Bosch Season 2 Review: One of TV's Best Detectives Is Back on the Case

Bosch: Season 2

Editor's note: As usual with streaming shows, this review covers a number of episodes—the first half of Bosch Season 2. Some light spoilers follow; if you're spoiler-averse, beware!

Since Netflix kicked off the streaming platform arms race, there's been a lot of chatter about what kind of shows are tailor-made for binge consumption. The prevailing assumption is that fast-paced, twist-heavy serialized dramas are the most binge-worthy. Shows like House of Cards or Marvel's Netflix output certainly do encourage this kind of viewing, for instance. However, another show, Amazon's Bosch, a slow-simmering police drama based on a bunch of Michael Connelly books, captures a different experience, and one that I frankly hate to draw comparisons to: the experience of reading a solid novel.

Comparisons between TV and literature are tired, played out, lazy—whatever word you want to use, it fits. When network marketing departments and showrunners refer to their shows as "like a novel," that usually means it's overstuffed, overlong, indulgent, and made with no concern for the value of individual episodes. But whether it's because Connelly is a producer, because it's available on a platform known for selling books, or by magic, Bosch manages to feel like a good—but not great—book every time out. And it's not that "so good you can't put down" type of thrilling book either. It's that book that you definitely like but don't love. Maybe you read six chapters in one sitting and find each new chapter better than the last, but it takes you two weekends to read instead of one.

Capturing that experience across a 10-episode season isn't easy because, as I said, the tendency is to forgo those episodic pleasures for the sake of serialization and/or moving pieces around for the big moments at the end of a season. Like in its first season, Bosch Season 2 is serialized: an L.A. porn guy with an affinity for Las Vegas and potential ties to the Armenian mob gets ganked in the first episode and Bosch (Titus Welliver) and Edgar (Jamie Hector) track the case across the criminal underground of two states. 

Nevertheless, while the case never loses precedent across the first five episodes, it's also never so prominent in the story that Bosch feels like other "one murder, one season" shows. Instead, showrunner Eric Overmyer expertly weaves in a bevy of storylines, all sufficiently connected to one another. For example, Bosch's Vegas investigation dovetails with his ex-wife's (Sarah Clarke) problematic career as a high-paid poker player in Sin City, providing additional stories featuring Bosch and his teen daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz). Meanwhile, the police politics that seemed occasionally siloed in Season 1 are more immediately relevant this season, as Deputy Chief Irvin's (Lance Reddick) aspirations start to align with Lieutenant Billet's (Amy Aquino)'s aspirations. It's easy to do a show with a sprawling cast and a bunch of storylines; it's not as easy to keep all those characters and storylines in the same orbit for the majority of the season. But Bosch does it.

Despite that sprawl, Bosch's first five episodes of Season 2 never lose sight of the pleasures of episodic storytelling. The show's procedural engine means that Bosch and Edgar discover bits and pieces each week—without much of the bad red herrings that derailed The Killing—but the relevant stories get a moment or two each episode to prove their relevance. For instance, the third episode sees Bosch spend some time in Vegas with his daughter, a story on most shows that would be filler between buzzier or bolder threads. Here though, Welliver and Lintz's effortless chemistry and the show's understated writing team to produce a solid story about a dad checking in on his daughter without judgment, scorn, or exasperation. 

That understated writing leads to another part of the show's success: namely, that it doesn't try too hard or reach too high. Not all shows have to be great, and despite Bosch's pedigree and high-profile cast, you never get the sense watching Season 2 that it's trying to make bold statements, say something socially relevant, or generate a flow of thinkpieces. What does happen, however, when you bring all these really talented people together, is that they know exactly how to guide you from Point A to Point B and beyond and keep you just invested enough throughout the journey. 

That trickles down to the show's central character as well. As someone who didn't read the books, I continue to be impressed with the restraint shown by the writers and Welliver in building Bosch. While Bosch never lets you forget that its main dude is smarter and more competent than most of his peers, it also never rubs your nose, or other character's noses, in that fact. Likewise, Bosch has his flaws and rebellious streak, but rarely do his tactics go beyond a kind of "old school" rule-bending mentality. This is not another "difficult man" story. With that in mind, Welliver continues to turn in one of the more underrated performances on TV. In his hands, Bosch is a real, complex person we want to watch, even if he's not especially inspiring or appalling. He's just an adult doing his job with few frills. 

Still, like a solid book in a series, Bosch Season 2 takes a turn toward more personal relationships and character histories than the first season. Meaning, there's no core villain here like Season 1's bizarre Raynard Waits (Jason Gedrick). In his place are additional stories about characters we met in Season 1—including Aquino's Billet and Irving's son (Robbie Jones), who goes undercover to suss out some unit corruption—and more abstract foils like jurisdiction and the chokehold of counterterrorist operations on local murder police. Maybe that doesn't sound thrilling, and it's really not. But it's still finely crafted and exceptionally watchable. Personally, Waits was such an extreme villain archetype that I'm happy to see the show dial it back a bit. This shift fits far better with everything else that Bosch does well. 

It's hard to express the qualities of a show like Bosch. It has no intentions of being one of the next great quality dramas that you might find on HBO, FX, or Netflix, but it's also far better and more ambitious than most other shows featuring detectives or law enforcement at the center. That's why I keep returning to the novel metaphor, however tired it may be. Few shows are so clearly solid and compulsively watchable without exactly grabbing you by the throat or forcing to tweet in all caps in your surprise of its latest twist. 

Twenty years ago, Bosch ends up on NBC or CBS a bit more "proceduraled" and watered down. Ten years ago, it ends up on Showtime or HBO in a "gritty" form, full of more violence and probably more clichés. That it ended up making it to TV so many years after most of the books were published, and landed on Amazon, is perfect for the show and what it's trying to do. And it makes for a perfect weekend or two of enjoyable viewing for you too. 

All 10 episodes of Season 2 of Bosch are available now on Amazon Prime.

 


Comments (21)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Mar 17, 2016
I'm 5 episodes into season 2 and enjoying it thoroughly. I agree with Cory that Bosch is a great character coz he's neither the flawless hero or the heavily flawed anti-hero. Its a nice balance that makes him likeable.
Reply
Flag
Mar 17, 2016
Let's see the anti-social, anti-establishment cop, that fights crime on his own terms even if that means being a little corrupt himself-- wow-- how not fucking cliche is that shit.
Reply
Flag
Mar 15, 2016
As someone who read almost all books, I was thoroughly and utterly impressed with season 2. It is much better than season 1 (and that one was excellent as well!).

I would dare to say that more than once it reminded of the Wire (I need to re watch Wire one of these days).

Superb writing, excellent casting, complex and yet not so complex stories, all in well rounded world.

Anyone who liked this series, I urge to go to watch Jesse Stone series as well (staring Tom Selleck)
Reply
Flag
Mar 14, 2016
I binged watched both seasons this weekend and by the end of episode 10 of season 2 i was like, "maaaaan, i want more!", needless to say, I really liked it, Bosch is a pretty cool character and the same goes to the others around him. Looking forward for a season 3
Reply
Flag
Mar 14, 2016
Just finished watching season 2 which I thought had even improved on season 1. Bringing in Sarah Clarke for more screen time added to the personal side of Bosch, The writing is well done with the episodes flowing along and keeping your interest peaked by telling a feasible story and not just relying on shootings and car chases. Wish there were more than 10 episodes. A really great show and soooooo much better than Amazon's Mad Dogs. Hope there is a season 3.
2
Reply
Flag
Mar 15, 2016
Yes, that's what's missing – no car chases and big shoot outs. Yay! This is a cop show for people of taste and intelligence. Right? You all agree? Yes, of course you do ;)
Reply
Flag
Mar 14, 2016
This run was better than last to me. There was one moment that I said out loud that that's superb writing there. But what you know, I can't fucking recall it now! Pretty much sums up the show in that it's pulp fiction throwaway stuff. Though that's not a fatal criticism by any regards.
Reply
Flag
Mar 15, 2016
I agree. It was even better than Season 1. The writing on this show is the best I've seen since The Wire. The twists you never see coming. Smart and Intelligent. Bosch may be the best cop show ever. Period!
Reply
Flag
Mar 15, 2016
Steady on there, daddy_cool. Yes, granted it's a great show, but there are others, such as Morse and Endeavour, the first few seasons of Luther, Dalziel & Pascoe, and Rebus.

And have you had a chance to catch the recent Iceland show Trapped? It's pretty bloody good, too.

All I'm saying is 'the best ever' is a big pair of (gum)shoes to fill, right?
Reply
Flag
Mar 14, 2016
Excellent. I cannot but agree with your assessment of Bosch, Cory. Yes, there's a long arc, but all the side story lines and little finessed details make this show worth watching.

When the first season was shown last year, I read quite a bit of negative comment (not here, but elsewhere). I didn't agree with those comments then, but it made me think we might never see any more of Hieronymus, so I am just stoked that we've got a second season.

I started watching last night, but am limited in the time available to me (I must also read Connelly's latest book, after all!), so I'm glad that your spoilers were not actually very spoiley. Just three more hours of work and then another few eps! Yay, Bosch!
1
Reply
Flag
Mar 13, 2016
A solid sophmore season. I really liked the first season and this was pretty good too. Very well acted I must say.
1
Reply
Flag
Mar 13, 2016
It's very enjoyable and very bingeable too. Titus Welliver's face is a whole story on its own. Also bonus points for The Wire gang reunion (In this season they added Maury Levy The Barksdales' lawyer!) and Edgar's suits.
1
Reply
Flag
Mar 13, 2016
I liked the first season, and this second season was even better as they didn't just focus on that one serial killer, but instead managed to weave a compelling story using several questionable characters with different motives and agenda.

I think this review really sums up the second season.
So I'm just gonna say i highly recommend this show for anyone who likes a good crime show.
1
Reply
Flag
Mar 13, 2016
Oh, come on, this Bosch guy must be a tool! (Kidding, I hear the show is good.)
1
Reply
Flag
Mar 13, 2016
Excellent second season, also episode 6... damn!

1
Reply
Flag
Mar 13, 2016
Thank you for this! When I ran across s1, I could not stop gobbling it up and yet was hard pressed to explain exactly what was so compelling about it. It feels like years since then, but you deftly describe what I really loved about the show. Yes, not another "difficult man" story--getting a little tired of those, because it's making difficult men seem like the acceptable standard :) Glad to hear it has not lost its unique vibe in season 2.
2
Reply
Flag