[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “Bosch” Season 4.]
The life of a homicide detective is not an easy one, but Det. Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch (Titus Welliver) has been tested even more than usual this season on his eponymous Amazon series. As the lead on a task force investigating the murder of a high-profile attorney on Los Angeles’ Angels Flight railcar, Bosch has to contend with public perception, a shady police commission chief, and possible corruption inside the LAPD.
And while that’s all part of the job, Bosch’s own personal tragedies have also overlapped with cases this year. Our hero finally got closure for the cold case murder of his mother since that killer and the Angels Flight killer turned out to be one and the same. But the biggest blow came when Harry had to watch his ex-wife Eleanor (Sarah Clarke) get gunned down and die. In trying to bring her killers to justice, he hits roadblocks because of her involvement with an ongoing FBI investigation.
Showrunner Dan Pyne spoke to IndieWire about Eleanor’s death, adapting Michael Connelly’s novels, the L.A. eateries referenced on the show, and what to expect in Season 5.
“Mike [Connelly] had this thing about how the two most significant things in Harry’s life are impacted in this season,” said Pyne. “One is his relationship with Eleanor, the mother of his daughter and maybe his one great love, who he never really wanted to think about, and then, the murder of his mother, which gets resolved by the end of the season. He wanted to really honor those and really, really lean into them and not just toss them off as you know, an easy twist or an easy resolution.”
Anatomy of a Murder
Eleanor’s death occurs after discussing her failing marriage with Harry over a meal at Du-par’s. As she walks to her car, two helmeted people on a motorcycle whizz by and shoot her. Harry rushes to her side and administers emergency first aid, but by the time first responders arrive, she’s already dead. Although her death occurs under different circumstances in the novels, Pyne wanted to maintain the element of being blindsided by how she’s killed.
“In the books, Harry and Eleanor are looking for their daughter,” said Pyne. “They go to Hong Kong and they’re in a hallway, the door opens, and a guy shoots her. Harry goes in and does this whole business and then comes back out, and you’re expecting him to save her, and she’s just dead. It’s stunning.
“Mike and I talked about finding a way to do the same idea but in our context,” he said. “We structured it in such a way that you think she’s about to get onto a big case that’s going to run for the whole season. Meanwhile, she’s got domestic troubles, and we thought, well, she’ll get together with Harry to talk about Maddie, something personal, something intimate between the two of them. And you don’t expect this to come.
“We wanted Harry to be there, as opposed to making him helpless because it’s a common thing for cops and law enforcement to feel helpless in situations where their personal collides with their professional. And Du-par’s is a very important location in the books. It’s a very iconic Los Angeles location, so we thought we might put it there. It’s one of Mike’s favorite breakfast places.”
Clarke was already looped into Eleanor’s arc from the start of the series, and Pyne also called her at the beginning of the season to discuss the death.
Pyne said, “From her standpoint, once I explained to her that this would give her a chance for a real story and a real emotional arc, she got really into it. I said, ‘It’s not a long run but it’s a very powerful run, and you get to actually have a plot.’ I don’t think we would have been able to do another way. So, she was totally into it.”
A Time to Kill
Killing off Eleanor wasn’t taken lightly, but waiting until the fourth season felt right for Bosch’s arc as a character. The event also occurs in Episode 4, which allows for Bosch and her daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz) to truly have time to process her death and mourn her.
“We went back and forth on it for a while… and I think Mike must have felt the same way when he was writing the novels,” said Pyne. “In Season 3, [Bosch] kind of hits bottom. He becomes a very dark character, he’s not sure that he believes in the justice system and in law enforcement and the effectiveness of it. So, he’s struggling back from that bottom and then he gets hit by this double whammy, which strangely, restores him and gives him a new purpose, gives him a family that he’s never had and a responsibility that he’s never had before. It felt like a good, really emotional, very different kind of season.
“Eleanor is killed in a book called ‘Nine Dragons.’ I’ve always loved the way that Michael dealt with that and how it electrified me because it happens very early in the book,” Pyne continued. “Then Bosch goes off and has to solve stuff and deal with his daughter and deal with grief, and it’s a lot different in the book. But, I kind of really was attracted to the idea that we do that in a season, that we would see, not just a main character die, which is always startling but to really deal with the consequences of that and the aftermath, the emotional aftermath of that and how that might bear down on the detective and affect his ability to do the job.”
The show also put thought into when in the episode Eleanor would die.
“I wanted it to be in the middle of the episode. I didn’t want to end the episode on it. I really wanted to give Titus and Madison a chance to react and let the death sink it,” said Pyne. “I just didn’t want to do the typical television/movie trick of somebody dies and then oh, we’re upset about it and then we move on. I really wanted to feel the ripple effect of it. The writers, L. Johnson and Shaz Bennett did a great job of setting that in motion in the second half of the episode. And then we keep it going in [Episode] 5 and 6 and it keeps kind of reverberating and rippling through the rest of the episodes until the end.”
Lawyer Howard Elias (Clark Johnson) getting killed on the Angels Flight funicular occurs on the eve of his high-profile case that involves a black client who accuses the LAPD of torturing him during interrogation. The allegations of police brutality and even the suspicion that Bosch would protect one of his own boys in blue if they’re guilty makes this a politically charged case.
“‘Angels Flight’ [the novel] was written not long after the L.A. riots [in 1992] so Mike was really commenting on that,” said Pyne. “When we dug back into it and we needed to pay homage to that, we realized that L.A. had come a long way. When Mike wrote the book, LAPD was about 80 percent white men and now it’s majority Latino. Looking at the landscape of L.A., it’s more a case of blue versus everybody sometimes. What is the nature of policing versus the nature of the community? So we wanted to look at that. And the polarization of America is something that we acknowledge. It’s not a political show, Harry’s not a political guy, but it’s what he has to deal with to solve his crimes.”
Desiree Zealy (Anna Diop) is the most vocal of the activists protesting Harry leading the Angels Flight task force. She also has quite the social media following, which raises the question of her true motives.
“The more superficial activists — that’s a very new thing that’s come up in the past couple years, this idea that protests are easier to organize,” said Pyne. “It’s easier to get a flash mob together and do something but it’s harder to sustain it because the connections aren’t as deep. The commitment that they need to put in sometimes isn’t as great. And there’s this tendency to just move from one thing to the other. You find the next bright, shiny thing and you go. So, people in these movements are finding it more difficult to sustain. We all thought that that was a fascinating thing that Irving [Lance Reddick] exploits but also a kind of fascinating comment on the world that we live in.”
The Bicycle Thief
The Koreatown Killer (Monti Sharp), who rides around town on a bicycle and guns people down, had been teased throughout last season. And it looks like he’s up to his old habits after stealing a bike this year… until he’s hit and killed by a distracted driver. After that sudden and ignominious death, it takes only a couple of days for Det. Moore and Det. Johnson (Gregory Scott Cummins, Troy Moore), aka Crate & Barrel, to crack the case once they access his records.
“We knew we had to wrap him up, we couldn’t keep him going. It’s not really a Bosch case, it was something that was floating through the background,” said Pyne. “In talking to our technical advisors and talking to LAPD, they say sometimes cases just get solved. They find out [the killer] is already in prison or he’s been shot by somebody or sometimes karma catches up with them. So we thought it might be interesting if they stumbled onto him, that he’s hit by a car and killed and it’s a very quiet end to potentially a serial killer.
“One of the really interesting things they did with the show from the very beginning is the crime solving and the police work reflects the messiness of the real world,” he added. “Clues don’t always lead somewhere, interviews don’t always get you somewhere, the criminal that you want is not always the criminal you catch or you don’t always get him for the reason that you want to get him. That gives the show a very authentic feel.”
“Bosch” has always maintained Connelly’s hyper-specific Los Angeles touches to give the story authenticity, and this season goes above and beyond just the Angels Flight murder scene. In particular, the frequency and depth with which the characters discuss popular Los Angeles eateries is enough to inspire a culinary tour inspired by the show. From Eggslut – which inspired the “How do you coddle an egg?” conversation – to Sugarfish and In ’N’ Out’s secret menu, the show doesn’t have to search far for inspiration.
“In his books, Mike does talk about specific places but they’re different because some of the books are written 20 years ago,” said Pyne. “A lot of us love writing about the L.A. that you never see in movies and television. We have lots of good discussions about, ‘Oh where would Maddie want to go for this? and ‘Where would Harry pick up takeout when he lives up in the Hills?’ I actually live in the Hills, so I know a lot of the places that are around, a lot of the fast food places. And sometimes they’re just our own personal favorites, like Poquito Mas, In-N-Out, or some little dive that nobody knows about but the writer.
Sadly, some known L.A. hotspots have shut down, but they live on in some form on the show. This year, Det. Robertson (Paul Calderon) gets introduced to the Smog Cutter dive bar in East Hollywood and is seen frequenting it (and getting cozy with the bartender). Sadly, the Smog Cutter was closed at the time of shooting.
In the case of the restaurant Ciudad, its closing was worked into the script when the police call a witness out who had used a visit to the eatery as an alibi.
“That was fun,” said Pyne. “In the course of plotting it and writing it, it was open and then closed. And somebody knew about it, so we used it.”
The loss of Eleanor will still reverberate into next season, but won’t be top of mind on the show after a small time jump.
“When we pick up Season 5, we’re going to be about a year and a bit later. There’s gonna have been a passage of time, so it won’t feel immediate,” said Pyne. “[Her death] bonded Bosch to his daughter, in a way that he may never have in any other experience because he didn’t raise her. He came into her life much later, she came to live with him just more recently than that, and now they’re all that each other has. It’s a family he never had and now he has.”
Finding resolution in his mother’s murder this year also places Bosch in a bit of an existential crisis.
“There’s a question of, ‘What now for Harry?’” said Pyne. “We wanted to wrap up a lot of threads that had been hanging for a couple of seasons because once he solved his mother’s murder, caught the guy who did it and got the guy to admit that he did it, a huge part of what we presume motivated Bosch to become a cop to begin with, is gone. If part of his motivation was to solve crimes because his mother’s murder was never solved. But he’s healed that wound in a way. What makes him tick now?”
Beyond just Harry’s crisis though, there are still plenty of unresolved stories that are rich to mine for Season 5 beyond the criminal cases.
“There’s still Chief Irving. Where’s he going with the city? What’s he doing with the Department?” said Pyne. “There’s still J. Edgar (Jamie Hector) and his personal life versus professional life and his partnership with Harry. There’s Harry now having to let go of his daughter the moment he’s got her. She’s grown up, she’s going to college. He’s got to let go, which is a wild thing. There’s what happens to Jimmy Robertson: Does he leave? Does he stay? And, there’s Grace Billets (Amy Aquino). She’s had a taste of being Captain, but what’s she going to do next?”
“Bosch” Seasons 1-4 are currently streaming on Amazon Prime.