I didn’t discover the world of Hollywood Division detective Harry Bosch through my Amazon Prime membership.
No, I am a fan of mystery author Michael Connelly, who created Bosch and detailed many of the events of his law enforcement career in a series of novels. I’ve read several of the novels in the Harry Bosch series. I can’t tell you exactly how many, but I know that I have others, still unread, in my library closet. I do know that I have enjoyed every Connelly book I’ve read so far, and, given the luxury of time, I will one day read the rest.
Since I’ve begun watching the Amazon series, however, I suspect that “one day” will come sooner rather than later. I have the Bosch novel City of Bones already queued up as one of the next books that I’ll read.
There are only seven seasons of the Amazon streaming series. I’m watching Season 4 now (one or two episodes per week), and Season 7 dropped at the end of June 2021. At a tight ten episodes per season (only eight for the final season), it won’t take me long to get through the entire series.
That’s why this review is for the first three seasons.
You might think that this means we’ll be talking about three different stories in this outing. That’s not true. In fact, each season interweaves the plots of multiple Bosch novels in it, so we’re actually addressing more than three stories.
Season 1 incorporates elements of the Michael Connelly novels Echo Park, City of Bones and The Concrete Blonde. I read the last one, but not the first two (although City of Bones is teed-up in the library closet as one of the next books I will read). It’s important to note that none of these three books were our introduction to Bosch in written form. That would have been in The Black Echo and The Black Ice.
I’m delighted that our introduction to the live-action Bosch was set in storylines that took place later in the novel series. It makes the character of Harry Bosch seem more established, with an existing backstory and a sense of verisimilitude that wouldn’t exist if we were given Bosch’s entire history as frontloaded exposition.
The multiple storylines of the first season effectively complement each other. The story of serial murderer Raynard Waits (Jason Gedrick) was a new one for me, in the sense that I haven’t read Echo Park yet, where the character first appeared. The story isn’t really a new one in any other sense. We’ve seen the serial-killer-attempts-to-outsmart-the-police plot before, but it is handled well here. I liked the way the Laurel Canyon cold case involving the murder of a young man and the incidental discovery of his bones is interwoven with the Waits case. Bosch, of course, has to solve this murder as well.
Meanwhile, Bosch is standing trial in a civil case for fatally shooting a suspect, whom the plaintiffs claim was unarmed. Even though this season appeared seven years ago, this particular storyline seems—unfortunately—as fresh today as ever. While logic tells us that Harry Bosch is the protagonist in this series, it is difficult for a time in the first season to be certain that we can fully trust that he’s a good cop.
I enjoyed this season. I can’t disagree with the critics who likened it to other police procedurals from the 1980s and ’90s. Perhaps it’s that comparison that draws me to this series. Gritty crime drama, with a lot of stylistic choices such as Bosch’s unlikely home overlooking Los Angeles, his love of jazz, his former military career and his self-conception as a modern-day knight-errant. Los Angeles is not merely our setting, with all of the familiar locations you’ve seen in countless television shows and movies, but almost seems like another character in the series.
The casting is phenomenal. Since I’ve experienced Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch now, I can’t imagine any other actor in the role. Bosch’s partner, Jerry Edgar, is played by Jamie Hector, who I remember from The Wire. Amy Aquino appears as Lt. Grace Billets, Bosch’s immediate superior and friend; she’s been in a lot of stuff over the years. Lance Reddick, another alumnus of The Wire who also appeared in Lost (like Welliver) and the series Fringe (which I still think is underrated), is Chief of Police Irvin Irving.
Bosch has a love interest this season in rookie Hollywood Division cop Julia Brasher (Annie Wershing), and that’s probably the least-interesting part of the season. Of much stronger interest is Bosch’s relationship with his ex-wife Eleanor Wish (Sarah Clarke) and his daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz).
The ten episodes of the first season move briskly, the various story threads woven together expertly with very little wasted screen time. Even before I was halfway through Season 1, I knew I’d be on board all the way through Season 7.
Season 2 is based on the fourth and fifth novels in the Connelly series, The Last Coyote and Trunk Music. I read both of these books years ago, but that in no way ruined the experience of this season for me.
The series expertly juggles multiple story arcs. The murder of a Hollywood producer occupies much of our time in the season. The victim’s wife is a genuine femme fatale played, to the hilt, by Jeri Ryan. I would have to surrender my nerd credentials if I didn’t mention that Ms. Ryan was Seven-of-Nine on Star Trek: Voyager. Deputy Chief Irving and his son, George (Robbie Jones), are also in the spotlight in this season, in a plot about dirty cops that overlaps with Bosch’s murder, and this story thread leads to personal tragedy. The storylines evolve to include bits about the Armenian mob, and Matthew Lilliard does a star turn as a sleazy Vegas strip club manager (and, perhaps, something a bit more). Bosch’s trip to Vegas during his investigation also unwittingly puts ex-wife Eleanor and daughter Maddie in some danger.
As if this weren’t enough to fill ten episodes, Bosch also continues his personal investigation into his mother’s murder, which has long since been a cold case. He makes some discoveries along the way, and seems to have solved the murder by season’s end, but not in a satisfying way.
Which leads us to Season 3. Also a great season, although I thought the second season was the best of the three so far. This season involves a Hollywood director who murders a woman during sex, plus the murder of the prime suspect in a cold case murder, a man Bosch has continued keeping tabs on in his off-hours. But, the season piles on with another plot about a group of crooked combat veterans who have been smuggling millions of dollars out of the Middle East, and have had to try to cover their tracks by committing a series of murders.
All of this is going on, at the same time, while Bosch is having to parent daughter Maddie, whose mother and stepfather are currently living in Asia, and Bosch discovers new information about his mother’s murder that completely invalidates everything that happened on this particular plot in the last season.
Honestly, I think this season tried to shoulder too much story weight. Each individual story had merits, certainly, but, at times, the pace we were travelling through the season seemed a bit frantic. Couple this fact with another: characters who would be minor supporting characters on lesser cop shows also seem to shoulder a great deal of narrative weight. Lance Reddick and Jamie Hector are main cast members, and get their share of screen time to add depth to their characters. Amy Aquino, as Lt. Billets, is probably Bosch’s best friend, her character a fresh take on the character role. These characters have their own supporting cast in their families and friends as well. It’s a lot.
I felt like the story of the military veterans was truly the A-story this season, probably the most interesting of the interwoven threads. This story includes several murders and a near-tragedy involving J. Edgar. The ending has Bosch squaring off against the Big Bad of the season on an island, mano a mano. Both men are former special forces, I believe.
There are differences between the streaming series and the novels, of course. But, the differences aren’t game-changers. Bosch has been updated and, in ways you will understand if you’ve read the Michael Connelly books, somewhat softened. Welliver has the necessary gravitas to pull off the character of Harry Bosch, and he remains one of the main reasons to watch the series
What can I say about this Amazon original series after watching the first three seasons?
I love it. I’m already regretting that there aren’t even more seasons out there for me to watch.
I won’t bother to break down my review grade for each season, because they all earned the same.
Firewater’s Justice-Detective-Bosch-is-a-Concrete-Blonde Report Card: A
For years to come, this series is going to referenced by review writers the way The Wire, The Sopranos, and The Shield are now. It’s that good. If you don’t watch it, you’ll feel like you missed out on something one day.