While watching Season 3 of Bosch last night — a pandemic fallback after Pamita and I blew through the latest season in about two days — I was reminded of a pet peeve. The decidedly cliche way many critics, contest judges, editors and fellow writers define ‘character development.’
One of the few nits I pick with this excellent series is when there are brief scenes between Bosch and his daughter, Maddie, that seem to be fillers designed to show Harry has a human side, a side accessible to the viewing audience.
These are rare because there are other scenes between the two that do help define Bosch’s character, like the one where Maddie says he’s like a turtle that is most comfortable in his shell and doesn’t let loved ones in. We kinda know that about Bosch already but it was a nice, descriptive nugget that fleshed out what we know. And it fits the writerly dictate to avoid sideshows that don’t advance the story or help show who these characters are.
At other times, though, it feels like these scenes are dropped in by rote — hey, let’s have a Harry and Maddie scene or a Harry and Eleanor the Ex-Wife scene to show his ‘human side.’ Haven’t had one in a while.’ For the most part, the actors play these scenes well, which saves them from being the blindingly the obvious cardboard cutout moments you see in lesser shows and novels. And there’s enough exotica to make them interesting — Eleanor as disgraced FBI profiler turned pro poker player with a suave Hong Kong husband with a tong family connection.
But these trappings pale beside other ways Harry’s character is shown in a far richer and much more graphic way — the flashbacks to his murdered mother and his days in a boys’ home that brutalized him. Both are important experiences that truly define who Harry is — his obsession with his mother’s death that spills over into his approach to all the victims of the murders he investigates, particularly runaways, kids, hookers and other downtrodden souls.
Which brings me to my main bleat — there are other ways to achieve ‘character development’ that aren’t as hackneyed as giving somebody a dog, a wife or a kid. More of those, less of the cliche.
Almost forgot my other nit to pick with this series — not enough Crate and Barrel.