The season finale earlier this year of FOX's long-running series "Bones" ended on a nice fat cliffhanger when Brennan (Emily Deschanel), in an effort to keep her child safe from demented killer Pelant (Andrew Leeds), skipped town without telling Booth (David Boreanaz). Now, as the eighth season premiere airs tonight, three months have passed and Pelant is still on the loose.
To uncover where "Bones" is heading starting tonight, our Jim Halterman grilled the experts, Executive Producers Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan, who also happened to write tonight's "The Future In The Past" episode.
Jim Halterman: A general question to start, how do you guys craft the cases that you use in the show? Do you start at the end and work back or is it basically like puzzle pieces that you put together.
Hart Hanson: It happens in a whole bunch of ways. One is that Stephen and I have some arenas that we are interested in. We send those upstairs to the writers' room, or the writers come in with an arena. The first thing is what world are we going into? What's kind of the notion and then we toss it into the machine that is the writers' room upstairs.
Stephen Nathan: Essentially, they happen in all different ways. What we like to do is to work the stories out so that clearly we have a gruesome and entertaining murder from the beginning of the show. Then a group of suspects, any who could have done the murder, and that's really the prerequisite, but that can happen finding out who the murderer is first and then working backwards. We can do it because we know there are three or four incredibly cool scenes or forensic elements that we want or the story could revolve around a personal story for Booth and Brennan and the murder is reflective of that theme in their lives.
HH: A couple of the ideas we have had around literally since the first season and it takes years for us to find a way how to solve them. Stephen found a way into the 'Bones' 9/11 episode [and] the idea of having a point of view of the victim since, I don't know, season one or season two... he finally figured out a way to do that. Then there was the Brennan-centric one, the one where Brennan solves her own murder. That one was around long before we found a way into it. This year we're doing the Neanderthal murder, which was a... I would love to solve the thirty-thousand year-old murder but it was not going be the age story so we had to find a way for it to live. We still have a million little things in bin...
SN: The Neanderthal story was difficult because in thirty thousand years the statutes of limitations are up. [laughs] With 'Bones,' you get away with it.
JH: That's great. What episode is the Neanderthal?
SN: That one is probably going to be around episode seven. In fact, it's not when it will air. It's when we're shooting it because we do have those four episodes that are going to be intertangled with the new ones from season eight.
JH: And rumor has it we're meeting Hodgins' brother this year, right?
HH: It's a place we want to go.
SN: It's in the bin. As Hart said, we left things in that bin for a few years so it will either be taken out this year or...
HH: One of impetuses for this idea was a fabulous, fabulous piece of casting, which I would never tell you, and that's not going to happen. It's just for various reasons that's just not going to happen.
JH: Okay. Now, a lot of people are asking about Booth's mother, who may be showing up this season. Is that something definitely coming down the pike?
HH: It's at the top of our bin. I think it's safe to see to say we will see her, yeah.
SN: We want to. We also ran a couple of casting ideas for that. We're hopeful that somebody could be the pie in the sky but, you know, we can always hope.
JH: I saw Tamara [Taylor, who plays Cam] and she said her romance is coming in episode five. I know you're not going to tell me who the romance is with but is this going to be a good relationship for Cam? Can you tell me that much.
HH: I think so.
SN: It will be surprising and surprisingly good.
HH: Now with that being said, that's our intention, but we paid a lot of attention to how things look and feel on screen and we adapt to that. So, we'll see how it looks and feels on screen to decide where we go with it. We know two-thirds of the story. By the time we get to the second-third of the story, we'll know where to go for the third part.
JH: When you guys cast Andrew Leeds as Pelant, did you know he was going to be so freaking scary and that you would keep him around this long? He's fantastic. He's so great. Tell me about that.
HH: There's synergy there. We had a serial killer we were interested in, which is very rare for me and Stephen. And we were interested in what he did. Then we got this guy who's so good at playing the boy next door.
SN: He's just a rare, rare actor. He's just fantastic. Every time he's in an episode, we go 'ooh, wow, that's great' because we can do this with him now. So, he's keeping himself alive because he is such a unique character.
JH: Brennan seems to be the main point of Pelant's target but is that going to remain the case through the season or is he going to maybe target some other people in the team?
HH: I think he has a very wide appetite...
SN: I think other people know that, which is one of the reasons that Hodgins [does] what he [does] in the first episode.
JH: I've heard from a lot of people online who are very concerned about Sweets having a gun. What do you guys make of that?
HH: I will be really happy when we go on the air so that certain elements of our fans, God bless their passionate little hearts, stop making stuff up and then yelling at us for it.
SN: I think it happens every year. The things that they're most upset about don't exist. But we're glad that they're thinking about the show and if Sweets does have a gun... he's responsible, he's been trained. He's very, very good... it's third episode he's got a gun thing and then actually the second episode we see him with a gun. I mean, literally, the gun.
"Bones" airs Mondays at 8:00/7:00c on FOX followed by "The Mob Doctor."