When Bones returns for its 12th season on Jan. 3, Booth (David Boreanaz) is in a desperate search for his wife, Brennan (Emily Deschanel), who was abducted in last season’s finale by a former squintern of the Jeffersonian team, Zack (Eric Millegan). But putting the characters in peril is par for the course and, in the beloved series’ history, only half of the story.
Executive producer Michael Peterson dishes on what to expect, and while he admits that he’s “in denial” over the long-running series coming to an end, he’s also excited to share secrets from the final dozen episodes. First up, last season’s cliffhanger. “That will mostly be resolved in the opener,” he reveals, although friend-turned-foe Zack will appear in more than the first episode. Since that revelation counts Zack out as the season-long villain — or “Big Bad,” in Bones-speak — Peterson isn’t naming names, but he teases, “It’s somebody who has been referenced before, actually starting in Season 1. It has to do with Booth’s past as a sniper. The past is going to come back to haunt them. And it’s going to have implications into the finale.”
Looking to prior seasons is a theme of my conversation with Peterson. To get to the finale, it seems that fans will have to go back to the beginning. “David Boreanaz had very good advice when I started showrunning here: ‘You should go back and watch the first season and really see what made it really work then,’” says Peterson. “While we were doing that, we saw a couple of issues that hadn’t been resolved, primarily for Booth and Brennan. There were certain threads that we wanted to tie up.” And tying up those threads, and staying true to the characters, is the impetus for the final season. Peterson promises the finale will finally explain the number 447, which has made appearances throughout the series.
Another way the series is looking back upon itself is by bringing back favorite guest stars. Peterson notes the guest list: “Ryan O’Neal — Brennan’s dad — will be back. As far as people that we haven’t seen in a little while that are exciting, we’re bringing back Sully (Eddie McClintock), who is Brennan’s first love on the show and greatest love outside of Booth. That was interesting. Stephen Fry is coming back as Dr. Gordon Wyatt, which was just fantastic. We just wrapped him and he’s brilliant. Betty White is coming back, as is Cyndi Lauper.”
But Peterson also promises the show won’t become a carousel of old stories and boasts plenty of new names, too. One episode will guest-star Ed Asner and Hal Holbrook. “We had so much fun, it’s embarrassing,” Peterson giggles. “It’s a great episode. It’s a murder inside of a retirement home.” He also reports that Oscar nominee June Squibb will appear in the episode.
Peterson, who had a hand in writing the series finale, said at the end he hopes fans feel that the series stayed true to the characters. “I just want them to laugh a little, cry a little. I think that’s what the show does so well. A little bit of scared, a little bit of gross, a little bit of humor, a lot of heart.” And ever the showman, he teases, “There’s another feeling I want them to have, but I think it would betray what we do in that final episode. I don’t want to give that away.”
When we spoke with Peterson, the series was days from shooting its final episode. “I am in complete denial,” he laughed. “I think even as we wrote it and we said, ‘This is the series finale,’ part of me in the back of my mind is going, ‘Well, you know, they brought back Prison Break, they brought back 24, they brought back The X-Files.’ I think there’s part of me that, when writing those final words, is just saying, ‘Let’s leave a little bit, let’s leave a little room open.’”
FOX hasn’t released the date of the final Bones episode, but the last of the final 12 episodes should air sometime this spring.
Bones: The Final Chapter > FOX > Tuesdays at 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT, beginning Jan. 3