It’s not often one’s highest hopes are rewarded. Watching the Bosch TV series through to the end on Amazon hasn’t changed my opinion of it (see my interview with Michael Connelly and Titus Welliver and essay on the first four episodes here) but it has widened my perspective. I rejoined the series with episode five, Mama’s Boy, which again was directed by Ernest Dickerson in the most stunning fashion for the small screen. Dickerson has always been good in darker, shadowy locations, and the way he blends that darker sense with the bright light of Los Angeles is a perfect visual metaphor for what Connelly’s books and the series itself try to do.
What’s most interesting about the complete series is the way it winds up aligning with that vision in so many ways. It’s light on the shootouts and car chases, and it is very heavy on the grind of police work, the slow process of unglamorous detection. Although Harry’s relationships, with his daughter, his ex, and with his colleagues are inevitably the focus, the story lines, intertwined admirably (presumably by Eric Overmyer) from a number of Connelly’s books, reflect issues that mirror Bosch the person and Bosch the detective, not least those of parenthood. The two major plot threads are connected, with the discovery of the body of a teenager murdered 20 years earlier ( City Of Bones) linking to the serial killer Reynard Waits (Echo Park). Bosch himself is introduced by a smaller storyline taken from The Concrete Blonde. It’s a fascinating bit of adaptation, and what stands out is the way they have been combined to reinforce each other. Even Shawn Hatosy as Stokes and Jason Gedrick as Waits seem to reinforce each other.
The ensemble cast is not new to police drama (think especially of Hill Street Blues) and it is very much of a part of modern Scandinavian crime — like Martin Beck, Bosch’s essential isolation plays off the group he works with. But the persistent and upfront conflict with authority is an essential part of Bosch’s work ethic. It is helped in this case by another parallel story, detailing the bartering between District Attorney Rick O’Shea (Stephen Culp), who wants to be mayor, and Deputy Chief Irvin Irving (Lance Reddick, in a role that seems an outgrowth of his part in The Wire) who wants to be chief and holds a copy of the video O’Shea thought he’d destroyed, which shows his own, rather than Bosch’s culpability in Waits’ escape from custody. It’s a tremendous cast, with Jamie Hector as Bosch’s partner Jerry Edgar and Mark Derwin as his nemesis Harvey Pounds standing out, and the seemingly requisite lesbian kiss signaled by Rose Rollins (fresh from The L Word) as Kiz Ryder. Annie Wersching does an excellent job of mercurial changes in her relationship with Bosch, while Sarah Clarke, as Eleanor Wish (it’s not just villains whose names signify things) signals both why she was attracted to Bosch and why the relationship couldn’t work. Pat Skipper, as the father of the murdered boy, has some devastating scenes, as does Veronica Cartwright as Waits’ mother.
But the essence of good character acting is having good characters, and it is a tribute to the writing of the show that they have so much to work with. It’s also writing that takes chances. The main story arc actually resolves itself in the ninth of the ten episodes, and I found it significant that Connelly himself co-scripted the final episode, which is where the series comes full circle back to its focus on Bosch while tying the other story lines together.
And of course Bosch is the centre. I started off admiring what Welliver brought to the part: a fierce internal drive which is the essence of Bosch. As the series went on, I realised he matched by pre-conception of Bosch less and less: he a bit too ectomorphic, too lean, sharp-angled, and hard. He dresses too well, wears too showy a watch, and a bracelet that seemed disconcerting. But then I realised that this is a bit of keeping with the times, and the anachronism is wound up in the turntable, and the jazz LPs that Bosch plays, and the way his daughter marvels at them (and doesn’t even have CDs). Times have changed.
Then it occurred to me that my image of Bosch is very close to my image of Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op, an un-preposessing slightly soft around the edges detective, but that this does not have to be what Bosch should be, and what Welliver brought to the character was very much in keeping with where he was going in this show. Moreover, it occured to me that if you were casting for Hammett’s Sam Spade (not that the world needs a remake of The Maltese Falcon) Titus Welliver would be the perfect choice for the Bogart part, and that Bogart might have made a decent Harry Bosch in his own time. Welliver as Bogart; I can’t think of a much higher compliment. And Bosch: The Series has left me already anticipating the second season.