Just in time for tonight’s Bones episode, “The Doctor in the Photo,” Emily Deschanel provides a few key insights into what is going on in Dr. Temperance Brennan’s mind this season. In the December 9th episode, she will face a unique murder case – so unique that it actually gets under her skin and haunts her.
During a recent conference call with NiceGirlsTV, Emily shared that for the first time ever, Brennan strongly identifies with a murder victim. Emily elaborated by explaining, “There is a woman who is killed and she’s a doctor, and when they started listing the qualities of this person, Brennan thinks they sound very familiar — whether they’re physical or personal qualities — and even looking at the photograph of the person who died, it looks like Brennan.” In fact, the entire episode is told through Brennan’s perspective, which makes it interesting, yet terrifying for her.
The fact that Brennan and the victim have so much in common makes Brennan question if she has made the same mistakes with her life. Neither has much of a personal life, and the only people who would miss them are their co-workers – particularly as the victim was friendless and thwarted in her love-life. So the reality that no one missed the victim resonates with Brennan. For as Emily speculated, “Isn’t that almost every human’s worst fear — dying and no one misses you and no one notices? This affects Brennan greatly, and she starts relating to the character, believing that it’s her.”
As the investigation unfolds, Brennan has an epiphany about her own life and realizes how detrimental her decision was to reject Booth last year. It then pushes her to readdress this life-altering question and talk with Booth again about how she feels. Emily revealed, “It forces Brennan into a place where she is bold and is aware of her feelings in a way she hasn’t been before. It takes a huge, very strange experience for her to become aware of her feelings. Hart [Hanson] and I have always talked about how Brennan may have these feelings for Booth, but she’s the last person to know. Here it takes a very strange experience for her to face her feelings and to see them.”
Upon reflection Emily added, “I think that [Brennan] realizes that she isn’t that woman. She has friends. She has people who love her and she loves. She’s not as extreme as this person. It’s always good to have those reminders in life. Who am I? What am I doing with my life? Am I working my whole life away and not spending time with people who are important? Am I not taking a chance on something that I’m going to regret on my death bed? If I die tomorrow, will I be happy with my life as it is right now? Doing this show and doing fake death and Brennan’s fake real death, you are aware of your own mortality. You can’t help thinking about that.”
So Brennan is at a crossroads. She must make a decision about her life, which Emily described as, “You have to become bold in your life, and take chances. I think that’s what Brennan is doing. I think that’s not a bad thing. I think that’s a wonderful thing to make the most of our lives while we have it. We’re not here that long. Brennan took that chance. Whether or not it worked is not as important as the fact that she did take that chance. I think it is a happy ending in that way — even if it’s hard and sad, but life is hard and sad at times. The whole point is we get through those times. She still has all those people in her life and she still has all those friends and those people who care about her. That’s what really matters.”
Thus, the case for Brennan is very personal. Emily shared, “She’s facing her own mortality and also looking at her life, seeing what she would be leaving behind when she dies. You don’t see that side of Brennan very often. She becomes very vulnerable trying to solve this case.” To go through the spectrum of emotions that Brennan does in this episode was a challenge, but also refreshing. Because the character is normally so anti-reactionary, so uninvolved with the victims, to have her suddenly empathize to such a degree that she feels that she is just like the victim was a lot to take on. However, this was a welcome change for Emily and she embraced the emotional challenge. So much so, that it is now her favorite episode of Bones.
In addition to reconsidering her choice not to pursue a relationship with Booth, Brennan is beginning to realize that her decision to abandon her job at the Jeffersonian Institute was also a mistake. Emily explained, “Brennan realized when she was away from [her job], how much she missed it. It’s a small factor, but not a big one. She realizes that she’s good at this and that she enjoys this. She loves solving crimes and she loves doing it with the team she does it with. She loves seeing the results of her work immediately — well, not always immediately. You can actually affect the world when you’re solving crimes as opposed to identifying ancient remains. Sure it can impact science in such a huge way. Right now, you’re solving a crime, you’re putting people behind bars, you’re stopping new crimes from happening and you’re bringing some tiny bit of peace to family members. I think she likes being that person. I think she recognized that when she was away from it.”
Emily says she feels it has been nice to see the evolution of her character over the years; she is now more open, and allows herself to express her quirky-side more. Those moments are particularly fun for Emily and she tries to ensure that there are a few in every episode.
Also, for Emily, nothing is better than characters with contradictions – and she loves exploring those contradictions. While Emily admits that she is nothing like Brennan, she appreciates the differences and relishes portraying them.
As far as how Emily feels about Brennan’s slow transition from emotional-distance to emotional-involvement, she said, “I was surprised when she started to open up more. A couple seasons ago, I just love the scene where she asked Sweets to help her learn facial expressions. She’s kind of almost on the autistic spectrum — almost Asbergery, not quite — but has some characteristics that fit into that. She doesn’t really understand how to read people’s emotions. I love that she recognized that she didn’t know how to do this and get better at it. . . . I love so many of her qualities, especially when she’s trying to grow as a person and open up.” To witness this amazing transformation is a gift and Emily is loving every minute of it.
Working on Bones has been a joy and a privilege for Emily. She gleefully shared, “I’m so lucky to be doing the show and the show I love doing and the character I have such affection for. I’m just incredibly lucky. . . I’ve ALWAYS been excited when we’ve been picked up for another season and I think that will continue. . . Right now I’m enjoying myself and loving it and counting my lucky stars.”
In the meantime, look for Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars) to add to this week’s mystery, playing a night watchman who may or may not be the ghost of Christmas Past. Will Dr. Brennan get a Christmas miracle? Tune in and find out when the “The Doctor in the Photo” episode of Bones airs Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 8/7c on FOX.