Bosch is Amazon’s first drama, but it treads on familiar ground. The 10-episode series pulls its material from several detective novels by Michael Connelly, who also developed the series and shares a writing credit with The Wire‘s Eric Overmyer. Bosch stars Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch (yes, like the 15th century apocalyptic painter Hieronymus Bosch), an LAPD homicide detective. There is no other pretension here, though — Bosch is the hardest of hard-boiled cops, and the case that will likely dominate this first season is as grisly as can be imagined.
Though Bosch is the latest TV iteration of a brilliant/rogue murder cop, Bosch is a throwback in every possible way. A rookie says to him that working in homicide is one of the last noble professions, and as Bosch himself says later to a prosecutor who is working on behalf of a family suing him for a wrongful death suit, “I need to work. This is the work I do.” The show is an homage to an old kind of tough cop, without tipping too far into noir.
Bosch has a “checkered” past, to quote a sleazy L.A. journalist (for the cops, there is no other kind). His mother was a prostitute who was murdered when he was 12 years old. He then was shuffled around foster homes before enlisting in the military, where he was part of a Special Forces team. While standing trial he’s asked how many people he’s killed; he says too many to remember. When asked how many people he’s killed in his twenty years as a police officer, he answers “five.” He’s not afraid of his gun, it’s safe to say.
A saxophone solo plays while Bosch has conflicting memories of how his last kill went down, which is the closest the show comes to being over-the-top in its genre. Otherwise, Bosch feels like a bog-standard cop show, and for people who like that genre (myself being one), that’s not a bad thing. Overmyer’s authentic style of writing will be familiar to fans of The Wire, Treme, and Homicide: Life on the Street, and he also brings with him a few notable Wire alums: Jamie Hector plays Bosch’s partner Jerry Edgar, while Lance Reddick appears as Deputy Chief Irving.
Pilots are tough, and it’s my understanding that a slightly different version will run on February 13th when all of the other episodes drop on Amazon. Still, this first run at Bosch came off as having a strong vision and direction of where it wants to go, aided surely by Connelly’s source material (even though apparently a lot of changes were made in the adaptation). Welliver is compelling and likable, even as an irascible cop. He’s not unsmiling, and a quasi-date he goes on with another officer illuminates a slightly different, softer facet of his character (though not by much).
The crime itself — that all starts with a bone found by a quietly charming, retired doctor, played by Scott Wilson — is of the worst kinds. The bone (and subsequent bones) belong to a young boy who suffered extraordinary physical abuse in his short life. When the coroner details that abuse to Bosch and Edgar, it resonates enough with Bosch that he has to leave (possibly because of his own connection with that kind of horror). Bosch may be a familiar figure on the fictional cop landscape, but that history of a tormented past, and how it shapes his current actions, is always fertile narrative ground.
For fans of crime shows, especially those that don’t include sci-fi gadgetry and a reliance on intangible brilliance, but just the hard work of someone who has been on this beat a long time, Bosch is a show that seems worth seeking out. It may not be for everyone — Harry Bosch certainly isn’t — but like Harry himself, Bosch seems to have a firm stance that you are either with or against. As in: this is who I am, this is what I do. So if you’re with me — let’s get on with it.
Pilot Rating: ★★★ Good — Proceed with cautious optimism
All 10 episodes of the first season of Bosch will premiere on Amazon Prime starting Friday, February 13th.