One of the unique things about Bones has always been the fact that it's compelling to watch despite the lack of overt tension between the main characters. It's completely believable given what these people have been through together, and it's part of what makes this show so comforting to watch. To a large extent, these are normal people having normal problems, and they face them with humor and panache. Last season it all paid off; relationships reached breaking points organically, inertia naturally transformed into drama. All the tension that was bubbling under the surface gradually broke out.
But this season, the writers chose to hit the reset button. And restoring that lack of tension has had two effects. One, it's made the show kind of boring. Two, it's made Brennan's story all the more heartbreaking. You get the sense that everyone has settled into their roles, but for her it's a rut, and she's miserable, and she can't get out of it. Increasingly, our characters' emotional lives take place outside the workplace, and so Bones is left out of it. And given that she's always been the character with the most agency on the show, it's become a little difficult to watch her spinning her wheels. Her character arc has become all too realistic (not something I would normally complain about, but Bones is escapist entertainment).
This episode goes a long way to returning the show to its former glory. It's not just because Booth/Hannah ended, but because the writers showed their hands brilliantly. In the absolutely heartbreaking scene in the end, the writers encapsulate everything that's wonderful in the show and everything that's gone a bit off this season. What Booth asks of Bones is precisely what we, the viewer, have been getting this season. And seeing Bones' disappointment in being allowed so much, and yet not enough, exactly mirrors how I've been feeling about the show. Yes the glories, and the cases, and the laughs and the drinking, they're all great, but they're not enough. A spark has been missing. And in this episode, for the first time, I feel like the writers have relit that spark.
And oh, my, god, David Boreanaz. His subtle work when Hannah rejected him was fantastic; he didn't have to say anything because it was all there in his eyes. If his speech didn't put a tear in your eye, you're not human. It's those flashes of season five Angel coming through, that endemic sadness underlying the heroics.
And now I'm super excited for the rest of the season!