TV series – and procedural series like 'Bones,' in particular – are an interesting beast. Even though we're in the last days of the golden age of television, where we see programs come to a conclusion that feels as much a part of the story as its beginning, the driving force of the medium has always been to create a product that can go on as long as possible, thereby generating more and more profit through a reliable and built-in fanbase. In that regard, television is and always has been terrific at beginning things, pretty good at holding out and delaying the inevitable, and fairly green at bringing things to a compelling and satisfying close.
Because TV shows are designed to go on as long as they possibly can, we wind up with series that may have continued on past their respective expiration dates. As a result, there are products like 'Bones: The Complete Eighth Season,' which by its title alone tells you that this little show that could has had more seasons than either of David Boreanaz' previous two series – 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and 'Angel,' respectively – and by virtue of it being on network television, has nearly 200 episodes under its belt. (Whether or not that belt has a buckle that reads "Cocky" or not is unknown.)
For a show that started life as a somewhat lighter spin on the popular forensic shows at the time – think: 'CSI' or 'NCIS' – 'Bones' has evolved into something far removed from those programs, thanks in no small part to the quirky cast at the Jeffersonian Institute and the folks at the FBI, who work together to solve murders that involve corpses in such bad shape they've come to be a knowing nod to the audience that grants the series its grotesque setting, while maintaining enough distance that the jokes and the romance don't wind up putting it in a weird place tonally.
But where the show really stands out amongst the dwindling ranks of such science-based programs is that it lives and dies on the personal stories of its characters, rather than subsisting primarily on the crime aspect of each episode. Make no mistake, the series still works just like it always has: body is found, things get gross, Booth (Boreanaz) and Bones (Emily Deschanel) investigate, Caroline (Patricia Belcher) calls somebody "cherie", and then Booth and Bones have some personal time. (There's a reason these kinds of dramas are called procedurals.) Over the years, the deaths may have gotten more elaborately bizarre, and the characters committing the crimes more ridiculously over the top, but the personal stuff has weirdly gone in the opposite direction.
When the series first began, there was always an undeniable sexual tension around Seeley Booth and the eponymous Dr. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan. The will-they-or-won't-they anxiety generated by the interplay of the characters was a significant portion of the series' initial draw. But, as time wore on, fan expectations grew and their resolve to see yet another reason why the two couldn't get together began to wane, to the degree series creator Hart Hanson and his staff of writers had to finally take that fateful leap forward. The end result was the wish fulfillment of millions of fans and the domestication of an important facet of the show. And now, by season 8, the biggest issue that 'Bones' has to tackle is whether or not Booth and Brennan will ever get the government involved in their relationship.
The question of Booth and Bones getting married actually holds a fair amount of interest in terms of defining the characters and addressing their progression throughout the course of the series. On paper, the two are in no way compatible, but the characters represent two halves of a whole – they are the heart and the mind, the physical and the mental, if you will – a sentiment that is taken to a whole other level as Booth has seemingly helped smooth some of Brennan's rough edges, like her too literal interpretation of the world around her and the hints of her character's Asperger's syndrome. So it stands to reason that marriage would be an enormous undertaking for them both, despite the fact that they already live together and have an infant daughter.
On the other hand, this is season 8, so drawing out the plans for a wedding that's little more than a trifling detail at this point could be perceived as much an inevitability, as it is a sign the series could be running out of gas. So to liven things up, 'Bones' has enlisted the help of a supervillain of sorts, in computer genius/serial killer Christopher Pelant (Andrew Leeds), who has become so obsessed with the group at the Jeffersonian and their colleagues at the FBI that he's positioned himself as the authority in terms of whether or not Booth and Bones can have a happy life together. It's an oddly soapy twist on the typical serial killer plotline that winds up making the antagonist more of a creepy nuisance (like a scorned ex with unfettered access to a couples' Facebook accounts) than a significant villain.
But credit the series for sticking with Pelant as the driving force behind the last few finales and premieres; he may be a character riddled with cliché and imbued with powers from a mid-'90s Sandra Bullock movie, but his presence generates a deeper connection with the show's central relationship and his actions adequately inspire interest in that. For instance, Season 7 ended with Bones on the lam for a murder Pelant committed and subsequently framed her for. As a result, season 8 opens up with a succinct, but satisfying resolution to that cliffhanger that squares things for Bones personally and professionally, but leaves Pelant as a piece on the game board – which the season refers back to a few times and again during the finale. In the end, 'The Secret in the Siege' winds up being a tad repetitious and both parts of its climax (the professional and the personal) lack significance, but the season as a whole still manages to be an entertaining bit of procedural television.
At this point in its run, 'Bones' likely isn't attracting too many new viewers and may have even shed a portion of its faithful followers, but it's managed to stay consistent enough that FOX has seen fit to carry it through season 9 (I wouldn't be surprised to see a 10th season in its future). In that regard, the show must be doing something right, even if the storyline are experiencing diminishing returns. No series can continue in perpetuity, but if the powers that be deem it so, 'Bones' may have a few years before being permanently sent to that big syndication feed in the sky.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Bones: The Complete Eighth Season' comes as a 5 disc 50GB Blu-ray set in the oversized keepcase. The interior side of the insert gives the episode list and special features specific to each disc.
The 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 encoded transfer is quite nice and suits the program well. Most of 'Bones' is shot on a sound stage, and although that would offer an opportunity for some stylistic choices in terms of lighting and composition, the series is filmed in a rather straightforward manner. This means everything is well lit and arranged to be seen on screen without any obstruction or filters of any kind (this goes against the kind of thinking that, say, 'CSI' has on the topic).
As such the fine detail and colors are both plainly evident, though the show does tend to put something of a softer focus on the faces of certain characters. This small degradation in quality aside, most scenes feature superb detail in the actor's faces, as well as fine textures in things like clothing, objects in the background and, of course, the decomposing corpses that kick things off every episode. In that regard, color plays as big a role as detail, as without the muddy reds and yellowing whites, the bodies wouldn't pack nearly as powerful a visceral punch. But, like the fine detail, the vivid colors also manage to make everyday items and articles of clothing stand out and look quit sharp.
Although contrast levels are high, and the image exhibits a nice transition from inky black to pure white, sometimes there is a noticeable difference in detail in lower light sequences – especially if it is filmed outside. Additionally, though it mostly looks great, the image can sometimes feel a little flat in certain sections, but this is a rarity. All in all, this is a nice image that brings out some nice qualities in each episode.
Each episode of 'Bones: The Complete Eighth Season' is given a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that manages to elevate the show's sound design just enough to make it feel different from broadcast. There's not much in the way of distinctive score for the show, but the title sequence from the Crystal Method sound particularly good on this audio mix.
Otherwise, the series is primarily dialogue driven and the audio certainly recognizes this fact, as each character's lines are presented in such a way that they blend seamlessly with other elements on the mix, without upsetting the balance between them. As far as the other elements go, the aforementioned score and the occasional sound effect (mostly squishy body tissue or the occasional gun shot and explosion) all sound quite nice, and are presented with some real authority on this disc.
Although surround sound is in place on these discs, most of the sound is driven though the center and front channels speakers, with the rear channels primarily picking up small bits of atmospheric sound. The effect isn't entirely immersive, but there are some instances where the directionality of the sound generates a pleasant effect.
'Bones: The Complete Eighth Season' is a terrific example of why the procedural show continues to do well, and serves as an example what shows in that genre do to stay on the air and maintain their fanbase so adequately. It's certainly gotten a little long in the tooth, and the sparseness of some of the character arcs is evidence of that, but overall, the show continues to deliver fun, gross, crime-centric episodes that are fulfilling in small doses or perfect for a lazy weekend binge. With good picture and sound and a few supplements that seem geared directly toward those who have stuck with the series for so long, this one is definitely recommended for the fans.