Because of an 11th-hour renewal last year, Bones' Season 10 finale felt an awful lot like a series finale as Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) made the difficult decision to leave their increasingly dangerous jobs behind and focus on their (soon-to-expand) family.
Alas, Fox did renew the show, leaving new executive producers Jonathan Collier and Michael Peterson with a huge challenge: How would they honor their characters' decision to call it quits while still finding a way to bring the characters back from their retirement?
"It was a great way for us to reassess the show, and to really push hard and do a big noisy reset," Collier tells TVGuide.com. "We want to have something that really compels them to leave a track that they thought carefully about and chosen for themselves. They didn't leave work lightly." Adds Peterson: "What we've done is really embrace the idea this season that you can't escape your fate. They certainly tried their best to go to a quieter life, but at the end of the day, Booth and Brennan are who they are, and they're kind of made for this life whether they like it or not."
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Of course, it's actually the danger that the duo was hoping to escape that brings them back to work. When Booth suddenly disappears, Brennan must prove both that Booth is not the set of charred remains discovered with his gun. But once she accomplishes that, she must answer another disturbing question: Is Booth a murder suspect?
Helping to solve that mystery is Special Agent Miller (guest star Kim Raver), who is assigned by Internal Investigations to get to the bottom of Booth's recent actions. "We've casually called her the Booth Hunter," Peterson says with a laugh. "She is the impartial view of it. She doesn't know what Booth has got himself into. Has he done something unlawful? Is he the victim? She doesn't know, and she doesn't care."
But Miller's search for the truth won't make her many friends -- especially Brennan, who for obvious reasons is less objective than she usually is on the job. "They absolutely clash," Peterson says. "We have two wonderful, strong, intelligent women, and we let them go head to head, and the results are just fantastic. Our people are strictly loyal to Booth, and that puts [Miller] in opposition, but she's strong enough to take on multiple people."
Regardless of what Booth is mixed up in, the bigger issue for Brennan might be Booth has been keeping secrets from her. While she has spent the past six months writing books, she believed Booth was simply teaching trainees at the FBI Academy. However, she soon learns his late nights have been devoted to another mission -- one that hits very close to home for the former sniper. It's that military background that constantly draws Booth back into the line of fire, Peterson says.
"Booth really is Superman to a degree," he says. "Whether or not Superman likes it, he cannot help but save people. If somebody is in danger, Booth is going to be the first man out there trying to save them, and when you understand that that is your character, it's a tough decision. He can't help who he is. He is the person who's going to save people, whether he likes it or not, whether or not he has a badge or not."
So, whatever happens to Booth over the course of the two-parter that begins Season 11, we know eventually he and Brennan will resume their old roles. But they will wrestle with going back to work? "I think it's hugely uneasy, and I would love to play that as much as we can the whole season," Peterson says. "It's such a fine balancing point to balance making sure that you're being safe for your family, but also being true to who you are." Adds Collier: "I don't think they're agonizing over having returned to work. If anything, this event proves to them that they're doing the right thing. They're returning to something they love and that fulfills them, but there will be emotional consequences to other things that happened during the year. We really want to challenge all of our characters this year, especially Brennan."
And just what does that mean? "Booth's past caught up with him last year, and something from Brennan might catch up with her more this year," Collier says. "It's really going to come from character, who she is, how she was brought up. It certainly has to do with the way she was raised and with people from her past."
On the other hand, Cam (Tamara Taylor) and Arastoo (Pej Vahdat) seem to be taking steps toward a new level of their relationship, and Angela (Michaela Conlin) and Hodgins (TJ Thyne) appear to be rather satisfied with their decision not to move Paris. "They made the right decision, and it's going to work out in the beginning in every possible way," Peterson says. "They really are kind of the anchor while Booth and Brennan are going through all their turmoil. Same with Cam and Arastoo."
But, as always, the new showrunners insist that they don't have any plans to cause long-term upheaval for their core couple. "It's really thematically about where you belong in life," Collier says. "Booth and Brennan are fulfilling a destiny. They're these tremendous characters who are seemingly opposites who belong together and are attracted to each other, and they were meant to be together. That's the DNA of the show, so I think it's about following your fate and embracing it."
But how much more of Bones does fate have in store? After all the shenanigans last season, the writers say they are prepared for anything, but they are not approaching Season 11 as the show's final lap.
"There's a ton of energy in the show," Collier says. "The reboot's been great for us creatively. There's an awful lot of stories to tell, so we love that. Beyond that, it's not our decision. If it becomes a decision to end it, it's a network decision, and we will obviously do something that's satisfying for our fans, but we love where we are right now.
Adds Peterson: "I've been on the show now for seven seasons, and this is my family. My idea is I'm going to retire with the show, and I'm only 41 right now. So, I don't see any reason to move towards an end. I see storylines that we could do for a long, long, long time. ... I'd love to go many, many, many more seasons.So, my intention is to make it such a season that there's no doubt that we'll get picked up and keep on going."
Bones premieres Thursday at 8/7c on Fox.