But this post is about S2, because it is my favorite, and because, especially near the end of the season, if you're watching it retrospectively, it becomes pretty clear what they have in mind for Zack. Also, I think S2 is kind of brilliant. oh, stupid show that is occasionally smart, ilu. :(
- in one scene about 4 eps from the end of the season, Cam has a conversation with Zack over a set of remains in which Zack acts very impersonalized, as he did in ep 1 S1 and has occasionally throughout the show. She says, "Can you at least pretend like this is a human being?" and Zack throws her a confused look and doesn't really get it.
- in (the next?) ep, Jack jokes with Zack about his (Jack's) being inhuman, then says at Zack's confusion that he's only joking, "don't go coming around at night trying to boil me." ?! lol foreshadowing!?
- in the final ep, which was written by Hart Hanson, there are 2 parallel scenes in which Angela and Jack ask Bones and Zack, respectively, to be their maid of honor/best man. Brennan's response is immediately emotional - she hugs Angela and automatically agrees. Zack's response, however, is extremely detached: he doesn't appear to be deeply emotionally invested in the issue at all, and only talks about Jack's emotional response (to the possibility of his dying in Iraq, and how that might ruin their wedding memories if Zack agrees to be his best man) from a rational standpoint, rather than an emotive one. Obviously the goal there was to find a reason for Booth to be the one standing with Bones at the end of the ep, but I feel very certain that HH deliberately structured those two scenes the way he did to illustrate the fundamental difference between Bones' experience of social interaction and Zack's, and how Bones is able to connect with other people on a human level at a way that Zack doesn't always manage.
OH ZACK. :(((((
Also I think if S1 had a theme it was cohesion, coming together, the creation of a group of squints who loved each other and who we loved. The first half of S2 was all about moral ambiguity, and about shaking up our characters' understanding of themselves. It was very heavy on self-exploration: Brennan exploring who she literally was, who her family was; Booth exploring his issues of guilt and responsibility; both of them repeatedly coming to terms with moral shades of grey within and around them. Also there was a *lot* of stuff going on in S2, a lot of action-oriented episodes, plot continuity, and relationship developments: the return of Howard Epps, the return of Oliver from the pilot lol, the Gravedigger, and of course Ryan O'Neal and the clown shooting! The second half of S2 seemed to be about a return to cohesiveness, forming a stronger group bond out of chaos. This was personified by Angela and Hodgins' relationship <33333 and also by that speech Carolyn makes somewhere right in the middle of the season where she basically tells the whole group to shape up because they're falling apart.
<3333 Cam gets a piece of that, too - in the first ep of the season she was telling the group in no uncertain terms what it could and couldn't do, not to experiment without her permission, etc etc. By the last ep of the season, they've totally pulled her into the madness: her response to Angela and Hodgins indulging in PDA, her response to experiments with sea monkeys - it's basically the same, ie to ROLL HER EYES AND WALK AWAY. lololol. What's awesome is that Stephen Fry's presence in the middle of the season also seems to represent a calming influence over the whole show: he pushes Booth towards self-acceptance, wisely shares in the audience's shipping of Booth/Brennan while serving as a mouthpiece to tell us, the audience, to watch and wait and observe.
(Also the gravedigger ep - something i noticed before when re-watching but forgot about, then noticed when re-re-re-watching this time - the assistant, the one who's eventually caught in S4, is the only one who doesn't participate in the dig when they finally reach brennan and jack in that ep. She's standing rigidly apart from the rest of the workers, looking smug and displeased. I remember going "HEY HER" at one point and then never thinking about it again. I'm so glad they actually did something with that TWO YEARS LATER, that it wasn't just a fluke. see, this is why i can't help but love this show madly. <333333)
But as I was saying, the only one who doesn't really seem to get a piece of that repurposed sense of community by the end of S2 is Zack. It's deceptive, because he graduates, cuts his hair, gets rehired so he can stay with the others; but it seems like with that change he becomes more cut off from them than ever. He doesn't know how to interact with Angela anymore because logically his role *should* have changed and it's throwing him off, doesn't know how to respond when Jack asks him to be best man, except with logic. He goes to Iraq because it's logical, and Jack's (oh my god i love everyone, i loved hodgins SO MUCH rewatching this season) impassioned plea that he stay behind and keep being his best friend doesn't even make a dent because it's not logical. Contrast that again with Bones staying behind when Sully begs her to go away with him, because her staying completely *defies* logic at that point and yet she trusts her gut enough to go with it. Zack's level of disconnect makes moments that occasionally seem out of character, when pieced together over three seasons, look inevitably like the actions of someone whose social disorder makes it extremely difficult for them to know how they are supposed to connect emotionally with someone without being told.
In other words, when Zack is told how to feel, he does okay. Otherwise, he flounders. When told in 1x1 that he shouldn't disengage from their victims, he over-emphathizes, until later in S1 he is so overcome by the murder of a child that Bones tells him to, essentially, lock his heart away and freeze out his emotions. Then he does that so effectively that, while not reverting to jokey nicknames for them (check: that goes in the bad column), he still detaches enough for Cam to have to remind him, near the end of S2, of his human connection to the victims. When Angela tells him that he lacks whimsey, he immediately tries to be whimsical.
So when he graduates from assistant to doctor and his role stays static while everyone else's is shifting all over the place, he's lost. He doesn't quite fit in to the new group dynamic that's emerging from all the chaos at the beginning of the season. Jack doesn't come right out and say "Dude, you'll be lost in Iraq," but it's written all over his face. (Oh, Zack. :/ )
And in the very last moment of the last ep of S2, the wide camera shot shows 4 people in the final shot: the pastor standing between Booth and Brennan over on the left side of the screen, and Zack, standing apart from them, over in the right corner by himself, looking very lost.
Watching S3 happen to Zack isn't made easier by any of this. But it makes me respect the show that much more to be able to rewatch and piece a rationale for it all together.