Warning: This contains spoilers for Season 1 of Goliath. Not caught up? You can read our spoiler-free review here.
Three words tell you all need to know about Goliath: Billy Bob Thornton. The actor was on phenomenal form in Season 1 of Amazon’s legal drama, and in Season 2, he only gets better.
He returns as Billy McBride, a lawyer hotshot turned drunk disgrace. Season 1 saw him take a significant step towards redemption, with victory over his brother and the shady conspiracies surrounding the giant firm Borns Tech – a case that saw a big pay-out for McBride’s tiny prosecuting team. Season 2’s smartest move is making that triumph almost redundant.
While McBride is considered a hero, following his underdog comeback, he’s barely using the winnings. He spends his days trying to give the cash away to anyone he can, and his nights shacking up at the Ocean Motel like he’s still on the breadline. In between, he lives in his local bar, a loner desperate to shed any respect that might come his way.
It’s a wonderfully complex role for Thornton to play with, and Billy manages to become more complex the more his situation changes; he’s smart, confident, kind and ruthless, but also wounded, humble, depressed and resentful – primarily of himself, due to the lethal result of one of his previous wins. As we join him, there are glimmers of hope, but they’re buried beneath a festering melancholy; Billy’s bought a nice house as a gesture to reconcile with his daughter (Diana Hopper), but he hasn’t done a grocery shop. The light’s on, but the fridge is empty.
Season 1’s strength was rooted in exploring Billy’s sense of family loyalty and rivalry, but with Billy’s brother out of the picture, the second season’s challenge is giving him an antagonist worth fighting. A change in writing team, after creators David E. Kelly and George Shapiro departed the project, perhaps highlights the shift in storytelling; where Season 1 was tightly scripted, so that every character caused consequences for both the plot and McBride, Season 2 expands its scale to find a new enemy worthy of Goliath’s title.
And so we open with an aerial shot of a DEA drug raid and a volley of gunfire, before things refocus to our antihero. Once again, there’s a personal connection to the resulting case, as Billy is approached by his friend (and bar owner) Oscar (Lou Diamond Philips) to defend his son – a young man accused of killing the gang members who shot his siblings. But that soon spirals out into a wider conspiracy, one that ties together politicians, a nasty real estate developer (Mark Duplass), and some dodgy people with a taste for using a hacksaw.
Duplass brings a welcome note of creepiness as Tom, although a sequence that involves a perverse kink feels like it’s reaching too far to find a dark edge. More successful is Marisol Silva (Ana de la Reguera), the mayoral candidate that Tom is backing. Morally conflicted about her financial support, which seems to go against her concern for her constituents (including Oscar and his family), she’s a meaty character that de la Reguera sinks her teeth into. She also provides the most promising connection between the case and McBride, as they spark a romantic chemistry – and, in a brilliant piece of writing, leaves Hopper’s daughter delighted by the prospect of having a more positive and reputable woman at Billy’s side.
McBride’s emotional baggage, though, is still very much in tow, from assistant Brittany (Tania Raymonde, working hard to rescue her role from cliche) to part-time lawyer Patty (Nina Arianda, hilariously fiesty) – the chance to see them not talking is a treat, as is the introduction of Morris Chestnut as bitter rival DA Hakeem Rashad. But Goliath is less about the legal intricacies of The Good Fight and more about watching one man step up to bat against the odds. With the odds this time promising to include everything from property and drugs to politics and gun crime, McBride’s batting only gets more intense – and it’s a pleasure to watch Billy Bob Thornton swing for all his worth.
Goliath Season 2 is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video from Friday 15th June, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.