Goliath season 2 review: A conspiracy around a murder expands Goliath’s universe


When it debuted in October 2016, Amazon Prime’s Goliath was a combination of old and new.

A lawyer show created by David E. Kelley, who was responsible for earlier lawyer shows like L.A. LawAlly McBeal, and The Practice, the series included many of the tropes viewers have come to expect from the genre. Billy Bob Thornton’s Billy McBride was a talented lawyer who used his skills in a courtroom to get justice for the little guy in Goliath.

At the same time, though, Billy was another variation on the anti-hero archetype that shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad popularized. Billy was an alcoholic and could be a real jerk. And since the show was on Amazon Prime, he cursed a lot — even in court.

Yet, the show was entertaining and Billy Bob Thornton earned a Golden Globe for his performance, so it seemed inevitable that Amazon would want a second season.

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Released almost two years later, season two of Goliath is a departure from season one. Outside of the drinking he clearly has no desire to give up, Billy is no longer reckoning with his past. Instead, season two becomes a whodunit in which one  revelation leads to another, resulting in the discovery of a vast conspiracy centering on who will control the city of Los Angeles.

The season starts when Billy agrees to defend his friend’s 16-year-old son against a double murder charge. He reassembles his team from last season: Patty (Nina Arianda), Brittany (Tania Raymonde), and Marva (Julie Brister).

At the same time, we’re also introduced to a slew of new characters, including Billy’s adversary in the courtroom, prosecutor Hakeem Rashad (Morris Chestnut), creepy real estate developer Tom Wyatt (Mark Duplass), twitchy detective Keith Roman (Dominic Fumusa), and mayoral candidate Marisol Silva (Ana de la Reguera).

The characters interact for a variety of reasons, while the different spheres they occupy expands Goliath‘s universe. This leads to a season where the audience is putting together the pieces of the mystery as well. The storytelling sometimes puts viewers a little ahead of Billy, which ratchets up the suspense, especially in the last few episodes.

It also leads to a season where Billy spends more time with mayoral candidate Marisol than his legal team. Marisol seeks Billy out in the first episode due to her interest in the well-being of the boy he’s defending and quickly falls into bed with him.

It’s through Billy’s relationship with Marisol that Goliath is perhaps most in conversation with season one. Although Billy’s legal team consists entirely of women, his attitude towards them in the first season could sometimes be questionable.

He incessantly referred to them as “honey,” which may have seemed quaint or old-fashioned in the past, but came across as infantilizing or belittling in our #MeToo era. He used a video of Brittany sleeping with a witness to blackmail him. And his ex-wife (Maria Bello, who does not return for season two) seemed to think he was irresistible to women.

So, when Marisol initiates a relationship with Billy, it seems too good to be true. She’s clearly out of his league. This seems to confirm his ex-wife’s belief in Billy’s effect on women.

Also, when Billy calls Marisol “honey” early in their relationship, he apologizes, only to have Marisol tell him she likes it. While these plot points seem to champion one perspective on elements of the previous season, this season’s final episode casts things in a different light, making them a lot less clear-cut.

Further, while the murder case is the catalyst for the season’s story, the final showdown(s) don’t take place in a court. In fact, while Billy continues to attempt to use the legal system to bring down the people behind the conspiracy, the court case takes a back seat to Billy’s dogged pursuit of clues in the outside world.

Ultimately, when justice is served — which isn’t as often as viewers might expect given our first season experience — it happens in often-gruesome, extra-legal ways.

Because of Goliath‘s expanded canvas, the show also spends more time experimenting with form. For example, almost all the episodes include a flashback at the beginning, often filling in the backstory of one of the new characters.

In addition, in an interesting departure from the format of the other episodes, over half of the penultimate episode takes place in a single location, creating a disorienting, claustrophobic effect to reflect Billy’s perspective.

This experimentation makes for an uneven experience from episode to episode. Some episodes go at a breakneck pace revealing one thing after another, while some are much more deliberate and ponderous.

Also, viewers should be prepared for flashes of gratuitous gore and violence, which could be a little much for some. (For my take on the season’s most egregious instance of this, see my recap of the fourth episode.)

Through it all, Billy is relentless in his pursuit of the truth. Even more than last season though, he comes across as an upstanding guy who was dealt some bad cards. This makes his continued insistence on drinking until he blacks out and staying in a crummy hotel seem less like the marks of an anti-hero and more like bad coping skills.

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Moreover, although Billy Bob Thornton is a brilliant actor, he’s upstaged by the intense performances of many of the other actors whose fascinating characters populate the story.

All in all, it’s a diverting, entertaining season that’s more interested in screw-turning tension than substance. But it’s a satisfying mystery with an unexpected ending that also comes across as inevitable by the time the last episode’s credits start to roll.

If you want more Goliath, take a look at our recaps, starting with episode one. And watch the entire series on Amazon Prime.