From the opening moments of Goliath Season 4, the legal drama starring Billy Bob Thornton that never abides by the rules, one thing is clear: ever notice how something you’ve anticipated is nothing like you expected when it arrives?
What is clear from previous seasons is that while the legal content is about tort, most of the characters are distorted in some way and nothing is ever what it seems—Goliath has always been (un)predictable like that. And Goliath has always managed to confound its fans.
Season 1 was a compelling courtroom drama about wrongful death, but it was clear from the moment the mouse ventured up to the penthouse that Goliath was no run of the mill show about lawyers in suits.
Season 2 was a contorted tale of corruption and contrapasso that had our fingers poised over the 10 second skip, to step over some of the more grisly bits of the story…the bits of bodies.
Season 3 took us on a hallucinatory trip through a convoluted case of wrongs over water rights brought against a bunch of wealthy almond farmers. By now, the audience’s response was as divided as the almond-shaped amygdala that activates emotion.
In short, Seasons 1, 2 and 3 of Goliath had been tortious, torturous and tortuous, respectively.
A few minutes into Season 4 and Billy McBride is picking himself up from the ground in the dusty desert town of Hadleyville, a distorted version of the place where he was shot by Diana Blackwood in Season 3. It’s Blackwood County, but not as we know it.
This paradox of reality in which Billy McBride could be dead or alive runs through all eight episodes of Season 4. Billy is flatlining—his heart has stopped but he is not yet brain dead. If we say he could be dead or he could not be dead, in logic that’s a truth-function tautology.
While Billy remains in this no man’s land, we follow multiple threads of his jumbled thoughts and memories in which places, and people, morph into one another and all of them criss-cross like a crossword through a Big Pharma law suit about companies making huge profits from addictive painkilling drugs.
Since nothing in Goliath is ever what it seems, the law suit may or may not also be a fabrication in Billy’s mind while he exists in his alternate state of reality between life and death.
I am tempted to say, “Ceci n’est pas un drame juridique”—but that’s because I’m in a Magritte state of mind after watching Billy’s story conclude, since a handful of René Magritte’s works of art seem to be referenced visually throughout Season 4.
But, of course, Goliath Season 4 definitely is un drame juridique and the legal case promises to be huge, eclipsing the half a billion mega-settlement Billy managed to win in Season 3. Add to that a conspiracy by Billy’s new boss at this season’s prosecuting law firm to throw the case for a couple of back-handed billions, and then weave in Billy’s hallucinations, and you have eight episodes of a story that is not easy to follow.
In fact, so disordered is the flow of events in Season 4 that not far into the opening episode Billy declares that he feels as though he’s in a surreal movie and that random fragments of his life have been thrown together, repeating over and over again.
No excuses, then, for anyone to complain later that they didn’t know what to expect beforehand.
The bottom line is, don’t expect a coherent storyline. From the high to the low to the end of the show, like Denise tells Billy partway through, “God, why do have to make everything so goddam dramatic?”
The remainder of this article is a deep dive into Goliath Season 4 and should take 20 minutes to get through—or, in Billy McBride style, you could try to do it in about five (or maybe…six). This article is not chronological, but neither is Season 4, so no point attempting the impossible.
To catch a train
Goliath has always been steeped in symbolism and cinematic homage, and Season 4 goes further by slicing it up with different sized frames and dramatic colour changes and frequent reality shifts. This season is thus heavy on the concept of different ways of seeing as it switches between its different threads.
Of course, one master of different ways of seeing was the Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte, and there are aspects of Goliath Season 4 that appear to echo this artist’s work. You may not see a man in a bowler hat right away, but wait long enough and four will come along in the finale.
But soon after the story in Season 4 begins, when Billy McBride picks himself up from the desert floor and looks around, he pauses at each turn to view the strangely familiar landscape, much like Magritte is seen to do in his 1955 painting, Le Chef-d’Oeuvre ou les Mystères de l’Horizon (The Masterpiece or the Mysteries of the Horizon). You can view the painting here.
A hard cut and we are suddenly watching Billy from behind as he looks towards the Hadleyville station clock tower in the distance. If you weren’t so far convinced of the homage to Magritte, here is where I might, perhaps, twist your arm—in particular by comparing this scene to a 1964 painting from the series that Magritte collectively named L’Empire des Lumières (The Empire of Light). You can view it here. But it might also bring to mind Magritte’s 1955 work, Le Maître d’École (The School Master), which you can view here. Spoilt for choice.
Even more obvious, perhaps, may be the cinematic tributes scattered throughout Season 4 and here is where Billy is in a fifties state of mind. This season is heavy on Hitchcock with recreations of key moments in Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955) and Vertigo (1958), many of which depict Billy’s worst fear for the fate of his daughter.
But the most obvious homage this season is to the classic 1952 countdown western High Noon, elements of which chart Billy McBride’s own fate. As well as clips from the film, there are repeated visual and verbal references throughout Goliath Season 4 to time and trains.
Soon after Billy’s story begins, it’s six minutes to noon and he is alone in Hadleyville looking to turn in his Sherriff’s badge and to find out whether the noon train is on time. The outcome of these two tasks depends on whether he lives or dies in the final episode.
And near the end of the final episode, it’s here in Hadleyville where the ubiquitous Mr Magritte’s artwork re-emerges in the form of La Durée Poignardée (Time Transfixed). Magritte’s painting features a steam train emerging out of a blocked up fireplace into an empty room, while above sits a clock on the mantlepiece where not everything is reflected in a mirror behind. In Goliath Season 4, it’s as if the painting has been transplanted into the desert landscape of High Noon. You can view the painting here.
A room with a (déjà) view and the ubiquitous number six
But back to Hitchcock, and like the chair-bound characters in the films Rear Window and Vertigo, Billy is in a James Stewart state of mind, spending most of his home time sitting in an armchair by the window, captivated by events he sees from his Chinatown apartment. But in contrast to Rear Window, the events Billy observes reflect aspects of his own life rather than those of his neighbours.
That Billy’s apartment is in Chinatown harks back to Season 3, a story which was heavy on references to the film Chinatown and its feud over water rights, the upshot of which is what put Billy in the life-and-death state in which he now resides.
When I first saw Billy dozing in his window seat, it put me in mind of a patient convalescing in a nursing home (especially when Patty comes in and gives him…a pan). After my first watch-through of the eight episodes, I presumed they were an incoherent mash-up of Billy’s dreams and vague awareness of what was going on around him while he sat recovering in a sanatorium, the recreated film clips fabricated in his mind from what he was watching on TV, and the court case and characters being an amalgamation of his memories, thoughts and visitors while he was dosed-up on potent painkilling drugs (hence a court case about potent painkilling drugs). That makes sense to me. But I doubt that’s what the filmmakers had in mind. I suspect it’s just intended as a surreal drama.
But stepping out of the sanatorium (for now) and back to Chinatown, and while Billy is engrossed in watching his neighbours, his elderly landlord opposite warns him that there’s always someone watching. Yes, everyone is snooping on someone this season, so much so that by the time we get to court even the judge is complaining about déjà vu and repeatedly warning the lawyers that she’s watching them.
There appears to be some focus on the use of walking canes this season, used by three ailing characters who, in contrast, are all in positions of power. First, Billy’s elderly landlord Frank aka Arthur Zax (played by Bruce Dern, himself a veteran Hitchcock actor), a man who not only owns the majority of the street, but also the majority of Zax Pharmaceuticals, and is a key witness in the law suit. Second, Billy’s new boss Sam Margolis (played by Jena Malone), an MS-stricken managing partner of the law firm Margolis & True who isn’t always on the right side of Billy’s legal case. And third, Donald Cooperman (played by William Hurt), Billy’s long-time adversary whose ailing health prompts him to switch over from the dark side to help the progress of Billy’s case.
The beady-eyed, perhaps over a certain age, may also recall that canes featured prominently in two of the movies to which Goliath pays tribute, ether visually (used by the main character in Vertigo) or by name (Will Kane, the main character in High Noon, the man who, like Billy McBride, has to take on the bad guys alone).
When Billy’s new boss Sam isn’t using her cane to annihilate the karaoke machine in the local bar, her character put me in mind of Raymond Burr’s cane-carrying prosecutor Frank Marlowe in the courtroom scenes of the 1951 film A Place in the Sun. Of course, Raymond Burr also appears as the murderous neighbour in Rear Window, but that’s all by the by.
Still, Goliath Season 4 is beginning to look at lot like six degrees of something—and we cannot escape number six this season, because while Billy remains trapped in his surreal six-minute drama in Hadleyville, he struggles to find the answer to a six-letter crossword clue in the newspaper.
In a round about way, I was reminded of The Prisoner, the surreal 1967 TV drama in which Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) is trapped in a village, a nonsensical setting from which he cannot escape. There’s even an episode of that vintage TV drama where Number Six is trying to turn in his own Sheriff’s badge while trapped in the dusty desert town of Harmony, and then another episode named after the theme song to High Noon. The coincidences were coming at me fast and furiously.
Let’s also not forget The Prisoner’s often-cited predecessor show, Danger Man (Secret Agent), and its episode where the entire story is a surreal dream in which people and places morph into each other and nothing makes sense to the titular man in danger after he is rendered unconscious in an accident. It’s the episode entitled The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove—and it’s a flashback to where most of my déjà vu of Goliath Season 4 seems to end up.
I thought I might also mention what is probably the most well-known episode of Danger Man, the episode entitled Colony Three, where our man in danger is confined to a fake town called Hamden.
It seems that in Hadleyville, Harmony and Hamden, hallucinations howsoever always happen.
While the references woven into this season’s Goliath are seemingly infinite, eventually it was time to turn in my own tin badge and escape the surreality that had me trapped like a prisoner in Season 4. But not yet. There’s still 6 + 6 minutes of reading to go…
This drum beats out of time
It may take the viewer some time to acclimatise to the style, pace and peculiarities of Season 4. On my first watch-through, I was almost in as much pain as some of the characters who appear to be suffering in some form or other from a medical condition, a chemical addiction, or a generally crabby disposition.
Watching Season 4, you may not know what is going on, but you know something is going on that you hope will make sense eventually. Unfortunately, like that elusive answer to a crossword clue that prevents a puzzle being satisfactorily completed, the clarity of the story may leave some viewers decidedly…what’s the word I’m looking for…a six letter word for disgruntled.
Having said that, Season 4 fares better than Seasons 2 and 3 in terms of audience review scores at the time of writing—but not better than Season 1, the very mention of which brings out the MC Hammer in most fans…
Can’t touch this.
Audience ratings for Goliath as at 9 September 2022 (weighted average of scores shown on Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb):
S1: 93% | S2: 61% | S3: 73% | S4: 80% | Overall weighted average: 83%
As Season 4’s story moves back and forth between different aspects of Billy McBride’s reality, it counts down to a main event, much like it does in High Noon from which, as I said, Season 4 draws a great deal of inspiration, especially in its opening and closing sequences.
In between all that, it’s business, in terms of the Big Pharma legal case that Billy has been drafted in to lead, and it’s personal, as Billy tries to resolve his personal conflicts by confronting the hatred he feels towards his long-dead father, the ongoing feud with his former business partner, and the strained relationship with his estranged daughter.
Once you get used to the reality shifts between the present day, the near-death experience, the flashbacks to last year, and those back to the 1950’s that are transposed to the present day (yep), you may notice something else about this drama that feels…what’s the word I’m looking for…a six letter word for awkward…as characters and performances range from exaggerated to dead-pan to detached. Uncomfortable pauses in some of the dialogue are long enough to give you time to wonder why everything has a off-kilter vibe this season. Is it (lack of) chemistry, or is it Covid? It was, after all, filmed during the pandemic with a degree of social distancing.
You may well find that trying to make head or tail of what is going on is too taxing a task to perform without being administered a strong dose of Trimadone, the powerful painkilling opioid that forms the basis of the legal thread of the story.
Here may be a good time to mention the glitz at the beginning of Episode 2. In a bid to outdo last season’s unexpected musical interludes (recall the million Dennis Quaids), Season 4 delivers up The Pain Killer, a dazzling, all-singing, all-dancing tribute to Trimadone. It’s two minutes of jazz hands and piano man led by George Zax (played by JK Simmons) and the two other defendants in the Big Pharma law suit. Ironically, though, it may be one of the least surreal moments of the entire season.
But before I understood what was going on this season, I might have been inclined to quote another line from the show: “The fact that I don’t know what the problem is, is the problem.” But that line is, again ironically, from one of the smoothest sequences in the entire story.
The sequence in question, that takes place at the beginning of Episode 4, is a continuous action shot clocking in at five minutes in length, reinforcing this season’s Hitchcockian slant. The uninterrupted take follows Billy from the lobby of Margolis & True, into the lift, up fifteen floors, through the office and into a client meeting, via a detour to quiz his colleague on her motives for bringing him to San Francisco, then following his colleague who goes on a detour to be quizzed by her needy birth mother who is waiting uninvited in her office, only to arrive at the client meeting moments after Billy has settled for just under a billion dollars. Phew! It made me want to grab a bit of rope (the 1948 film) to prolong the suspense.
Do not forsake me
From the start, we are made aware of the importance of time as perceived by Billy McBride, whether it’s six minutes to twelve (11:54) in Hadleyville…or ten to eight (19:50) elsewhere.
The striking black-and-white sequence that opens Episode 1 represents the start of the six-minute period during which Billy is flatlining. In real life, six minutes is roughly the period of time that, after the heart stops and without any CPR and without any oxygen to the brain, the brain will die. So now we understand why the number six is so important this season.
Based on what we see, Billy is clearly experiencing some of the visual phenomena associated with a near-death experience. People who claim to have undergone such an experience report anything from narrowing of peripheral vision, to flashbacks, a distorted sense of time and space, detachments and out-of-body experiences. You can read a bit more about that here.
Billy McBride’s six minutes take place in narrowed black and white frames, during which he experiences surreal or incoherent events involving people he knows from real life who appear in different guises. And while he waits for the noon train, trapped like a prisoner in Hadleyville, Billy is looking for the Sherriff’s office in order to turn in his badge. “It feels like it’s time,” he says to one of three unknown horsemen who ride in out of nowhere.
Perhaps more important, though, are the drive-through appearances by his daughter, Denise.
When Denise (played by Diana Hopper) rolls up in a London taxi, she quizzes Billy on the answer to the crucial crossword clue, a six letter word for begrudge. We later come to realise that the answer to that clue depends on who Billy is thinking about: if it’s the relationship between him and Denise, the answer is regret, but if it’s about the relationship between Billy and his own father, the answer is resent.
All of Denise’s appearances this season are surreal, except for in the final episode. At the beginning of the final episode there’s a flashback to a few months prior to Chez Jay’s where Denise and Billy clash over his refusal to stop drinking following his recovery from the shooting in Season 3. Billy collapses on the street outside the bar clutching his chest and Denise walks away saying he is dead to her. It seems to be one of only two sequences this season in which she is real—meaning not conjured up in Billy’s mind (the other being the final scene of the show, that cleverly echoes what we saw near the start of the pilot episode of Season 1).
And there are a number of Hitchcock mash-ups in Season 4 that depict Denise’s own demise. In something of a crossover between Kim Novak’s character in Vertigo and Grace Kelly’s character in To Catch a Thief, we see Denise dressed in an iconic Edith Head dress, repeatedly throwing herself off the Golden Gate Bridge. Meanwhile, Billy is in the foreground under the bridge at Old Fort Point watching her fall, over and over again, which brings to mind Scottie’s character in Vertigo (when he watched Madeleine throw herself into the bay from the quayside) with overtones of Humphrey Bogart watching from the shadows in the 1947 film Dark Passage.
In another scene, still dressed as Grace Kelly’s character in To Catch a Thief, Denise is speeding along the perilously winding Monaco coast road a bit too fast for Billy’s liking—a death wish he might think, but she says it’s for him to catch a train.
And heads really start spinning when Denise appears as Billy’s predecessor’s daughter, telling Billy that the job he’s supposed to be doing isn’t that hard, he’s just not that good at it. “It’s a whole life,” he says, but they’re talking at cross-purposes—he might mean staying alive, being a good law man, being a good father, or whatever else you might read into it.
Clearly, Denise’s character serves to link the separate threads of Season 4 together—Hadleyville, San Francisco, and everything else in between to do with Billy’s dad. Think of her like Google’s new Grace Hopper subsea cable that’s connecting the continents either side of the Atlantic.
The musings of the solitary walker
All of the song titles and/or lyrics in Season 4 reflect aspects of Billy’s personal and professional problems, not least Dimitri Tiomkin’s Ballad of High Noon, the music that accompanies the departing train in the latter part of the final episode of Season 4. It’s a reassuringly optimistic arrangement of that classic theme tune, but considering its alternate title, Do Not Forsake Me (Oh My Darling), it could be a plea from Billy to patch things up with his daughter (although that reconciliation is ultimately achieved by the texting of a picture of a Rhodesian Ridgeback).
The final piece of music in the finale is October in the Railroad Earth by Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen, a jazz-soaked poetic recital that charts Billy McBride’s departure from San Francisco. It’s somewhat downbeat as he walks laden with baggage through the rain-drizzled streets. But at least we know he’s alive…
…and don’t ignore that this piece of music hails from the so-called Beat Generation. That’s important. That means something.
But rewinding to the music that opens the show and we hear the dissonant chords of Scott Walker’s haunting song, It’s Raining Today. It tracks a subdued Billy McBride as he walks from his quack doctor’s consulting room in Chinatown to the nearby Golden Dragon Bar and Restaurant.
It’s a long walk, just over two minutes of the song, and brings to mind another Magritte painting, The Musings of the Solitary Walker (1926). The painting features the iconic Magritte man, again facing away from the viewer, but this time with a deathly pale body lying prone in the foreground—another hint at what is happening to Billy in Season 4. You can view it here.
The Golden Dragon Bar and Restaurant is Billy’s new watering hole while he is in San Francisco for the law suit and the place where his handwritten prescriptions from Dr Ming (literally, written on the palm of his hand) are dispensed. It’s also where the regulars enjoy the Billy Joel-themed karaoke.
While Billy McBride sits at the bar waiting for his prescription to be filled, Dr Ming’s daughter drops a pill into a bowl before topping it up with two kinds of tea. The pill is a tiny detail—blink and you’ll miss it.
Billy’s harbinger of death in San Francisco takes the form of a mysterious woman who appears in unexpected places on his solitary walks and streetcar rides, although who is following whom later becomes a subject for debate between them. Played by Leni Ito, she is luminous and resplendent—or dressed to kill, some might say.
During each fleeting encounter, the enigmatic figure enquires whether Billy is okay, or riddles him about time and how it appears on the face of a clock. “Ever notice how eleven fifty four looks like 11:54 when you see the numbers, but when you see it on a clock it looks like six ’til twelve?” And then she’s gone.
The encounters leave Billy increasingly perplexed. By the time he sees her at the sanatorium that he is seemingly only visiting in Episode 7, he is visibly shaken—it’s the moment he realises something isn’t right. “You’ve gotta be shittin’ me.” His words.
In their final encounter, she delivers Billy his fateful ticket for the noon train.
Is it live or is it Memorex?
Visually, this season is dark, in both mood and lighting. But then it is a surreal story about pain, pills, addiction and death.
Scenes are exquisitely constructed and adhere to a strict colour regime: black and white for Hadleyville, where every shot is flooded with extraordinarily elongate shadows. Then it’s orange and blue for the main action in San Francisco, or maybe it’s subdued peach and teal—whatever it is, there’s a lot of it.
When we get to the courtroom, colours becomes increasingly de-saturated as the case progresses, not quite to the point of black and white but enough by the finale to give the viewer a sense of detachment, leading us to question whether any of it was real. This is reinforced by the unusual camera angles—and the fact that the courtroom clock is fixed throughout the trial at one minute to noon.
By now kicked off the case, Billy McBride watches from the public gallery in court, frozen like a cardboard cut-out. Here we see what is (in my opinion) the most inspired image of the whole season: a stony Billy McBride shot from behind George Zax’s left ear. Ceci n’est pas un Magritte…but it could be.
When Billy is eventually called as a witness, the camera follows him walking through the courtroom shot from directly overhead, as if watching in an out-of-body experience—or as if shot by Hitchcock. And when he says in the witness box that he forgot where he was, it seems to have a deeper meaning than it implies.
Slotted in between San Francisco and Hadleyville are a series of cropped colour scenes adjusted to give a distinct 1950’s Kodachrome feel. It’s like a ballad of Billy the kid, highlighting the difficult relationship that existed between Billy and his now dead dad—a character played with caustic intention by the liquid metal, shape-shifting T-1000 Terminator himself, Robert Patrick (with whom it’s judgment day all over again in the finale). These clips give us a sense of how this bitter relationship may have impacted Billy’s adult life and relationships, including the relationship with his daughter.
They’ve got a way about them
Billy first meets his new boss, Sam Margolis of Margolis & True, in Episode 1—but not at the office, instead at the Golden Dragon where she, too, has her prescriptions from Dr Ming dispensed.
While Sam tells Billy about her multiple sclerosis, a condition that forces her to walk with a cane, Billy tells Sam how he lost half a lung after he was shot.
Sam delivers a steady stream of slow, audible exhalations during her time on screen that are no doubt intended to sound like someone’s last dying breath. Still, it doesn’t stop it grating on the nerves.
When Sam tells Billy, “Well, at least you’re alive now,” Billy’s reaction is awkward. When he looks up, he tells Sam that he flatlined for six minutes, that he was dead and then he wasn’t. Now he says it’s like fragments of his life have been randomly thrown together and that he has the feeling he needs to take care of something.
We assume that means patching things up with Denise. But it could mean coming back to life, if none of this is real. Don’t ignore that in Episode 2, when Billy and Sam are talking in her office, the clock behind her shows five minutes to twelve, as if to tell us that Billy has by then been flatlining for one minute.
In Episode 5, Billy tells Dr Ming (played by Raymond Ma) that he doesn’t know what is happening to him, that everything keeps getting all mixed up and he feels like he’s getting further away from whatever it is he is looking for. “What I experience of my life now, is that normal?”, he asks Dr Ming, whose answer is as ours might be, that nothing about Billy is normal, and Dr Ming scribbles out another prescription on Billy’s hand. Perhaps, Billy, it’s just the way you are.
But nothing about Season 4 can be called normal. I can think of one point five billion reasons why it isn’t. A story about goliaths it may be, but in the words of the character with the biggest hairdo on Nob Hill, “I don’t trust McBride litigating one of the biggest pharmaceutical law suits in history.” Although at least she’s been reassured there are no mice this season.
Strange events can always be explained away in dreams as the brain joins together conscious experiences, thoughts, desires and memories, and then synthesises some sequence out of it all. It’s not going to make sense, the brain isn’t editing like an editor, it’s throwing the pieces together randomly and leaving the imagineer to infer a meaning. And more often than not, everything is out of proportion.
And so in San Francisco events are larger than life with an evil DC-like villain whose henchman pushes Billy off a building, leaving him dangling from a ledge by his fingertips, and there are daring flights down outdoor fire escapes reminiscent of scenes from Vertigo and Dark Passage. By the time we get to the courtroom, there are punch-ups, breakdowns and huge financial deals rejected in favour of astronomical settlements.
Even the familiar faces seem out of the ordinary: they look different, behave differently, do different jobs, or have moved away—and that’s just the ones not in the dream scenes.
Patty (Nina Arianda) carries only one handbag, has made equity partner in a law firm, has a chauffeur, and everyone pronounces her surname correctly. Meanwhile Brittany (Tania Raymonde) has undergone an extreme type of makeover, the type that sees her covering up from head to toe—gone undercover, if you like (in a sense not too different from what she used to do in Seasons 1 and 2).
Marva (Julie Brister) is a figment of the imagination, playing the train conductor at Hadleyville when she’s not waiting tables at Applebee’s this season. And Janet (Lauren Tom), who has always waited tables at Applebee’s, is serving up clues to the case on napkins in Hadleyville with her alien-head badge serving to remind us how she came to know Billy in Season 2.
As I worked my way through Season 4, I wanted to ask everyone the same question that they were asking Billy, and each other: “Are you okay?“
When we hear Donald Cooperman agree to find decades-old advice from the firm’s archives to help out Billy with the Zax law suit, it seems at odds with everything we have come to understand about their toxic relationship and Donald’s capacity for ‘deep hate’ that we heard him admit to harbouring back in Season 1. On the other hand, it implies that Cooperman is himself a victim of opioid dependence, something that ultimately sees him taking a seat on the noon train.
Let’s face it, Donny was always one for the theatrics, as Billy might say.
Donny was always one for the animals, too, in terms of his fauna-filled dialogue analogies. Look out for the pins on his lapel this season—a lizard at his first meeting with Billy, and a restrained fish when they say goodbye at the end. Since not a scintilla of detail in Goliath is ever unintentional, neither is the meaning of these two carefully placed symbols.
Sadly, this was one of William Hurt’s last performances before he passed away in 2022.
Easy money (ain’t no crime)
At the beginning of Episode 5, we watch a TV show called After School with Miss Kathy, in which the titular teacher explains in simple terms to her class of eight year olds (very much my level of classmate) how a scientist would go about getting FDA approval for a new drug.
Miss Kathy (played by Kerry O’Malley) tells us that a scientist has to invent a pill that makes people better, then test it on lots of people, and if it works send the test results to the FDA for approval. But, as one of the kids points out, since the FDA doesn’t do the testing, couldn’t the scientist simply lie about the results to make lots of money?
And so forms the basis of the legal case in Season 4.
Law Firm Margolis & True are litigating three cases for the State of California against Zax Pharmaceuticals, Tillinger Health and Russell Drug, the three giant corporations in the supply chain of the legal but highly addictive Trimadone opioid-based painkiller.
Zax manufactures the drug and refuses to accept responsibility for, or even acknowledge, its addictive nature. Tillinger is the main distributor who neglected to tell the FDA about an increase in the number of shipments it was making. And Russell Drug is the exclusive retailer for the drug who failed to report a similar jump in the number of prescriptions it was dispensing.
When the lead attorney at Margolis & True litigating the cases goes missing, it’s rumoured to be because he cracked over his own daughter’s death from an overdose of the same drug he is litigating about. Billy McBride is hired as his replacement based on his big shot reputation that he can make a jury do whatever he wants them to do, and because of the $500 million settlement he achieved for the water-deprived residents of Blackwood County in Season 3.
When Billy arrives on the scene, Margolis & True have already settled with Zax Pharmaceuticals, and Billy swiftly settles with Tillinger Health and Russell Drug for hundreds of millions of dollars each. Thinking it was all too easy, with the three defendants maintaining a code of silence, Billy rips up the deals to go to court for even bigger settlements.
But Billy never gets to court, at least not as litigator, when it emerges that Zax was his client in his Cooperman McBride days and that he gave Zax advice that now disqualifies him from litigating against them. Turns out he was set up by Sam Margolis as part of a two billion dollar back-handed deal she made with Zax, Tillinger and Russell Drug to save Margolis & True from bankruptcy.
Not only is Billy is dismissed from the case—and then from the firm—but he has his license to practise law suspended after a verbal altercation with the judge. It’s not the first time he’s been held in contempt of court, only this is the time he is forcibly removed.
Could this version of his life get any worse?
In the final episode it’s showdown. With the time on the courtroom clock still frozen at one minute to noon, Billy effectively wins the case against Zax by captivating the judge and jury with a sermon from inside the witness box.
And I must face a man who hates me
The battle’s won in San Francisco, and now it’s time—in Hadleyville. The clock shows twelve noon and someone is banging on the door of Billy’s Chinatown apartment. It sounds like the thumping of an irregular heartbeat, but when Billy opens the door, the sound morphs into a pulsating whoosh, like a sudden rush of blood flow through the body.
The mysterious woman is at the door, accompanied by the goat from Season 3. She hands Billy his ticket for the noon train from Hadleyville. And the goat…bleats (think a minor variation).
Boarding the train, Marva shows Billy to what is apparently the only spare seat in the carriage, a seat opposite his dad. But the carriage looks empty…except, that is, for the four bowler-hatted Chinese businessmen seated by the door.
In the final scenes, Billy’s three personal conflicts are resolved:
After a brief exchange of words, Billy and his dad—who have throughout the story slowly been reaching some kind of mutual understanding—agree that it’s time for Billy to get off the train before it leaves. It is, after all, a one-way journey to death.
As the train departs, there’s a deeply touching farewell between Billy and Donald Cooperman, a nick-of-time reconciliation that was worth waiting four seasons to witness.
Back in LA, no longer the stranger, Denise emerges through the hazy sunlit doorway of Chez Jay to be greeted by a positively upbeat Billy—with Season 4 ending almost as it began back in Season 1.
And so it goes, and so it goes, and so this show draws to a close. But nothing about Goliath is ever what it seems.
Time Transfixed (La Durée Poignardé) (1938) by René Magritte. See: Art Institute of Chicago. [Accessed 9 July, 2022]
The Empire of Light (L’Empire des Lumières) (1964) by René Magritte. See: magrittegallery.com. [Accessed 9 July, 2022]
The School Master (Le Maître d’École) (1955) by René Magritte. See: magrittegallery.com. [Accessed 9 July, 2022]
The Masterpiece or The Mysteries of the Horizon (Le Chef-d’Oeuvre ou Les Mystères de l’horizon) (1955) by René Magritte. See: magrittegallery.com. [Accessed 9 July, 2022]
The Musings of the Solitary Walker (1926) by René Magritte. See: this Google search [Accessed 9 July, 2022]
Grace Hopper (Google’s new subsea internet cable). See: Google Cloud Blog, 28 July 2020. [Accessed 9 July, 2022]
What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about the Brain, by Christof Koch, in Scientific American, 1 June 2020. [Accessed 9 July, 2022]
High Noon (1952), directed by Fred Zinnemann. Watch on Amazon
To Catch a Thief (1955), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Watch on Amazon
Vertigo (1958), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Watch on Amazon
A Place in the Sun (1951), directed by George Stevens. Watch on Amazon
Dark Passage (1947), directed by Delmer Daves. Watch on Amazon
Rope (1948), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Watch on Amazon
Danger Man (aka Secret Agent) (1962), starring Patrick McGoohan. Watch on Internet Archive
The Prisoner (1967), starring, created, written and often directed by Patrick McGoohan. Watch on BritBox
All references to lyrics in Billy Joel songs are purely coincidental!
[First published online 11 July 2022, updated 11 December 2022.]
Fair Use Notice: All images from Goliath Season 4 shown in this article are credited to Amazon Studios and were carefully chosen to support the review. Should any copyright holder wish the imagery to be removed, please make contact and it shall be done.