Amazon Prime is through its third “season” of Bosch, their series based on Michael Connelly’s wildly successful books about LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. It’s a good show—sometimes an outstanding show—but it doesn’t quite push me over the edge of enthusiasm the way Amazon’s Goliath did earlier this year. There are definable reasons for this.
First the good stuff. The producers had the good sense to stick as much within the universe defined by Connelly’s books as possible, unlike what Netflix did with the Longmire series, which has shown wear the last couple of years. No one comes up with better stories than Michael Connelly, and his depictions of police procedure and cops’ lives are unsurpassed.
The casting and acting also express Connelly’s books well. I’ve been in the tank for TitusWelliver even since he made his first appearance in Deadwood, no matter how badly he needed a haircut. He absorbs the role of Harry so much that when I read Connelly now I think of Welliver in my mind. It’s also nice to see Wire alumni Jamie Hector and Lance Reddick again, though Reddick plays essentially the same role as he did in The Wire, with a little more connivance. (It would be nice to see him walking around without that rebar up his ass, though.) The dynamic between Harry and his daughter (Madison Lintz) always works, and the relationship he has with his ex-wife (Sarah Clarke) is authentically awkward, as opposed to inexpertly done. The overall production values are excellent.
My lack of total enthusiasm comes, in part, from the strengths of the show: how close it relies on Connelly’s books. No one tells better stories than Michael Connelly, but he doesn’t tell them with much flair. Sometimes the books read as if he’s still too closely wedded to the ethos of his journalistic roots. The dialog rarely sings. It’s a talented corps of actors; give them things to say that take advantage of their gifts.
The other problem is Harry himself: he’s an asshole. If not for his obvious affection and concern for his daughter, he’d be an unlikeable asshole. He’s sullen, rude, and always Right, and fuck you if you disagree. That’s okay once in a while as a way to show a character with backbone, but Harry’s like that all the time. As someone pointed out to me (I wish I remember who, but I forget. Sorry.) Harry’s an asshole in the books, too, but the internal monologs help us to understand his thought processes better, so we can at least rationalize some of his more holey conduct. A visual medium loses that, so it might be of value to back off it a little.
Is Bosch a good show? Absolutely. Will I watch Season 4? No doubt. Does it reach the elite level of The Wire, The Sopranos, or Deadwood? Nope. I’d place it about even with Ray Donovan, though better in some ways and not as good in others. A good show well worth one’s time, but not to be included in the conversation when the classics are under discussion.