After months of speculation and a ridiculous amount of overreaction, Sully’s return was purely an amiable one. I never quite understood the panic, which was incited by the announcement of his return a few months prior. If you have any faith in the writers and in the character of Temperance Brennan, you would have known from the start that nothing bad could have ever come from this. Brennan is grieving, yes. But she has said it herself- she would never do anything to compromise the life she shares with Booth. She loves him. And really, you should have faith in Booth and Brennan in a couple by this point. There is no challenge they have been unable to conquer. No obstacle they have not overcome. Why would this scenario prove any different? Especially in season 12. I know that some would have preferred smooth sailing to the end. And I completely understand that conflict can be stressful. And we all just want these characters to ultimately be happy. But I find the stories portrayed this season to be both highly satisfying and truly exhilarating. I don’t really want to just coast through it. I appreciate that they continue to up the ante. We are all different, I suppose. But to me, season 12 has definitely been a continuation of the show we all know and love. What some people wanted it to be sounds more like an epilogue of sorts. And Bones deserves more than that. I’ve seen some of the best performances in the entire series during these episodes. And I am so proud that this show is as brilliant as it’s ever been.
I gather that there were very mixed feelings regarding Sully’s return. After realizing that he would not impact Booth and Brennan’s relationship in the slightest, some wondered why he would even come back at all. Was it pointless? Was it out of the blue? Not to me. If this season is truly all about tying up loose ends, going back to the beginning, and showing how these characters have evolved since the start of the show, Sully was the perfect vehicle for this story. He himself was a loose end of sorts. It wasn’t imperative that he come back, by any means. However, I personally don’t believe it was random either. His story could have feasibly ended with him sailing away. But he did play a fairly significant role in Brennan’s life, however brief. And if we are exploring her character- where’s she’s been and where she’s going- it makes reasonable sense to bring back the first man she ever truly let in (in the romantic sense). Even if she never let him in in the ways she has Booth. Sully was a good guy then. It’s perfectly plausible that he could have heard Brennan’s father died, and cared enough about her to make sure she was okay. They have clearly spoken since he sailed away. Not much, presumable. But enough for Brennan to know who he has been dating.
During these tough times, you sometimes hear from people you once knew long ago. It’s believable. It’s conceivable. I say this from experience. We all grieve in different ways. It was easier for Brennan to share her feelings with Sully at this point than with Booth. With traumatic experiences, it can be harder to talk to those closest to us. Sometimes you end up venting to a relative stranger. Now, Sully is not a stranger. But he’s certainly not a prominent part of her life any longer. And I truly thought that his support was genuine and endearing. We finally know what became of Sully after all this time. And he has not become some slimy diabolical character who came back only to throw a wrench in Brennan’s marriage (as if he even could if he wanted to). No. He was simply a figurative shoulder to cry on. Brennan was once the most important person in his life. He still cares for her, even if just in a platonic sense. While the feelings of love have since heavily faded, he probably will always love her in a way. And like herself, he is grateful to have had this woman in his life for even a short time. She is, after all, extraordinary. But even he knew that it couldn’t last. Somewhere deep down, Sully understood that Brennan and Booth were inevitable. Even if they couldn’t see it at the time. And even if he couldn’t consciously acknowledge it until later. What Brennan and Booth have is what people only dream about having. In a rare moment of vulnerability, Brennan opens up to her old flame. And he explains to her that grief is inexplicable. But that Booth is not going anywhere. And of course, we all know he was right. I believe Brennan took comfort in those words. She failed to understand why she was opening up to Sully when she has built this life with Booth. But again, it’s the grief. And as the episode progressed, Brennan began to understand what was actually keeping her from opening up to her husband.
Angela encourages Brennan to talk to Booth about what she has been feeling these past few days. Because Booth is her husband, and she can share with him. He can help carry some of the emotional burden. Brennan knows this. But she surprisingly responds “maybe I don’t want to.” Though, it’s not what you think. Brennan knows Booth well enough to know that he is always going to blame himself if he played any part in her pain. What could he have done differently to prevent this? If he hadn’t been a sniper, if he hadn’t carried out an order decades prior, maybe Brennan’s father would still be alive. But if you want to go down that rabbit hole, maybe Booth and Brennan never meet. And Max never comes back into his daughter’s life. Or he does, but because Booth is not there, she never fully lets her father back in. Booth was a significant influence in Brennan letting Max back into her life. It’s easy to sit there and think, maybe I could have prevented this tragedy. But you never know. One small change could have altered the current reality. Brennan knows she will eventually get through this. But she just wants to worry about herself for the time being. No one can blame her. No one can fault her. She knows that the moment she sees Booth in pain, she will shift her focus to him. Because she can’t bear to see him blame himself. She does not hold him responsible for what happened. In that moment, we understand what has been keeping her from opening up to Booth. And really, we also know that all will eventually be fine. Though, I never doubted that for a moment.
I hated seeing Brennan in pain throughout this episode. But it was also extremely difficult to watch Booth suffer as well. All he wanted to do was find a way to be there for Brennan. And she couldn’t let him in. He could plainly see she was struggling. But there was nothing he could do. He just had to let her know he was there for her. That he would be there for her when she was ready. I’m sure she knew that. And though I think all of our hearts figuratively sank when Brennan told Booth she needed a few days alone, he didn’t make a fuss about it. He gave her what she needed. It wasn’t about him. And though he obviously believes he played some small role in getting her father killed, he knew it wasn’t about him. It was about her. Her grief. Her pain. So he suffered in silence, as Booth so often does. Booth lost someone too. Max was important to Booth. He too, was mourning. But he could mourn with Brennan later. They could miss Max together, in the future. First, Brennan needed to get through this initial period of grief. Brennan is not used to dealing with such profound loss. That was the very reason she refused to let her walls down just a decade before. So she could protect herself from this pain. The pain of losing those closest to her. When she “lost” her imperviousness, she also lost the ability to shield herself from this kind of intense hurt. Before she can help Booth, she has to help herself. And that’s precisely why she asked for a few days alone. It wasn’t to hurt Booth. She could never and would never intentionally hurt him. She merely needed time and space to process. It’s like on an airplane when they tell you to first take care of your own oxygen mask before helping the person next to you. You can’t help another person until you make sure you’re not going to suffocate first. Poor analogy, but that’s what Brennan needed to do. Make sure she could she helped herself before ensuring her husband was okay. Otherwise, they are both in trouble.
The resolution of this episode was stunning. Booth comes home, exhausted from the case. And really, emotionally exhausted as well. He still seems a bit cautious walking into his house. Brennan looks up at him with the slightest hint of a smile. Maybe some don’t want to hear this, but Sully did help her. Sometimes it just takes someone from the outside. Someone who isn’t involved in our everyday lives. Someone who doesn’t have a horse in the race. He helped Brennan understand that what she was feeling was completely normal. And when she was ready, Booth would be there for her. She already knew that, of course. But to have Sully say it meant something. Brennan welcomes her husband back home. She missed him. She will always miss him when she’s gone, even if she’s the one who asks him to go (another time I will not mention comes to mind). Booth tells her that it’s good to be home. Because it is. It pained him to be away from her when he knew she was struggling. He wants to always be there for her. But sometimes, the best way to be there for someone is to be there from afar. To wait for them to come to you. It was difficult, but he gave her the space she needed. And it seemed as though it was for the best. They embrace because they missed each other. They love each other. And as hard as this all is, they will get through it.
Brennan begins to explain the situation with Sully. But Booth doesn’t need to hear it. He was never jealous of Sully. Sully was never a threat. He knows what he has with his wife. And furthermore, the Sully he knew would never interfere with a marriage. Booth didn’t need her to explain anything. Booth was only concerned that she couldn’t open up to him. And Brennan seemed to be able to talk with Sully. That’s all. Ultimately, Booth just wants her to be okay, however that can be achieved. So he doesn’t need any sort of explanation. If Sully’s important to Brennan, that’s perfectly fine. But she wants to explain to Booth why this man is still important to her. Because it’s actually important them.
I want you to understand why he’s important. It’s because without Sully I don’t think I would’ve been ready for you, for this… and because of that, will always be grateful to him, because… I love this. I love you.
I love you, Bones… always.
Things are not quite back to normal yet. But you can put your faith in this couple. Every single time. There is nothing they cannot handle. Sully was obviously not the sole reason why Brennan was able to eventually share a life with Booth. Not even close. But Sully did show her that she could open her heart and have a real romantic relationship. It could be more than merely satisfying biological urges. Someone could actually care for her, and she could let them. Now, Sully and Brennan were never going to go the distance. But it was an important step for her. She really never had a serious relationship after that- until Booth. But Booth and Brennan needed to be ready for each other before they could take that leap. Because this relationship was it for both of them. And they subconsciously knew that. Getting together before either of them were emotionally prepared could have been catastrophic. Their friendship was too important. So every hiccup along the way was vital. Sully was vital. Hannah was vital. The night in front of the Hoover was vital. They needed these people and these moments to ultimately get to a place where they could finally be together. A place where they were both strong enough to be together and last. And really, everything they have been through together- that is the proof. That is why I know they can handle anything. That is why I know nothing could ever defeat them. They are solid. And they always will be.
Brennan tells Booth “I love this” with the loveliest of smiles on her face. It’s one thing to tell him she loves him, which she does immediately after. But she’s also telling him that she loves it all. She loves her whole life with him. She loves what they have created together. In short, she loves “every day.” And Booth so earnestly and emotionally declares his love for her as well. They share another hug. And I don’t care what other people say, this moment was perfect. This hug was everything. And I have never seen two people portray true love better than these two. They are incredible.
At the close of the episode, Brennan gives Max’s eulogy. It’s both very Brennan, and absolutely perfect. She recounts her father’s bravery. And it about broke me when she says that Max gave his life to protect her children. It’s such a fitting conclusion for his character. Sure, he could have succumbed to an illness as we all previously assumed he would. But Brennan is right. Max was always a warrior. He reentered his daughter’s life in an attempt to protect her (as well as her brother). And he died protecting her own children. It’s undeniably tragic. But it’s beautiful.
“To me, the bravest battle Max Keenan ever fought was the one he began over ten years ago when he reentered my life. Since then, every day… he has fought to show me how much he loves me… (sniffles) …and to make me believe that I could trust him again. And he won that fight… but I do believe I was truly blessed to have a father like Max Keenan, a father who loved me so very much.”
As horribly painful as it is to have lost Max, Brennan understands how lucky she was to have had him as a father. And how incredibly fortunate she was to have those extra years since his return. Those were years she never believed she would have. They were a gift. But from the moment Max came back, he never gave up on his daughter. He fought to protect her. But he also fought for her trust. Love was never the issue. Brennan never stopped loving his daughter. But it was near impossible for her to trust him. And as hard as it was, she slowly but surely let him back in over the course of the series. Perhaps it would have been easier to have shielded herself from that pain. To have remained impervious to it all. But think of what she would have missed out on. Think of all the love she would have denied herself. In this moment, she understands just how lucky she was (and still is). And just how much her father loved her. He was a hero. And he was her hero.
And if anyone was STILL concerned about Booth and Brennan, just watch the embrace they share at the end. I am still reeling.
Buck and Wanda tonight. I’m excited. But I’m still living in this moment. It will only break me to consider the future right now.