Based on the acclaimed series of crime novels by Michael Connelly, Bosch is Amazon’s longest running series. Season 4, which drops on April 13th, is concerned with the shooting of a notoriously dogged civil rights lawyer, Howard Elias, who had been preparing to go to trial to demand justice for a man he believed to be the victim of severe police brutality. The equally dogged Detective Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver) is put in charge of the task force assembled to find Elias’s killer.
It becomes evident from the outset of Bosch’s new season that we’re being treated to a near-as-dammit perfect piece of L.A. Noir. The death of Howard Elias, in the first episode, creates a classic whodunit scenario. This was a man who inspired intense hatred in the very police department engaged in investigating his death. Frankly, the LAPD are glad he’s been dealt with. Bosch is the lead detective on the case by dint of the fact that he’s one of the few cops in L.A. that Elias didn’t sue for civil rights abuses. Inevitably, the police department then becomes the prime suspect in the murder, in particular the cops whose torture of a black suspect was the subject of Elias’s final case.
The gradual unfolding of the truth behind this case, which is a byproduct of Bosch’s investigation, provides just another masterful layer of mystery and suspense. Police corruption has always been a staple of noir-style crime stories, and here it has cleverly been put at the centre of the narrative as the cops cover each-others’ backs, frame each other up, and throw a defensive smokescreen over the case. But Bosch season 4 does not try and convince us that the guilty party is certain to be among these men. Elias’s backstory is too complicated for that, and other suspects are brought to the fore.
If that wasn’t all heady enough, Elias’s death has led to a boiling atmosphere of civil unrest as people across the city protest the fact that the LAPD are investigating his murder at all. One of the lead protesters demands at a public meeting that the case should be taken over by the FBI, who have no conflict of interest when it comes to finding Elias’s killer. There is the sense of a city about to explode, which adds a heightened atmosphere of tension to the proceedings, and provides a politically relevant backdrop for the story.
Titus Welliver, who leads the cast, plays Bosch with a kind of measured forcefulness. At one point Bosch says that his method is to decide for himself who the killer is and then find the evidence. Which sounds like the kind of thing a thuggish bad cop would say. But Welliver’s performance conveys intelligence, restraint, and an open-mindedness to any truth, no matter how unpalatable. It’s actually refreshing to have a cop show where the central character isn’t either a dangerous maniac on the edge, or an eccentric weirdo genius. Bosch is a totally believable creation. A single-minded detective who will pull at every string until he finds the right ones to unravel the truth.
As for the rest of the cast, Clark Johnson as Elias, manages to convey urbane charm, dignity and focus in what is a limited role. While Jamie McShane stands out as Detective Sheehan, a cop wracked by guilt for his past behaviour and the fear that he will become prime suspect in the Elias murder. McShane’s performance is a perfect study in screen acting. He’s broken, hangdog, but in a way that suggests extreme volatility, as if at any moment he could harm himself, those around him, or simply dissolve into tears and beg forgiveness. Impressively, a large part of this is conveyed with nothing more than his eyes, which quiver with a depth of pain that tells you all you need to know about the character’s inner suffering.
Of the recurring cast Sarah Clarke, as Bosch’s ex-wife Eleanor, gets her own compelling narrative thread as she’s involved in investigating Chinese money laundering for the FBI. While Detective Jerry Edgar, played with effortless cool by Jamie Hector, rehabilitates his body following a shooting, as well as his rocky marriage. The fact that this season of Bosch manages to weave compelling , character driven subplots into its already dense, yet easily digestible main narrative is impressive to say the least. It’s doesn’t hurt that the scripts are exceptionally well written, with crisp memorable dialogue.
And just to cap it all off the show looks great too. The hallways of power give off a dimly seductive golden glimmer, while LA, as seen from the balcony of Bosch’s hillside house, shimmers through the sultry darkness.
Bosch is a smart, masterfully constructed L.A. crime story, with a riveting, slow burn narrative, which includes layers of mystery and human drama, while dealing with more politically charged issues such as institutional corruption, and racism. That it does all of this in a way that is both easy to follow and edge of the seat entertaining should be enough to make season 4 of Bosch an absolute must-see.
5 / 5