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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

June 23, 2020: BoschStudying: Jerry Edgar

[Like most of us, my lockdown has offered the opportunity to check some TV shows off of my list. One of the best I’ve seen is Amazon Prime’s original show Bosch, based on the longstanding series of police procedural detective novels by Michael Connelly (who is part of the show as well). The best part of Bosch is its characters, so this week I’ll AmericanStudy the five most important!]
On the benefits to giving a supporting character space to become far more multi-layered.
I can’t lie, it took me a not-insignificant portion of Bosch’s season one not to suspect that Jamie Hector’s Jerry Edgar wasn’t secretly an undercover criminal mastermind; no one who has seen Hector as The Wire’s Marlo Stanfield, one of the most chilling villains in TV history, would blame me for having my doubts. Once I got past those associations with Hector’s prior character, Edgar settled in to what seemed to me to be a familiar and comfortable role: as the more straight-laced sidekick to our loose cannon protagonist, often frustrated by and critical of Bosch but always willing and able to have his back when the chips are down. Even their respective choices in apparel seemed to reflect those roles, with Edgar a clotheshorse who demands a stop at the outlets as part of a season one roadtrip and frequently chides Bosch for his far less natty attire. Add in their season one family situations—Edgar a dad to young kids who are of course a central focus of his, Bosch with a teenage daughter he hasn’t seen in many years and who calls him Harry—and the contrast between these partners felt well-established and clear (and evocative of famous prior such pop culture partnerships like Murtaugh and Riggs).
While Hector is a talented enough actor that he was able to give Edgar layers even within that familiar and supporting frame, for the next couple seasons it seemed that this dynamic would largely continue, and indeed would be deepened through a plotline in which Edgar found himself investigating Bosch’s own potential misconduct (in pursuit of justice, but nonetheless well outside the lines of what Edgar was willing to condone). But gradually, particularly over the show’s last few seasons (four through six), Bosch has begun to explore sides of Edgar’s identity that are both far less tied to his partner and far different from what we had previously seen or known about the character. It has done so most strikingly through a couple things shared by Edgar and Jamie Hector—Haitian heritage and complex, enduring ties to the Haitian American community. While those elements have been linked to crime and investigations, as you’d expect from a police procedural (and which I won’t spoil here), they’ve also offered a way to understand Edgar’s identity that goes beyond his job, and includes such telling details as his bilingualism and his links to older, 1st generation Haitian American characters we’ve met.
The benefits to the show of that broadening and deepening of this supporting character, turning him at times into more of a co-protagonist with Bosch, are likely obvious—while I suppose it would be possible for them to create a sense of disjointedness if they were handled poorly or haphazardly, it seems to me far more likely (and is indeed the case here) that they would create a more compelling tapestry, a season and world with multiple interesting things happening at once (which in their own way includes the other characters on whom I’ll focus in this series as well). But to my mind, the true benefit of this growth in Edgar’s character is quite precisely about more than the show, or rather more than the necessarily limited focus with which any show (like any cultural work) begins. Of course a show called Bosch is going to focus first and foremost on that particular character, and is going to depict other characters and stories as they move through and around his orbit. But too much of that focus risks repeating one of the main problems with the anti-hero type: the idea that there’s something special enough about this one figure that he or she (but usually he) deserves more empathy or understanding than we give to the others in his or her world (such as, often, people whom this anti-hero kills). To some degree that remains the frame for Bosch—but over its six seasons it has also and crucially gone beyond that frame, with characters like Jerry Edgar reminding us that the world is far bigger than Harry and full of stories worth our engagement.
Next BoschStudying tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Takes on this show or others you’d call especially lockdown-binge-worthy?

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