Last week's Bones season 8 premiere dropped some quiet clues that things between Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) were not simply going to slip back into place after the couple's three-month-long separation and as the title "The Partners in the Divorce" would suggest, emotional discord abounds.
An awkward breakfast scene launches the episode, revealing some of the cracks that have arisen due to Brennan's absence, but it's clear neither of them knows how to approach things. These, after all, are two people who have spent the majority of their adult lives alone. Yes, Booth has been in and out of some serious relationships in the past and cohabitation is nothing new to Brennan but a relationship where each of them are equally vested is brand new territory; especially when their roles seem to have shifted since Brennan left.
Fortunately, you can always count on a grisly Bones murder to guide its characters along and this time the murder of a high-power divorce attorney is just the ticket. And grisly it is with everything from exploding brain matter to charred flesh making an appearance before the opening credits roll, followed soon after by a scene with Cam (Tamara Taylor) carving out the victim's heart. We feel for you Finn (Luke Kleintank). Other grisly features include Angela (Michaela Conlin) blow-torching a fragment of metal from the victim's trachea and Hodgins (TJ Thyne) revealing that the victim had been dining on high-end rat burgers before his death.
As the case progresses it's clear Richard Bartlet was good at his job; though his penchant for not caring about the collateral damage he's left behind has earned him a list of people a mile long who wouldn't mind seeing him six feet under. Included on that list are the Carmichaels, an extremely volatile couple who had a meeting with Richard on the night that he died. When the couple is interviewed, however, they insist they were at Bartlet's office to reverse their divorce in spite of their past because the former Mrs. Carmichael (Sophina Brown) is pregnant. Having a baby, after all, changes everything, and the couple are even building a "second chance" house to get a fresh start.
Also on the short list of possible suspects are the victim's widow and his secretary, Margo Sandoval (Alexandra Holden). Shortly before his death Richard had exposed an illicit affair between the two and thanks to a pre-nup agreement he was prepared to divorce his wife and take away everything she owned. Sandoval claims she had nothing to do with the murder and is only guilty of protecting the woman she loves, but unfortunately for her Mrs. Bartlet (Melissa Claire Egan) seems to have cut and run.
Giving the audience a pair of suspects to choose from is par for the course for Bones. A more crime-oriented show might toss in several more red herrings, but this is a show more interested in the journeys of its regular characters than its victims. With every twist and turn the tension between the two leads is ratcheted up another notch until finally they have a good old fashioned shouting match. Booth is actually the one doing most of the shouting, his resentment from the last three months finally coming to a boil and spilling over. Brennan, for her part, tries to stay out of it, but fails miserably and ends up launching her own barbs, the harshest of which is declaring that since they aren't married they're both technically free agents.
It's here that the conflict reaches its apex and they both realize they've gone too far. Booth returns to the lab later in the day, studying his partner at work before offering a tenuous apology. She apologizes for hurting his feelings as well and they exchange a shaky kiss before parting ways. Only an observation from Finn makes her question whether the conflict has truly been resolved or not.
As for the case, the evidence returns the team's attentions to the Carmichaels and things aren't looking good for them. Sure enough, the harder Booth and Brennan push, the more the Carmichaels' story unravels. They waste no time alternately throwing one another under the proverbial bus as the situation deteriorates, leaving Brennan to question why they bothered getting married in the first place.
Once upon a time Bones wrapped up its episodes with dialogue-heavy scenes set in a bar over drinks, but as babies and bars don't mix these must now take place in the couple's home. The foreshortened season 7 didn't have time to explore this, leaving that job to season eight. There is a danger in not making them too saccharine nor too predictable for the audience. So far the show is two for two, delivering here a scene that is true not only to the characters but also to real life. Brennan's quest has always been for the truth no matter the consequences and this serves her well by not allowing Booth to obfuscate the flaws in their relationship. Arguments between adults who love one another are rarely wrapped up in neat little packages and often leave both parties squirming and searching for the right words. Bones finds the right words here and hopefully they will continue to do so as the season progresses.
Bones airs Mondays @8pm on Fox