Bosch Season 1 Episode 9 Review: “The Magic Castle”


After a half-season long manhunt, “The Magic Castle” brings finally brings the Raynard Waits story to close – and does so in about the least satisfying way possible. For episodes, Bosch has hidden the true motivations of Raynard behind a sheen of mystery, with the most recent pair of episodes suddenly suggesting that Waits has some existential purpose, some window into the soul of Harry Bosch that their inevitable showdown would reveal. “The Magic Castle” certainly goes for that – but does so in such a silly and indecipherable way, it ultimately renders the entire story pointless.

In the end, Raynard wasn’t a serial killer with a purpose: he was merely a plot device, one to an end we don’t quite understand. If Bosch wanted us to believe in the disturbing parallels between Bosch and Waits as two products of the same environment are meaningful, this story had to go somewhere, be it with the broader political overlay that’s come to the forefront, or through some personal reveal of Harry’s designed to elevate the tension in their little cat-and-mouse game. But that moment never comes: Waits just kidnaps a white mother to tease Bosch, then goes for “suicide by cop” by spitting off some nonsense about how “I mean something” and “I’ve been working so hard to show you this,” psycho babble that is mercifully ended with Bosch’s pistol (of which the sound effects are really, really off: instead of the deafening boom firing a handgun in an enclosed underground space, we get three silencer shots from a gun that didn’t have a silencer? But I digress). All of a sudden, the conventional murder story wanted to go cosmic, which doesn’t amount to much beyond some verbal flailing, the narrative equivalent of grasping at straws to make something dramatic in its climatic moments.

Like most stories on this show, the Waits case feels half-baked; as half-baked as Grace’s sudden hidden lesbian affair, or the police captain that Harry has a personal history with that’s out for him. None of these stories are dug into enough to have any impact: there’s no dimensions to these characters or stories at this point, and it makes for a very disjointed affair. Characters like Grace (or her girlfriend), Harry’s ex-wife, and Waits have all been presented as intriguing people, but their interesting personality traits are only gateways to conventional characterizations and storytelling: and none of it makes for very complex material, like when Grace admits to Harry that she’s seeing a colleague, as well. We don’t get to see her work through her personal and professional frustrations: she’s just nasty to Harry, and then two scenes later, she’s explaining to us how she feels.

It’s that kind of forced exposition and self-definition that makes “The Magic Castle” – and many of Bosch‘s episodes in this first season – flat and listless, relying solely on performance and atmosphere to keep things interesting. It’s frustrating, because the pieces are all there: the show has a solid lead, multiple female characters who would be interesting if developed, and a much-welcome appreciation for the intricacies of police investigation and policy, something the show could greatly expand on if it moved away from the dual-murder mystery approach, and gave some of these stories room to breathe. Otherwise, we end up with the final Waits/Bosch showdown, which has all the delicacy and grace of an uncoordinated elephant and ends one of the show’s central stories with a babbling winter. The only potential is for a late Hail Mary in the season finale to give this all some scope and emotional impact; however, with the political noise getting louder and louder – there’s an election coming, in case you missed that – and only an hour left for Bosch in 2015 (and another manhunt to finish, lest we forget), there isn’t a whole lot of hope.

[Photo via Amazon]

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