‘Bones’ Review – ‘The Survivor In The Soap’
“Bones” Addresses The Global “Kony” Controversy In “The Survivor In The Soap.”
The “Bones” episode “The Survivor In The Soap” successfully handles the current immigration debate in a delicate manner without forcing any political opinions one way or the other. The show does this by involving a murder victim, Simche, who’s a rehabilitated former child soldier from Sierra Leone. In solving Simche’s murder, both Booth and Bones have to be extremely objective in assuming if any local refugees have murdered him.
When both of the characters address an old friend of his from the Sierra Leone, they have to take into consideration whether post-traumatic stress disorder was a factor in Simche’s death. The potential for PTSD in Simche’s old friend is a very round character dynamic that illustrates the potential for incidental violence in a character who means well and has a lot to lose by being extradited back to Sierra Leone, where he has escaped from being a child soldier. Characterizing PTSD in some of the guest characters is also used successfully in creating dynamic characters for this plot, because Booth drops the fact part-way through the episode that he’s a war-time veteran who’s familiar with the symptoms of PTSD.
The immigration controversy is handled compassionately without being too preachy. Danny Woodburn shines in his guest appearance as Alex, a politician and state immigration official, when he delivers the line, “People move to this country to get a new start. Someone messes with that and they’re messing with the United States of America.”
Cam’s boyfriend Arastoo also develops an obsession with solving the case because he has bittersweet and tragic memories from being a child in war-time during the years he was raised in Iran. Arastoo’s backstory that runs parallel to the “immigration” and “child soldier” themes of the episode helps portray the the murder victim as someone who was a living, breathing individual rather than one individual from a large statistic of former child soldiers. The sense of mission and purpose that Arastoo brings to the case helps bring together the separate environments of “the immigration experience” and “the forensic lab”.
Meanwhile, humor is brought to the episode when Booth tells Bones how much they’re in need of a vacation. These snippets of dialogue help this episode in particular because the communication helps bring comfort and a sense of entertainment value to viewers who are born-and-raised U. S. citizens. Viewers can relate to themes of geography, globalization, and relocation from these lines of dialogue in ways that prevent the show from becoming a repetitive formula for themes about child soldiers popularized by the “Invisible Children” documentary and activism campaign.
The episode is very good at being aware of cultural norms in ways that make the immigrant characters more rounded. Social customs and sensitive intercultural behaviors are allowed to develop in a graceful, non-forced way. Cultural histories of the characters are so well-written and played so well that cross-cultural etiquette and sociology is addressed in a very matter-of-fact way, without coming across in a way that expresses characters’ cultural backgrounds either mechanically or in a drily academic style.
Fox’s distance from overzealous political leanings (especially to retain ratings among younger viewers) has dramatically helped episodes like this one air on the television network. The neutral, empathic, and objective intercultural perspective achieved by this episode helps create multi-layered sympathetic characters that can help drive the plot events of a certain story. Best of all, by studying and understanding the backgrounds of these characters, the writers and actors properly avoid representing characters who are like boring academic laundry-lists of cross-cultural social customs. Inaccurate or overgeneralized stereotypes can be avoided especially since events that happen and the consequences of those events are put in a prominent place in the development of the storyline. The writing successfully avoids paying specific attention to any flat characterizations of any geographical emphasis on the different characters’ heritages.
By writing characters so sympathetically, the twist at the end of the murder case is especially surprising. The characterization is so sympathetic and so powerful that even a character who is a feared fugitive war criminal can be seen in a way that humanizes him and makes him look like he might have a glimmer of humanity among otherwise self-serving motivations. For a show like “Bones”, this type of characterization especially helps make antagonists on the show appear that much more frightening, because they can be given the same kind of brilliant motivations that an exceptionally talented forensic psychologist could dream up. Fortunately, writing characters this way is a major stand-alone reason why “Bones” excels as a show with characters who are especially likable, relatable, and multi-layered among various characters in many contemporary “cop-show” dramas.