On Amazon Prime’s police procedural “Bosch,” detectives write detailed timelines on whiteboards. They read and re-read statements. They knock on doors. They follow suspects in cars. The path to solving a case is a slow, meticulous one and yet, the show’s measured approach to storytelling still feels intense. With a strong performance from Titus Welliver as the title character and compelling cases, “Bosch” is habit-forming.
Based on Michael Connelly’s novels, the series borrows its atmospheric cues from cop shows of the past but adds character complexity and history. With an honest and straightforward approach, Detective Harry Bosch’s (Titus Welliver) police work wouldn’t be out of place on “Dragnet.” What serves the show’s modern take on retro cop drama is his backstory and emotional complexity. Bosch is haunted by his mother’s unsolved murder and he is a father. These things are deeply meaningful to him but played with little sentimentality. It’s a hard balance to achieve but Welliver delivers every season. He plays Bosch with a world-weary arrogance that manages to come off as admirable, even likeable.
Season four finds Harry leading a task force that is investigating the murder of a high-profile African-American attorney on the eve of prosecuting the Los Angeles Police Department for brutality. His death sets off a wave of anti-police protests that intensify when a cop is arrested for the crime. In the middle of a city on the edge of rioting is Bosch, systematically working the case while pushing aside the distractions of police and city politics. It is pure Harry — reliable, determined, steadfast, and Welliver has the ability to communicate all three with the slightest of facial expressions.
One of the strongest aspects of the show is Bosch’s family relationships, particularly with his teenage daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz). Teenage angst on TV series is too common and very tiresome, but Maddie is one of the most well-rounded teenage characters on screen. Lintz gives her the maturity that would be expected from the daughter of a no-nonsense cop. Her scenes with Welliver have a subtle warmth about them that add to Harry’s emotional depth without diluting the core of who the character is.
Harry’s interactions with his ex-wife Eleanor (Sarah Clarke) are similar and because these interactions have evolved through the seasons, their time together offers an engaging realism. What is equally interesting about Maddie and Eleanor is how the writers approach them. Rather than serving only as windows into Bosch’s inner life, they have compelling character arcs of their own.
At the heart of “Bosch” is an implied contract with the viewer that its storytelling is going to be as forthright as Harry. No red herrings. No violence for the sake of it. No hurried pace. “Bosch’s” narrative is so comfortingly by the book that an unexpected event early in season four is quite shocking. And yet, it remains organic to the storyline and perfectly in line with plot expectations. Through it all, Bosch remains dependably and satisfyingly himself.
“Bosch” is streaming on Amazon Prime now.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.