Billy Bob Thornton. William Hurt. Molly Parker. Add these three names to any cast and you’re guaranteed an audience by virtue of sheer talent. But a great show? No promises. And that’s the unfortunate truth with Amazon’s Goliath.
Thornton plays Billy McBride, a washed-up attorney trying to find a deeper bottle. Once a third of major law firm Cooperman/McBride, a falling out with his partners left him living in a motel and divorced (Maria Bello plays his former wife Michelle). It isn’t until junior lawyer Patty Solis-Papagian (Nina Arianda) encounters him by chance that he’s offered a chance to go against his old firm.
Although initially uninterested, McBride changes his mind after meeting and sleeping with Patty’s client, Rachel (Ever Carradine), who believes her brother’s suicide was anything but. It doesn’t take long for McBride’s precursory examination to discover discrepancies in the details of the man’s demise. But he soon faces considerable pressure to desist, pressure both legal and otherwise.
Just about everyone in Goliath seems to have a scummy nature to them, including our protagonist. The catch however is that while McBride is flawed and never asks for sympathy, Thornton portrays him with the right combination of suave wit and humanity to steal the show. His talents particularly shine when paired with Tania Raymonde, who plays his assistant Brittany Gold.
Hurt however seems to struggle with lead antagonist Donald Cooperman, the ever-watching mastermind who sits in a dark backroom to hide the burn scars that cover half his body. His giggling eccentricities seem to stem less from the character’s nature and more from a disbelief that he’s playing this… bizarre individual. Like some less violent derivative of Two-Face from Batman, without truly grasping a villainous psychology that decades of storytelling have constructed.
The show packs a rather large cast for only eight hour-long episodes. It works however, as the other characters help pace the story without interjecting too much of their own baggage. Olivia Thrilby excels as try-hard Lucy Kittridge. Callie (Parker) is utterly despicable as a secondary foe. One bad call might have been the casting of both Carradine and Sarah Wynter (who plays the wife of Rachel’s departed brother) as the two actresses look similar enough to cause confusion.
Goliath seems to have some trouble deciding what it wants to be sometimes. It bounces between conspiracy and investigative, legal banter to the thriller. However, the show does succeed at being addictive. Episodes often end with that “oh crap” moment that needles the back of the mind and makes us yearn to see what happens next, blindsiding viewers to what is an otherwise unbelievable plot. One must give showrunner Jonathan Shapiro credit for turning off our brains at least.
Goliath is not a bad show by any means. And given its short length, it’s not a bad way to spend the winter. But if you’re lacking free time, The Night Of is the superior court room drama.