Justice Is Never Enough

COMMENTARY Civil Society

Justice Is Never Enough

Jul 18, 2022 7 min read

Former Director, Simon Center for American Studies

Richard was Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies and AWC Family Foundation Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
Matthew Lawford, Lucy Julia Rogers-Ciaffa, and Mimi Rogers attend the Amazon Freevee Premiere Event For "Bosch: Legacy" on April 24, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. Vivien Killilea / Getty Images for Amazon Freevee

Key Takeaways

One of Amazon’s most successful streaming ventures continues to improve with age. Bosch is now Bosch Legacy, and you can find it on Freevee.

There is a theme weaving through this season of creeping lawlessness.

What remains for Bosch Legacy is the knowledge that our debts ultimately cannot be paid by us. Those accounts are too deep to be settled.

One of Amazon’s most successful streaming ventures continues to improve with age. Bosch is now Bosch Legacy, and you can find it on Freevee, a new ad-supported platform from Amazon. The show marvelously succeeds despite the awkward presentation of the new channel. This is high pulp L.A. drama, replete with a serial rapist on the loose and rapacious Russian mafiosos eliminating debtors, crooks, and shady lawyers. There’s also a lonely, dying billionaire searching for an unknown son to inherit his estate.

Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch at last season’s end turned in his badge and became a private investigator. “Who are you if you don’t have a badge?” Chief of Police Irving (Lance Reddick) inquired of Bosch. Bosch’s response: “I’m gonna find out.” Bosch Legacy gives us a man freed to be more unpredictable than he could be as a cop—and freed to break the law in order to save it.

Is it a coincidence that he shares a first name with Lt. Callahan (Clint Eastwood) of Dirty Harry fame? Eastwood’s Harry did similar things and had the same reactions to the feckless San Francisco Police Department. Both men are perplexed and infuriated at the lack of justice for victims and how weak the rule of law can prove to be when evil designs press against it.

But Bosch resents what he must do to uphold his ideals, best expressed in his motto, “Everybody counts, or nobody counts.” He also works in the knowledge that the city connects everyone, high-born and low-born, just and unjust. Those called to defend it are by turns unaware of the nature of the threats arrayed against them or engaged in their own lowdown betrayals of law and order.

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Harry’s devotion to his work—he regularly held late-night sessions with “murderbooks,” with jazz music hovering and beer accompanying him—has long indicated that police work connected him to the deep-down roots of justice. And those roots are almost dead in L.A. But his devotion also guides him to take the exact amount of extra-legal action when called for. He never apologizes for it.

Across Generations

The season begins with pietas. His daughter, Maddie (Madison Lintz), is now a rookie police officer, a “boot.” She is reprimanded and scolded in the first episode for leaving her partner to sprint after a criminal. Maddie didn’t wait for backup. But this is Harry’s daughter. Long-time viewers will recall that she originally lived with her mother—an actuarial FBI whiz agent—but came to prefer her father more and more. Her mother was killed in a hit by a Chinese gang, and that has left Maddie with Harry since her teenage years. Since that time, Maddie has ascended towards work, mission, and courage.

Love has always been the uncontrollable element for Harry. The calm pursuer of accountability is weighed down under memories. He separated from his wife but retained a tremendous fondness for her. Maddie’s entrance to the LAPD leads him back to his former wife’s death, and then a call goes out that a female cop has been shot in his daughter’s patrol district. Harry reaches out frantically to her, immeasurably relieved that she is unharmed.

Maddie is also sent as a liaison to the badly wounded officer’s family to inform them of her critical injury. She tells her dad that she won’t know what to say. “She’s your fellow officer,” Harry says, “The words will come.” Dutiful Harry again surfaces.

Like father, like daughter, Maddie says to Harry, “I can’t let it go.” She is tireless in the pursuit of a serial rapist, resembling her father’s obsessed police work in every previous season. “Got a feeling that I can’t let it go” went the refrain of the theme song in the previous series, a line that nicely captured Harry’s doggedness. Now we get as an opening a song that repeatedly says, “Times are changing.” But the times also remain the same. And the changes don’t seem for the better. Harry as PI strolls LA in a timeless Cherokee jeep. He pays his tech sleuth advisor, Mo (Stephen Bassi), in cash. Mo replies, “Cash is so last century.” Harry rejoins, “So am I, brother.”

A Thin Line of Justice

There is a theme weaving through this season of creeping lawlessness. There may even be a Bosch-like nod to identity politics, but it is so wrapped in love, loss, and hope that I hesitate to name it as such. On the lawlessness bit, Honey Chandler, LA defense lawyer extraordinaire, was almost killed last season by a hit ordered by hedge funder Carl Rogers that killed a judge. He gets off this season because of insufficient evidence. Honey recovered physically, but not soulfully. She is hounded by thoughts of revenge, operating somewhere between gun range visits and late-night bourbons. She’s very clear with her therapist that she wants Rogers to live in torment.

Honey is now teamed with Harry on a range of cases and investigations. On Carl Rogers’s release, Harry tells Honey, “We do it my way this time.” He has Carl in his sights. But Harry has always spurned Honey, referring to her as “Money” Chandler. The refined defense lawyer has handsomely profited from various civil rights regulations that afford huge payouts for defendants treated shabbily by the justice system. It’s Maddie, a former employee of hers, who convinces Harry that Honey was probably right in most of those cases, but it’s also true that she milked the system for all it was worth. Like Harry, Honey knows the limits of the system but unlike Harry, she evades them for her own purposes.

But she also experiences life’s strictures this season. If Harry can’t outrun love, then Honey learns there really isn’t platonic revenge, and justice can only afford so much relief. She and Harry find a way to connect Carl to the theft of oil. He can no longer pay back his Russian bosses, so he’s a dead man walking. His lawyer had checked him into Club Fed on a bargain of giving up information about Russian mafia operations. The Fed and the police seem powerless otherwise to stop them.

Carl escapes Fed custody and decamps for a custom-designed shipping container that he had fashioned for himself to leave the country stowed on an international vessel. But he doesn’t escape the Russian hitmen who tortured and murdered his lawyer to find him. Honey also tracks Carl down and silently watches as they kill him. She stands over his body, a seeming moment of vindication, except that it’s just blank, if not meaningless for her. “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy,” she tells Harry. But the triumph is more like a whimper of relief.

Honey’s nightmares continue. Her nighttime horrors reveal that she is now consumed with her own apparent injustice, Honey relates to her therapist. She dreams that she killed someone, but she doesn’t know whom. Her therapist observes that she must be carrying guilt about something. “Don’t we all?” Honey notes. But where does her guilt go—can it be taken from her? Her frequent line-crossing between right and wrong now demands its own recognition. The conscience must be forgiven or justified. Honey knows that justification for some of her deeds isn’t really possible. But this season doesn’t answer such an important question. Season 2?

Forgiveness of Sins

Harry’s PI work brings him to the sad case of a lonely tycoon named Whitney Vance (William Devane). He’s a billionaire, part of a legacy, and the remnant of a fading Anglo-Protestant elite that once ran California. His legacy corporation produced war machines, and its current leadership is doubly underhanded, willing to kill Vance’s heirs to ensure that ownership and wealth stay with the corporation.

The backstory is that Vance, as a student at USC in 1952, fell in love with a young woman from Mexico. She became pregnant. His father ordered him to leave her, or else. And he followed orders.

His memory of her and of their child have haunted him ever since. He hires Harry to track down the child and his rightful heirs before he dies. Harry faithfully follows suit, tracking down the son, “Dominique” who was killed in Vietnam, a helicopter pilot. The Vance Corporation made these instruments for the Army. Vance abandoned his love and his son because his father threatened to disown him. Now we learn that the company whose profits and respect he couldn’t walk away from him was connected to his son’s death, profiting from the sale of the warship that contributed to his death.

There’s a clear desire to paint Mr. Vance as a war profiteer. But that’s a bit much. In the end, the rich white man wants to apologize and help his biological heirs. His guilt marks his conscience. His betrayals have cost everyone, and he feels the damage in his own soul.

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Last will and testament hijinks lead to the murder of Vance by his long-time assistant, and Harry shoots a female assassin sent by the Vance Corporation to kill Vance’s biological granddaughter and great grandson. Harry ensures that the estate is delivered in full to them. Harry tells Vance, who comes to trust him, that he never knew his father. You might think Harry would be led to scorn Vance for his cowardice, projecting his own pain onto him. Instead, he serves him and his descendants.

I hinted that this might be Bosch Legacy’s nod to identity politics. But Vance is never treated as an original sinner who must be expunged so that racial minorities might dance on his ashes. And the facts here might justify it. There’s some measure of justice—rightful heirs learn that they are provided for—but there’s also love and forgiveness. Vance got things badly wrong, but he also wanted, to the extent possible, to make things better. What remains for Bosch Legacy is the knowledge that our debts ultimately cannot be paid by us. Those accounts are too deep to be settled.

In the last episode, Maddie tells her dad to answer her texts, especially when she’s on patrol. There, she sees the worst the world can offer. Maddie wants to know that her dad is there. The serial rapist soon resurfaces, though. This time, he’s hiding in Maddie’s apartment. Harry just happens to reach out to Maddie. She doesn’t answer. His uncontrollable love surges. Can he get there in time?

This piece originally appeared in Law & Liberty