One Episode is All it Took to Fall in Love with Bosch
I don't believe there's a better world than this one. I think this is the only one we got. And it's full of lost light.
By now everyone's seen Bosch, the character-driven crime series from Amazon, right? I mean, it's been out since February 13 (and apparently the pilot was shown a whole year prior). I started watching it just a few days before my birthday, which happens to be today! And what a terrific present. Seeing as how I already watch too much television, usually I'm way behind the curve with well regarded shows that are on subscription services I don't already pay for or really with any new show, because I just can't find the extra time for them. I didn't see the incredible True Detective until eight months or so after it ended when I finally had HBO again. It's nice to be not so far behind for once.
Let me start with a confession. I have not read a single Hieronymus Bosch novel. Sorry, I didn't know they existed. Of course I know of the prolific writer Michael Connelly, but over the years I don't think I ever bought one of his books. Not for any specific reason; it just didn't happen, so I never had the chance to get obsessed with his most famous character, which I think is about to be rectified. The only Connelly story I'm familar with is Blood Work, because I saw the movie, but that's about a different detective. I went into Bosch with a fresh perspective, with no idea of how he should be or what I should expect. So I can't tell you from personal experience whether or not Titus Welliver (Lost, Sons of Anarchy, guest spots in just about everything) nailed the character originally on the page. What I can say is he's long overdue for a leading man role, as he projects someone complicated, beautiful, flawed, and human on the sceen. And the man in real life gives thoughtful interviews and talks lovingly about his kids, which are more indicators that the character is in the right hands.
Connelly seems proud of what Welliver has accomplished and he is very involved with the show, so it should adhere as close as possible to the source material. I've read compliments from fans of the books about how Welliver is a perfect choice. For even those who have no idea what Harry Bosch is about, Welliver's haunted, world-weary look, undeniable talent, and good heart instantly build a character. According to Welliver, Bosch doesn't wear that heart on his sleeve (which I can relate to). That's true a lot of the time, but his emotions are often etched on his face; it such a nuanced and at times gentle performance. Welliver convincingly conveys the depth and soul of a character who's wounded on the inside and determined to do right even if he does go about it sometimes like an “insubordinate, arrogant, know-it-all loner, and all-around self-righteous prick." My favorite kind.
Bosch wasted no time in letting me in on the mindset of the intriguing title character. I got a good measure of him from the first episode, and came out of it with a new favorite actor, character, and series. As far as I can see, after only four episodes, Bosch is a bit of a lone wolf. He's guarded and uncomfortable showing his emotions, yet willing to open up to some, like the new 30-something rookie (Annie Wersching) he became involved with at lightning speed. He's a bit awkward around his ex and the teenage daughter he hasn't seen in far too long, Welliver playing the guilt and longing perfectly. Has a good partner (Jamie Hector) to rely on and a lieutenant (Amy Aquino) who looks out for her people. He sometimes breaks the rules, making trouble for the deputy chief (Lance Reddick, who I last enjoyed in Fringe), but not with malicious intent. There's a sense of humor and camaraderie between colleagues. He has an unpleasant past, but he's not constantly at odds with the world or himself. He's not a savant or consumed by his demons, but he has an anger beneath the surface. He's just a normal person who's been on the job a long time and still is driven to peel back the darkness that snuffs out the light.
That darkness comes in the form of Bosch simultaneously on trial in a civil suit for killing a suspect, working a cold case of a murdered child, and dealing with a district attorney's political ambitions that allows for a rapist and murderer (a chilling Jason Gedrick) to take advantage of an opportunity. In the pilot, during a courtroom scene, I was put at ease to the type of character on whose shoulders this series rests. This was important because I wanted him to be someone to root for, someone imperfect but essentially good. No worries there. On the stand Bosch is a bit rattled when the prosecutor, speaking of his time in the special forces, says he's "an experienced, highly trained killer with a body count too large to remember." I saw in his expression that it was a low blow, and that, despite the Teflon exterior, some things do get to him. Later on his quick trigger finger is blamed on the fact that he was seeking some sort of revenge for his own mother's murder. The real story is that, during a rainy night, Bosch's suspect failed to heed multiple commands to freeze in two languages, instead pulling something from his pocket. Bosch did the only thing he could do when he felt his life was in danger, a decision made in a split second.
Then there's the murdered child I mentioned before, the core of this first of hopefully many seasons. His femur is found by a retired doctor's dog. That doc was Scott Wilson. It was so wonderful to hear his voice again and see that jolly, wise, bearded face. I miss him terribly as Hershel Greene on The Walking Dead. Ooh, getting off track a bit. Besides Wilson, there were two highlights that will be the most memorable of the series for me, no matter what else comes next. Bosch goes back into the woods where the remains of the boy lay. It was dark and lonely out there and Bosch was silent and contemplative. A rustling nearby startles him and Bosch shines a light, finding a coyote a few yards away. Then I saw Welliver's strong pulse. (Think Billy Boyd in Return of the King.) It unintentionally added another layer of humanity to an already well realized character and transfixed me during the scene. There's a similar beautiful rhythm beating beneath the surface of the entire series, and the quiter moments really bear that out.
The other moment I'll never forget is near the end when Bosch finds out the horror of what the boy had been through. The revelation cut to Bosch's core and triggered terrible memories. A skillful wordless acting moment there and solid character building. Not being one to show a lot of emotion around others, he excused himself and rushed to the bathroom before he lost his composure. It was a beautifully done scene with Bosch trying to catch his breath, his hands shaking. I'm reminded of The Killing when Rosie Larsen's father broke down in a bathroom. Bosch was not as intense as that scene about the raw pain of a father losing his child, but I can't wait to find out where it might go as it gets closer to a resolution. Won't have to wait very long at all. Since all episodes were out at the same time, I'll be finishing it by next weekend.
For any fan hesitating to watch because you don't want your idea of the character spoiled, this series should not disappoint. Even if I had been a huge fan of the books, there's no way I would have had any qualms upon hearing Titus Welliver was cast. I don't get attached to the idea of what someone should look like, act like, or sound like from the description in a book. I never have. I love books, but I love seeing a living, breathing person step into a role even more. If you're hesitating to watch because you're afraid the image in your head will be spoiled, consider letting all that silliness go. Give it a shot. Bosch is a terrific series, Titus Welliver a terrific actor. Worth every penny of an Amazon Prime subscription. To show my appreciation, I am continuing with it after my trial.
Update: I have now seen seven episodes and I wouldn't change a word that I said. Actually, I added a few more. This show is addictive and so well done. Congratulations to everyone involved.
Image belongs to Amazon.