In the wake of the news from Tuesday night that has so many people in the world shaken to their cores, there’s at least some small measure of comfort to be had in entertainment: the place where the good guys win and the bad guys have debilitating strokes and get busted by the FBI.
So closed the first season of Goliath. Which should surprise no one. For all their teasing and hedging about whether Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) was going to stay on the straight and narrow, and whether the powers that be were going to squash this lawsuit like a gnat, anyone watching this series could have guessed that everything was going to be okay at the end.
What I couldn’t have anticipated was how bittersweet it all was. Instead of thrilling as the feds busted into Borns Technology offices and cheering Callie (Molly Parker) getting fired from the firm, instead, I felt strangely sad for Cooperman (William Hurt), barely able to form words and practically begging people to put him out of his misery.
Nor did we get a sweet montage showing everyone’s lives being made better thanks to the jury decision. Billy and Patty (Nina Arianda) froze out Brittany (Tania Raymonde). Lucy (Olivia Thirlby), strangely, went crawling back to her former boss, proclaiming her love for this broken man. As for Billy, he was back on the beach, drinking his cheap poison, and walking desultorily into the ocean. David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro left so many auxiliary characters dangling in the wind. And I’m kind of happy that they did.
It fits in well with a tone of ambiguity and open-endedness now growing louder and larger in popular culture. Viewers have become used to not having everything spelled out for them and not knowing the answers to the mysteries of a movie, book, or TV show. Just like the creators of The Leftovers insist that they’re never going to reveal what happened to the folks that vanished, the folks behind Goliath don’t need to wrap everything up with a nice red bow. This not only leaves the series open to a second season, it also allows Goliath to fade quietly into the background without too much incident. After binge-watching eight full hours of TV, you might actually welcome that calm disappearance.
That almost made up for all the other blowsy nonsense that comprises the rest of the final two episodes, and much of the series as a whole. Everything else was a mess of showboating bullshit, and a prolonged courtroom drama with moments that were supposed to leave viewers gasping for air. Instead, the series just induced some hearty shrugs and a lot of bored eye rolls at its attempts at comic relief.
As entertaining as it could often be, Goliath created the unmistakable feeling that many of the people involved in the show would have been better served by taking their talents elsewhere or pushing for stronger material and a firmer directorial hand to guide it. They, like us, took what they were given and did their best to swallow it without choking. Can you tell that I’m not particularly excited at the notion of this show coming back at any point in the future? Goodness knows, I’ll probably end up watching, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Robert Ham is an arts and culture journalist based in Portland, OR. Read more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.