Bosch: A Review

I got to talk to Steve Diamond for a while at FenCon this year, and he recommended the TV show Bosch when I said I watched a lot of police procedurals (no big surprise there; my book is a police procedural, after all).

So, I decided to give it a try.

It’s not exactly a brand-new show, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it, so here’s a short review for anyone else who might have missed this when it was new.

Danger, there will be some spoilers.

First off, the disclaimers:

If you don’t like foul language, don’t even bother. This was a Prime original show, not something that aired on regular television, so the bad language is significantly worse than most crime shows. It feels like the F-bomb accounts for a third of all spoken words in the episode, sometimes.

The same goes for the amount of nudity on-screen. The creators didn’t have to worry about TV censorship, so they could do whatever they wanted. There is quite a bit of female nudity, both in crime scenes and as just a shocker (strippers in the suspect’s place of business, that kind of thing). There’s also a lot of descriptions of crimes and autopsies that are a little . . . gross.

It’s definitely an R-rated show. Not something you want any kids to watch, not even high-schoolers. I waited for the kids to go to bed, and put the subtitles on so I could turn the volume way down (and of course stayed up late watching it on several occasions).

That being said, the stories and characters are both excellent. I’ve watched the first three seasons, and it’s keeping me watching.

The good:

Detective Hieronymus Bosch–and I have to give the author (Michael Connolly) credit for that utterly ridiculous name–and his partner, J. Edgar (and points for that great joke, too) are two different personalities, but they work well together to solve the crimes in Hollywood Homicide. The cynical veteran detective, and the young, almost-cynical detective balance each other out on the screen.

The lieutenant, Grace Billets, somehow manages to put up with them, and is very refreshing as a “tough woman” who doesn’t come across as a total bitch. She keeps the gentlemen in the department in line, and does it without being a tyrant.

Bosch’s daughter, Maddie, is enough of a silly little teenager to make her convincing, but she doesn’t take that over the top and just become an annoying little millenial. Her mother, Eleanor (Bosch’s ex-wife) is irritating so far, but nothing too ugly. They’re both very believable characters.

I also like Crate and Barrell, the two other detectives in Hollywood Homicide. They’re mostly for comic relief, but they have some good cop moments to make sure everybody knows that yes, they crack a lot of jokes, but they know their stuff.

Lance Reddick is wonderful as Deputy Chief Irving. He has a lot of character development just in the first two seasons, and some of it will just break your heart. Great character done well.

The villains have been interesting: psychotic serial killer in the first season, and then your basic murdering selfish jackasses in the second. The acting was great for all of those parts.

The show also emphasizes the hard parts of cop life, like Bosch getting sued in civil court for shooting a suspect, even though the police department ruled it a good shooting and cleared him. Or, the usual politicking back-and-forth between the cops on one side, and the lawyers on the other (only more so). That was a slightly different take on the usual cop dramas, and very refreshing.

The bad:

It seems like the writers (either for the show, or the original writer of the books, I can’t tell) were trying to pull off a Law & Order sort of vibe, where the good guys don’t always win hands-down, and didn’t stick the landing.

The first season, for example, has two crimes that are connected for the plot: the serial killings, and the cold case of the dead boy in the valley. Both crimes are solved: the serial killer commits suicide by cop (Bosch, of course), and the police arrest the person who killed the boy thirty-five years ago.

The depiction of the serial killer committing suicide-by-cop was well done, but the other just fell flat. The now-grown man who killed the boy in the cold case got off scot-free (because he was a juvenile when the crime was committed, and in the 80s, it was illegal to try a minor as an adult; and the penalties for juvenile offenses expire after twenty-five years). Immediately after that, he was murdered by the father of the dead boy, because the cops couldn’t punish him.

That sounds like it should have been at least partially satisfying–the guy got what was coming to him, and oh, the poor father, and so on–but it didn’t come across like that. The father in question was a really bad guy all on his own, and what should have been an emotionally satisfying moment at the end of the show came across more as a “what, did you guys just get bored and quit, or what?” moment.

The same happened at the end of the second season. The ringleader, responsible for multiple murders and thefts and all kinds of crap, got killed in a shootout. The other criminal (Jeri Ryan in a great role) gets arrested and put on trial, and you don’t see the result until the beginning of season three.

Mistrial, due to a hung jury. Majorly disappointing, especially because the DA–a total asshole, played very well by Stephen Culp–declines to re-file the charges against her.

Now, I know that happens sometimes. But this is a TV show. The good guys are supposed to win. They come up with some last-minute evidence, or find a witness just before it’s too late, or whatever your chosen method is. But there has to be something there for us to root for while we’re watching it. Reality sucks, but a show is supposed to be different from reality.

My slight problem with the end-of-season conclusions in those two seasons wasn’t enough to make me stop watching. Fortunately, season 3’s ending was great. They tied everything up, and then also put in a small cliffhanger setup for the next season with Bosch’s ex-wife and the FBI. It was done perfectly. My only (very slight) complaint about season 3 was the conflict between Bosch and his partner, Jerry Edgar. It’s a good source of on-screen drama, but just as a personal preference of mine, I like it when the good guys are fighting the bad guys, not each other. But, if they can pull it off, it should be a good subplot.

If somebody always gets away with it at the end, that’s no fun. If the characters had been any less amazing, I might have stopped at the end of season two. I’m glad I didn’t. Thanks to everybody from the stars on down to the supporting characters and even the very minor speaking roles, the dialogue is amazing, and the humor is enough to make me cover my mouth to laugh and worry about waking the kids up.

So, my final verdict is: 4.5 out of 5 stars, and looking forward to season four.

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