It has been a while since Amazon’s eagerly anticipated Season 2 of Goliath was released. Those who watched the drama unfold might think it has taken so long for me to write a commentary because I needed to get over the shock of what we saw. I admit it, I did have to cover my eyes on more than one occasion.
You don’t need to have seen Season 1 to understand Season 2. There is, anyway, a recap at the start, but it is largely unnecessary. Other than Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) and his sidekick Patty with the unpronounceable surname Solis-Papagian (Nina Arianda), legal assistants Brittany (Tania Raymonde) and Marva (Julie Brister), off-the-grid investigator J.T. (Paul Williams), and the staff running Billy’s regular watering hole, the rest of the cast and story are unrelated to Season 1. The law firm that was so key to Season 1 – Billy’s old firm Cooperman McBride – does not feature, except for the odd (in both senses) apparition by the head of the firm, Donald Cooperman (William Hurt) while McBride is trying to present his case in court.
There are one or two situations that require some context – for example, what did Brittany do in Season 1 that makes Patty hate her so much in Season 2, and what’s the deal with Billy living in a motel when he has a big house? But on the whole it’s a standalone drama.
And the thing is, Goliath Season 2 is not much of a courtroom drama like last season, or even much of a legal drama really – it’s more a gruesome organised crime drama. I had to cover my eyes at least once per episode as I watched and that’s not particularly enjoyable. And every time I did, that Marillion song of the same name from way back when came to mind, which, as it happens, is one of my favourites (you can hear album samples here).
Whilst the biggest bad guy in Season 1 (other than Borns Tech themselves) is remembered as Donald Cooperman, it is really hard to decide who is the biggest baddie in Season 2 – there’s one in every nook and cranny. Almost every character not working with McBride is corrupt in some way.
But a seductive, double-dealing, LA mayoral candidate named Marisol Silva (Ana de la Reguera) does, it turns out, pull some seriously sinister strings via her alter ego Claudia Quintero. Or so a little birdie tells us (you’ll understand what I mean by that when you watch it). Unfortunately for McBride, Marisol works her superficial charm and beauty to get her hooks in him and it almost kills him.
In a nutshell, Goliath Season 2 involves a case of false arrest of Julio Suarez (Diego Josef), McBride’s bartender’s cello-playing, youngest son, embarrassingly set up as a patsy in a drug ring related murder by some corrupt officials and financiers who don’t realise that the same boy appears with Marisol Silva on her mayoral campaign posters.
But a tangled web develops into a far more sinister Goliath. There are crooked and greedy FBI agents (except for Patty’s, that is, what a shame there…), some visually gruesome scenes courtesy of a cartel boss turned sadistic surgeon, Claudia’s brother, Gabriel Ortega (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) who actively supports the concept of contrapasso, and some equally unsettling scenes involving the character Tom Wyatt, played far too well by Mark Duplass.
Wyatt is a billionaire property developer and philanthropist with a twisted fetish played out to the much-loved 1970’s TV show H.R. Pufnstuf that I suppose we could say came out of a misplaced childhood. He is, by his own admission, completely messed up and this is one of the reasons Brittany is drawn towards “helping” him, although the money certainly adds to his magnetism.
Who’s your friend when things get rough?
Unfortunately, Billy McBride can’t really help much this time, considering who he’s up against…
In attempting to prove Julio’s innocence, McBride’s sidekick J.T. tracks down the real killer – a diminutive confidential informant to the FBI – to a town in Mexico, at which point things start looking up for Julio. Unfortunately, before the cuban-heeled killer can be extradited back to LA, he is done away with by the bad guys so he can’t spill any beans about anything to anyone. Then his head is delivered in a box to McBride as a warning to back off.
McBride doesn’t, of course. And he does eventually get the case against Julio dropped when one of the corrupt FBI agents himself turns confidential informant in return for witness protection for him and his family, but…
The night before Julio is to be released, he is found hanged in the prison music room next to a suicide note scribbled out on a blackboard, written under duress. It’s a murder arranged by Marisol Silva in an attempt to halt any further investigations into the corrupt goings on that involves…well…everyone it seems. She even visits Julio in prison the day before, feigning pleasure at his impending release.
Then Marisol sequesters Billy McBride out of the way by taking him to a family quinceañera at her brother Gabriel’s cartel mansion estate in Mexico. But this is less a holiday in Eden and more a detainment at Camp Eden; Marisol wants to make sure McBride can’t get in the way of her sinister plans for Julio in LA. McBride effectively finds himself incommunicado and unaware of what is transpiring back home.
If the story wasn’t grim enough by this stage, even the quinceañera itself is reduced from a sugar-coated coming out garden party for two of Gabriel’s adorned goddaughters, into an after-party of self-gratification when, let’s just say, Gabriel takes too much interest in at least one of the two girls and then turns his affections towards his sister Marisol. The writers had already dropped hints earlier in the day that the relationship between these two adoptive siblings was not entirely appropriate.
I wish there was some uplifting morsel to share with you from this season’s story, but there isn’t much. One good thing is the self-conscious coupling of Patty and her FBI agent. And there is maybe one other thing over the entire eight episodes that made me smile for a brief moment – before rethinking the darker meaning of what I’d seen.
That moment is the framing of one scene at the quinceañera when Marisol looks like she is wearing the celebration cake. Is this shot intentional positioning or accidental? In hindsight, I think it must be intentional – the shot certainly lingered for long enough that any director or camera operator worth their salt could not miss the blunder.
I think it’s there to tell us that Marisol, like the two other silmarils at the party that day, was herself once unmarred – until family tradition dictated the sinister path she was ultimately destined to take.
Today is a good day to drink
McBride has already left the mansion by the time Gabriel is having his own private party. Having found out what happened to Julio, McBride leaves with a bottle in his hand to embark on his very own lost weekend. He wakes up to find himself being held hostage by a band of Gabriel and Marisol’s thugs down in San Castañeda during a festival for aliens (that’s little green men, not illegal immigrants) and he’s being held hostage with Janet, a woman he can’t remember meeting in a bar, but who we remember as Ross’s girlfriend from Friends.
McBride barely makes it back to LA alive via a blood-soaked battle in which he does manage to send Janet off to safety. But back in LA, with a splintering heart, he realises he’s been duped by Marisol from the moment they first met. His daughter Denise takes the news much worse than he does, very badly in fact. As viewers, we all knew it was a split waiting to happen, though.
If Billy McBride could write a song about Marisol Silva, he might start with, “I always used to believe that beauty was skin deep, but I need a new word to describe you.” But that’s already been written. And in contrast to what Marillion were singing about there, Marisol’s beauty really is only skin deep and you can take your pick of words to describe her and the callous Claudia.
After what Marisol did to Julio, and what she tried to do to McBride, he (McBride) still manages to keep his emotions in check – bar a few facial ticks and contortions – even after she tells him point blank to his face, having just been elected as LA’s Mayor, that none of what they had together was ever real and that she never loved him.
Near the end of the story, there’s a scene in which McBride casually revisits Gabriel Ortega’s mansion, having only just made the great escape. He finds the bad guys – or at least Gabriel – have cleared out, seemingly never to have existed and the familiar faces who remain deny all knowledge of him. It’s an idea we saw in the Hitchcock classic North By Northwest when Cary Grant went back to find James Mason gone.
But when McBride goes back to the mansion to confront Gabriel, it’s with just Patty as back-up – now I know she’s a tough cookie but what was he expecting her to do if they found Gabriel there, whack him over the head with one of her two handbags?
Another tip of the hat to that Hitchcock movie comes a bit earlier in Goliath when McBride and Janet are being chased over a bridge by a drone, much like Cary Grant was chased down the road by a crop duster.
At the season’s end, McBride and his daughter stand on the beach wondering what more could go wrong after having just been through hell and back. I immediately thought, how about a tsunami? I then got a flashback to Deep Impact after the comet impacts in the ocean and the tidal wave rushes in to swallow Téa Leoni and Maximilian Schell up.
See, things could always be worse.
Beyond this horizon
Despite what sounds like negativity, I do think that Goliath Season 2 is another tremendously well written story to rival what we saw in Season 1, it’s just very different, with lots of loose ends in the story and quite a few unfortunate ends for some characters.
There is also a whole new intricate web of clandestine relationships and dubious activities that should feed very well into future episodes. It’s just that it was all a bit too gruesome for me.
Based on the brilliance we saw in Goliath Season 1 and the brutality we saw in this Season 2, I think we can say for sure that Season 3 will be something unexpected. Rumour has it that Season 3 will air near the end of 2019. Hopefully it will be more of a legal drama and hopefully something dark. Twisted is OK, but not horrific. Sometimes less is more.
If you enjoy Goliath, you might also like Bosch.
Fair Use Notice: All images from Goliath shown in this article are credited to Amazon Studios. I am using the imagery to illustrate my discussion about characters in the show and all images have been carefully chosen to support the commentary. I believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material.
The lines quoted from the songs Cover My Eyes and No One Can, and the other song titles surreptitiously scattered throughout the text of this article for eagle-eyed readers to spot, are all credited to the band Marillion.