'Bones' Boss Vows to Shake Things Up in Season 11

Showrunner Michael Peterson talks with THR about what to expect from the veteran Fox procedural this season — including the 'Sleepy Hollow' crossover.
Kevin Estrada/FOX

Bones ended Season 10 under the impression that the Fox drama was probably done. When Fox gave the Hart Hanson drama a green light after the finale had already been turned in, new showrunners John Collier and Michael Peterson had to figure out a way to get themselves out of the corner they found themselves in.

The challenge ended up being a gift. Here, Peterson tells The Hollywood Reporter why Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz) need to find their way back to the lab (it's not just the set), the Sleepy Hollow crossover and why he's excited to see how much they can shake up with the characters who have gotten a little too comfortable with each other.

Once you found out there was going to be a season 11, what was your objective after taking over the show?

It was a tough transition. We didn't know what was going to happen at the end of the last season. Stephen Nathan and John Collier wrote a great season finale and then Stephen took some time off. John and I took over as showrunners. We looked at this corner that we'd painted ourselves into and wanted to find the best way to get out of it.

The best way, as always has been to be good to these characters. The big thing is the season has to be character-based. It has to be organic as far as the reason for them to quit and ultimately for them to come back. Not to spoil too much, but by the end of episode two, Booth and Brennan are going to be more or less back at their respective jobs. We went through a bunch of different scenarios but we didn't want it to be anything where the action or the case that was the strongest thing that was leading them back instead of character. It's going to be a fun two-parter. It all comes together at the end of the second part and we understand these characters better. They can't escape who the are and their fate is really to do this job. That's what brought them together in the first place and it's not just something they can run away from.

There's a time jump between the season finale and where we're going to pick up. What can you tell us about what's happened to these characters in that time?

Booth has a new job when we start. He's still working at the FBI but essentially he's an instructor. He's away from any sort of danger. He's followed through with that promise. Brennan has had the baby and it's a baby boy. Being Brennan, she hasn't accepted another job. She's toyed around with several other positions and looking into all these different options she's been given. Mostly she wanted to be there for this new child. She hasn't just stayed idly by. She's written one novel and an academic text in the meantime.

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Angela (Michaela Conlin) and Hodgins (T.J. Thyne) have been looking to move away also. They were originally going to go to Paris to fulfill Angela's art career. Ultimately, they decided to stay because it was Hodgins' turn to stay at the Jeffersonian but what we find that it's actually been a very fruitful time for Angela in terms of her art. That's something we'll be exploring more in episode three. It ended up being the best decision possible so they are the most blissful couple when we come back.

While Brennan has been gone for six months, Arastoo (Pej Vahdat) has taken the reins for her job. He's been the pro temp after she's gone and seems like the likely person to succeed Brennan. That obviously becomes quite the complication when Brennan wants to ultimately come back. That doesn't just affect her and Arastoo, but Cam and Arastoo as he's relegated back to being an intern.

What's the state of the lab when the events of the season premiere kick off?

The lab has been functioning as it would without Brennan. Arastoo has taken over and is helping out with cases. We'll see, especially by the second episode, that it is not the same without her. She's the best in her field and it's going to be something that we're going allude to more as the season goes on that there have been more unsolved cases.

What can fans expect to see in this upcoming season?

We're going to play with expectations. We've been given the keys to this fantastic car and we're going to see how fast it can go and how well it can handle turns. We're really not going to rest on the fact that we've done 200-plus episodes. We're going to shake everyone up.

Cam and Arastoo get shaken up in the very beginning. There's going to be a shift in Angela's and Hodgins' relationship around episode 10 and we'll see another one for Booth and Brennan later on in the second half of the season. It's not going to be a business as usual season. Everything is going to be true to the characters but there are going to be some major, major developments.

What can you tell us about the upcoming Bones and Sleepy Hollow crossover?

In the Bones hour, we find two bodies, one recently deceased, and the second body is quite old, from Revolutionary times and might just be the remains of one of Ichabod Crane's greatest enemies. 

What makes Sleepy Hollow a good fit for a crossover?

There are many legitimate reasons. Both shows have horrific elements. On Bones, we have without a doubt some of the nastiest, most repulsive bodies ever imagined. On Sleepy Hollow, there are demons, headless horsemen, witches and all manner of things that go bump in the night. What better time to tell a ghoulish crossover than Halloween. Also, both shows are similar in that at their heart is a pair of mismatched partners. So we wanted to see what would happen when we separated these couples and partnered them with their counterparts from the other show. Our hope was to keep a little bit of that spark that works so well for both show, by offering two competing points of view. The end results, I have to say, were better than we could have hoped.

Bones airs Thursdays on Fox. What are you looking forward to seeing? 

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