The name of the show in question is Bones, a crime drama running for twelve seasons on the Fox network. The episode discussed is “The Monster in the Closet” from the 2016 season, and I chose to watch and summarize this episode because I had seen a few others, and the title suggested to me that this one would both delve into unusual anatomical factors and emphasize the comedy and mystery elements for which the show is famous. The series relies on the interactions between FBI agent Booth and forensic anthropologist Brennan, and the stories generally center on how the latter’s forensic skills make sense of murder victim bodies previously inexplicable. Booth typically identifies tissue and bone realities autopsies do not address or recognize, which in turn fuels the detective aspect of the show. In “Monster,” Booth and Aubrey, his FBI partner, respond to a call about a body found in a local park.
Brennan shortly deduces that the victim, decomposed and dead approximately six months, was female, based on her rounded frontal bone and brow ridge. Much about the body is strange and disturbing; she is dressed oddly, was discovered with a Bible, and Brennan notes physiological facts difficult to explain. For example, Booth had noticed that the skin was unusually dry, almost like canvas, and Brennan determines that the killer must have scraped away the fat, to preserve the body. Other evidence of the dead body’s having been kept by the killer are broken teeth, suggesting that the killer spoon-fed the victim while alive, and reminding the agents of a similar case. Additionally, wire in the hands and holes drilled through bones further support that the killer, for whatever reason, chose to keep the body and manipulate it, or move it from place to place. Ultimately, everything points to a highly intelligent and psychotic serial killer, but the episode ends in mystery as the prime suspect commits suicide, rather than face the real murderer.
The primary character dealing with human physiology is Dr. Brennan, and her nickname of “Bones” derives from her forensic work. Her career as a crime fiction writer is secondary to her being a renowned forensic anthropologist in Washington, D. C., and consequently called upon to work with the FBI frequently. Brennan’s associate is forensic artist Angela Montenegro, who specializes in reconstructing anatomy with facial and skull bones, which assist greatly in identifying victims killed in the past. Regarding what this episode taught me in terms of anatomy and physiology, the most strong impression relates to how forensic science can determine realities, and likely causes of death, in flesh and bone matter in extreme states of decomposition. For example, the state of the victim’s skin tissue informs Brennan that the body had been kept indoors with the killer for about six months, or just before it was found in the park. I also gained a sense of how complicated facial bone reconstruction is, in efforts to identify victims. I would question how the various fragments used may provide exact identification, but some of this must be accepted as part of a crime drama. I had been aware that such facial reconstruction focuses, when materials are lacking, on recreating a half of a face. Still, the episode reinforces how facial and skull bones do not neatly fall into place like puzzles pieces. In terms of forensics alone, then, I learned that the simple reality of flesh and bones as decomposed and broken presents a vast range of challenges in determining how a death occurs. My understanding is also that, despite Bones being entertainment, the show does at least rely on technical expertise, if it sometimes stretches the realities of how precisely forensic science can identify bodies and determine causes of death.