And though Max had a very good reason for leaving, the pain of abandonment still stayed with Brennan throughout her life. She was cautious. And the second something felt wrong, she panicked. It wasn’t necessarily rational. Max had already proven he was around for good. He wasn’t going to disappear, especially not with her daughter. There had to be a reasonable explanation this time. And there was. But Brennan was still haunted by that morning so many years ago. Her daughter was eventually returned to her safe and sound. And Max apologized profusely for his mistake. As expected he had an explanation. But he scared his daughter once again. Max later apologizes once more, and Brennan explains to him why she was so terrified. But she does want her father in her life, and in her daughter’s life. She wants her daughter to have the family she never did. So she forgives her father, and it’s another hurdle they cleared.
They were a family. All of them. Max’s relationship with Booth also ran deep. Booth and Max are a lot alike. They have been on opposite sides of the law at times, but they are fully aligned when it comes to their family. They love their family with every fiber of their being. And they would do literally anything to keep them safe. We’ve seen as much from both these characters. Max took a relatively quick liking to Booth. Fathers are generally concerned that no one will ever be good enough for their daughters. But Max saw something in Booth instantly. And he obviously understood the way Booth felt about Brennan. And the way Brennan felt about Booth. Even if they couldn’t understand it themselves, at the time. He could see that Booth was a good man. And before they were even together, Max witnessed this man constantly put his daughter first. Booth protected Brennan. And he clearly cared deeply for her. Max knew that his daughter does not trust easily. And perhaps he’s a part of that. But he knows she’s truly special. And it would take a really remarkable man to see all of her. Booth did. He always has. And Max never really gave up hope that they two of them would see what they had together.
As I mentioned previously, Max and Brennan were never really supposed to have those years together. They were most unexpected. Brennan’s mother died before she could ever see her children again. And Max, well, it doesn’t matter what his plan for return (if any) had been. In Brennan’s mind, her parents were dead. Their time together was complete. It was something she figured she made peace with. But the very fact that she became a forensic anthropologist says otherwise. She didn’t want anyone else to go through what she went through in her life. The “not knowing” is sometimes so much worse. And when Max came back, she had no intention of letting him back in. He won her over. Eventually. With time and great patience. And they made up for lost time. They’ll never get those lost years back. But together, they were able to heal. They made incredible new memories. And by the end, their relationship was in a wonderful place.
Some would argue that this was an unjustified death. But I simply do not believe that this decision was taken lightly. It wasn’t Russian Roulette. This was a season about tying up loose ends and giving resolutions to stories that have been told throughout the season. There are many reasons why this particular route works. Mainly, it wraps up the story of Max and Brennan in a way that makes sense. It’s not what I would have chosen. But I am not a television writer. And now that I have seen it, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not because Max isn’t a spectacular character. Not because he deserves to die. Of course he doesn’t. But because it works. Once again, it is the best way to tell this story. It has consequences that reach beyond this episode. And I think it will be really beautiful (and heart-wrenching) to witness just how much Brennan has grown by the end of this. She’s going to fall victim to some feelings of despair. She’s going to grieve. But something (or someone) will snap her out of it. And from what we have seen of her eulogy, she will be grateful for Max’s presence in her life. Even if it was difficult to move past her abandonment. Even if it was near impossible to let herself get close to him again. She did. And she knows how much he loved her. In the past, she may not have seen it. But she understands now. She knows that his love for her was genuine and deep. There was a time in her life when she would have compartmentalized this death. And maybe that’s what she tries to do in the next episode. But she’s not impervious anymore. She opened her heart, and that also means she is vulnerable. And that’s okay. It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to cry and feel pain. It’s life. She will realize this and be thankful for their extra years together. She will be grateful that she saved him. And that she ultimately forgave him. Not all love stories are romantic. Friendships on this show are love stories. As are stories between family members. Max and Brennan was a love story of sorts (get your mind out of whatever nasty gutter you’re in). And watching them mend what was nearly irreparable has been another beautiful journey depicted on this show.
Max was grateful for every moment he was given with his youngest child. He watched her fall in love, have two beautiful children, and essentially find fulfillment in every facet of her life. She was living wide. He had the opportunity and honor to walk her down the aisle, which is something so incredibly miraculous when you think of the fact that Max only showed up years earlier and that Brennan never planned on getting married. And he got to watch her own children grow up. He was able to be a grandfather. Nothing meant more to him. There was a moment at Brennan’s 40th birthday party where you could see Max just staring at his daughter. She looked truly happy. She had found a family in every one of the people standing in her living room. Max already knew how much his daughter could love. And how deeply she feels. But to see that she had found people who not only understand her, but celebrate and love her, that’s all he ever wanted. He sees what an extraordinary person she has grown up to be. And since he believes he’s not going to live that much longer at that point, he can make peace with the fact that she will be okay.
This death hit me in a bizarre way. We had all been speculating that Max was one of the two big losses this season. And after 12×02, we thought something with his health would kill him. To top it all off, FOX released the 12×08 sneak peeks on the day of 12×07. By accident. But it essentially spoiled the ending. Even if we already assumed, now we knew. But for me, the actual death didn’t happen in the way I expected. Though, thinking back on it now, I should have expected nothing less. Looking back, I wonder if I would have been angry if Max had died from a heart issue. Yes, I know that played a part, but he was doing better. Brennan noticed some very obvious improvements in her father’s appearance and overall demeanor. He was vibrant. He seemed stronger. And that’s due to the fact that he covertly got a pacemaker put in. Brennan was distraught, as her father hid a serious medical procedure from her. She lost him once, she wasn’t going to lose him again. She understood that he was getting older, and that no one lives forever. But she wasn’t ready for him to go, not yet. But are we ever ready? The scene in Brennan’s office reduced me to tears already because Max was concerned about his entire family. His grandchildren needed to be protected, yes. But he wanted to protect her as well. He wanted to know that she was going to be all right. But Brennan is desperate. “Dad I have never needed you more than I do now.” So he would go with Christine and Hank to the safe house. And he would make sure no one harmed a hair on their head. Brennan and Booth could at least be comforted by that. Because no one would take better care of their kids than Max. And that assumption was tested when two men blew through the safe house. I don’t want to talk about what would have happened if Max had not been there. It’s too chilling. There is one thing I just cannot talk about, and that’s kids in danger. But Max made it so that his grandchildren never heard a sound. Not only did he save them from harm, he saved them from having any sort of PTSD. And he still made it out alive. He was supposed to be okay. He escaped death so many times. He also made it out of surgery in stable condition. For a moment, I wondered if maybe FOX released those sneak peeks on purpose. Maybe it was all a clever diversion. Maybe Max lives. Just maybe. But no such luck.
Brennan is there by his side when Max wakes up from surgery. His first concern is the kids and whether they were all right. Brennan assures him that they were fine, they were just worried about them. He then asks about Booth. And she lets him know that Booth can put away the man seemingly behind these attacks. Finally, he wants to know if Brennan is mad at him. It’s like he’s running through some sort of checklist. He needs to make sure, one last time, that his daughter and her family are going to be okay. I’m not entirely sure if he knew he was dying at this point. But he definitely could be at peace with her words. Brennan is not mad at him. She just wants to be informed of any future medical procedures. The word “future” broke my heart here. Yes broke. Yes, my heart. Because the way this scene was going, I knew Max didn’t have much time left. There was no more unfinished business. This was it. He began telling Brennan about a dream he had.
I was just dreaming about you.
What was the dream?
You were a little girl. And we were in the car, driving. The whole family. Your mom and Russ were with us. The leaves were turning, changing. And it started to drizzle. It was so quiet you could hear the raindrops falling on the windshield. And you were in the back, doing that thing you do with my ear.
Rubbing your earlobes.
It always put me at ease when I was driving. And all those years I was gone… …whenever I missed you, I’d just think back on the rides in the car.
Brennan is smiling. And then her smile suddenly falls as Max’s head does the same. The monitors beep. And a slew of medical professionals come rushing in. At first Brennan begs to help. It’s just like when Booth was rushed to the emergency room in 9×24. She feels helpless, something she’s not used to feeling. And she watches as they fail to revive her father. Her face is harrowing. And why this woman (and her costar) have not won any awards is beyond me.
This last exchange between Max and Brennan was, I think, a good choice. After making sure everyone in her family was safe, he began talking about his dream. He reminded her once more of a happy memory, which he had held onto all those years they were separated. They remember a simpler time together. And he lets her know that she has always been on his mind and in his heart. Whether they were together or apart. Max Keenan was all about family. Max and Brennan didn’t need a dramatic goodbye. Their relationship has had enough of those ups and downs. Just sharing that happy “unremarkable” memory. It was enough. Presumably, Max’s heart condition was the reason why he suddenly died following the surgery. Perhaps his heart just wasn’t strong enough. I cannot say for sure. But he was stable. And then he was gone. But he died saving his grandchildren. There is nothing more “Max Keenan” than that. He was a hero.
It’s a tragic loss. I still cannot think about it without crying. What’s worse was seeing Brennan break down. Brennan doesn’t lose her composure very often. Only in extreme circumstances, which generally involve someone she loves in peril. To witness her try for just a moment to hold it together before falling into Booth was so very difficult. And Booth is helpless to do anything but comfort her. It’s not his fault. But he will blame himself in some way.
Max Keenan was a good man and a wonderful character. He deserved to die at age 105 of old age in his sleep. But I think, for a hero like Max, this was also quite fitting. I want to make a distinction here. I am devastated by this characters’ death. It hit me hard. But I am NOT and will NEVER BE angry about what happened from a viewer standpoint. He did not die in vain. And his death means something. I understand that it was a tragic ending. But if you can get past that, it was really beautiful as well. Just think of where this story began. And where it ended. In my opinion, this was a perfect ending for Max. But, we all see the show in different ways.
I don’t know what to expect out of this week’s episode. I do know that I have never once been concerned about it. I am excited, as I have been waiting for an episode like this for some time. But I don’t understand all the unnecessary panic and backlash over the decision to bring Sully back into the picture. Eddie McClintock said himself that he is there as a friend. And if you have any faith in Booth and Brennan as a couple or even just Brennan as a person, you will understand that nothing will break them. Brennan needs time and space to process her grief. We’ve already seen how it’s all resolved. And yet, people are still worried. I’ll never understand. It’s going to be a bit angsty. But brilliant, for sure.
This wasn’t really a recap. And for that, I apologize. I just wasn’t in control of my hands this week. They took on a life of their own…