In a crowded field of tough cops who play by their own rules, steely-eyed detective Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch (Titus Welliver) stands head and shoulders above the pack. Haunted by a past he can never quite shake, he’s turned his past pain into fuel for his crime-fighting career. Whether he’s tracking down cold case killers, fighting to clear his name, or going undercover to take down an opioid ring, he’s become one of the most compelling crime-fighters on television.
The secret behind the series’ success? Titus Welliver’s performance as Harry Bosch. Pre-Bosch. Welliver was making a splash in supporting roles on shows like Lost, Deadwood and Sons of Anarchy, but he’s clearly enjoying the chance to really stretch out and inhabit a character long term. Striking the right balance when playing a tough guy with a human side is trickier than it seems, but Welliver makes it look easy. He’s always convincing as a man driven by a desire for justice – Bosch’s motto is “everyone counts, or no-one counts” – but he can also be funny without coming off as silly. He brings a wry, understated quality to the character that humanises him without getting in the way of the door-kicking, gun-pulling drama.
An army veteran and victim of abuse as an orphaned child, Bosch’s career as a detective has been all about focus and drive. If you’re a criminal and he gets you in his sights, he’s taking you down – even (and often especially) if the crime has been long forgotten by almost everyone else. That’s not to say he’s some kind of humourless justice machine; he’s got a good line of banter going with his more mellow partner Jerry “J” Edgar (Jamie Hector), and with his tattoos and jazz records, he’s a cool dad who’s actually cool… except for when he isn’t, which usually involves technology and is usually when his teenage daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz) steps in.
Bosch first hit the mean streets of LA in Michael Connelly’s 1992 crime novel The Black Echo, and with Connelly putting out a new Bosch novel roughly once a year (there’s currently 22 in total) he’s become one of the most complex and fleshed out detectives in crime fiction. So when Amazon was looking for a crime series to develop as part of their push into television, they knew with Bosch they’d have plenty to work with. Each season is typically based on one or more of Connelly’s novels, with season six based on The Overlook and Dark Sacred Night.
Right from the start of season one Bosch was a haunted man, scarred by the unsolved murder of his mother when he was eleven. She was a call girl whose strangled body was left in a dumpster, and over the first few seasons his slow-burn search for her killer was an ongoing subplot that eventually led to the upper echelons of power in the LAPD. Did that stop Bosch from getting the job done? If you have to ask, then you don’t know Bosch.
The main focus of season one was Bosch’s investigation into the discovery of the bones of an abused child who died in 1989. It was a case that became deeply personal for Bosch, and set the stage for him tackling a range of crimes that would increasingly hit close to home. Not that his home life was great to start with. The series starts with Maddie living out in Las Vegas with his ex-wife and former FBI profiler Eleanor Wish (Sarah Clarke), but that distance didn’t prevent them from getting drawn into his world in season two when they’re both kidnapped by crooks looking to blackmail Bosch into setting their boss free.
Bosch’s bumpy personal life has been a problem he just can’t shake. He gained a bit of stability when Maddie officially moved in with him at the start of season two, but his dating life has been a mess – and Eleanor’s death in season four while trying to infiltrate a Chinese gambling ring in Vegas just cast a further cloud over things. So having an old flame turn up in season five to accuse him of planting evidence, throwing pretty much all his previous cases into doubt? Business as usual really.
That’s barely scratching the surface of Bosch. One of the show’s stand-out qualities from the start has been its ability to juggle multiple plots and subplots without feeling crowded or confused. Season six centres on stolen nuclear material that may have fallen into the hands of separatist terrorists, while also juggling story lines including sexual harassment in the workplace, LAPD Chief Irvin Irwing (Lance Reddick) looking to further his political ambitions, J Edgar dealing with a murdered informant and Maddie trying to make a new relationship work.
In the middle of it all is Bosch, doing what he does best – tracking down criminals, trying to keep his personal life together, and making Bosch one of the most consistently watchable crime dramas around.
Bosch season 6 is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
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