‘Bones’ Boss Teases Hodgins’ Arc and Upcoming Likely Final Serial Killer

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Bones left its fans hanging back in December’s midseason finale with the news that Hodgins (TJ Thyne) had been paralyzed because of a lingering injury he obtained from an explosion at a crime scene. With the Fox drama finally back for the second half of Season 11, Hodgins is navigating life in his wheelchair, but he remains optimistic that it’s only a matter of time until he walks again. “He’s a bit in denial,” executive producer Michael Peterson says. “That’s really the arc of that first episode: trying to come to terms with where he is. But this is not going to be an easy road.”

We spoke with Peterson about the second half of Season 11, arcing toward the upcoming final season, and more.

How is Hodgins dealing with his paralysis?
In the first episode, Hodgins is going to go through every stage possible of being paralyzed. In the first episode, he’s a lot of his whole self: he’s optimistic, he’s a bit in denial of where exactly he’s at. That’s really the arc of that first episode: trying to come to terms with where he is. Compared to where he was in earlier seasons where he was a little bit [grumpy], this is the Hodgins who was the King of the Lab type, eternally optimistic. But this is not going to be an easy road, and that’s where we get to at the end of this episode.

RELATED: TJ Thyne talks the Hodgins twist

What is Angela’s (Michaela Conlin) mindset throughout all of this?
Especially in the first new episode, she is as devoted as humanly possible to her husband. She doesn’t care [he’s paralyzed], she’s just grateful he’s alive. She wants whatever she can do to protect him, watch after him. But as the season goes on, we’re going to see that the road is going to be equally difficult for Angela as it is for Hodgins. He becomes a different person as he has to deal with this.

How are Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) coping with Hodgins’ diagnosis?
They’re doing it on opposite planes. Booth is religious, he’s hopeful, he’s the optimist in this situation. Brennan’s not a pessimist, but she’s able to understand the scientist behind what has happened to Hodgins’. They’re in crossed purposes as far as that goes at looking at this, and what Hodgins needs most: does he need truth or does he need hope? That’s how they’re looking at this a little bit differently.

As you planned the end of Season 11, what are you doing differently now that you know you’re renewed for a final season?
Pretty much everything is staying put. As we were preparing this season, we didn’t know is this the last season. [We had to plan with the questions of] are we coming back? What’s going to happen?

But what we were looking at was either if it’s the last season, we were going to do a two-parter to finish off this year. What we’re going to do is bridge that two-parter over the season finale for this year and the season opener for next year. That wasn’t a huge alteration. That was one arc of many, and it will be concluding a serial killer arc which will be starting in Episode 13.

What we’re really excited about for Season 12, and what we did when we went to Fox and said, “Hey, we want and really need a 12th season”—and they were so great to give it to us—”[because] we want to have Bones go out the right way.”

One of the things David Boreanaz told us at the beginning of the season when [co-showrunner] Jon [Collier] and I took over the show as showrunners is to go back and watch that first season, and look at the magic that happened there; that dynamic between the characters, and grab as much of that feeling as you can. While watching that first season, we kind of saw some arcs that had been started that we never quite finished. When we went in and talked to Fox, we talked to them entirely about character: where we need Booth and Brennan to go to, and we need this whole season to finish off personal arcs that are hinted at in the first season.

RELATED: Bones will pay homage to a classic The X-Files episode with its latest serial killer

Speaking of the case introduced in Episode 13, in your mind, is that the final Bones serial killer?
[In] 12, we do have a plan to introduce a new Big Bad. This probably will be the final serial killer; the person we’re going to incorporate to 12 is not a serial killer, but it’s a threat in a different way. This probably will be the final.

Are there any special touches you put in for the final serial killer?
At the time we started, I never thought of it as the last one. I always believed that Bones was going to go to year 25.

We really wanted to get one that could only be told on our show. It is about the skeletal evidence, and it’s a killer who in a way sees the bodies like Brennan does when she looks at a set of remains: she can see who lived before. She sees them in a different way, and this killer sees things the way Brennan does. It just played naturally into the kind of show that we are.

Is there anything new you can tease about the upcoming cases?
[In Episode 20] that one involves one of our favorite interns, Clark Edison, and he is going to be involved in the case in a way that we haven’t seen before. That will be a two-intern episode, because of the implications that are going on there.

RELATED: What you need to know about the second half of Season 11

As the end starts to get a bit closer, is the reality sinking in? Or are you in denial?
It’s a weird combination. We love the idea of doing the show and going out right. But I also planned to retire here. I think I own more stuff in my office than I do in my house. I’m very entrenched here, I’m very comfortable, and I love it here.

I would say I’m pretty strictly in denial as far as that knowing it will end. But at the exact same time, I’m excited we’ll be able to do it right. We’re talking to [Bones creator] Hart [Hanson], hopefully he’ll be writing the finale of the whole thing; that’s certainly the intention. We’re going to go out the way it’s intended to be.

Bones, Thursday, April 14, 8/7c, Fox