Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast
Creators David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro’s latest excursion into the inner workings of a law firm and a discarded group of practicing underdogs builds to nothing more then a rehashed and conventional legal drama. From its antagonistic firm, an indomitable, monopolizing juggernaut, right down to our crass yet loveable antihero, a disgraced, alcoholic practitioner, Goliath cannot overcome familiarity to do its impressive and invested ensemble justice.
Former courtroom hotshot Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) spends his days scrounging the bottom of a bottle, seeking the strength to settle his court-appointed cases and forget his many woes. Divorced, a bordering insomniac on account of his sleep apnea, and deadbeat dad, McBride swishes the sympathy trifecta. Going about his unfulfilling day, feeding a stray hound along the way to his local bar then stumbling his way in and out of court. The self-loathing genius is forever changed though when he’s approached by Patty (Nina Arianda), who’s offering a quick case that’ll turn a reasonable payout.
As it happens, the client is entangled in a wrongful death claim with a massive arms manufacturer, represented by McBride’s old firm and former partner Donald Cooperman (William Hurt), who, as chance would have it, employs Billy’s ex-wife Michelle (Maria Bello). Originally in it for the money and the touch of a good woman, McBride now sets his sights on swindling Cooperman and proving to Michelle that he’s still got a silver tongue…oh and also bringing justice to his client who Billy eventually realizes has a legitimate case.
To bring down the mysterious guilty party and simultaneously stick it to Cooperman, Thornton assembles a ragtag co-counsel, comprised of a rather knowledgeable escort (Tania Raymonde) and a blabbermouth blonde (Arianda). Seemingly making headway, McBride and company have perhaps ruffled one too many feathers as their lives and the wellbeing of loved ones become compromised.
Goliath gets off to a rocky, incoherent start. Partly because its story tosses you into the thick of a complex suicide case (or is it murder?!) with hints of some sort of corporate espionage and an all knowing, all powerful law firm without so much as a breadcrumb to work backwards from. Not to mention the incredibly off-putting stereotypes protruding from each character, big and small, like an exposed bone piercing through skin. Something I’d consider a little more than mildly annoying.
The show’s disinterest in captivatingly portraying the judicial process, opting for more of a character-driven arch that shifts between players on a need-to-know basis, is disengaging and only slightly entertaining, largely thanks to the watchability of its talented cast. Goliath certainly possesses some intriguing personalities, but fails to spark concern and curiosity in the viewer.
Thornton, whose most recent foray into television (Fargo) having yielded a bountiful, ongoing series, cannot provide the heart, lungs, nor brain to give Goliath life, let alone meaning to its existence. Although, he does manage to create the only earnest relationship in the show, something Goliath sorely lacks, between himself and a stray dog. There’s no doubt Thornton brings his southern charm and apathetic charisma to McBride, but a character this thinly veiled isn’t in need of more superficial quips and hangups.
Hurt, meanwhile, gives life to an antagonist better suited for a Bond film, what with his stalking of a young employee via security camera and clicking his…clicker? Cooperman barely has any time to chuckle menacingly and twirl his ivory-topped cane. Severely burned and disfigured on one side of his face, Cooperman’s Freddy Krueger-esque exterior and insatiable clicking habit infuriate instead of deepening this villain’s backstory. Have I mentioned his clicking? Used to interrupt employees and conversations when the tone or content aren’t to his liking, the clicking is intolerable.
In direct competition with similar courtroom dramas like The Night Of, there’s very little keeping Goliath from the wrath of the viewers’ decisive hammer. Focused on its characters who’re more keen on delivering retribution than deciphering the case itself, Amazon’s latest series spreads itself quite thin rather than play to its strong suits.
Goliath asks the audience to concede far too much when it comes to the show’s cliched characters and trite premise, and doesn’t do nearly enough in return to buy viewers’ interest.