Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but on the Cape Flats
“Get off your ass and go knock on doors” reads a sign on the wall of Bosch’s office cubicle.
Bosch, as he’s known in the title of the hit TV show and by all his on-screen colleagues, is the ultimate badass cop, a no-nonsense detective who had a thriving career as the hero of the crime novels written by Michael Connelly.
Then TV came calling – in both the literature and in reality – and the books have produced a highly watchable detective show. I’ve been hooked since the first season, even though I never read any of the 21 books.
His full name is Hieronymus Bosch, although everyone calls him Harry, and he’s a brilliant but complicated detective with a dark past. As all good TV detectives should be.
His past is only dark because his mother, a prostitute, was murdered. It’s a recurring theme in the first three seasons as he tries to track down her killer. Her death and his involvement are part of the opening saga in the first season, which quite nicely sets the scene for his tortured, conflicted personality.
Set in Los Angeles, with its combination of glitz and seediness, Bosch is a gritty TV show about the world of police fighting crime; and the fine line they often seem to tread – on TV at least.
He is played superbly by Titus Welliver, who deserves his starring role in a TV series, having built up a decent career playing parts in films like Argo, The Town, and Transformers: Age of Extinction, among others. He brings a steely intensity to the character of Bosch, not speaking much but always solving his cases.
Lance Reddick plays his boss’s boss, the deputy police commissioner, having made a career of playing high-ranking cops in shows like The Wire, sci-fi Fringe and films like John Wick and White House Down. He’s the cool authority figure to Bosch’s rule-breaking, crime-solving renegade.
Driven by the injustice his mother experienced, Bosch is the consummate cop with a bad streak.
Each season solves one big crime, but along the way develops the character that defines Bosch, and portrays the conflicted world he operates in. He may bend the law, but he brings down the criminals he chases. His relentlessness is what makes him succeed.
He’s the modern portrayal of the conflicted but ultimately good cop, as so many crime novels portray this kind of morally ambiguous figure. His care for his daughter and his ex-wife, a former FBI agent and now professional card-playing gambler, shows his softer side.
The real Hieronymus Bosch was a 15th-Century Dutch painter whose painting were filled with strange depictions of religious concepts and iconography, especially hell. It’s a useful way to understand the ethically loose world that Bosch the TV detective lives in. He’s ultimately redeemed because he arrests – and often kills – the criminals in the show.
But most of all, it’s compellingly good television.