"I'm not normal," Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) tells her colleagues at one point during the 12-season run of Bones. "I'm extraordinary." True enough, but the final episode of the procedural gives the forensic anthropologist a brief taste of what it would be like to be normal, or at least to have an average amount of intelligence. The blast that decimated the Jeffersonian at the end of the penultimate episode also bruised Dr. Brennan's big, beautiful brain. What happens in the Bones series finale, is pretty traumatic for her. SPOILERS ahead. Brennan experiences a debilitating brain injury that almost brings her career to an end.
But Bones would never go out like that. Nor, apparently, would it kill a major character on its way out of the door. Brennan's father Max was murdered earlier in the season by the same people who rigged the lab with explosives, but otherwise, this run of episodes has been relatively bloodless. Even in its tragic moments (ahem, the death of Sweets), Bones has never enjoyed wallowing in tragedy. So though Booth, Hodgins, and Angela were trapped in the lab along with Brennan when the bomb went off, the friends and colleagues survive in tact... even Baby Hodgela.
It was the bombers' intention to kill, but they nearly succeed in doing something much worse. The children of a man who Booth was ordered to kill in the line of the duty were looking for revenge on the former Army Ranger. (Not that he hides behind the order. Booth personally owns the kill, because he's honorable like that.) They would have gotten it by taking Brennan's life's work away from her, as well as the brilliance that kept her company long before she was surrounded by this loyal and understanding family. Or they would have, if Brennan were as alone as she used to be.
It's excruciating to watch her grasp at connections in the wake of the explosion, unable to understand things that she knows she should be able to understand. It's a callback to the identity crisis she experienced at the end of Season 1 when Dr. B finds out that her family was forced into hiding and that Temperance Brennan isn't even her real name. ("My father was a science teacher. My mother was a bookkeeper. My brother — I have a brother.")
"I know who you are," Booth said to her then, even though they'd only been partnered for a year. And he has more to say now. "My brain, the way I think is who I am," she worries. "If the thing that made me me is gone, who I am?" She doesn't ask, "If I'm not who I was, will I still have this life?" But that's the question that Booth answers anyway:
I don't know about that, but Booth and Brennan certainly got a better ending than The X-Files pair. Brennan's bruise starts to heal, just in time for her to wrench Booth's wrist back into place so he can take out Kovac with his super-sniper skills. They find him, by the way, because the best of Dr. Brennan's intelligence and compassion now lives in each one of her Squinterns. Even if she hadn't recovered, her legacy would be alive in the scientists she trained. The show's winning combination of hard science and police work breaks one last case, though it's only the last case if you're a fan.
Life will go on without the audience in the Bones universe; it's only an ending in one sense. Brennan decides to keep her position at the Jeffersonian, agreeing with Cam that Hodgins should be administrative head in Cam's absence. ("I'm the king of the lab!" "Just until I get back.") Cam and Arastoo will take a leave to retrieve their beautiful foster family and get them settled. It's a sweet nod to the recurring Bones theme of abandoned and mistreated children that the two most mature members of the ensemble decide to open their home to three teenage boys. Angela's trust of her husband's admittedly paranoid suggestions saves the Jeffersonian records, so the found won't be lost again. Aubrey trades in his Los Angeles promotion for a local one, because leaving these people seems like a bad move, both personally and professionally. (First, he'll drown his breakup sorrows in fried chicken with quirky profiler Karen. I'm more invested in their relationship after 45 seconds than I ever was in his and Jessica's.) Caroline even gets one more comment in about Booth's "broad shoulders." It's all wins, all around.
The fatal flaw for a series finale is the attempt to do too much. The Bones finale isn't going to be on lists with Six Feet Under's masterpiece of a final episode or the divisive U-turn of How I Met Your Mother. But it's a satisfying farewell for fans who have stuck with the show for over a decade and who didn't want some eleventh hour deviation from its celebration of intelligence, collaboration, and the noble work of giving the dead back their names. (Brennan still remembers every one.)
As they pack up the Jeffersonian for its repairs, Angela asks if their home will be altered much. Hodgins, who lost his ability to walk last season and clawed his way into accepting it, is the person who gets the sage line about the consistency of change. The minor adjustments in the Bones series finale provided enough drama for a rollicking episode with all the character moments I needed, but didn't shake the sense of purpose that drives Booth, Brennan, and the rest of their colleagues. It's the FBI agent and the anthropologist who get the last bit of screen time, because it was their willingness to see what made the other extraordinary (even if it wasn't the qualities they expected) that made the Jeffersonian more than the sum of its geniuses. "It's a special place," Brennan says to her partner. So was Bones.