Though Amazon is more or less in the business of building blockbuster TV franchises, with the likes of the recently released Carnival Row, The Boys, Jack Ryan (and maybe even Jack Reacher) and, of course, the upcoming Lord of the Rings series, the streamer still has designs on some of its successful smaller shows, like the always entertaining cop show Bosch and its legal-themed equivalent, Goliath.
Goliath was co-created by David E. Kelley, who after making a name for himself in the ‘90s with several broadcast network legal thrillers has lately spread himself across cable, satellite, and streaming platforms, delivering Big Little Lies, Mr. Mercedes, and Amazon’s unexpectedly quirky legal series. That the series stars Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton is almost beside the point, as its appeal stems less from the star power behind it, than from the attraction of watching an old-school legal thriller that’s somehow merged with a prestige show from just a few years ago. That is to say, there’s very little legal wheeling and dealing going on in the average episode of Goliath, as the show is, more often than not, concerned with Billy’s personal demons and the cadre of unusual, exaggerated characters he meets on his way to the truth.
So, not quite a character drama and not quite a true-and-blue courtroom drama, Goliath is something of an odd duck. As a result, it can feel like a mess sometimes, as it does in season 3, when the story kicks off with former Twin Peaks star Sherilyn Fenn falling to her death in a sink hole on her drought-stricken California vineyard, in full view of her husband, played by Griffin Dunne. As it turns out, both are old friends of Thornton’s Billy McBride, and it’s not long after the death of Bobbi (Fenn) that Gene (Dunne) calls for help, believing illegal drilling for water by some wealthy corporate farmers is to blame for the sink hole that claimed his wife’s life.
Sure, there are more convoluted plots floating around television right now, and some of them may even work better than what Goliath has cooked up. But what this series has that many don’t is an almost gleeful willingness to buy and lean into its own bewildering intricacies, sometimes with a flair that feels flagrantly lifted from Twin Peaks, only to come out the other side with an unusually entertaining and easy to watch legal thriller that’s only sort of interested in being a legal thriller.
Season 3 welcomes back McBride’s partner Patty Solis-Papagian (Nina Arianda), but it also introduces an entirely new crop of supporting characters, almost all of whom exhibit some sort of eccentricity or another. This time around, the big guest stars are Dennis Quaid as Wade Blackwood, the wealthy corporate farmer at the center of Gene’s wrongful death lawsuit, as well as Amy Brenneman as Wade’s sister Diana. As is so often the case, there’s something not quite right with the siblings’ relationship, as they own a veritable empire and live together in a palatial mansion, and yet have no significant others to speak of.
But Goliath doesn’t stop there. Instead, it plows forward full steam ahead with a seemingly endless parade of eccentrics, introducing Beau Bridges as Wheeler, a fellow corporate farmer whose wrapped up in Diana’s drilling scheme she cooked up with the head of security at a local casino, played by Graham Greene. On the lighter side, the show welcomes the always terrific Ileana Douglas as Rita, a casino barfly who takes a liking to Billy and offers up some of the third season’s biggest laughs. Then there’s Matthew Weiner — yes, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner — as Matthew Weiner who seems to have won the heart of Los Angeles Mayor Marisol Silva (Ana de la Reguera).
It’s all sudden and unreal enough to have you wondering whether or not you missed an episode along way, and that’s before Billy is routinely drugged and knocked out, resulting in fractured memories and hallucinatory late-night commutes. But Billy’s not the only one operating under the influence. Wade, Wheeler, and a few other nameless but presumably prominent businessmen regularly embark on trips of their own via an unfortunately stereotypical representation of Native American mysticism that somehow results in Dennis Quaid singing a rendition of ‘The Rose’ to a packed theater audience comprised entirely of himself.
That is all to say, Goliath season 3 is one strange trip. But it’s not not fun. In fact, in its third go-round, Goliath may have become one of Amazon’s most reliably entertaining original series. The show has an exceedingly watchable quality to it, one that extends beyond the nature of its more bizarre flourishes and its questionable dramatic intent, to offer up something that’s both familiar and unique. Or enough of both to merit a binge-watch.
Goliath season 3 streams exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, October 4.