The Significant Other's Other: Bones, Season 6

Usually, I dislike the use of the "other" (man or woman) to disrupt a TV couple's growing relationship. It seems so contrived and often doesn't shed a good light on the couple since their constant switcheroos make them appear shallow.

Booth's girlfriend Hannah in Season 6, however, is done right.

This is my third time through the season after a hiatus of several years. (I'm behind on the show by three seasons; I recently started over.) The use of Hannah is so skillfully done, I have to hand out kudos to the writers. KUDOS, WRITERS!

To recap, Booth is terribly hurt by Brennan's rejection in Season 5. Although they have remained friends, he is desperate to move on with his life. He begins dating a woman whom he (wrongly) determines to be totally unlike Brennan (he makes a comment to this effect early in the season). In reality, he is dating a more socially adept, extroverted form of Brennan.

Booth definitely has a "type."

Regarding the Booth-Hannah relationship, the writers make several intelligent moves:

1. Brennan and Hannah become friends. 

Brennan and Booth are partners, and their partnership is important to both of them; Booth has no desire to sabotage his prior relationship in favor of his new one. He is touchingly relieved when Brennan and Hannah adjust to the new dynamic. His relationships are about affirmation, not destruction a la Emily in Friends. Hannah is NOT that type of "other"--the awful new wife/girlfriend who insists that her husband sever all connections with his past.

Bones is about real adults, not overgrown adolescents.

2. Brennan gets to see how a relationship with Booth could work. 

End, "The Sum of the Parts in the Whole"
Brennan is (understandably) terrified of a committed relationship. She rejects Booth in Season 5 out of fear that she will hurt him through her inability to make their relationship work.

By watching Hannah with Booth, she is able to see the day-to-day reality (which she probably over-imagined in her head). She can even see how her knowledge of Booth would aid her in such a relationship--especially since she uses that knowledge to aid Hannah on several occasions.

3. Booth doesn't drop Hannah when Brennan tells him of her feelings. 

This is so remarkably insightful, I applaud every time I see the scene.

It takes place in the episode "The Doctor in the Photo" (guest starring the equally remarkable Enrico Colantoni). It is quite painful to watch since Brennan breaks down when Booth gently tells her, "I'm with Hannah now." It also clarifies that Booth is in fact a really good guy.

Sure, on the romance side of things, we would all love him to say, "Oh, yes, Brennan, I love you too!"

Enrico Colantoni isn't relevant to
this post: I just like him!
But what kind of guy would that make him? He has vocally and physically (Hannah has moved in) committed himself to Hannah. He loves her. He is not the kind of guy to be swayed by the emotion of the moment. His refusal to walk away from Hannah reassures viewers that in the future, he won't walk away from Brennan.

4. Booth is truly hurt when Hannah refuses his proposal. 

I have my own theory about that proposal--for one thing, it is out
of character. I don't mean the writers messed up; I mean, Booth acts out of character within the established parameters of the show (he does a characteristic thing out of a character). For a patient and insightful man, it is out of character for him to jump the gun.

There are some subtle clues that by this point in the season, Booth has realized that he still has feelings for Brennan (even before she confesses her own). He isn't going to act on them, but he has them. There are also several clues that he is as enamored with her as he was before.

Which doesn't mean he doesn't love Hannah, especially since he is not a man to back out of his commitments.

Yet he pushes Hannah on the subject of marriage too fast, too far. And she says, "No."

At some level, it seems that Booth wants something to happen now--either a firm commitment in one direction or freedom in the other.

In other words, Hannah IS the rebound girlfriend.

Which doesn't mean Booth isn't legitimately unhappy. Oftentimes on television, the male lead, when dumped, becomes a comical figure. Booth, however, is allowed to be hurt and to show his hurt. He is near tears when he discusses the breakup with Brennan.

"What is it with women who don't want what I'm offering here?" he asks her, and this isn't mere male petulance or vanity. Booth's question is a valid one. He is stable. He makes a good income. He is trustworthy. He is handsome (if that matters). He likes kids. Why is marriage such a terrible option?

Bones is ultimately a rather conservative show, in the best possible way. It debates the accepted mores of orthodox society (what most people at the "center" seem to more or less accept) without either cynicism or defensiveness. Marriage and family are normal, acceptable things to care about.

So let our characters care.


Eugene said...

I thought this arc also did a good job of revealing (without explicitly pointing it out) the underlying nature of Booth's character and why he ends up giving women the wrong idea and confusing himself.

At the first, second and even third glance, Booth is the guy on the cover of a romance novel, Mr. Action & Adventure! And so he attracts women (like Hannah) who have a thing for Mr. Action & Adventure.

Except that in his heart of hearts, Booth is a younger version of Tom Selleck's Police Commissioner Reagan in Blue Bloods (a better cop drama than I expected): the pater familias who spends every Sunday morning at Mass and every Sunday afternoon eating dinner with his big, extended family.

The problem is, Booth hasn't admitted that to himself either. So it comes as a surprise when the woman in his life figures it out first and gets spooked.

Katherine Woodbury said...

Good point! After all, Booth and Hannah met in a combat zone!

Booth's fundamental character also explains why he is so good for Brennan. While Hannah and Brennan share many qualities, Hannah is Ms. Action & Adventure. Brennan, on the other hand, despite her forays into Action & Adventure, has a deep-seated need for stability, something Booth offers in abundance.