Recently I – along with almost everyone else who watched – was disappointed by the second season of HBO’s True Detective. The first season had riveting performances by Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, and Michelle Monaghan, and while it required an investment to follow the convoluted plot that was spread out over more than a decade of time, it rewarded the viewer with a fascinating portrait of two flawed detectives trying to do what’s right. With the second season, though, the convoluted plot became positively opaque, with plot twists that cheated the audience. None of the characters were sympathetic or all that interesting, while some of the dialogue was cringe-worthy, especially with Vince Vaughn’s character. It followed the form of the first season like it was the old dance instructions you could get, where you put down sheets with shoeprints on them to show where to place your feet. You might hit the marks but you won’t have any emotion or intelligence, and there’s no involvement between dance partners. I turned off the show after struggling though five episodes; even that far in I couldn’t be bothered to see how the show ended.
Thankfully, I found a remedy for the bad taste the show left in my mouth. Bosch, a 10 episode adaptation of the bestselling novels of Michael Connelly, was produced by Amazon for streaming on-line. If you have Amazon Prime, it’s free, but even if you have to pay it’s well worth a viewing. Saying it’s based on the novels is correct, since it combines elements of three of Connelly’s books: “City of Bones,” “Echo Park,” and “The Concrete Blond.” However, the blending is seamless so it plays as one story. Connelly created the series along with Eric Overmyer, who has produced Homicide: A Life on the Streets, The Wire, and all three interations of Law & Order. The scripts are intelligent and tightly plotted, with sharply drawn characters, just as they should be in adapting Connelly’s works.
Visually this is one of the best police procedurals ever. The sets look like they were lifted from the actual Hollywood division police station, with miniscule cubicles for the detectives. When the detectives go to the morgue, it’s not all chrome and tile and sterile like you see on most shows, but rather it’s a basement with institutional green paint on the wall and pipes that show. But best of all is when the show films at night. The digital cameras capture Los Angeles in all its neo-noir glory. There’s never true darkness in the city because of all the fill light of neon signs, constant traffic, and buildings that never close, but that only makes the shadows deeper.
Harry Bosch is one of the more fascinating characters in crime fiction. He’s the son of a prostitute who named him for the 15th Century Dutch painter known for his nightmare depictions of Hell. When Harry was still young, his mother was murdered and he ended up in the child welfare system until he escaped, first into the Army and then the LAPD after he returned to the city. He’s a cop who feels responsible to the victims, and he’ll follow a case wherever it goes, even if it means stepping on the toes of LA’s power elite. (For the sake of the show, they’ve made Bosch younger than he is in the novels, where he’s a Vietnam veteran who is now past retirement age but has been retained under a special contract program within the department.)
Titus Welliver wears the role of Bosch like a surgical glove. He’s had a long career as a character actor and is probably best known as the Man in Black on Lost, but here he gets to shine in the spotlight. I’ve read all of the Bosch novels and had a different picture of the character in my mind, but from now on whenever I read one of the books I’ll hear Welliver’s voice when Bosch speaks.
The supporting cast is first-rate as well, with Lance Riddick as Deputy Chief Irvin Irving, Jamie Hector as Bosch’s partner (and clothes horse) Jerry Edgar, and Amy Aquino as Detective Lieutenant Grace Billets, the head of the Hollywood detective bureau. Annie Wersching (24) plays Officer Julia Brasher, with whom Bosch engages in an ill-advised affair, and Jason Gedrick plays Reynard Waits, a serial killer who latches onto Bosch as the ying to his yang.
The second season is currently filming and will be released next year. In the meantime, if you like mysteries check out the first season. It’s well worth it.