Death by sinkhole. It might not sound like the most auspicious start for a TV show in its third season, but Amazon’s Goliath is a show that, as its title suggests, loves nothing more than hitting above its apparent weight. Key to that success is Billy Bob Thornton, who, after two seasons of uneven productions and some creative differences, continues to hold things together enough to keep viewers coming back.
He remains fantastic as Billy McBride, the washed-up lawyer with a track record in his local bar as long as his one in court. He is, however, a good lawyer, and backs up his legal skills with a hangdog determination that Thornton styles out with a weary expression, slouched shoulders and heavy stubble. As his enemies put it, he just keeps going until he wins – a professional attitude that’s at odds with his loser existence.
He’s driven by sense of justice, but also by clients who tend to have a personal connection to him. Here, it’s old friend Gene (Griffin Dunne), whose wife, Bobbi, dies before the opening credits. Desperate for closure, he recruits Bill to look into the shady water board and its connected companies.
And so Billy ventures into Blackwood County to do some digging around, and unearths a whole new web of corruption to expose and unpick. In Season 2, that formula began to feel a bit repetitive, not least because the villains felt like they were having to over-compensate for a wayward narrative. But the show’s consistent knack for creating a new universe each season still reaps rewards: you’re always guaranteed a fresh crop of eccentric characters to scrutinise. This season, that includes Wade (Dennis Quaid), a wealthy tycoon whose sister, Diana (Amy Brenneman), is equally formiddable. Beau Bridges brings some convincingly muddied water as local farmer Wheeler, and Shamier Anderson steals every scene going as the creepily polite Anton, the Blackwood’s driver.
And yet Season 3 succeeds because the show brings back another character from Billy’s past. Along with the fantastic Nina Arianda as his loyal sidekick Patty Solis-Papagian (“Pa-pay-gian!”), we get to see Ana de la Reguera back as LA Mayor Marisol Silva, whose presences highlights a vulnerable streak in Billy and reminds us that this underdog David doesn’t always succeed in toppling each Goliath.
Away from the surprising emotional depth that runs through these characters’ connections, the show doubles down on its stylish surface, from a number of drugged-up road trips to one extremely surreal moment in whuch Dennis Quaid sings The Rose to a room full of different versions of himself – something that, let’s face it, no other TV show has right now. Those strange moments give a Lynchian vibe to the Western gone wrong, helping to estabish a period paranoia vibe to the Chinatown-esque question of where all the water goes during a drought. The mood is stiflingly hot and dusty, echoed by the opening titles and accentuated by the sparse landscapes stretching out in the background.
By relocating away from the city focus of Season 1 and 2, the result is an entertaining run that has a renewed sense of focus, without losing its dependable procedural appeal. If you want an easy-going thriller with excellent performances, just enough weirdness to keep things on edge, and a scene involving Dennis Quaid, a bath of almond milk and a toaster, this is the programme for you.
Goliath is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subsription.