Apart from its kaleidoscopically haunting, Emmy-nominated title sequence, Amazon Prime Video’s Bosch—which returns for its sixth and penultimate season today—is an almost aggressively un-flashy piece of prestige-adjacent television. Adapted from Michael Connelly’s best-selling Harry Bosch books and starring Titus Welliver as the titular detective, the streaming service’s cornerstone original series is a study in tonal restraint: It’s noir-ish, but never so noir that it reaches the point of pulpy distraction. It’s deeply serious, but never so deep that it dips into grandiosity. It’s explosively cast, but never so explosively as to include even one buzz-seeking, big-name movie star—workhorse character actors only, thank you.
Awards buzz? Nope! Branded emoji hashtag? Ha! The only brand Bosch needs is Bosch; you’re either in the loop on his stoic, jazz-infused brand of hardheaded excellence, or you’re not. People are Doing Crimes™ in L.A.; Harry Bosch doesn’t have time to give skeptics the ol’ razzle dazzle just to get you to tune in.
That said, as un-flashy as Bosch works so diligently to be, it might be surprising to learn that not only is it Amazon’s longest-running original series to date, but it also has near-perfect scores from both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes (96% and 95%, respectively), as well as the relatively strong Metascores of 73 (critics) and 8.3 (users) on the less-forgiving Metacritic. Those are the kinds of numbers that might tempt people into starting a binge even in the leanest of binge-watching times, and just in case you’ve forgotten, for those of us sheltering in place from the privileged comfort our couches, lean is the one thing our binge-watching time at the moment most definitely is not.
Of course, while so many of us have all the time in the world these days to embark on one long streaming binge after another, the thing we really are all missing is the kind of chaotic shake-up to routine that getting out of the house on a more-than-bi-weekly basis can invite. In the absence of that more organic kind of chaos, then, we suppose it’s entirely possible you might want to throw caution to the absolute wind (just keep six feet away, please!) and dive right into the newest season of a long-running series like some kind of anti-binging wildling. And, like, why not! Do it! Great energy, pure chaos, we genuinely love to see it.
As unlike classic prestige television Bosch is in most ways—So much sunshine! It has a sense of humor about itself, and a sense of stony realism about what modern American policing can be like! Naked breasts couldn’t matter less!—it does tend towards prestige in that each season operates more like a 10-chapter novel than ten discrete episodes, and cases and storylines from early seasons bleed into later ones.
To that end, here is the absolute briefest of primers on what one Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch has been preoccupied with for five seasons, as well as what his various colleagues and family members have been (and continue to be) up to:
(Some spoilers, obviously, follow)
Who Is Harry Bosch?
Harry Bosch is a detective in the LAPD, where he has worked for twenty-plus years. He is also a vet of both the first Gulf War and Afghanistan. He grew up rough in an orphanage after his mother, who was a sex worker, was brutally murdered—a cold case that haunted him for years, and which he finally resolved (without resorting to vigilante justice) at the end of Season 4. He has one daughter, Maddie (Madison Lintz), who is his only remaining family, her mother/his ex-wife having been murdered by a Chinese gang (also in Season 4). He lives in a gorgeous glass-walled house he bought with some movie money he got before the series premiered, that gives him both a literal and symbolic view of the entirety of the city. He has a passion for jazz music which, at the end of Season 5, took physical form in a stray dog he adopted and named Coltrane.
Who Is Coltrane?
Bosch’s only friend while he was deep undercover in a drug-mule investigation during Season 5. Also: A Very Good Boy.
Who Does Harry Work with, and What Are They Up to Right Now?
Harry can be a bit of a lone wolf—often to his own detriment—but in the Amazon series he is almost always partnered up with Detective Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector), who is known around the precinct as J. Edgar, and who loves an expensive suit. Like Harry, he is a divorced dad, though his two sons are a handful of years younger than Maddie. He had Harry have been chilly with each other for the past couple of seasons, since J. Edgar discovered Harry had been going around the law to get to someone he thought might be responsible for his mom’s murder, but they have mostly worked through it. Recently, an executed CI (criminal informant) has found J. Edgar becoming more preoccupied with Haitian gang activity in his old neighborhood, which in Season 6 turns into his own dogged pursuit for revenge against the man who murdered his father in Haiti after the earthquake.
Elsewhere in Hollywood Homicide, Bosch’s pal/boss Lt. Grace Billets (Amy Aquino) is also a bit on the outs with Bosch after his lone-dog escapades, but is generally more concerned with maintaining her authority and retaining her ability to push for progressive change in Hollywood policing culture by a captain who has no interest in progress and less interest in her. Similarly on the edge of relevance: Detectives Crate and Barrel (Gregory Scott Cummins and Troy Evans), who are nearing retirement age and have been put on various kinds of desk duty after a minor traffic accident while in pursuit of a suspect in Season 5. Barrel chafed so much at the restrictions, he went into a kind of pre-retirement retirement that lets him still work for five years while also taking retirement pay; Crate is less irritated by the change, but would still rather be on the streets.
On the younger end of things, meanwhile, are Detectives Pierce (DaJuan Johnson) and Vega (Jacqueline Obradors), who are a fairly new duo still making a name for themselves. Pierce has moved up through the department and is friendly with everyone, while Vega is a transfer and is finding Lt. Billets grating at best, patronizing at worst.
Outside the department are Harry’s legal nemesis-turned-laywer, Honey Chandler (Mimi Rogers), who is now Maddie’s boss, and Chief Irving (Lance Reddick), whose short tenure as Chief has been marred by protests against racialized police brutality (Season 4), but whose vision for what Los Angeles could be has him seriously considering a run for mayor, nonetheless.
How Much Has Changed from the Books?
Unlike most adapted properties, Bosch has the gifts of both twenty-some books to draw from, and the author of those books being deeply involved in the adaptation process. To that end, one could say that everything has been changed from the original—the timeline has been moved up a few decades to make the story contemporary with its audience, individual seasons rarely follow individual books (most weave together two titles, though some weave together three), and even when individual seasons follow individual books, they don’t follow the order of publication. But the spirit of the books—and the character of Los Angeles, which is as integral to the original series as Bosch himself—that is the same.
What Do We Have to Look Forward to in Season 6?
Incorporating plot elements from both 2007’s “The Overlook” and 2018’s “Dark Sacred Night” (which doubles as a Renée Ballard book, though only Harry’s side of the story will appear on screen), Season 6 kicks off with an execution-style murder that puts Los Angeles in the crosshairs of one of the few existential threats even more harrowing than a global pandemic: An imminent act of nuclear domestic terrorism, orchestrated by local members of the sovereign citizens movement.
As is the way of things in Bosch (see, again, that trippy, kaleidoscopic title sequence), the shape of the case at the start of the season, as privately devastating and publicly harrowing as it is, proves to be only a sliver of the truth that Bosch and J. Edgar’s dogged, methodical police work eventually uncovers—and a distorted one, at that. So, too, go the various B-storylines weaving their way around the edges of the central case, only half of which even start to gain some clarity by the end of the five episodes provided to critics for review. Of note for Harry/Maddie fans, the text-centric relationship the two have in the books continues to be elevated to a more IRL one in the series, with Maddie living with her dad now that she is in L.A. interning at various law firms. Their still-forming family relationship has always been a bright spot in a series that can be real grim, and while Harry’s selfish, myopically justice-oriented tendencies pushed Maddie away at the end of Season 5, they are starting to find their groove again this season. (Coltrane’s presence, of course, only helps.) Watch out for the episode in which Maddie invites her cute nurse boyfriend to finally meet her dad; it’s adorable.
As for where the rest of Season 6 will go, only time (A.K.A., one short binge-weekend) will tell. But with Season 7 officially set to be the series’ last, you can bet the story they set up for Bosch, Los Angeles, and the rest of Hollywood Homicide will be intense.