“Bosch” Full of Tired Clichés

Season 5: Bosch and the Opioid Crisis


(Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t seen “Bosch” Season 5, this blog post will describe events of the last episode.)

I am disappointed in Harry Bosch. Or more specifically, I’m disappointed by the writers of the “Bosch” series.

“Bosch” is now in its fifth season on Amazon Prime. I’ve always enjoyed the series, based on the books written by Michael Connelly about the adventures of a Los Angeles homicide detective names Hieronymus (“Harry”) Bosch, played on the series by Titus Welliver. I thought the writing was smart and well-paced, with interesting plots that were better than average.

This season, the writers must have thought hey, let’s do something relevant, like a case related to the opioid use disorder epidemic. I would have liked that. The trouble is, this season portrays the opioid use disorder epidemic as it was about ten years ago.

There’s plenty more going on during the season which still makes the show worth watching, but I was constantly eye-rolling at the tired clichés about people who become addicted to prescription opioids, pill mills, and approaches to treatment.

In this season, Bosch investigates the murder of a pharmacist, who had dealing with thugs who run a sophisticated pill-mill operation. Oddly, these criminal masterminds have gathered a group of people who are addicted to pain pills and shuttle them from one pill mill to another, then to multiple pharmacies to fill these prescriptions, to obtain vast amounts of oxycodone pills.

Then the crooks dole them out to the poor addicts who are physically and mentally broken down, and meek as mice. For some reason, they do whatever the bad guys tell them to do, though clearly, they could score more oxycodone on their own.

Then for some reason, the crooks put them on a small private plane and fly them to a camp in the dessert where they are housed in shoddy trailers or old buses until they are flown back for another pill mill-pharmacy outing.

California has had a prescription monitoring program for years. That system would detect people trying to see multiple providers for multiple prescriptions. This scheme could have worked before the prescription monitoring program, but not now. But the writers appear to have ignored this awkward detail.

And flying these people to and fro doesn’t seem practical to me. Private planes are expensive, no? Why fly them to and from the pill mills and pharmacies, then back to the desert camp? Why not house them in a cheap motel at the edge of town? I get that the bad guys want to keep them quiet, but all that flying about seems inordinately expensive.

It’s not even that weirdness that makes me angry. It’s how the characters of the people with addiction are portrayed. They are downtrodden, doing what they are told by the thugs. They are submissive and controllable. After getting a bottle of prescription OxyContin, they turn over the entire bottle, only to be given one or two pills doled out over time by the bad men.

Naw, this doesn’t play. A group of six or eight people with opioid use disorder would certainly be more formidable than this. In fact, given the survival skills of the average person in active addiction, I’d expect them to be running the desert camp after a day. Guns or no guns, these people are in withdrawal and very motivated to get out of withdrawal. These bad guys would be no match for them.

Part of my prediction is based on how the bad guys are shown to be bumbling fools by the end of the season. At one point, one of them, armed, is supposed to throw Bosch out of the plane. Of course, Bosch, unarmed, turns the tables throws the thug out of the plane instead. Then at the end of the season, three of these hardened thugs come to Bosch’s lovely little home in the Hollywood hills for a sneak attack. They are armed with automatic rifles. Bosch, with a handgun, and takes them all down. These guys must be the worst shots in the world, because they spewed bullets galore, but missed Bosch completely.

Then the writers have Bosch trying to help one woman, using outdated methods. Elizabeth is a lovely yet troubled woman grieving the murder of a child. She has a heart of gold but prostitutes herself for one OxyContin 80mg with one of the bad men just to feel better. Of course, Bosch must help her. This lady is a veteran, like him, and he obviously has a soft spot for her in his hard-bitten heart.

He takes her for help to small seedy agency that helps veterans. He doesn’t take her to the Veterans Administration medical system, which now has excellent treatment programs for opioid use disorder using medication-assisted treatment. No, he takes her to a cold-turkey, you-must-suffer, just-for-veterans, hole-in-the-wall kind of facility. When Bosch remarks that he wants to say goodbye before he leaves, the proprietor of the “facility” says he’d better go now, before she chews her fingernails off.

This show perpetuates that tired idea that a person with opioid use disorder must suffer in order to be redeemed, gain recovery, and be worthy of respect again. This is not only an outdated concept, but dangerous. We’ve known since the 1950’s that a detox alone doesn’t do much good unless it’s followed by other treatment, but Bosch offers none of that information. The expectation is that if Elizabeth is tough and brave, she will beat her addiction.

Addiction isn’t like that.

In another scene, J Edgar, Bosch’s partner, is talking with this same woman, and she asks for relief from withdrawal. J. Edgar says a doctor will see her soon. She scoffs, “What and give me, Suboxone? I might as well snort Splenda.”

So, the show also downplays the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment.


I hereby announce that I am available for consultation on television and movie scripts. I can keep shows relevant and current with information about opioid use disorder and its treatment. Hollywood, I can help you.

Call me. We’ll do lunch.



7 responses to this post.

  1. Love this … I hope they take you up on you being available for consult.. how can Hollywood be so out of touch when they’ve lost so many? Smh


  2. Posted by Steve on June 9, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    Pretty humorous tongue in cheek review of Bosch. Unfortunately, your statement:”This show perpetuates that tired idea that a person with opioid use disorder must suffer in order to be redeemed, gain recovery, and be worthy of respect again” is alive and well in the minds of many Addiction Treatment “professionals” that I communicate with on a daily basis.


  3. Posted by Amy Galowitz on June 9, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Why not write directly to the “Bosch” screenwriters?


  4. The desert camp had me scratching my head too but you have to admit the fight on the plane was pretty dang watchable. I think they wanted an airplane scene. I’d be curious to know how this episode played out in the Bosch books.


  5. Posted by Stefan Reich on December 13, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    Yeah good write-up. I felt something was off with this weird-ass desert camp and their whole scheme.


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