The past few weeks have been dreadful for my page count total, and I blame that partially on a few television series that have consumed my time. Hey, they were all inspired by books, so I didn’t deviate all that much, right?
Both Bosch (Amazon Prime) and Daredevil (Netflix) released their second seasons, and 11/22/63 (Hulu) just completed its miniseries run. All had very strong showings. Well, strong enough to glue me to a couch for a really, really long time.
Bosch, based on a long string of novels by Michael Connelly, is a series about a Los Angeles cop who doesn’t always work by the book. The second season loosely follows the plot of the 5th Bosch novel, Trunk Music, which should tell you right there that this is a series that isn’t adhereing strictly to its source material. Like any good adaptation it takes liberties, adds in information both from other novels and from the showrunner’s minds, and packages it together to create a compelling drama.
This is not your standard network television cop procedural. The 10 episode season follows one primary case throughout, mixing in side plots that converge at the end and also creating a continuous meta-narrative that transcends seasons. Also… lots of explicit violence and profanity. NCIS this is not.
The second season, free from the need to introduce major players and philosophies, excelled. It was a strong season, and better than the first. Additionally, through all of its narrative Bosch creates an amazing sense of place, a piece of praise that can actually be applied to the two other shows in this post. The Los Angeles of Bosch is authentic, un-embellished. While the titular character works for Hollywood Homicide, it is not only the over-hyped tourist-slogged areas that are featured. The plotlines move throughout the entire city, showing many sides to the southern California sprawl. Los Angeles itself is as much a character as the men and women who live within it.
In the second season of Daredevil, based on the long running Marvel comics character, we see a similar emphasis on a place- Hell’s Kitchen. In reality this neighborhood covers less than a square mile, but in the MCU it is more than that. This Hell’s Kitchen is somehow larger, infinitely more prominent, a tract of land fought over by gangs and vigilantes and at the center of massive conflicts and scandals. Yet somehow it is insulated from the rest of the world and the heroes and villains in it.
While Bosch had an undeniably stronger second season than its first, my internal jury is still out for Daredevil. Comic inspired shows and films tend to trap themselves into a fan service need, presenting too many recognizable faces in too little time. Daredevil’s first season was relatively streamlined- one hero, one villain.
Season two creates completely different narratives. We have our masked vigilante, now in his trademark red, but we also have the Punisher, Elektra, the return of Kingpin, the Hand. At one point there are two barely connected storylines, and one (thanks to a phenomenal Frank Castle portrayal by Jon Bernthal) was far stronger and (to me) more interesting than the other. There was a disconnect during the middle episodes, and the result was that some of the excellent plot pacing that was present during the opening arc was lost. I was ultimately pleased with the ending, and with the season as a whole, though I’m not sure that I would place it higher than season 1.
Finally, the Hulu adaptation of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 concluded this week, and was a success from start to finish. I was a massive fan of the novel, and was initially dismayed at some of the changes on the show. However, as the story progressed those very changes made sense.
For the uninitiated, 11/22/63 is a story about a many who travels back in time to save JFK. In the novel he jumps back a handful of times, testing the waters of the past and learning how it can change events or even attempt to resist that change. The show removes the back and forth, keeping the story focused on the JFK mission. The overall scope is narrowed, but the result is a tight plot that still manages to express the oddities of the past, a theory on history, and a beautiful love story. Like Daredevil and Bosch, it also expertly displays its world- early 1960s Dallas and the small town of Jodie where life is so vastly different from the 2016 Maine that the protagonist originally hailed from.
While I still prefer the book to the show, the team did a wonderful job adapting the 850 page novel, a feat I was initially skeptical of. Stephen King adaptations tend to be pretty hit or miss after all. I was delighted that this one, based one of my favorites of his, was the former.
11/22/63 is a standalone miniseries, and as such can be viewed without any prior requirements. Bosch and Daredevil are both in their second seasons, and should be watched in their entirety.