Something strange happened with Goliath – it’s brilliant, but it’s almost invisible. Think of True Detective, and think how much hype there is with each new season. Goliath, by contrast, almost sneaked past us with its stealthy understatement. Perhaps that’s because it’s one of the early made-for-streaming shows produced by Amazon Studios. Perhaps its exclusivity (available only on Prime) has limited its impact. Perhaps the low-key (if impossibly stylish) trailer failed to grab the crime-thriller audience. Perhaps it got pigeonholed as ‘courtroom drama’ rather than ‘gritty streetwise crime.’
Whatever. The first season is outright excellent, so if you missed – get set for a boxset binge.
Where True Detective had Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, Goliath has Billy Bob Thornton and William Hurt. They share few scenes together, but the entire eight hour screening time builds towards those powerful, pivotal interactions of alpha males duelling in intellectual combat. Hurt is chilling as the monstrous partner of a vampire-squid style firms of corporate lawyers, protecting their client at all costs. Thornton balances the scales as the washed-up has-been scuzzy attorney who starts the litigation against a weapons manufacturers – not for all the right reasons, but to serve his intensely personal agenda.
You might think that the lines are cleanly drawn between good guy / bad guy, but instead Goliath reveals how delicately the scales are balanced by bad behaviour on both sides. Hurt’s scarred lawyer is outright manipulative, calculating and unscrupulous. Thornton’s charmingly vulnerable, apparently fragile character superficially appears to oppose him but… underneath it all, are they really so different?
The performances are exquisite, not only from the leading men but also from the raft of supporting female actors who give the story real emotional heft and depth. The filming is gorgeous. The soundtrack absurdly wonderful. Your eyes will ache from Santa Monica’s stark sunlight. Your head will thump from the hangovers. Your heart will ache with the betrayals. And you’ll be genuinely astonished at each turn of events – unexpected, yet completely credible. Goliath is all about the suspense, and then subverting every expectation.
A superior thriller series – the best we’ve watched so far in 2019. Oh, and the titles! Did we forget to mention the titles? Simply superb.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason