Tuesday, April 10, 2012

'Bones' faces a new bump in the road

This week, FOX's Bones presents "The Bump in the Road." Brennan (Emily Deschanel) finds it hard to concentrate on her work, now that her baby is in daycare nearby. Cam (Tamara Taylor) also had a mommy dilemma when her daughter, Michelle (Tiffany Hines), begins dating new-ish Jeffersonian intern Finn (Luke Kleintank). Will these parents be able to compartmentalize their kids and their careers, and still do right by both?

In the fall batch of Bones episodes, the new dynamic between Brennan and Booth (David Boreanaz) does not hurt the series at all. If anything, Bones becomes energized by the shake up. However, the same cannot be said of the past two episodes, which are more baby-centric. Yes, it's nice to see Booth and Brennan have a little family, and the scenes featuring these two are mostly authentic and sweet. Bones has always been good at writing the romantic stuff. It's Brennan-as-a-mommy that they have yet to figure out, and so other parts of "The Bump in the Road" come off as clumsy.

Brennan studies human behavior, without fully understanding how to fit into social interaction herself. It's always been a part of her character, so it's no surprise that being a mother is an adjustment. However, the overwhelming emotion Deschanel lets slip into the part glosses over this. This is not the complaint, as it isn't a surprise that giving birth could change a person.

However, to hear Brennan endlessly talk about motherhood doesn't feel all that authentic. The scene where she catches Angela (Michaela Conlin) hiding her own child in a file cabinet is worse. Sure, it's believable that Angela might sneak her kid into the lab, but the whole thing feels like a staged set up to give Brennan something to babble about. The way Brennan is now being written just seems a bit fake. It's like the writers know how they want her to act, but haven't quite mastered how to make it happen at the same level they were writing the character previously.

Booth fares a bit better, but then, he's not the mommy. His scene with Special Agent Shaw (Tina Majorino), where she admits to having a child, also feels staged. The fact that she acts awkwardly as Booth stumbles for something to say, settling on praising her motherly abilities, of which he has not witnessed, saves it. He act authentically out of step after such a weird confession, and she also looks uncomfortable. This works, even if the initial conversation does not.

Cam, too, is written weirdly in "The Bump in the Road." She is a cheerleader and mentor for Finn, until he wants to date her daughter. Understandable. But then Cam implies that her concerns are about Finn's past, which has already been justified to her and the audience. Why not have Cam express hesitation because of how she sees Finn treat a girl in the diner at the beginning of the episode? That would feel much more real. And without her bringing it up later, instead, using other excuses, why even have that scene?

The lack of focus on this week's case is not a problem. Bones is at its best when it lets its character breathe, and doesn't stick them stringently into the crime formula. But since the characters have all undergone big shifts, and the writers haven't completely adjusted yet, "The Bump in the Road" feels like a mediocre effort. Perhaps it should have been a practice script that didn't see the light of day.

Given the long track record of greatness that Bones has, things will probably get sorted out, hopefully sooner, rather than later. Watch Bones Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

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