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With the Airing of the Series Finale of ‘Bones,’ an Appreciation of Bones and the Actress Who Plays Her
March 28, 2017  | By David Hinckley

Before her show is interred, let’s say a few kind words about Bones.

Emily Deschanel has played Temperance Brennan for 12 seasons on Bones, the Fox drama that wraps up its run Tuesday at 9:01 p.m. ET, and during that time she has quietly turned Bones into one of TV’s most enduring women.  

She doesn’t have the flash of Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope. She doesn’t pop off the screen like Mary Tyler Moore’s Mary Richards, and we didn’t fall in love with her the way we fell in love with Emily’s sister Zooey Deschanel over on New Girl.

And that’s the point. We weren’t supposed to.

Way back in 2005, when Bones began (left), Temperance had the social skills of an Atomic spectroscopy arc spark spectrometer.

She was brilliant. She wrote best-selling books, she spoke at least seven languages and she held three doctorates.

She had no idea how to hold an ordinary conversation.

That was the hook of the Bones character, and it’s not that easy a starting point from which to win a loyal viewership for a weekly television series.

While there have been terse, abrupt, seemingly humorless characters on TV before, few had to carry a series and the ones who did were almost always men who secretly had the heart of a marshmallow. Think Lou Grant.  

The biggest recent exception was Hugh Laurie’s Gregory House, for whom the writers just went bigger. The fact he was a jerk became the show’s central premise, which meant he didn’t have to do anything except play his position and occasionally become a bigger jerk, which he did.

Bones was never a jerk the way House was a jerk. Social ineptitude, or indifference, wasn’t her chosen M.O. It was an obstacle. It got in the way of her finding a fulfilled life outside the lab.  

It was something she had to overcome, even if at first she didn’t realize that, and because Bones ran 12 seasons, viewers got to watch her do it.

She evolved from someone who claimed to reject everything not based on empirical evidence – meaning she rejected stuff like love and faith – to a happy wife and protective mother.

Well, let’s not overstate the swing of the pendulum. In Tuesday’s finale, she still makes remarks that offend people, because she sees those remarks as empirically accurate.

That’s the Bones we remember, the one who didn’t understand why feelings mattered, who didn’t get pop culture references and who took every sentence literally.

Like the time when the subject was fish and a woman in the conversation said she loved fish “because they’re just like people.”

“They’re not,” Bones replied, quite seriously. “People can’t breathe under water.”

When her partner and eventual husband Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) remarked that being monogamous is “what separates us from the chimps,” she replied, “Actually, it’s a gene called HAR1F.”

When Booth called her a “smartass,” she replied that “objectively, I am very smart,” but that it has nothing to do with her posterior.

When her first baby was crying one night, she reached for a stuffed toy and immediately declared that this is all wrong, elephants are not purple.  

That kind of running gag could have gotten old. It never did, because Bones was smart enough to use those lines judiciously, like a sharp seasoning.  

They also didn’t make us dislike her, because there was rarely an edge to anything she said. It was all matter of fact. Very empirical.

“They gave me medication,” she once said, “so I feel how I imagine people of average intelligence feel all the time.”

There was speculation through the run of Bones that Brennan had Asperger Syndrome, in which a person simply is incapable of some common human traits like empathy or a sense of humor.

That never came up in the show. Bones was just Bones, brilliant, occasionally maddening and, over time, fleshed out into someone that, empirically, we came to quite like.

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