Out on a limb
Main Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Nina Arianda
Creators: David E. Kelley, Jonathan Shapiro
Wow, I’m surprised by the reception to the second season of Goliath on Amazon. Season 1 had a solid 4+ star rating – this one is under three. I guess you really need to know what you’re getting into before you start – this season goes in some directions the first did not. Apparently some people didn’t like that. I am not one of those people.
Goliath stars Billy Bob Thornton as Billy McBride, a talented lawyer whose conscience drives him to drink. A lot. He doesn’t want to take cases where lives are on the line. In the first season he gets pulled into a case by fellow attorney/real estate agent Patty Solis-Papagian (Nina Arianda) and what follows is a relatively tame courtroom drama/thriller. I liked it a lot, but the second season ups the stakes and moves into much edgier territory.
This time around Billy is still an alcoholic, but now he has money. He doesn’t know what to do with it and is uncomfortable having it. He still wants nothing to do with big cases, but once again one finds him. His friend Oscar (who works at the bar he basically calls home) needs help with his son, who has been accused of murder. Billy is really reluctant to take the case, but some extenuating circumstances intervene and he recruits a still-traumatized Patty to help him. Also back is Brittany (Tania Raymonde), a prostitute whose complicated professional relationship with Billy is still…complicated.
This season’s villains are drug runners. They range from a cartel boss in Mexico on down the line to his stooges in L.A., who include a detective and a real estate developer. Billy finds himself working with a mayoral candidate who is invested in the accused kid as he tries to find the real murderer and free his client.
So what makes this all so different from the first season? I’m not going to tell you the specifics (because that would be spoilers – I don’t do spoilers) but suffice to say that our bad guys are not just bad, they are intensely weird. There aren’t many courtroom scenes, but the few there are let Thornton play with his character’s mastery of the law. The bulk of each episode focuses on personal relationships and personalities. Billy McBride is still a really flawed, really good man. Thornton just plays the hell out of this character, from the first frame to the last. It’s a stellar performance, once again. I would watch the show just for that. Fortunately, I don’t have to.
The other cast regular that I’ve grown to love is Arianda as Patty. She too is deeply flawed, but is far less annoying in this season. Her quirks have mellowed and she’s now endearing in her weirdness. This season also includes a masterful performance from at least one of the bad guys. I’ve been watching the Duplass brothers since they made The Puffy Chair back in 2005 and they just get better and better. It is Mark that graces Goliath – Season 2, and it is his character more than any other that marks the series’ departure from anything resembling mundane. Duplass plays Tom Wyatt, wealthy real estate developer and all around scumbag. He also has some strange extracurricular passions that seem to be making some folks pretty uncomfortable. But he is fantastic in this role. Awful and pathetic and stupid and cunning and deeply disturbed – Tom Wyatt is not an easy character to bring to life. Duplass does him proud.
So, if you liked the first season of Goliath, will you like season 2?
That’s the big question. Most series don’t have such a markedly sharp dichotomy between those who love and hate them after a successful first outing. So let’s commence with some pointers for who may love and who may hate this season.
First – know what you’re getting into. The series definitely makes some edgier choices this time around, with some very, VERY dark humor and some very, VERY weird villains. There is also plentiful violence, more than in the first season. If you enjoyed Breaking Bad, Dexter, or Fargo, I’d wager that you can get on board with the second season of Goliath. If you want more of a courtroom drama a la Better Call Saul, you might be in for some unwelcome surprises. It’s all in the expectations.
I, personally, think that this second season is a significant step above the first. It’s more inventive, makes better use of the talents available, and has a cast filled with recognizable faces who do not disappoint, not even once. The weirdness did not bother me; it fit the characters involved and was handled in exactly the way a Billy Bob Thornton series ought to handle any delicate subject – without a single ounce of delicacy. The characters are engaging and continue to develop really nicely, and the story is once again tight, moves like lightning, and stays interesting through the eight episodes.
For my money, Goliath – Season 2 is a great eight episode binge. Know that the series is stepping into a weirder place and just go along with it. This series is an Amazon Original and is streaming on Prime Video (included with your Prime subscription). I highly recommend it for those of you who, like me, revel in a show that walks straight out on a limb and starts sawing. Five stars.