Jazz musicians who got their start in one of a thousand American high school band practice rooms probably saw the same jokey poster hanging near the director’s office. A white skull and cross-bones set on an all-black background, and accompanied by four simple words: “Tune it or die.” No kitschy colors or designs, no elaborate turns of phrase — just a humorous, but serious warning for all would-be players who preferred performing to failing grades. Given the title character’s penchant for jazz, perhaps Bosch showrunner Eric Overmyer donned such a sign over his door during production of the Amazon show’s second season, because it’s decidedly better than the first.
Such a tactic wouldn’t be a surprise coming from Overmyer and his team, many of whom worked on The Wire and other less popular police procedurals tinged with gritty realism, contemporary noir, and hard-boiled detectives all too willing to break the rules. Or maybe the inspirational message was implemented by author Michael Connelly, who created the Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch character (played here by Titus Welliver) and serves as an executive producer on the series. Either way, Bosch‘s new season improves key aspects of what critics liked most about the first — plotting, pacing and a series arc designed for binge-watching. It also drops most of the garbled, more talkative moments that plagued the first season, though many of that season’s clichés are still around to induce further guffaws. Which, to be honest, is kind of endearing.
Consider Bosch’s triumphant return to the force. At the end of the season one finale “Us and Them,” Bosch put Captain Harvey Pounds (Mark Derwin) through a glass window during an argument. The next few cuts featured the fired detective turning in his gun, badge, and ID to Lieutenant Grace Billets (Amy Aquino), collecting his things from his desk, and giving everyone his signature silent-but-pissed-off stare. Flash forward to the season two premiere “Trunk Music,” in which Bosch runs around his Los Angeles neighborhood. He’s keeping fit, but has grown a beard since leaving the force. Aside from cardio, alcohol, and jazz, the ex-cop keeps a low profile while waiting for the moment his handlers at the Hollywood Division finally decide to call him in. The call comes, the beard goes and Bosch finds himself paired back up with his old partner, Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector) and hot on the trail of a pornographer’s killer.
The quickness with which Overmyer’s script for “Trunk Music” deals with Bosch’s dismissal and reinstatement is laughable. A few lines about Pounds’s transfer to another division, as well as the occasional appearance by Julia Brasher (Annie Wersching) — the cop with whom Bosch had a brief affair — try to tie everything with a neat little bow. The show does this in the hope that viewers won’t care too much about the vacuous plot holes such transitions otherwise create. And you know what? It works, because Bosch isn’t trying to be all that real amidst all the neo noir-ish grit scattered throughout the larger story arc. The audience shouldn’t care about the finer points of department policy that real-world cops would otherwise have to follow in such a scenario. They just want to see Bosch back on the force, kicking ass and taking names.
Both activities are precisely what Bosch does best, and he gets back to business within the first 10 minutes — eyeballing a suspect in disguise while attempting to hide from the police. And since everything in Bosch‘s Los Angeles moves as quickly as the pages of Connelly’s novels, the detective stumbles into the investigation of a Las Vegas businessman’s death soon after that. The murder is the first thing “Trunk Music” shows viewers as soon as the “last season on Bosch” summary concludes, and as random as the event seems, this season’s complex narrative ultimately reveals that everything is connected to it. (Or at least that’s what I could gather from the six screeners Amazon gave me access to.) The victim’s widow, Veronica Allen (Jeri Ryan), Deputy Chief Irvin Irving’s (Lance Reddick) political squabbles, his son’s (Robbie Jones) involvement with an internal investigation, Bosch’s ex-wife’s (Samantha Clarke) gambling troubles — it all comes together in a manner that, though ridiculous, is still pleasing to the average binge-watcher.
Whether or not this supposedly harmonious union of plot and subplot will work remains to be seen. But if the first six are any indication, Overmyer and the Bosch writing staff have crafted a much cleaner, less-convoluted — and consequently even better — adaptation of Connelly’s books than what they managed the first time around.
The second season of Bosch premieres Friday, March 11 on Amazon. Until then, here’s a preview…