Season four of Amazon’s LA cop drama Bosch debuted last week, and I’ve been stalling writing about it, even though I devoured the entire season last Friday. It’s an extremely enjoyable show — especially if you skip over the rote serial killer-focused first season and start with year two — but so consistent in what it does and how well it does it that I don’t have a lot new to say that wasn’t expressed in my review of season three. But the season keeps rattling around in my head — and not just because Brian Grubb keeps hurling Bosch gifs at me…
…and after a while, I realized I had a few specific things to say about the new batch (plus an idea of Brian’s that needed sharing). So those thoughts — with full season four spoilers — coming up just as soon as I accidentally catch a serial killer…
* I would put season four a slight notch below the previous two — ironically for the same reason I praised those seasons as an improvement upon the first. One of the best things the show figured out how to do was to draw lots of stories from lots of different Bosch novels, keeping Bosch, Edgar, and company so busy that there are never the dead spots you get in most shows that use the “It’s a 10-hour movie” narrative approach. This season, though, felt like it had too much on its plate in both quantity and quality of cases.
There’s so much going on this year, for instance, that the Koreatown Killer case, which had been a slow-simmering background element in season three that seemed primed to boil over in year four, remained in the background, then was used essentially as comic relief to give Crate and Barrel an unexpected win when the killer died in an unrelated traffic accident. There’s a degree of verisimilitude to that — sometimes, whodunits just solve themselves in unexpected ways — but it made the whole thing feel like a story the writers regretted introducing, and got out of as painlessly as possible.
Similarly, Bosch having to solve his mother’s murder for a second time (an idea introduced late last year) felt like the writers wanted a mulligan on the way that story was initially resolved at the end of season two. But even though Harry got to confront the killer for real this time — in a tunnel, no less, calling back to his military days (and some of the books’ most memorable sequences) — it didn’t have as much emotional impact as it could have, because the case had already seemed closed, and also because it felt like too much of a coincidence for the killer to also be the killer in the Angels Flight case. Too much at once wound up diluting everything, including making the murder of Eleanor have less impact than if it had been the main story of the season (as it was in the Nine Dragons novel). Lots of the individual pieces — Bosch and Maddie’s grief, the tentativeness of the other cops around Harry afterward, how it healed the rift between Bosch and Edgar — were terrific, but the season as a whole didn’t quite add up to the sum of the parts.
* All that said, the show continues to do excellent work with the people in Bosch’s orbit. It’s a great supporting cast, to the point where the show can get away with long Bosch-less stretches and not feel dull in the way that some similar solo hero dramas can’t. It was satisfying to see Irving get a win over the mayor (and not just because it led to the above gif), to see Billets acquit herself well in her temporary captaincy, and to see Jimmy Robertson remain a vital part of the show after Paul Calderon made such a strong impression last season. Edgar’s failed reconciliation with his ex was probably the most predictable of the bunch, but it also felt honest and lived-in — as much inevitable as predictable. Bosch will always be the story of its title character, but it has very effectively figured out how to get the audience to invest in a lot of others.
* I couldn’t have been more excited to see Clark Johnson playing Howard Elias in the season premiere. Johnson has become one of TV’s best drama directors, but he’s also an actor I deeply enjoy watching on those increasingly rare occasions when the Homicide alum agrees to get in front of the camera again, and it had been so long since I read Angels Flight, I assumed he would just be playing an ongoing thorn in Bosch’s side, the new Honey Chandler. Instead, he got gunned down at the top of the hill, and Chandler herself returned to make some degree of peace with our hero through her work as the special master on the case. Mimi Rogers is fun in that role, too, so I’ll take it, but I always hope for more of Clark Johnson onscreen than I tend to get.