SUMMER BOXSETS: Bosch (Series 4)

Want to know what to watch during the summer months? Here’s the first of our new weekly series of reviews and details of the series boxsets currently available on streaming sites.

One of the best things about the TV adaptation of Bosch is nothing really happens. Not to say there isn’t action – it has plenty of that. But there’s something meditative about the way the series dissects real police work in all its glorious minutiae that other similar series just wouldn’t dare waste time on. Crime scenes are properly explored, stretching scenes out for what feels like ages. More often than not, it’s mundane paperwork – or the relentless perusal of mountainous evidence – that catches a culprit. Interrogations often go askew, then lead nowhere. Suspects do erratic things that bend the narrative into odd directions. The politics of police work and local government often intertwines awkwardly. Cops and their quarry alike feel like human beings on divergent paths, just trying to survive in the modern world. It feels real. Bosch is methodical to an almost glacial degree, and it’s within that strange, organic tempo that arguably the greatest modern police procedural has been created.

Bosch is up to its fourth season on Amazon, and has been a flagship production for the streaming service ever since its inception, with further seasons already greenlit. Faithfully adapted from the novels of Michael Connelly with a slight update to the protagonist’s environment (in the books, Bosch is a Vietnam veteran – in the show he is a two-tour Gulf War Special Forces commander), the series has firmly captured the spirit and tone of Connelly’s work. This is primarily down to an exemplary cast of actors that is a real alumni of the best crime dramas of the past twenty years, including Jamie Hector (The Wire), Lance Reddick (The Wire/Oz), Paul Calderón (Boardwalk Empire), Amy Aquino (ER), Yancey Arias (The Shield), Sarah Clarke (24) and many more. But the show’s overall success is largely down to the incredible central performance of Titus Welliver as Bosch – taciturn, stoic and relentlessly old school in his methods, he’s a relic of another time set loose in modern Los Angeles – and is a joy to watch.

There’s any number of threads that occupy the backspace around each season’s chosen narrative arc, and these mainly focus on the ongoing search for the man who murdered Bosch’s mother in the late 1960s, leading him into group homes and delinquency as a troubled youth. This incident informs much of Bosch’s interpersonal relationships with his own daughter Maddie (played by Madison Lintz) and ex-wife Eleanor (Clarke), whose status as a high-stakes gambler and ex-FBI agent leads to some interesting story beats of her own. Season Four looked to bring a conclusion to both these elements, as the murder of a prominent civil rights attorney not only sheds unwelcome light on the LAPD but also leads Bosch into the path of a killer who maybe closer to his own personal history than he knows.

To a certain degree, there is a feeling of deja vu for some part of this season. Bosch essentially solved the murder of his mother in season three, but they kept an angle open on it as a cliffhanger to bring some emotional weight to the conclusion of the following season. Whether that worked is debatable, but it will be interesting to see where the show goes now without the shadow of that case permeating each season. Moreover, it feels like the shift in showrunners between seasons 3 and 4 led to some creative house clearance to set the stage for the next era of the show, and this is most transparent in the handling of the Koreatown Killer, a virtually silent murderer and thief who popped up as a second-string story toward the end of season three. That character’s narrative arc ends abruptly in season four and renders the overall inclusion as moot, as if the writers got themselves into an awkward corner and unceremoniously dropped it in the most asinine way possible – even if it had echoes of Season One’s serial killer and happenstance sometimes being the overriding factor in police work rather than deductive heroics.

More controversial for most viewers will be the storyline behind Eleanor and her involvement with the Chinese Triads. Although this plot formed the main narrative in Connelly’s Nine Dragons, here it is minituarised in scope to the second half of the season and not really given enough space to breathe. The emotional beats on offer in the aftermath of the storyline hit home hard, but it felt like the writers couldn’t decide where the focus should be this season and as a result, the overall effect of the season is one where a tighter rein on the narrative could have worked wonders.

That’s not to say this season is poor – far from it. Where Bosch excels is in the communication between its characters and here it doubles down with some amazingly taut conversations and interplay between actors. It’s clear everybody is having a blast – the show has enough room for everybody to flex their skills and most of the cast get a key scene to really deliver in – and it’s a real pleasure to watch. Amongst the darkness, there’s always wry humour to be found (the detectives having a whip round to buy pizza for drumming protestors outside the station so they can get some peace and quiet to work), and the show’s stellar supporting players bring a whole array of enjoyment to proceedings.

Similarly, the myriad stories on offer each episode make for compelling viewing – each character has a part to play in the core story as much as it’s periphery – but it’s in their own interactions outside of Bosch’s orbit where the really interesting narratives are formed. This is especially true for Lance Reddick as Chief Irving, who’s overall arc through the seasons as honest cop to political player rivals the writing on The Wire. Equally, Paul Calderón’s bump up to key player as Detective Santiago Robertson from Season 3 was a great treat, both as a foil to Bosch’s bullish tactics but also in his sensei-like teachings to the new guard of detectives in Jamie Hector’s Det. Edgar and DaJuan Johnson’s Det.Pierce.

Ultimately, Bosch is true child of its source material and whilst there may have been some dilution and sugar added for the screen, you can’t scrub away the core grit of Connelly’s work – and as much as it is a page-turner on paper, so too the TV show always leaves you wanting one more episode.

Andy D


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Mike Sargent says:

    That’s a great write up Andy. I’ve read all the books and like you I am hugely impressed with the series.


    1. Andy D says:

      Thanks Mike. It’s probably the best book to TV adaptation I’ve seen in years. Definitely essential viewing for crime fans!


  2. A.N. O'Nymous says:

    I have to say how much I enjoy Titus Welliver’s interpretation. There are many TV series about a strong TV cop who bends the rules without crossing the line, but this particular one is more believable than most and that’s all down to Titus Welliver’s Bosch.


    1. Andy D says:

      Couldn’t agree more! First season I had some difficulty shaking his performance in Lost from my memory but he really feels like he was born for the role of Bosch. I can’t imagine anyone else playing him now!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.