Sunday, May 25, 2008

Big, long, windbagger of a post about "Bones," which includes - wait for it - fan-fic.

Not since I was 17 years old have I written fan-fic. (For the "Scream" movies. I ended up meeting one of my very best friends, so it wasn't a totally nerdy experience.) But I was so fucked up after the "Bones" finale that I felt totally compelled to write down exactly what I thought happened to Zack Addy and what I think should happen on "Bones" next season to explain it all. (Not explain it all away, since what's done is done.) I posted this on MySpace, reached a catharsis, and will now let the healing begin just as soon as people stop making fun of me for writing a fan-fic. (Not that kind of fan-fic.)

The nerdiness ensues after the jump, and be on the lookout for a new HuffPo on why good shows kill their best characters.

So, I had to write about why I'm so abnormally screwed up by the season finale of "Bones." I have not been this rocked by fictional characters since Randy died in "Scream 2," the death scene of whom I have still - after over 10 years - not watched. But "Bones" was just...ugh, my week was a blur.

So, what happened? It was revealed - inexplicably - that Zack Addy (played by Eric Millegan), the socially-deficient, astronomically intelligent, downright adorable former assistant to Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and forensic anthropologist was the apprentice to a cannibalistic serial killer named Gormagon. Apparently, Zack the logic junkie was so easily swayed by the premise that preserving the human race as a whole justified the killing (and human consumption) of those involved in secret societies, which are detrimental to the human race, but also that the historical human experience as a whole was more important than a single person's life. Zack's logic was found to be flawed when Bones told him he went against the last point when he spared his best friend, Dr. Jack Hodgins (TJ Thyne), in the explosion he set up as a diversion for the real killer (or someone else?) to steal evidence from the lab.

And as I typed this, after rewatching the episode, this time not through tears and gut-wrenching anticipation, I realized how shoddy and loosely thrown together this concept was on the writers' part. I'm disappointed.

I'm going to be writing my third "Bones"-themed piece for Huffington Post on why shows make the creative decisions to get rid of the most beloved characters on TV. From a storytelling perspective, it makes sense - to be compelling, a storyteller must, from time to time, raise the stakes. That means something has to happen to someone. Could be good, bad, or anything in between, but it has to be something, and, at least once, it has to be something BIG. The characters on "Bones" had certainly had their ups and downs, whether it was Bones finding out about her family, Booth's son being threatened by a different serial killer, Angela's old boyfriend being killed, Hodgins and Bones nearly becoming victims of a yet another serial killer or Zack being deployed to Iraq in a scientific/medical capacity. Good things have happened too: Angela and Hodgins grew together in one of the most beautifully and naturally formed office romances on TV, Bones and Booth got to go undercover, Zack got his doctorate and earned his spot at the Jeffersonian.

But going back through the show, there were no signs that Zack would be so easily swayed by such a far-out serial killer, at least not enough to kill another person himself, which is what he confessed to doing. Sure, Zack could be characterized as "kooky." He most likely had Asperger's, which caused him to be less apt to be social and emotional and even come across as a little bit chilly.

As for his physical and emotional ability to commit murder? In season one, he didn't want to kill the bugs used to eat flesh off of bones because "they have names." In season two, he punched Hodgins with all the force of a nun puppet, but beforehand said he "never saw the logic" of violence. The punch "seemed to be the most practical way to get [Hodgins] to stop talking and get back to work. But [Zack] didn’t realize how much it would hurt." And, in another season two episode, the last time Zack was blown up, he stated that he "hate[d] this part" - when it was necessary to saw into a human head. Not a skull that had been decayed, a human head with flesh, brains, hair...a face.
This, from a guy who we are expected to believe bought the logical argument that stabbing a member of a secret society and cutting out his heart was justified. Have we ever seen Zack stab anything? Yes - in season two, all the "squints" take turns stabbing a dummy. And Zack stabs like my grandmother. He also stabbed a melon in the beginning of this season to determine what kind of knife was used as a murder weapon. This time, he's not quite as reluctant, having not waited for Hodgins to prepare something else, and claims that going to Iraq made him a "man of action." Maybe a hint? Could be, since the writers knew they'd be wrapping up Gormagon this season and were leaving anyone open to being a suspect. But the decision had not been made yet, and stabbing a piece of fruit for the purpose of obtaining a mold for a murder weapon is not the same thing as cutting out someone's heart. Besides, if anything, Zack would look at this in a purely scientific manner - he is not meant to be simulating a murder, he is trying to get an accurate mold.

And as for logic? He's been asked about it before, by an authority figure in the first season. Besides not seeing the logic in violence, here is an exchange with a State Department Agent:

Pickering: Hypothetically, you have a piece of information.
Zack: Secret and meaningful information?
Pickering: Yes. And the security of the country at stake. Could I bribe you to
give it to me?
Zack: No.
Pickering: Threaten you?
Zack: No.
Pickering: What if I made a reasonable, rational argument? Very persuasive.
Zack: Merely persuasive?
Pickering: Irrefutable. I make an irrefutable argument as to why you should give me this piece of information. Would you do so?
Zack: Not without checking with Dr. Brennan or Angela first. See what they said. Maybe Agent Booth if he talked to me. He probably wouldn't. I'd check with Dr. Hodgins, but he'd say it was all part of some conspiracy so I mostly only take his advice on women.

He gave her sass. Rebuffed. And with whom did he confer about Gormagon's "irrefutable" argument?

Now, the discussion on the boards is that all of the so-called "evidence" that Zack must have been forced into confessing, or must be lying, or couldn't kill someone came from the time before he was sent to Iraq. It was clear from the moment he stepped back into the Jeffersonian in the middle of the first episode of the season that something happened to him. Zack's entire demeanor was different. To me, he looked traumatized. While he may not have been a soldier in combat, there are plenty of cases of PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder - in those who have been in Iraq but served in non-combat roles. Zack is clearly a victim. (And, if you can consider the fact that some medical professionals specializing in PTSD want to have it classified as an injury and not a mental defect, implying that a victim was mentally or emotionally vulnerable going into a situation before a traumatic event, nothing that happened prior to Zack's deployment would be taken into account when analyzing his post-Iraq actions and condition.)

So, here is my theory:

Zack was exposed to something in Iraq that instilled in him the theory that human life is expendable. As someone who has built his career on identifying the remains of the dead and abandoned, he has always felt this to be untrue. Why would he take the position of identifying remains for the sole purpose of solving their murder and returning whatever was left of them to their families if he thought human life was expendable? But the soldiers he meets and his fellow scientists and doctors have seen thousands of dead bodies and have become numb to the sight of them. The remains they've been identifying are that of innocents - entire familes, children bombed in school, men and women in marketplaces and mosques. Maybe this happens: Zack, while being escorted to one site, sees an explosion and witnesses people who were walking around just seconds before dying, blown up, parts of them scattered all over. A soldier remarks, "Don't worry. You'll probably see them again soon."

This kind of exposure everyday for weeks causes him to withdraw and slip up in his work. He wonders if his work serves any purpose anymore, if he even serves any sort of purpose anymore. If he could, wouldn't the better option be to prevent the deaths of innocents? But Zack knows he can't offer that - his gift is his intellect. But his intellect isn't saving lives, and his intellect can no longer humanize his victims. There are too many, and they're starting to become all the same. His skills are becoming useless - expendable. And he can't even do his best work anymore, so he is becoming useless - expendable.

He is asked to see a shrink, who diagnoses him with PTSD and he is evacuated. Worried that such a diagnosis will put a stigma on him at the Jeffersonian, he lies about it upon his return, saying he "failed to assimilate." He knows that everyone else knows that's true, and no questions will be asked. But upon seeing a possible replacement for him, he's reminded again - he's expendable.

Weeks go by, but he's only happy at work, with his other family. He's happy less and less, and truly starts to wonder if he has a place in the world anymore. Every case he picks up, he remembers how many people are killed in a day at home and over there. Even his closest friends have been in situations in which they were close to death. He might as well be one of them. He's starting to quietly self-destruct.

Fast forward to three months before his confession: Zack meets a charismatic figure, Gormagon, who takes an interest in his previously ignored intellect, and talks about preserving the entire human race by killing those who seeks to undermine it. He can become an apprentice who helps him achieve this. He has several apprentices at a time, and they come and go - they're expendable. Zack receives his affirmation. If he joins this cause, it justifies what he has convinced himself of since seeing the horrors of war - he is expendable. But the human race will go on.

So, he joins up with Gormagon, feeling as if he's found a safe place that has validated his feelings. Some of it is uncomfortable - the cannibalism - but the cause overshadows the benediction he's received and the logic backing it up. He follows what Gormagon says, but can't bring himself to commit murder. Another apprentice, a teenage boy, kills the lobbyist himself and allows Zack to take care of the remains for Gormagon. The teenage boy ends up trying to trump Gormagon's authority, so Gormagon kills him and probably eats him. (No reason to try to extend that storyline.)

Imagine that dialogue though:

BOOTH: Where is this guy Zack?

ZACK: Ummm...

BOOTH: We need to find him.

ZACK: You're not going to.


Why would Zack lie? While he was confessing, he was still probably on painkillers, and maybe if we accept that he'd been brainwashed, he'd convinced himself that he'd done it. Or maybe Gormagon told him to claim responsibility.

After a while, Zack reaches a breaking point. He starts to feel like there isn't any further he could go with Gormagon, and he's been a part of so much terror that killing himself is justifiable. Who wouldn't deserve to die after what he's been a part of? Besides, sparing one life doesn't threaten the human experience as a whole - he's expendable. It's time to start coming clean, but only if he won't have to face the people he loves, the people he knows this would hurt deeply. That knowledge depresses him more, and he starts preparing his end. He gets his opportunity when Gormagon wants the silver skeleton back.

He sends the lobbyist's jawbone to the lab himself to start setting up the explosion, knowing Hodgins will test the water in which it was boiled and find out it came from his apartment.

He knows the explosion will put Hodgins in harm's way, so he tries to design the explosion to affect only himself, actually expecting to kill himself in the blast and not merely cause injury.

He knows Brennan will examine the jawbone herself and find out about the teeth he pulled from the skulls in the Jeffersonian's "limbo" room. Two episodes earlier, he realized that others had access to all prior evidence when he saw Clark Edison examining a skull he'd worked on.

Zack says he was planning on sneaking out of the hospital once everyone left, but they wouldn't leave him by himself. I would say it would be to finish the job he started in the lab, to avoid facing them all, and not to rejoin Gormagon.

I have two theories on why he didn't accept painkillers. Either he felt he deserved to feel pain, knowing what he'd done and what they would find out. Or, Zack, being Zack, didn't like feeling detached from his own mind. He said the morphine "dulled [his] intellect." Or, perhaps, the fear of polka dots.

And finally, he sees how much he is cared for and how much his actions will hurt the people he loves, and Bones finally makes him see how his logic was wrong all along. She tells him that he's wrong - if logic said that the life of one single person didn't matter, then he would not have spared the life of someone who considered him to be an invaluable part of his life. And if someone existed who found him to be an invaluable part of his life, then he wasn't what he thought he was all along - expendable.

The one solid element that kept him convinced he wasn't worth anything was disproven by the one person whose opinion he valued the most - Dr. Brennan, who also found him invaluable.

So, that's how we can think of Zack Addy now. That's what I'm going to think. I think it makes a lot of sense. Maybe I took some poetic justice, but not nearly as much as the "Bones" writers did when they made Zack a serial killer's apprentice and a murderer himself.

A lof of us Zack Addy/Eric Millegan fans are seriously going through a mourning process over this character, and he isn't even dead. But going by the Kubler-Ross model of the seven stages of grief:

  1. Denial: No way Zack is the apprentice/killer!
  2. Anger: I hate Hart Hanson - he kills puppies and laughs.
  3. Bargaining: Um, see my unnecessarily long theory/"fan-fic" above and below.
  4. Depression: I'm never watching "Bones" again.
  5. Acceptance: I really want to see David Boreanaz naked with a beer hat again.
It's odd, but if I'm crazy, then so are Matt Roush and countless other critics who probably share my sentiment that Eric Millegan was the biggest casualty of the writers' strike.

How can we resolve this by doing Zack and Eric Millegan justice? Here's my overly long theory in (lordy, let the mocking begin) fan-fic form:

Hodgins cannot believe that Zack could have killed someone. It has been the one thing he has not been able to accept, even moreso than the involvement with Gormagon. And, still feeling guilty about exposing Zack to the secret society/conspiracy stuff, feels he owes him something. Hodgins has Caroline Julian send Zack's confession (which we never heard) to a forensic linguist, a profession that does with words what the "Bones" crew does with remains.

I'd like to picture her as someone who looks and acts vaguely like Bones, who we would later find out is the daughter of one of the three aunts her father (Ryan O'Neal) mentioned at one point, which would send Zack and Hodgins on a mission to get DNA from her to match it with up with Bones. A fun and undepressing way for Bones to uncover more about her family! Maybe in another episode. And the woman's name would be Dr. Molly McInerney. She has doctorates in linguistics and criminal psychology, and also got a juris doctorate for fun. And she is convinced that Gormagon is the evil guy from the Smurfs.

Anyway, Dr. McInerney gets this folder on her desk at about 10:00 at night, right before leaving. She doesn't want to, but it's in her nature to read what's on her desk upon her discovery. Prima facie, it's grossing her out. But then:

MOLLY: No, you didn't.

NANCY (her assistant): Didn't what?

MOLLY: This person is lying.

NANCY: About what? A murder?


NANCY: Lying about not killing someone?

MOLLY: Lying about killing someone.

NANCY: So, it looks like we're going to be getting someone out of prison tomorrow? I'll clear your schedule...

MOLLY: No, he still did some pretty heinous stuff. He's in a psych ward. But not murder. No way. The language doesn't support it at all. I want this person's files, everything you can get me, on my desk before I get here tomorrow. I want to know why he lied about killing someone.

NANCY: What's his name?

MOLLY: Zachary Addy.

Yay! The proverbial ball is rolling. Molly goes over the files and learns more about Zack, finds out he went to Iraq and instantly considers PTSD. Also turns out that she and Hodgins went to college together and slept with each other three times before getting sick of each other. She heads over to the Jeffersonian to see him. Angela (who, according to the spoilers, is no longer with Hodgins past the beginning of the season - booooooo!) sees a strange woman walking around with Hodgins, as well as Cam and Bones. (Obviously, this is a sub-plot.) Cam agrees with Angela that it's pretty uncouth of Hodgins to bring a potential date to work when Angela is clearly still smarting from their breakup. Bones says their relationship is over, why wouldn't he date someone else? Thanks, Bones.

Molly and Hodgins are talking in a private office about Zack. It's clear that Hodgins has been a wreck over this, has visited Zack a few times, and knows he's not doing well, but he doesn't know why. But, as those scary sides said, he feels responsible for all of this happening. Molly agrees to go visit Zack and try to give Hodgins answers, but wants to talk to Bones too.

This meeting eventually happens, but again, Angela sees it from a distance and has no idea what's going on. She and Cam watch Molly and Bones speak politely, then sees Bones get a troubled look on her face and invite Molly into her office. Ugh, that bitch!

Bones later brings up PTSD with Booth, who acknowledges it as a legitimately crippling condition, talking about what it feels like to be a sniper and tells one story of a guy he knew who killed his twin brother, girlfriend and himself. Bones knows this means that even if it explained Zack's actions, he would still be forever scarred and would never work in his field again. Booth says he should have known Zack might have been susceptible and later wonders if he should have noticed the signs. Bones assures him that in someone like Zack, it wouldn't have been obvious.

Molly goes to visit Zack, who wants to reject her psychology. He has reconciled his failed logic and feels he was let off easy and accepts his fate. Molly forces him to talk about what he saw, but notices how detached he is emotionally. She cuts right to the chase:

MOLLY: Zack, how long have you wanted to kill yourself?

ZACK: Is this what you deduced from my confession?

MOLLY: Why does that matter?

ZACK: Because I've worked with someone who does with human remains what you do with words and she does not speculate on her evidence. And she taught me to do the same.

MOLLY: Maybe it's what I've deduced from your words as well as the words of those with whom you've worked very closely.

ZACK: So, you're basing my mental state on words I said while I was on morphine and admitting criminal acts to people who have a biased opinion of me, and the words of those very people?

MOLLY: These people know you extremely well.

ZACK: But they're not me. The difference between what you do and what my aforementioned former co-worker -

MOLLY: Dr. Brennan?

ZACK: Yes. The difference is that my aforementioned former co-worker doesn't claim to know what the subject she is studying was thinking because she does not have access to that information.

MOLLY: So, there's no way I can tell what's going on in your head because it's not my head.

ZACK: Yes.

MOLLY: What if I told you that as a forensic psychologist who specializes in linguistics it's my job to take my evidence and apply it to behavior reported by others who have observed my subjects?

ZACK: I'd say that you're ruining the purity of your evidence. You're tainting your evidence with conjecture.

MOLLY: And I'd say your logic in justifying murder was tainted by your extreme emotional state, rendering it flawed, and rendering you a victim of your own doing.

ZACK: I think what people usually say in situations like is is "touche."

MOLLY: That's accurate. Have you tried to kill yourself lately?

ZACK: What evidence do you have that I might be suicidal?

MOLLY: The actions that you described in your confession are all self-destructive. Including your lie about murdering the lobbyist.

ZACK: You can tell that I lied?

MOLLY: I knew you lied as soon as I read it.

ZACK: How?

MOLLY: Everything else you described was as if you did it, because you did. You didn't describe killing anyone. You described seeing someone being stabbed in the heart by someone else but as a scientist, you know what it would be like. Your language went from first person to third. Obviously not in a way someone without three doctorates could recognize, but this is what I get paid the big bucks for.

ZACK: Three doctorates?

MOLLY: Yes. How many do you have?

ZACK: One. And a half.

MOLLY: I see.

ZACK: In what?

MOLLY: Forensic psychology, linguistics and a juris doctorate. But that last one was mostly for fun. And a guy.

ZACK: So, you are well-versed in dissecting the written and spoken word and using that evidence to support psychological speculation.


ZACK: Then what is your conclusion? Besides my wanting to kill myself?

MOLLY: You have Asperger's Syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder. The first one you obviously knew about, but you've been showing symptoms of the latter since you returned from Iraq. According to your confession and your friends.

ZACK: Suicidal thoughts are symptomatic of PTSD.


ZACK: Then why did we have this conversation if you knew the answer to your own question?

MOLLY: Because I want you to say it.

ZACK: I want to kill myself.

MOLLY: You know what I mean, Zack.

ZACK: And you know I have Asperger's and there's only one way for me to say it.

MOLLY: I want you to tell me why. I have a feeling you have never told anyone what you've been thinking about, and if you have not shared this information with anyone else, then you have not heard anything to make you consider that you might be wrong.

ZACK: But I'm not wrong about wanting to kill myself. I actually do.


ZACK: I'm expendable.

MOLLY: This is what you learned in Iraq.

ZACK: Yes.

MOLLY: Talk to me about Iraq.

(See theory above, I won't type it all again.)

MOLLY: Zack, do you realize that we're trying to get PTSD classified as a combat injury as opposed to a mental defect?

ZACK: Implying that there's a possible recovery?

MOLLY: Exactly. There's a chance that you won't spend a very long time here. You'll be able to go home and live your life again.

ZACK: No, I won't. No one will ever want me working with them knowing what I've done. And I'll never be trusted by anyone at the Jeffersonian. My work was my life, and it's over.

Molly reports back to Hodgins and tells him he could be released if he responds to treatment, but not while he is a danger to himself, which he clearly is.

So, that's a real downer, but at least he won't be a psycho.

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Blogger ThorGuy said...

Wow, that was really good. I was feeling upset after watching the episode and now I feel better. I am officially accepting your explanation, and maybe somebody influential will see your post and hire you as a writer.
Pam (ThorGuy's mom)

2:26 AM  
Blogger Evi said...

Great theory Jaime. If only the writers had or had taken the time to give such a thorough history there'd be far less angst over this story. As you know, since you read my blog, I accept that Zack can logically justify what he did. Your Iraq theory is wonderfully thought out and I could completely accept that. I don't want Zack as a mad-scientist prison consultant but I would love for them to take the time to explain further how he could fall into this hole. (The only point I absolutely disagree on is the explosion. It was a mistake that it became as powerful as it did and therefore could not have been an effort to kill himself.)

Despite my own problems with how badly this storyline wrapped up (if wrapped up even applies) they need to stick with it. If they hadn't already gotten Max off I could buy a twist where Zack is out of the picture but not bad but they've already done that. If they do it twice the show becomes unbelievable as the characters are then above the societal rules the rest of us live by.

8:51 AM  
Blogger MelissaInBama said...

OMG, I think I love you. LOL I'm hyper-logical (and have Aspergers, I might add) myself and I'm really loving your explanation. I've started my own-- Zack was brainwashed by Clark Edison (his replacement). The way I see it, Edison is the apprentice and wants Gormogon dead so that HE can be the big baddie. So, he brainwashes Zack to take the rap for the death of the lobbyist and to ultimately kill the Master.

I think I like your explanation better though. God... They weren't really SERIOUS with that ep, were they? There will be a suitable explanation, will there not?

I'm obviously still upset. It's been over a week and I just can't let it go. *sigh*

Kudos to you for rocking. :)

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent thesis and the fanfic portion was excellent, as well.

From episode 1, season 3, I've thought that Zach had gone through this type of trauma.

It's a shame the writers didn't have the time to project Zach's pain other than through occasional subtle hints of loneliness.

1:10 AM  

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