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DVD Review: Bones – Season Two

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FOX Television has struck gold with the series Bones. The series stars Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel heartthrob David Boreanaz as FBI Agent Seely Booth and relative newcomer Emily Deschanel as Temperance Brennan.

The series is based on books written by real-life forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs. Reichs is also a real-life New York Times best-selling author. Viewers of the television show will quickly discover that the “Temperance Brennan” of the books is much different than the character in the television show. The literary Temperance is a divorced mother with a problematic family.

In the television show, Temperance is an orphan who was raised in foster care and has trouble relating to others on an interpersonal level. She also happens to be an author and writes about a forensic anthropologist named Kathy Reichs.

The two series, in some ways, are vastly different. But people who enjoy the show will probably enjoy the books. And people who enjoy the books, once they get over the fact that their favorite heroine isn’t presented the way she is in the novels, will have a blast with the television show.

Bones, derived from Seely Booth’s pet name for Temperance and from the fact that a forensic anthropologist usually only has skeletons to work with, is a fascinating interplay of almost-romance, outstanding characters, and nifty little puzzles dealing with murder and mayhem. The chemistry between the two stars is palpable and believable. I haven’t seen Boreanaz in anything that I haven’t liked him in. Deschanel was new to me, although I had seen her in a supporting role in Glory Road that was much different than the Temperance role.

The almost-romance shtick has gotten potentially old after playing in Moonlighting and Lois and Clark, as well as many others. In fact, long-time mystery viewers will remember a show called Remington Steele that starred Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist. After those two characters hooked up, viewer interest seemed to wane. Series developer Hart Hanson has to know he’s walking a thin line by choosing to go this route. However, it plays beautifully at present.

The second season continues much of the same tone that was set in the first season. Booth has warmed up to Brennan and her crew, although he still continues to refer to them as the Squint Squad when referring to them among his peers at the FBI. Booth and Brennan also continue to look for her father and to find out what happened to her mother after Brennan’s parents disappeared when she was just a teenager.

While Booth’s romance with Brennan continues to fizzle this season, made even more difficult by the addition of Doctor Camille Saroyan (Tamara Taylor), Angela (Michaela Conlin) and Jack’s (T. J. Thyne) romance buds, blossoms, and almost bears fruit. As it turns out, Saroyan is a pathologist (which is a conflict in field of study to a degree to an anthropologist), is Brennan’s new boss, and is one Booth’s ex-lovers.

Tensions mount between Booth and Brennan as each tries to figure out where the other fits into the work and personal scenes. However, thankfully, the idea of romance is merely hinted at and flirted with rather than moved into a starring role. This is a great choice for the series at the moment, but I don’t know how much longer they can successfully pull this off.

In addition to interesting leads, Booth and Brennan are backed by fantastic supporting characters who often step into the limelight of an episode. Zack and Hodges continue to bring slapstick scientific moments to the episodes. Although I really didn’t think they could top running the semi-frozen pig corpse through the wood chipper last season, they blew the roof off my expectations with the season opener when they simulated a burning death of a victim using Spam lunch meat. I can always count on those two for a laugh, either through Zack’s deadpan delivery or Hodges’ conspiracy theories.

Angela is the heart and soul of the investigatory unit. She reminds the team and the viewer that the victims in each episode were real people. Plus, she’s gotta be one of the hottest babes on television today. I will never forget how she grabbed the attention of the airline clerk in the first season opener.

Only 21 of season two’s 22-episode run are included on this box set. One of the episodes, “Player Under Pressure,” was pulled out of the lineup during the regular season. The plot line was uncomfortably close to the Virginia Tech shootings. It will be aired this year in season three.

There were a lot of outstanding episodes this year, and it was good to see them again in this box set:

“The Titan on the Tracks.” As mentioned, Zack and Hodges steal the show when they simulate the burning body with Spam and draw the ire of the team’s new director.

“The Mother and Child in the Bay.” Many of the show’s murder mysteries also reflect in the personal lives of the characters as this one does. The plot also seems ripped from national headlines (the murder of Laci Peterson). However, it has direct bearing on Booth’s reluctance to accept the fact that his ex-girlfriend is getting married and his son will have a stepfather.

“The Boy in the Shroud.” This episode hits Brennan especially hard because it deals with runaway kids living outside adult support systems and having to deal with the harsh realities of life. This episode also features the friction between Brennan and Saroyan.

“The Blond in the Game.” Howard Epps, the series’ first recurring villain, returns to play in this episode and pushes Brennan hard. The puzzle the team works out in this episode is really pretty cool.

“The Truth in the Lye.” Although this episode maintains a multi-layered plot with plenty of twists and turns, the main attraction here is watching Brennan deal with Booth’s girlfriend, just who has rejected his marriage proposal.

“The Girl in Suite 2103.” One of the more standard fare episodes in the bunch, this one nevertheless delivers the forensic work and investigation, as well as Booth’s work in the field.

“The Girl with the Curl.” This episode returns to the subplot involving Brennan’s missing father, who might have murdered her mother. The sequences with Booth talking to some of the women have gone in for plastic surgery is human and very well done.

“The Woman in the Sand.” Booth and Brennan go undercover to investigate an underground fight club. The repartee between these two characters in this episode is one of the chief reasons I watch the series.

“Aliens in a Spaceship.” Showcasing Hodges’s penchant for conspiracy theories, this episode also allows these two characters more screen time with each other and for Booth to be the harried rescuer.

“The Headless Witch in the Woods.” Although this episode is relatively easy to figure out whodunit, it’s still a blast to watch as the Squint Squad deals with the potential of the supernatural. Also, Angela and Hodges start getting really close.

“Judas on a Pole.” This episode touches again on Brennan’s missing family. The murder victim Booth and Brennan investigate leads to calls from her brother and her father. The mystery deepens and the stakes rise. Zack gets a chance to march centre stage for while in this one also as he defends his doctoral dissertation.

“The Man in the Cell.” Howard Epps returns to haunt Brennan in this episode when he manages to escape prison. The danger threatens to envelop Booth’s son, Parker, and forces Brennan into FBI protection for a time, which she finds intolerable.

“The Girl in the Gator.” This episode was okay, but it was a thinly-disguised jab at the viewers rooting for the Booth/Brennan romance when Booth is taken off the case and a new FBI agent is assigned to the team that strikes romantic sparks with Brennan.

“The Man in the Mansion.” Brennan’s romance with the new FBI agent continues in this episode. Viewers had to buckle down for a bumpy ride for a while as the writers played this story arc out over the next few episodes. Also, Hodges’s secret life as scion of a wealthy family gets threatened with exposure.

“The Bodies in the Book.” Taking a humorous turn, this episode plays of the conceit that someone uses ideas created in Brennan’s books to murder people. It’s especially funny in light of the fact that the whole series was lifted from a series of books.

“The Boneless Bride in the River.” The romantic arc finally ends between Brennan and Sullivan in this episode, much to the relief of all the fans. We didn’t buy it for a minute, but it was uncomfortable while it lasted. The mystery in this episode is really well done.

“The Priest in the Churchyard.” This is another really good mystery and forensic puzzle, and it showcases some of the sizzle between Booth and Brennan as they discuss religious aspects and where those beliefs fit into people’s lives.

“The Killer in the Concrete.” The mystery in this one is okay and follows some conventional twists and turns. But it’s the return of Brennan’s father that the fans were waiting on.

“Spaceman in a Crater.” This episode was a blast. Hodges was unleashed to go wild with his conspiracy theories.

“Glowing Bones in the Old Stone House.” As the series season starts to wind down, Angela and Hodges’ relationship once more is shoved onto the front burner. However, the mystery in this one is well-told and captivates viewers just as much as whether or not Angela and Hodges will get married. Furthermore of interest, Emily Deschanel’s father directed the episode. If might have been more fun to see him direct one where she interacted with her series “father.”

“Stargazer in a Puddle.” The season finale was filled with a lot of plotlines in addition to the murder mystery. The resolution concerning Angela and Hodges’s wedding gets achieved. Zack has to deal with going to Iraq to serve the military. Brennan and her father come to something of a resolution, but Booth has to deal with her father on a more personal level, as well as professional, because her father is wanted by the FBI.

I was happy to see that this box set contains six single-sided discs instead of three double-sided discs like in the last set. On double-sided discs, it gets too complicated tried to figure out which side is up. Plus, I like the cosmetic appeal of having pictures of the actors and actresses on the top of the disc. This also helps make the discs immediately recognizable.

The special features include voiceovers on select episodes, two featurettes, and a gag reel that shows viewers how much fun this series must be to work on. Although the special features are still “bare bones” compared to what viewers want, it does add up to more reasons to pick up the box set.

Bones is one of the best hours of television currently on. If you haven’t discovered the series for yourself and you're looking for something to fill the gap left by the cancellation of Veronica Mars, this series may well be what you’re looking for.

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