There’s something satisfying about watching a TV show that isn’t particularly revolutionary but simply does what it does well. With more TV shows than ever available to us, each is shooting for the ceiling trying to capture our interest with unique premises and grand scopes. Unfortunately, many of these shows fall flat due to reasons like poor pacing, bad writing or a story that can’t sustain itself. Amazon’s crime thriller Bosch avoids those pitfalls by simply executing a fantastic version of the crime drama. With season three recently released on Amazon Prime, I thought now would be a good time to take a look at what made Bosch stand out to me in this crowded TV landscape.
Based on the acclaimed and long-running series of novels by Michael Connelly, Bosch stars Titus Welliver as Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch as he investigates crimes across LA and deals with his own personal demons. Joining Harry are his partner Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector from The Wire), Lt. Grace Billets (Amy Aquino) and Lance Reddick (The Wire, Fringe) as Chief Ervin Irving. The series also follows Harry’s complicated relationship with his ex-wife Eleanor (Sarah Clarke) and teenage daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz). Each crime Harry investigates weighs heavily on him. He’s willing to go to any length to solve his cases…I’ll stop there before this post ends up sounding like a cliched promo.
You’ve seen stories like this before but just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it can’t be both entertaining and compelling. Especially when it is executed as well as this show is. Bosch combines a great story and a stellar cast with top-notch writing to create a show that rises above the of the massive amount of shows on streaming services,
Do yourself a favor and skip season one of Bosch. Its main plot revolves around a game of cat and mouse between Harry and a serial killer (played by Jason Gedrick) who makes for a pretty bland antagonist. The whole season builds to an unsatisfying confrontation that ultimately didn’t justify the amount of time spent on it. If not for the great acting and the promise of growth, I might have stopped watching the show.
So why am I writing a review about this show then? Because season two of Bosch fully steps into its own and became a show worthy of investment. The main story begins with the murder of an adult film producer that gradually unravels a criminal conspiracy that only deepens as Harry and J.Edgar cross paths with the victim’s wife (Jeri Ryan) and a retired cop (Bret Sexton) who’s more than a little interested in their case. The season deftly weaves together multiple disparate plotlines and brings them together to a satisfying conclusion and a rather poignant moment for Harry.
I’ve seen three episodes of the current third season and it looks to continue Bosch’s upward trajectory in terms of quality. Harry is juggling more and more investigations and J.Edgar also receives a much bigger role than in previous years. It’s too early to say how everything will come together by the end but I’m more than excited to see how the season progresses.
Bosch’ subject matter alone isn’t what makes it such a compelling show. Yes, the stories are good and the investigations have plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing but if the show weren’t bolstered by such great performances, it wouldn’t hold up.
Titus Welliver has appeared in countless TV shows and movies over the years including Deadwood and Lost and he was past due for a star-vehicle. Bosch is the showcase that Welliver deserves. He imbues Bosch with all the requisite traits you’d expect from a hard-boiled detective but he also brings a fair amount of warmth to Harry. This man has seen and done horrible things, but he isn’t cold to the world around him.
Harry’s relationships with Maddie and Eleanor bring depth to him outside of his police work. Sarah Clarke (Nina from 24) and Madison Lintz bring much to roles that could’ve been fairly one-note. They both mean a great deal to him but, they’re not the typical nagging family members from other shows. Season two brings them into the main story in a much more organic way and allows for several great interactions between the three. The show deftly shows us how important Maddie and Eleanor are to Harry rather than simply tells us how much they mean to him. Whether it’s a Chinese take-out meal with Maddie or helping Eleanor in a professional setting, the relationships work.
Harry’s relationships at work are also given more depth than another show might invest in it’s supporting characters and again, these performances are delivered by great actors. Lance Reddick, in particular, gives a standout performance as Chief Irving and Amy Aquino turns Lt. Billetts into more than just the Lt. barking orders in the squad room. Because each is allowed to exist as more than just an obstacle for Harry’s pursuit of justice, it means more when they do stand in his way because we know who they are. Many cop shows would be content to just have the authority figure stand in the way of the hero, not so with Bosch.
Many shows on streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix often feel bloated and overlong either with episodes that run too long or seasons that contain too many episodes and not enough story to fill them. As such, the middle stretch starts to drag as the plot stalls to fill an arbitrary number of episodes. Streaming services have started treating shows like “XX-hour movies” or “a novel for TV” (if you read Alan Sepinwall’s writing, you’ll be familiar with this notion) which has created numerous pacing problems for shows released on these platforms. Bosch most definitely feels like a novel given its structure but as written and showrun by Eric Overmyer (who wrote on The Wire, the most novelistic of TV shows) it avoids this pitfall.
While a given episode many not be wholly distinct from the next (say a dramatic change in format), each does advance the plot in meaningful ways with some surprising twists and turns. Each episode is vital and I rarely felt like the story was simply treading water until the end of the season came around. When more time was taken on a moment or scene, it’s to give the viewer the chance to sit in the moment with the character, not to drag out the runtime.
Bosch might seem like a fairly standard cop drama from the outside, but the final product is anything but. Because of the degree of quality both in front of and behind the camera, Bosch rises above other shows in its genre and platform. The gripping cases, the amazing cast and a pace that moves the story along swiftly make Bosch a standout for Amazon and a great show to add to your library. I held off watching it for a long time but what I watched proved to be worth the investment.
Seasons 1-3 of Bosch are streaming right now, exclusively on Amazon Prime. Check it out if you’re looking a solid cop drama and a good binge watch.