It’s April, so I must be writing about “Bosch.” This is the fifth straight year I’ve taken note of a new season (now the sixth) of Amazon Prime Video’s Los Angeles cop show based on Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels. It’s an indulgence in a time when many worthwhile series go unremarked. This year, I can rationalize it as coronavirus-related: “Bosch” is my comfort show, the one I binge the day it’s available. On Friday I’ll be quarantined in my happy place.
The show adheres to a tough-guy ethic from another era of television — you wouldn’t be surprised to see a “Cannon”-vintage Quinn Martin credit pop up onscreen — and there’s something a little retrograde and formulaic about the conception of Bosch, a non-dirty Harry who plays it mostly by the book but sits on deep reserves of righteous anger. In practice, though, nuanced writing (under the showrunners Eric Overmyer and Daniel Pyne) and a marvelous performance by Titus Welliver make Harry a singular character, a California combo of stone-faced avenger, laid-back hipster and tireless gumshoe.
Strong, silent types take up a smaller share of the TV landscape than they used to, but another prime example also returned this week: Doron Kavillio (Lior Raz) in the Israeli drama “Fauda,” whose 12-episode third season arrived Thursday on Netflix.
“Fauda,” about an undercover Israeli counterterrorist unit, is set in the claustrophobic environs of the West Bank and Gaza and continually rattles with the sound of automatic weapons; it’s a very different show from the quieter and more deliberate “Bosch.” But at the core of each is that same laconic hero, the volatile outsider who bends the rules (in Harry’s case) or shatters them (in Doron’s) in order to uphold a status quo that’s showing serious signs of wear.
As I watched the shows back to back (all of “Fauda” Season 3, 5 of 10 episodes of “Bosch” Season 6), the similarities in the protagonists kept jumping out: the defensiveness, the loneliness, the distrust of bosses, the attraction to similarly hard-edged women. Each dotes on a daughter who has had to grow up too fast; each has perfected a cold stare that would make granite blanch. On the surface it may be macho by the numbers, but Raz and Welliver both find appealing, complicated characters beneath the attitude.
“Fauda” has a new head writer, Noah Stollman, who was an executive producer of the fine Israeli mini-series “Our Boys.” That show was about how families fracture under the strain of unending conflict and occupation, and Stollman brings that theme to “Fauda,” putting Doron undercover in a Palestinian village where he becomes a father figure to a young boxer (Ala Dakka) whose real father (an excellent Khalifa Natour) has been in an Israeli prison for 20 years.
The father’s release complicates Doron’s mission, which is to find the boxer’s cousin, a Hamas operative. As always with “Fauda,” the story spirals out in increasingly messy strands of betrayal and violence — the Arabic word fauda means chaos — as Doron and his team sneak into and out of the occupied territories to rescue, kidnap or kill.
(Some of the action clichés the show uses are getting harder to tolerate. The serious effort the show makes to humanize its Palestinian characters is continually undercut by their inability to shoot straight; they’re as inept as Indians in a John Ford western. And wouldn’t there be photos of Doron and his team all over the West Bank by now?)
One shabby-pickup chase or courtyard shootout looks much like another, and Stollman and his fellow writers have labored to give the season’s narrative a little more structure and thematic heft. The affection that develops between Doron and the young Palestinian athlete, symbolic of a desire for connection between their peoples, is an engine of catastrophe, tearing apart lives and families. The notion of endless cycles of pain is embedded in a season that begins with a man leaving prison and ends with another walking in.
The course of “Bosch” can’t be discerned from half a season, but the setup has the seemingly casual density characteristic of Overmyer’s work here and in “Treme.” Seasons of “Bosch” bleed into one another, and Harry and his partner, Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector), both steal time to work on nagging cases from the past while they focus on a more immediate challenge: the disappearance from a hospital locker of enough cesium to make large parts of Los Angeles uninhabitable for 300 years. Oh, and the doctor who was forced to take the radioactive material was murdered, too.
“Bosch” is a show of small but persistent pleasures, and they remain intact. The writing is literate but natural. The manifold story lines, including the problematic mayoral campaign of the police chief (Lance Reddick) and the coming of age of Harry’s daughter, Maddie (Madison Lintz), now interning at the civil-rights law firm of Honey Chandler (Mimi Rogers), dip in and out of one another seamlessly. Welliver and Hector, and Welliver and Lintz, create relationships so quietly believable, it’s as if they’re in the room with you.
Explaining himself to a colleague angry with one of his rash and dangerous improvisations in “Fauda,” Doron says, “I can’t help it, bro, it’s who I am.” It’s another point of contact with “Bosch,” where in Season 5, Maddie wearily said to her father, “You’re just you.” In that common sense of fatalism — neither Harry nor Doron will ever give up on pushing his particular rock up the hill — there’s a comfort we can use right now.