Bones' Season 8 finale will pose a somewhat disturbing question: Has the Jeffersonian's team of scientists finally met its match?
The opponent, of course, is Christopher Pelant (guest star Andrew Leeds), the so-called "hacktivist" the team first investigated in this season's seventh episode. When Pelant heads to court for a parole hearing, Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) have plenty to say to the judge about keeping him locked up.
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"Our guys are very anxious for him not to be released because they know that he is a murderer," creator Hart Hanson tells TVGuide.com. "But [Pelant] takes the opportunity while he's face-to-face with them to start his next game. The murder mystery in this [episode] — they know from the get-go that Pelant did it. The trick is to prove that it was him and not our guys."
Our guys? That's right, through the course of the investigation, Pelant will manipulate the facts of the case in such a way that Brennan falls under suspicion. Not helping matters is the fact that Brennan becomes far more emotionally attached to the case than ever before because the victim is a friend.
"He's somebody who was helping her in the investigation of Pelant," executive producer Stephen Nathan says. "He's very odd and someone [Brennan] shouldn't have been talking to. He was probably the person to go from Brennan's point of view, but from everyone else's point of view, it could have jeopardized the case."
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Hanson says Brennan is acting against her own code, which will cause tension with the entire team. "She makes a crucial mistake," Hanson teases. "Now that she has a child and is in a relationship with someone, she is less objective, less able to distance herself as she has been in the past, when she was completely and utterly rational. She feels things a little deeper and it haunts her. There are consequences of her feeling more and being less detached from the world.
"I don't think anyone thinks, 'Oh my God, she might have done it,' for more than a moment," Hanson continues. "But the question becomes: How do we help her? And should we help her? We give them some moral dilemmas. Everyone is not in lockstep in how to proceed."
That includes Booth, who is none too happy when Brennan returns to her normal behavior. "Booth gets incredibly frustrated with her because she's still treating this case in an extremely rational and objective way, even though it involves them," Nathan says. "They know that the murder is a warning to them. [There's] kind of ever-increasing dread as the episode continues."
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What's driving Brennan is perhaps the same thing that drives Pelant: pride. "I think everyone in the episode gets a little overconfident," Nathan says. "But [Pelant] is now up against a foe as smart as he is. The Jeffersonian looks at it that way, but he looks at it that way as well. Both sides see incredible danger and an incredible game being played. The difference with Pelant is that, like a chess player, he very possibly can see one more move ahead than they can."
That can't be good, right? Ultimately, everyone is at risk, both personally and professionally. "There's a great sense of a noose tightening around the throats of our plucky gang," Hanson teases. "If we do it correctly, people will not see the ending coming, but people will have this inexorable feeling of being choked out."
And even though Hanson says this season's cliff-hanger can't compete with last season's baby bombshell, he seems more than confident that it will leave fans' jaws on the floor. "We couldn't top last year's," Hanson says. "Last year was a culmination of six seasons, emotionally. So we knew we had to do another kind of cliff-hanger, which is much more classic jeopardy. But the emotional stakes are amazingly high. ... If we're successful at it, it will be very upsetting in a very good way."
Bones' Season 8 finale airs Monday at 8/7c on Fox.