Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"Stop, or I'll kick you in the testicles!": Bones

Here's the problem with the modern police procedural's attempts to reconcile itself to the broader content standards allowed to it in comparison to, say, Columbo. Most of these shows gleefully play up the gross-out violence (here, it was the decomposed corpse the gang found out in the woods) and indulge in sending the detectives out to investigate all manner of sexual fetishists. The barely suppressed message here? If you have some sort of sexual desire outside of the "normal" ones, you're going to die. And probably painfully!

Now, I'm just going to admit upfront that I have little-to-no experience with the pony subculture, and what the show presented did, indeed, seem pretty ridiculous. But that's just the thing. As much as the show wants to play up Brennan's assertion that fetishes are a natural thing that stem from various psychological and social-conditioning reasons, it's really on the side of Booth. This shit's weird to look at, yo! Can you BELIEVE people actually do that? I can't either! It's a good thing we're red-blooded heterosexuals!

Look, I know there are only so many ways to kill a man for these sorts of shows, so you eventually have to start plugging in to whatever subcultures and off-the-road oddities the writing staffs can find. That's how you got stuff like that episode of CSI where the team investigated the furries at the convention (didn't one of them get hit by a car?). On that show, as on this one, the main character is the voice of reason, tut-tutting and telling the audience, "OK. Now, there are people out there who are different, and they deserve our respect." Meanwhile, we get shown that the consequences of being different frequently include grisly death. It's a weirdly conservative slant to the show that plays at odds with its ostensibly progressive mouthpieces.

So how was the episode outside of its detour into the pony world (which, I have to say, was surprisingly detailed for an 8 p.m. show -- I mean really!)? The policework wasn't awful, even if the show falls back too readily on the "question someone, then question someone else, then question the first person again" school of TV detective work. In general, I liked the gory aspects of the mystery (aside from Hodgins' bizarre act break of "AND HE WAS SLAUGHTERED LIKE ONE!"). I even didn't mind the heavyhanded discussion from Booth about how MAKING LOVE is different from just HAVING SEX, even as it stood in for this week's "Booth and Brennan are totally gonna do it someday" subtext. (Side note: Has anyone ever noticed that when David Boreanaz tries to toss off a laugh, he sounds uncannily like George W. Bush? Heh heh, indeed.)

Angela and Hodgins tried yet again to find out who her first husband was, but I found the story mildly diverting this week, especially that coolly hallucinatory interlude in Angela's subconscious (complete with a giant, buzzing wasp -- bugs took over Reaper tonight too, so there you go). I'm glad that this storyline is moving forward already in episode three, because I feared it might devour most of the season. Instead, the writers appear to be plunging ahead with the story movement, and I expect to see the first marriage annulled soon enough.

For me, though, the episode just wasn't as successful as it could have been because of the mixed messages it sent about the pony people. Our modern crime shows are going to have to get over their Puritan streak if they want us to take them seriously.

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