‘Bones’ Series Finale Postmortem: Showrunner Michael Peterson on How This May Not Be the End (SPOILERS)

Bones Series Finale Postmortem
Patrick McElhenney/Fox

Read no further if you haven’t seen the series finale (for now) of “Bones.” Spoilers ahead!

There are any number of ways to end a series. There’s the flat cut to black; the reveal that this has all been a dream. Most of them involve some level of controversy after the fact. But when it came time to end “Bones” after 12 seasons on Fox, showrunners Michael Peterson and Jonathan Collier wanted to send their characters riding off into the sunset fully intact. And so we ended not with a bang or a whimper, but with Booth and Brennan bantering into the black. Peterson called up Variety to discuss the very last episode of “Bones” — and why it may not be the very last episode of “Bones.”

Unlike some finales, we don’t get a special last line of dialogue — it’s more akin to the end of a regular episode. When did you decide that was what you wanted to do?

It’s way tough. I was so honored when they were like, “You and Jonathan get to be responsible for the finale.” That’s great. But then you think, “Oh, we’re responsible for the last line of dialogue for the series, maybe I shouldn’t have said yes.”

But in the end, we felt it would be best to do one those fade outs where they’re doing their back and forth. Sometimes it’s scripted, and sometimes it’s David [Boreanaz] and Emily [Deschanel] doing their thing. David asked for some room for him and her to do their thing, in the finale, and we said absolutely.

Was that the last thing you guys shot?

That final shot was not the actual final shot — we had intended it to be the final thing we shot, but, well, that’s TV in a nutshell. That big action scene with the helicopter was supposed to be earlier, but there ere some crazy winds, so we had to reschedule, and that ended up being the last day of shooting, that crazy helicopter stunt.

And you wrapped this in December. Has it sunk in yet?

It’s complicated. There’s continual denial, because we live in a time when “24,” “X-Files,” all these shows are brought back. And so you go, it’s the end, but it’s not the end.

I was on the show for eight-and-a-half, nine years — that’s a lifetime in TV. Once we figured out what we wanted to do a 12th season, I always give credit to David: He said to go back and rewatch Season 1 and embrace who those characters were. It was ultimately about Booth dealing with his guilt and Brennan trying to figure out who she is.

That became the driving force of Season 12: Booth dealing with the worst kill he had to make in his career, and Brennan losing her father and really having to look at how she defines herself in regards to family, and redefines herself now that she’s with Booth. So once we had those things figured out, the final episode just wrote itself, in a weird way: Booth dealing with this Kovac danger and Booth helping Brennan through losing her ultimate identity, her intelligence, and realizing how much more she is. It’s satisfying because it’s honest to the characters. So I wasn’t as nervous. [Executive producer] Stephen Nathan came up with the story, and Karina Rosenthal came back to contribute and help make the finale as character-driven as humanly possible.

Did you ever consider leaving Brennan without her intelligence, at the end of the day?

Not really. I think it’s more important that the lesson was learned — that she is more than just her intelligence — than the ultimate damage.

Were there any stories you didn’t get to that you really wanted to see onscreen?

It really was tough for us. When we took over, the plan was to see this thing through to Season 18. There’s something about the storytelling, about these characters, that we could’ve written them forever. There’s a million stories, but at the same time, what Fox gave us by saying, “This is the last 12 episodes,” is, we got to focus on what we could get in versus what was left behind.

Although I will say, we didn’t ever find a skeleton in Bora-Bora, and I’m deeply resentful of that. [Laughs] No, the way Fox handled it, I give them a lot of credit. There’s shows that just kind of end and they were very respectful to us. 

You have killed off a main character before — John Francis Daly’s Sweets — and maimed others. Were you thinking of doing that for the finale?

I don’t know if I’ve forgiven us for Sweets. The network asked us if we wanted to do anything like that, and we called up [creator] Hart Hanson and agreed at the end of the day that we’re just not that show. We did it that one time, but we wanted to be the “riding off into the sunset” kind of show and stay true to that DNA. Why does the audience watch? Why do they love it? It’s about this makeshift family. You can blow up the house, but not the people.

Everyone saw the trailer for the finale and started freaking out. I give credit to Fox for putting together an effective trailer. When you start getting calls from family members going, “What have you done?” that means you’re doing things well. Or you’re a horrible person.

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  1. Katie says:

    “Why would you want to be reminded of the moment when everything almost ended, Bones?”
    “Because it didn’t.”
    I wish it didn’t really end. But I have to say they did an amazing job wrapping it up and still leaving it open. Who knows. Maybe it isn’t the end.

  2. Randy Crager says:

    i think i’m going to have to start a bones support group. I have a group of favorite shows that I watch streaming from the http://www., but bones was my favorite for 12 years since the X files ended. i feel as though I lost a best friend forever when the camera faded to black. Now what do I do, again? HELP!

  3. Angela B. says:

    I have loved watching “Bones” from the very first episode. I will miss watching the “Bones” team and would like to see it continue on further. Thanks for a great show, Fox!

  4. PLEASE don’t end Bones!! Take it to Season 18. I’m dying here… 😢

    • Joe Z says:

      We just watched what appeared to be a final Netflix episode where Zack was re-introduced as the escapee serial killer trying to get to Brennan…what is going on with that? Is it a Netflix issue or perhaps this episode was not the final episode of the series? We’re totally confused. Anybody out there with any helpful words?

  5. Courtney says:

    I literally waited until tonight to watch the last 2 episodes cause I didn’t want it to end. I have watched this show since the first episode, I have never missed an episode. I wish that they will bring it back. Bones is to good of a show to have let go. Please please bring it back!

  6. April says:

    Absolutely love this show , i would not be sad if you BRING IT BACK!

    • nanaki says:

      No don’t bring it back. I love bones i do not want to see it worn out. Make movies maybe make one a year etc but do not bring it back.Spin it off maybe a spin off with the psychic Avalon have most/all the crew doing cameos and cross overs. Sometimes a show needs put to bed with grace bones is that show. The show was about as perfect as you can get to bring back bones now could end it in ruin….

  7. Karen Gilburg says:

    I loved this show, looked forward to watching it every week! I’m going to miss all the characters, they’re like family! Please bring it back!!

  8. Maruchi says:

    There are 3 shows that I never, ever miss watching. Now that Bones ended, I feel like I’ve lost a friend. But my hopes are that the ‘hopeful’ ending leads to a spin-off, at least. I would live to see Hidges take on his role as King of the Lab, see his and Angie’s baby born, and Cam’s new family flourish.

  9. Amy says:

    I thought the reason Fox cancelled was because they’re probably losing a lot of money on those lawsuits. They deserve to lose that money for what they did, so Netflix or someone else should definitely pick up Bones and treat the people right.

  10. Kate Brandtner says:

    The second part of the ending was so lame. What advisors thought it was okay for them to come back in to the lab before it got cleared? Fire Dept would not allow that until the structure was stable. Yet suddenly it was cleaned up so much they could stroll right in and resume some tests. The medical would not have allowed Bones to go back at all in her condition, After such an explosion? Very disappointing, Maybe all the advisors left early and didn’t fact check the script for reality.

  11. jimmy schofield says:

    Won’t be the end. Netflix will buy the rights and make more seasons.

  12. Chris White says:

    Please bring it back, or at least a spin Off with most of the characters and give hodgens his legs back

  13. Tori says:

    I hate that the show ended but it was a good ending. It was true to the shows history and characters. That said? Still haven’t forgiven you for killing Sweets – that still sucks.

    • Jack says:

      I feel the same about Sweets. The ending wasn’t bad but it didn’t really feel like an ending for me. Still hoping for more I guess.

  14. April Saslo says:

    Make more seasons of bones

  15. ron marsh says:

    great show and great ending, sorry to see it go.

  16. Robin M says:

    Bones has been one of my favorite shows for years. I love the characters and how the progressed over time. I have my hopes up that this won’t be the end, that some day soon they’ll all be back… 😊

  17. V Castanio says:

    I am a huge fan of Bones. I love the finale! It makes anyone feel good. I hope Fox or any network will bring it back.

  18. Sara Gavin says:

    Please o please, fox bring back Bones. You ended the show in a way where you could bring it back. I love Bones. Bring it back!!!

  19. Rita Smith says:

    love this show I watched every show from day one it always takes you on wild ride please bring it back with all the so called TV. shows ha who wants to see half naked people eat whatever or water opstacles really? its quality verses /wasted air time..this show teaches , solveing problems working tighter ourchildren have enough void let them have something real.

  20. Mickey says:

    It’s a very sad day in TV land that Bones is over. I’ve watched it from day 1 knew it’d be a hit. My 14 yr old daughter has been following it since the beginning. She re-watches is it constantly, she’s quite the aficionado of the show knows every aspect of it inside and out. She even writes a fandom of bones. It will truly be missed sad to see it go would like to of seen it gone on forever kind of like target the BBC crime show hopefully somebody will get the common sense to bring back this winter and hopefully it sooner rather than later thanks for the memories it was an awesome show !

  21. Denise Dennis says:

    I love Bones, They left me hanging, What did Angela have (Boy or girl) And so many more questions :-( I’m very sad

  22. tonythetank says:

    Hey Fox what is happening to you?! I understand great shows must come to an end like House, X Files, Fringe, 24, the old Prison Break and now Bones. But your now embarrassing development of shows like Empire, Rosewood, Scream Queens, Pitch, Star and now Shots Fired are way too frequent. If it is not this it is find a movie and develop a series like The Exorcist, Lethal Weapon and Minority Report. What is happening to this network?! You remade 24 without Jack Bauer which is garbage and yes you bring back the X files and now Prison Break to please your customers. But far too little good shows like Gotham, Sleepy Hollow, Wayward Pines, and Lucifer. Funny how all these shows were comic book or science fiction. You take off the Following, Backstrom, Gracepoint and the really good Almost Human for this weak schedule. At least these shows were worth watching. Good bye Bones you will be much missed. Been a great run.

    • Frances Hall says:

      I totally agree!!!! When you find a great series, suddenly someone decides it’s not worthy of watching!! Shame on Fox for taking Bones off!!!!! With that ending Fox could bring Bones back!!!!! Now, put your big boy pants on and settle the law suits and bring back a show worthy of watching. Because of this show our grandson decided to become a Doctor!!!!

    • Mickey says:

      Totally true Tonythetank I was thinking the same thing ! It’s like the got to the top and then just puked out. They’ve basically killed everything I liked about their network and aren’t really stepping up thief game. With Amazon, Netflix and Hulu picking up a lot of canceled stuff plus producing their own Fox better look out or they maybe the new CW. Think I’ll write Netflix and see if they’ll pick Bones up !!!

  23. melanie lecompte says:

    GREAT show. LOVED ending. Good way to incorporate ALL, and stay true to storyline! Hope E.D. sees this-know like cindi lauper. if don’t have cd already. check out her cd titled “Memphis Blues”!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  24. my husband and I have watched every season and every episode of Bones we are going to miss it so very much it is been a part of our lives for so long I can’t imagine not seeing it again I will really miss watching it and so will my husband

  25. Elle says:

    KUDOS to the whole team team at ones for a perfect finale. The characters have always made this show and I thought each was really done justice (even some who left years ago). I cannot think of another series finale that left me thinking “they did that perfectly.” Bravo.

  26. Matt Soper says:

    What a great series! It will be missed but the finale really worked for me as a bookend to the show. Everyone who made it – a moment of silence for Sweets – basically gets to live happily ever after. Nice!

  27. Dimika says:

    I really really love this show. And I do pray that it is just a pause. This is one of those shows that could almost go on forever and honestly it would never get boring. It will always have you reeled in and wanting more! I will miss it while it is gone but I will look forward to seeing it back!

  28. Diane Austin says:

    This show was far from ending. With all the crap reality shows out there, this was the one family scripted, excellently written show left! It needs to come back, even if it has to move networks, it needs to come back. The ‘final’ episode calls out for more!

  29. CeCe says:

    It absolutely breaks my heart to say goodbye to my favorite show. We have watched it faithfully since episode 1.
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that another network decides to pick up the show and the actors return to keep Bones going.
    This will make millions of fans VERY happy!!
    **Fingers Crossed**
    Thank you for 12 unforgettable years!!

  30. Sue Powers says:

    Bones, the finest acted, directed and scripted show on TV. The only other show that was as good .was MASH an entirely different kind of show but with the same great characters, actors direction and scripting. Maybe not that different really, as with MASH Bones became my family.
    The final episode brought back so many memories, and I have to say, was so glad they got Sweets in there.
    I hope we will see more of my family, perhaps a Movie?
    MY best wishes to everyone,, Thanks for 12 great seasons!!!

  31. mimir says:

    Sad to see it go,but this was just not an interesting story line. I still watch Bones on Netflix thru out the week and this had nothing of the action nor intelligence I have come to love.Thank goodness for re-runs to save me from withdrawals.Hope they all do well in where ever the future takes them.

  32. Canako Goshinmon says:

    I am sooo heart broken!!! I feel like I lost my best friends tonight. This was the best series on tv! They took a horrible situation (a dead body) every week, and with ingenious techniques, caught the bad guy. But what made all the difference and put this show heads and shoulder above other programs was how the characters were more like a family…and we know how diverse and crazy families can be…but at the end of the day they always remembered that they loved each other and would eventually work things out. The show did not have to be in your face with senseless swearing, sexual innuendo or violence ( I am no where close to being a prude)… it just used fantastic actors who told a great story that was written, produced and directed by amazing people!!!! I will miss this show more than I could ever put in words!!!! Good luck to all of those involved in this program and hope they receive in turn , all they joy they brought to my life!!!

    • Diane T. says:

      Mimir – I totally agree wit you. I LOVE Bones and continue to watch it in reruns. But, I was disappointed in season 12. I hated that they killed off Max, and bringing Zach back was anticlimactic. He should have been credited for time served and been allowed back at the Jeffersonian, at least for one case. I must have missed something because I don’t know where Kovacs came from. Did they just introduce him in this season or was he the killer Christopher Pelant hinted at? Loved his storyline, by the way. And what about Dr. Goodman? Did they ever explain his absence? That would have been a cool ending. Cam goes off to adopt her boys and Dr. Goodman comes back to fill in.

  33. as says:

    killing sweets was just horrible … i will really miss the show! i hope it comes back :) please bring it back!

  34. Pat Caldwell says:

    Please please please bring Bones back!!!! We are avid fans never miss a show. The show is part of our family because the members are family!!

  35. Carolyn D Seay says:

    Please find a way to bring ones back on… It’s like losing part of our family!!!???!!! PLEASE!

  36. Joyce says:

    It is a CRIME to let the stories go untold. It is wide open for some GREAT stuff. PLEASE LET THEM BE TOLD, I’M SURE OTHER NETWORKS WOULD BE HAPPY TO HAVE SUCH A GREAT SHOW.

  37. Lily Moon says:

    I dreaded this finale knowing full well it would be like saying goodbye to family you know you will never see again. But the positive note upon which it ended brought some comfort to my ailing spirit. To all involved, good job for this episode and the entire twelve seasons.

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