Promising Amazon show ultimately can’t deliver


Fabian Brims, Staff Writer

Normally Amazon lets its subscribers decide which shows to pick up for next season. In the glory days, people would watch a few pilots and then vote for their favorite one to be picked up. However, Amazon has gone a different way with their new show ‘Goliath’: they’ve ordered a complete season with eight episodes. I am confident they would have picked it up anyways, because the first episode makes you curious how it will continue and, leaves you with a nice first impression. Unfortunately the creators David E. Kelly (‘Ally McBeal’) and Jonathan Shapiro (‘Boston Legal’) are not able to keep up the quality over the whole season, and the show ends in a foreseeable way.

Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) is an alcoholic who spends most of his time at a bar drinking whiskey. What most people don’t know, he used to be a brilliant trial lawyer with his own law firm: Cooperman McBride. However, many years ago he left the company after an argument with his former partner Donald Cooperman (William Hurt). His wife Michelle (Maria Bello), also an attorney at this firm, divorced him after he left, and since then he rarely has contact with his daughter. He still works as a lawyer but hates his job. In one case, he can’t even remember the name of his client. Then one day he stumbles over an interesting case: an employee of a big defense company allegedly committed suicide, but his family has doubts. The more McBride looks into the case, the shadier it looks. When learns that his former company councils the arms manufacturer, he puts his entire focus on the case. With the help of a stripper and a secretary, he’s taking on the ‘Goliath’ that is the defense company.

The story is really interesting in the beginning, but as the season progresses, the clearer it becomes  how little background many of the characters have. In fact the whole show feels like a 90-minute-movie plot, blown up into eight hours. This is especially sad since there is so much time for character development in a series, but they don’t make any use of it; in the end none of the characters moved forward.

Billy Bob Thornton plays the drunk with the same perfect timing he did in ‘Bad Santa’, but his change of motivation is never really explained. The same problem applies to his arc-enemy David Cooperman, his former partner. His obsession with sitting in a dark office, spying on all his employees, has no background story.  This includes spying on them in the courtroom which is ludicrous because no judge would allow private security cameras. To add, except for a dream sequence that asks more questions than it answers, we get no clue where the severe scars in his face come from. Cooperman is much more a plot device than he is a character, which is entirely the writer’s fault, while William Hurt makes the best out of this obscure figure. Maria Bello does a good job and her role is much more realistic.

Overall this series feels too much like a dark fairy tale, rather than a justice-drama. In recent shows like ‘The Night Of’ or ‘Damages’ there was much better character development, suspense and realism, when it comes to the practice of the law. McBride is literally drinking the whole day, gets up, finds witnesses and saves the world in the same brush stroke. The main problem is the uninspired writing. They spend too much time in this show with the protagonists’ different relationships, while the actual case cooks on a slow flame. I lost interest halfway in, even though the first two episodes were promising. If realism is more important for you than entertainment, than this is isn’t your show, because it’s the ‘Prison Break’ of lawyer-dramas. However, if you are interested in a dark, eight-hour-long episode of ‘Ally McBeal’, you’ll be highly entertained.