[This is a review of Bones season 9, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]

Welcome back, Bones fans! The holidays are over and the days will only be getting longer from here on out which means it’s time to return to the Jeffersonian for our weekly dose of murder and mayhem with Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel). And as Winter premiers go, “The Ghost in the Killer” is one of the good ones; tying things back to the first half of the season while propelling things forward for this second one.

The opening sequence sets the tone for the remainder of the episode. The ghost of Christopher Pelant (Andrew Leeds) haunts Brennan’s dreams as well as her waking hours, taunting her to solve the case he handed to her before his death. An effective use of lighting and quick cuts rapidly amps up a tension that ripples out into the rest of the episode.

Unfortunately, there’s no hard evidence linking the remains Pelant singled out to one killer and Cam (Tamara Taylor) can’t afford allocating extra resources to a phantom. Brennan also faces resistance from Booth, creating friction on the home-front. The great irony is that for years, Booth and the others have tried to help loosen Brennan from her strictly empirical mindset. When she does so she gets shot down, overruled and is reminded more than once to focus on the evidence, not a gut feeling. At times if feels like the Hodgins’ couple are her only allies in the pack.

A box with carefully packed remains is shipped right to Booth and Brennan’s front doorstep, giving them all something else to focus on and propelling the team into the world of the affluent. This puts the character attention onto Hodgins (TJ Thyne), whose easy dismissal of his financial losses would seem cliche coming from any other actor. We haven’t seen this side of him since season two. It’s fascinating to watch him slip back into that sphere without breaking a sweat, making the emotional payoff that much better when he confronts Trent McNamara (Mitchell Fink) and admits his adolescent nemesis doesn’t feel like a killer to him. The speech also further cements the notion that Hodgins is the Bruce Wayne of the Jeffersonian.

As is evident in the above photo, all’s well that ends well and the lead couple will eventually kiss and make up and pursue the elusive female serial killer. This is somewhat inevitable. Along the way, however, we get a nice plot twist in the case against Trent when he turns up dead with some of the same injuries as the girl in the box. Then the suggestion is thrown out that both cases are linked to Brennan’s ghost killer. Nothing beyond the characters’ side of the story is resolved, but the stage is set for the coming acts.

Overall, this story has a good, solid case while being a multi-fasceted character piece as well. The ensemble acting is pitch perfect, with great moments from Brennan, Hodgins, and long-time team member, Clark (Eugene Byrd). Watching the emotional scene between he and Brennan, one can tell that Byrd has been working with the cast now since the third season and it pays off big time here.

So what did you think? Did you enjoy the character side of the episode? Does this whet your appetite for the final half of the season? Should the show be leaping into another serial killer arc so close on the heels of Pelant? Might Stephanie McNamara (Kelly Rutherford) know more than she’s letting on?

Bones returns next Friday with ‘Big in the Philippines’ @8pm on Fox.