On Veterans Day, Bones Addresses the Scars of War

Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 12 2012 8:45 PM

Bones Addresses the Scars of War

David Boreanaz on Bones(FOX)

Nearly 2.5 million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan—and that’s not including a few fictional former soldiers and Marines from the TV schedule. John Reese and Joss Carter from Person of Interest, Sam Hanna from NCIS: Los Angeles, Steve McGarrett from Hawaii Five-0, Auggie Anderson from Covert Affairs, Seeley Booth from Bones, and Nicholas Brody from Homeland have all served in at least one of America’s most recent wars—and many of them still bear the scars. (Person of Interest’s Reese, Scandal’s Huck, and Homeland’s Carrie Mathison prove that TV’s CIA agents also suffer for their service.)

Bones has occasionally focused on Seeley Booth’s military service—as with his recent tour in Afghanistan—but the Fox series deserves special praise for its newest episode, which looked at the hidden toll of war, and was aired on the federal holiday commemorating Veterans Day (the day itself fell on Sunday this year). Executive producer Hart Hanson told me via email that it wasn’t written specifically with Veterans Day in mind—it “was one of the four bonus episodes we shot in Season 7 knowing they’d be placed in Season 8.” But the scheduling was “the network’s (very good) idea.”

Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel), a forensic anthropologist at the Jeffersonian Institute, tasks the “squinterns”—the junior scientists working with her team—with solving as many cases as possible from the institute’s “hall of hopeless cases.” (If you’re not familiar with Bones, it follows a team of elite forensic scientists as they attempt to identify human remains and help the FBI solve crimes.) The way the group came to focus on one apparently unfathomable death was the stuff of Procedurals 101, but the resolution—which involved a veteran who suffered severe psychological damage during his service in the first Gulf War, and his heroic sacrifice following the 9/11 attacks—was unexpected and moving. Even better, it fit beautifully into the Bones mythology. We already knew that many of the Jeffersonian’s scientists had worked to identify bodies at the site of the 9/11 attacks, but this episode showed us how the time they spent amid the rubble still haunts them. It also looked at the ways the events of that day affected the interns, who would’ve been teenagers in 2001.


Of course, it’s not unusual for TV shows to emphasize the public-spiritedness of civil servants. Procedurals that follow the work lives of cops, district attorneys, and federal agents tend to focus on commitment to service—judging from television, you’d think no one ever joined their local police department or signed up for the Army for the attractive benefits package. I understand that viewers would rather spend their TV time watching heroes at work, rather than time-serving pension chasers, but just once outside of the confines of premium cable, I’d like to see a show about a decent public servant who nevertheless had a realistic attitude to his job. But now and then I enjoy an all-out celebration of patriotism—and tonight’s Bones was a great one.

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 2:35 PM Germany’s Nationwide Ban on Uber Lasted All of Two Weeks
The Vault
Sept. 16 2014 12:15 PM “Human Life Is Frightfully Cheap”: A 1900 Petition to Make Lynching a Federal Offense
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 1:39 PM The Case of the Missing Cerebellum How did a Chinese woman live 24 years missing part of her brain?
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 8:41 PM You’re Cut, Adrian Peterson Why fantasy football owners should release the Minnesota Vikings star.