Bosch, Season 1, Episodes 1-10
Released February 13, 2015 on Amazon Prime
The past few years have seen a noticeable rise in the number of original shows available on streaming services, and Amazon has been no different. Their latest offering, titled Bosch, is an adaptation of the novels by Michael Connelly. The show, which features Connelly as a writer, focuses on the trials and tribulations of Harry Bosch, a Homicide detective in the Hollywood Division of the police in Los Angeles. Bosch‘s first season proves that it’s a series with ambition, and while it does have some hiccups, the series as a whole makes for an entertaining watch, with some strong writing bolstering it.
One of the key strengths of Bosch is that the show doesn’t treat its titular character as some kind of supercop who’s revered by everyone. Instead, Harry Bosch is shown to be very much an average cop, someone who cracks cases by doggedly pursuing leads and going through false starts and dead ends. This is best exemplified in the Alexander Delacroix case that spans the season, as none of the key breaks in the case come from anything unique in Bosch’s detective skills. From the discovery of the victim’s identity to the reveal of the killer, every turn the case takes comes from old-fashioned detective work on the part of both Bosch and Edgar. The way Bosch treats and is treated by individuals in the precinct is also a good reflection of this. Even among those whom Bosch gets along with, such as Grace and Mank, there’s an easy camaraderie that comes from friendship, not a sense of worship for Bosch and his skills as a detective. At the same time, people treat Bosch with according to how they feel about him, allowing for unofficial consequences to his actions whenever he bends internal rules. This is in addition to the formal reprimands Bosch gets for those same actions, reprimands that are either followed through on or go away through unrelated means, humanising the titular character in the process and adding to the distinction of him being a normal character, rather than anyone special.
The only person who does treat Bosch with reverence, in another one of the season’s strengths, is Julia Brasher, who is the only person among the individuals working at the precinct who doesn’t have an understanding of how the police force really works. This dovetails with a fascinating character arc for Julia herself, as the season shows how the carelessness brought on by rashness can affect a rookie like Brasher. Instead of rewarding her for not properly following the rules, the writers use her actions to show how a disregard for procedure can actually be harmful, with the possibility of Brasher losing her job, and her chance at being a police officer, becoming a legitimate issue over the course of the season, and one that’s brought about by Julia’s actions herself. Harry’s own issues when his stories are in doubt add credibility to Julia’s storyline, rather than stretching it.
This doesn’t mean that the secondary characters suffer from under-development, however. In addition to Julia, numerous other characters get added dimensions, primarily due to the strength of the writing. The show manages to dispense exposition very effectively through dialogue and character interactions, and while this best serves the audience in keeping them updated on the court case and doling out Bosch’s backstory without sitting through courtroom proceedings, it also helps provide a better understanding of other characters. The dialogue also helps lay the groundwork for characters and character relationships before they’re fully developed, as is seen most clearly in the case of Bosch and Pounds’ antagonistic relationship. While the two interact in the pilot, the conversations Bosch has about Pounds with individuals such as Grace helps lend credibility to Pounds’ actions in the final third of the season. Which is not to say that the characters don’t get fleshed out otherwise, as the interactions they have with Bosch himself also help the audience connect with other secondary characters, which not only helps give the audience an understanding of characters such as Irving when his own storyline with O’Shea starts developing, it also adds a sense of tension and emotional bond to Detective Moore’s shooting and subsequent hospitalisation. The interactions themselves are fun to watch as well, as they help the viewers get a better understanding of Bosch’s relationship to various individuals, not only showing how he feels about them, but how they feel about him.
The season, however, does have its hiccups, and its biggest mishandling is with the character of Reynard Waits. While the characters involved with the police do, by and large, get some development, Waits remains a two-dimensional character throughout the season, and his lack of character traits makes the time the audience spends with him all the more frustrating. Everything the audience learns about him comes from what the police investigation uncovers, and distinctive aspects about his character seemingly pop up only after they’ve been articulated by other characters, such as his adoptive mother’s propensity to pepper french into her lines, an aspect of the character that doesn’t make an appearance until Waits’ connection to french fables is uncovered. As the season’s primary antagonist, the focus on Waits pulls down the show as a whole, and the final uncovering of his fascination with Bosch feels hastily tacked on, with his motivation for killing remaining unexplored at the end of the season.
Overall, however, this is a very entertaining season, and one that proves the show has a level of ambition that’s promising for any future seasons. The presence of jazz music throughout the season gives the show a certain atmosphere that effectively separates it from other shows in the genre. The season as a whole has a certain old-school feel to it, from the minimal computer usage to Bosch’s insistence on flip phones, a feel that’s most noticeable when the detectives are going through the files from McClaren Youth Hall. Titus Welliver’s lead performance is a key reason for the show’s success, as he infuses the character of Bosch with a believable amount of the kind of weariness that comes from doing a job for too long, as well as an understated dogged desire to keep working that’s present throughout the season, but only articulated once. The chemistry between Welliver and Jamie Hector is also a pleasure to watch, as both performers play off of each other in a way that sells the idea of two people who have worked together for a long time. The writing also helps in this regard, as it often sounds like the two are speaking in a kind of shorthand, especially in tense situations, that feels like a natural development of understanding each other. Irving making a play for power is a fascinating subplot, and the promise of following that further, as well as developing characters such as Grace and ending more cases in the bold manner that the show takes in regards to the Delacroix murder, makes the show worth returning to in its potential second season.
– Deepayan Sengupta