With a dozen or so high-profile television series debuting over the next week — the usual number these days — you could reasonably ask why the fifth season of an old-fashioned cop show deserves attention. Isn’t there a woke comedy or an oddball Netflix import we could be talking about?
Of course there is, or are — Friday brings “Ramy” on Hulu and “Lunatics” on Netflix. But for some of us, the big news that day is the return of “Bosch,” the enduring Amazon series based on Michael Connelly’s novels about Harry Bosch, a Los Angeles police detective played with infinite layers of moody recalcitrance by Titus Welliver.
Developed for TV by Eric Overmyer (“Treme”) and now overseen by Daniel Pyne, “Bosch” gets a little more veneration than it deserves in certain quarters, where hard-boiled nostalgia rules. The new season still pauses for the occasional on-the-nose sermon about the natures of truth and justice. And the large cast is, overall, more efficient than virtuosic, compared to those of other streaming and cable series.
But efficiency is the point: In its determined lack of adornment, its commitment to the straight and narrow — reflecting the personality of its hero — “Bosch” is an increasingly rare commodity in a time when genre dramas will resort to any kind of high-concept trickery to stand out. It doesn’t withhold information to create false tension, or play games with point of view, or arbitrarily ratchet the pace up and down. It just puts one foot in front of the other and trusts its audience to follow along.
Season 5 begins with a slight bit of narrative complication: a short flash-forward in which an undercover Bosch infiltrates the desert camp of a crew of opioid dealers. Then it’s back to the quotidian business of police life, with four or five plot threads that will dovetail over 10 episodes (five were available for review). A murder in a small-time pharmacy puts Bosch onto the pill ring; a review board looks into one of his old cases; his partner, Jerry (Jamie Hector), has trouble with an informant; his boss, Grace (Amy Aquino), has to broker the uncertain futures of the veteran detectives known as Crate and Barrel.
Bosch’s daughter, Maddie, is now an intern in the district attorney’s office, and she’s the first one to know that his past conduct is once again under investigation. The best thing about the new season is the expansion of Madison Lintz’s role as the quietly bullheaded Maddie, no longer just a victim of Bosch’s failed marriage or a target of criminals looking to put pressure on him.
Lintz and Welliver have always been great together, and you can see that they, and the writers, are having a blast now that Maddie and her father get to relate to each other as adults. The story puts Maddie in a tough spot: — She’s reflexively loyal to her dad, and bends the rules to get him information, but she’s also troubled by accusations that he tampered with evidence.
“Bosch” doesn’t hype up the conflict and potential sentimentality, though (as the Fox series “The Rookie” does with a similar story line this season). The characters stay true to the temperaments they’ve been given — reserved and private but completely frank with one another when called for. Amid the murders and station house politics, what stands out is Bosch’s matter-of-fact acceptance of, and pride in, his daughter’s intelligence and maturity.
The season’s structure — with the present-tense action constituting a season-long flashback — has its plusses and minuses. As Bosch trains for the undercover mission that we’ve already seen going haywire, there’s some clever foreshadowing: We get a forecast of how he’ll get himself out of that future pickle. (There’s no doubt that he will get out of it. The show has already been renewed for a sixth season.)
There’s less mystery than usual in that central story, though. The writers try to compensate by making the subplots more expansive and complicated, which just means that none of the story lines feel quite as deep and textured as we’re used to. But with Bosch, it’s all about the gut feeling, and the same is true of “Bosch.” It may cut a corner here and there, but you can trust it to do the right thing in the end.
Streaming on Amazon Prime
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