Friday, June 15, 2018

REVIEW: Amazon's 'Goliath' - Season 2

Amazon's Goliath returned with its eight episode second season on Friday, June 15. This post will feature brief reviews of each episode of the season.

The new season stars Billy Bob Thornton, Nina Arianda, Ana De La Reguera, Tania Raymonde, Diana Hopper, Matthew Del Negro, Mark Duplass and Morris Chestnut.

201. "La Mano"
Written by Jennifer Ames, Steve Turner & Marisa Wegrzyn and directed by Lawrence Trilling

Does Goliath believe that the only way to personally motivate Billy into taking a case is to kill the one person with a personal connection to both him and the central storyline? Last season it was such a surprise when Rachel was run over as a way to intimidate Billy into stop pursuing the mystery. And now, Oscar Suarez shows up as a good friend of Billy's who helps him get home from the bar every night. He presents this new mystery of his youngest son being arrested for murder even though he's completely innocent. He just quickly became a scapegoat in the investigation because the police only want to look at the family though the lens of them all being associated with a gang. The two older sons were and were killed because of it. As such, it's easy to assume that the other son killed their killers as a form of retaliation. That also makes it logical when Oscar ends up getting shot and dying because it continues the cycle of violence and vengeance. Whatever coverup is currently going on ultimately cost Oscar his life. That is devastating. And yet, it is less effective because it's still fundamentally the story the show told last season. Plus, it becomes such a waste of casting an actor like Lou Diamond Phillips. Billy is adamant about not taking on this case because he no longer does criminal law. He would much rather just be enjoying all of the money he got from the case last season. Of course, he's still fundamentally the same guy who is blowing though the cash quickly. But that doesn't mean the show should follow the same exact pattern. Oscar represents a very personal connection to this case. And now, the only one looking out for the innocent kid in jail is the candidate for mayor who also has connections to the neighborhood. Even that story feels like another case of Billy being able to flirt with someone while wondering if he's depressed. It's all just a way to motivate him into finding out what really happened. A close friend of his was killed. And now, he needs to find out way. Plus, the audience is already getting a few more clues than him because we know that the officer who showed him around the crime scene is actually the one responsible for framing this young kid in order to protect something that his best friend did. B-

202. "Politics"
Written by Noelle Valdivia & Tony Saltzman and directed by Lawrence Trilling

It's crazy that Billy is currently sleeping with a city councilwoman who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, right? The entire world still perceives Billy as this big, successful lawyer who's sheer presence on a case is very intimidating and unnerving. And yet, it's hard for the audience to get that same perception because he's still the guy living out of a hotel while also being a very high functioning alcoholic. Yes, he had a significant victory last season and has more money now. But he's only taking on this case out of guilt over what happened to Oscar. He's trying to do right by Julio. This episode mostly sees him reuniting the team in order to mount the defense. That means getting Patty back as his co-counsel and rehiring Brittany as his legal assistant. Of course, their returns to the team are a little awkward. There's pointless back-and-forth for Patty when it comes to making the decision as a way to better flesh out her world outside of Billy. Meanwhile, Brittany is just back in the office working without that moment of Billy saying he wants her to help him again. He gives the big speech about forgiveness to Patty even though he understands why she can't trust or forgive Brittany right now. But bringing things back to Billy having sex with Marisol, it appears to be a plot twist that will solely compromise the case and her campaign. It's something that must happen in secrecy because it could become a huge scandal. But the show is much more interested in revealing that Marisol actually has a connection to the framing of Julio for murder. She wants to be the champion of the community to give these kids the opportunities they deserve. But here, it's just casually mentioned that she, Tom and Danny are all absolutely terrified of another associate of theirs who is forcing them to be perfectly fine with letting an innocent kid stay in prison. As such, it will only fuel the personal dynamics between Billy and Marisol further because she is choosing to continue seeing him after learning this news even though it means she can no longer support the case. Once the truth comes out, it's going to be seen as a massive betrayal. And yet, the audience will be expecting it this entire time because we already see the devastation that is coming. Knowing the answers now is enticing. But the show still has to find a way to subvert our expectations too. B-

203. "Fresh Flowers"
Written by Jennifer Ames, Steve Turner & Marisa Wegrzyn and directed by Dennie Gordon

This episode seems mostly defined by the back-and-forth on who has Tito Garcia. Billy gets that name from JT early on. He has the actual killer in Julio's case. He has the man who could lead to the case being completely dropped. And yet, he is noticing just how allusive this guy has been. It's not because of his personal smarts either. There is just a bunch of conveniences happening that seem to be making the case more difficult for Billy. Tito is arrested by ICE the moment that Billy confronts him with the intention of getting him to testify on the record. He is fortunately arrested by the Mexican police once he returns to Juarez. Billy's new FBI agent friend is able to get him brought back for the case quickly. But then, he goes disappearing once more until the show produces that moment of pure horror in the end with Gabriel sawing Tito apart while he's still alive. That is absolutely brutal. But is it all that necessary? The show seems to understand that the characters and the storytelling have eccentricities to them. And yet, Gabriel's violence as a surgeon just appears to make him a menacing villain everyone should view as sinister and horrifying. He doesn't exist as a character beyond that. Meanwhile, Tom Wyatt can be menacing as well. But he too is a character with unusual tendencies like paying close attention to detail while also being attracted to people with missing limbs. That's unusual but doesn't seem all that vital or compelling to showcase. As such, this episode drags in some very notable ways. Yes, it establishes a closer connection between Billy and the new judge he is arguing in front of. But Hakeem and Detective Roman are able to produce the murder weapon in the case. That will create a whole new set of mysterious circumstances for Billy and Patty to play around with because it's the gun that Tito used for the crime but it's not the gun that Julio was seen carrying in the video. That gun is now at his girlfriend's house. He kept that secret from his lawyers because he was afraid of what crimes his brother could have committed with it in the past. But again, all of that really isn't too exciting to watch right now. At least Marisol makes a decision that she will protect her career and save Julio from prison even though that means exploiting her romantic connection with Billy. C

204. "Alo"
Written by Noelle Valdivia & Tony Saltzman and directed by Dennie Gordon

It is very intense watching Billy and Marisol circle one another in the hopes that the other will slip up and be able to give them some useful information. It's the exact kind of dynamic that this story was always heading in. They are exploiting their sexual connection in order to get information about Julio's case. Billy has genuinely beloved in it for the entire season though. Only now is he starting to realize that Marisol may be compromised and is only getting close with him in order to know what he knows at all times. She won't tell him any details about the gang that is now threatening him. Moreover, she visits Denise and asks her if she knows anything about the Julio case. It's very suspicious and the audience knows exactly why. Billy seems to be becoming aware of that too. It's intense and the scene late at night is a great acting showcase. But it's also lackluster because the audience already knows what's going. The story this season is just really failing to click for me. It's Billy essentially versus a drug cartel. That basically limits the role of Morris Chestnut as the prosecutor of this case. He is never really the one driving the story forward. It's a one-note character who really shouldn't be played by an actor of that caliber. Moreover, it's crazy to see just how inept the various players in the Los Angeles political scene are. Yes, we are still waiting for something tragic to happen now that Tom is seeing Brittany. But that's going to be a really forced twist too. But more importantly, Tom is beating up Danny because he thinks the solution is simply to kill Julio without even thinking about what that would do to Marisol who still wants a good outcome to this case without being pulled into the mess any further. Danny and Roman are getting into a fight because Roman simply can't handle all of this. And yet, the story has presented no evidence that Roman is actually a good cop. The audience has only been asked to see him as this corrupt officer covering up who really did this crime. As such, it won't be surprising when something tragic happens to him as well. Billy may see him as the exact kind of witness that he can protect while getting the truth out there. But it's just hard to believe that that will ultimately work out. C+

205. "Who's Gabriel"
Written by Tony Saltzman and directed by Dennie Gordon

It certainly seems like the Julio Suaraz case is now over. Or at least, it should be now. Billy is able to get Detective Roman to tell the truth to Hakeem. That is enough to fuel his anger while understanding that he can't continue prosecuting an innocent kid. And yet, the show is being very suspicious with the fact that Julio isn't processed out of prison right away. Hakeem needs a couple of days to confirm everything and get the deals into place. It's just a weekend. But that time has the potential to become so deadly for Julio and anyone else involved in this case. That's certainly the message the show appears to be sending at the moment. And yet, that's the exact same feeling of dread that the viewer should be experiencing watching Detective Roman continue to go back-and-forth on flipping on his associates and tell the truth. There is a reasonable expectation that he is about to be killed because he's talking to Billy and Hakeem. The most effective way to silence him would be before the case is completely dropped. But even if something does happen to Detective Roman, there is simply no way that the judge and Hakeem would allow a knowingly innocent child to stay in jail. If that's what the show plans on doing, then it seems like a missive mistake. But Detective Roman survives for this entire episode. He survives because Danny doesn't want to kill him but knows that he has to in order to protect the organization. That's a moment that doesn't land though because the show hasn't really asked the audience to invest in the friendship between Roman and Danny. In fact, it's one of the only relevant details we even know about Danny at this point. But it's also clear that the stakes are increasing the closer the truth comes to getting out. The hour closes with Marisol taking Billy directly to Gabriel. That's an ominous tease that is bound to turn deadly as well. And yet, there's no way the show is about to kill off Billy. That's an empty tease. Plus, the show continues to be so conflicted about just how well Marisol knows Gabriel and how much she is willing to do for him. Her only crime is getting Tom and Danny in touch with Gabriel. She made that introduction. But why would she do that if she fled from his family in Mexico after learning just how involved they were in the local cartel? It makes no sense. C

206. "Two Cinderellas"
Written by Noelle Valdivia and directed by Lawrence Trilling

This season must be such a drag for those in the audience who don't buy into the Billy and Marisol romance at all. It's so easy to see that she is manipulating him so that the cartel can strike during this romantic day away to Mexico. It's just so annoying to see the show try to add some complexity to the situation by saying that Marisol genuinely does care for Billy and despises Gabriel. She doesn't want to return to her childhood home. And yet, she feels compelled to out of intimidation. This is something she must do in order to win the mayoral election. It's devastating and so destructive. This is a pivotal episode for the season because both Detective Roman and Julio are killed. And yet, they are such impersonal deaths as well. There is this big moment where Danny is struggling to kill his best friend. Roman has made it so easy for him. In fact, it would be easier on his family if he didn't have to testify. They could return to the lives the have always known instead of going into witness protection. But Danny can't pull that trigger. And then, Roman returns to the hotel room only to be killed by Gabriel's henchman. And yet, the show treats the death of his entire family - including the children - as such an afterthought. All of this should be fueling the story forward by making the audience feel as if the walls are closing in on Billy and Patty because they tried their best to unravel this conspiracy and it only got more people killed. It is slightly more devastating when Julio is murdered simply because he's the innocent kid at the center of the case. He didn't deserve any of this. And now, his entire family is dead as well. That's powerful symmetry. And yet, it's going to be so annoying when Billy isn't able to piece together that Gabriel is the cartel leader ordering all of these hits and Marisol helped keep him distracted during this very pivotal and destructive day. But that's also the direction the show will probably explore - at least for a little bit. Elsewhere, it's nice to get a little bit more backstory on JT and his connection with the judge. He has been the most amusing new recurring character this season. But it also feels like a case of the show padding out its story so that it doesn't have to move too quickly with some of the bigger developments. As such, it seems like the show simply doesn't have the story to fill out eight episodes of television. C+

207. "Diablo Verde"
Written by Jennifer Ames & Steve Turner and directed by Lawrence Trilling

Goliath has been more serialized this season. It has introduced less mysteries that are addressed completely in one episode like last season. And yet, I gotta say that "Diablo Verde" stands out from the rest of the story of the season. It is doing something very different and that should be commended. No, it doesn't justify a 65 minute running time. There are very few episodes of dramatic television that require over an hour to tell their story. In fact, this episode even has a natural cutting off point with the first 40 odd minutes focusing on Billy being kidnapped and trying to find a way out of this dire situation that he can't explain. The following 20 minutes are simply following up on all of the other characters after Julio's murder. Those 20 minutes are still important and set up whatever is bound to happen in the finale. It's just curious why the creative team chose to pair all of this together for this episode instead of just letting the focus be completely on Billy and ending with the mystery of him potentially getting shot in Mexico. Sure, it was always unlikely that he would be dead. But it would build the anticipation heading into the finale. It would make the audience want to click play on the next episode right away. It still has that feeling somewhat with Billy being able to successfully make it over the border and return to Patty and Denise. But it's still a mystery just how much of the overall conspiracy and cover-up Billy has been able to figure out at this point. His time in this house with the people holding him against his will is very unique and specific. It probably drags on a little too long. But the show features all of the required beats in order to make it a story of interest by having Billy push back against the boundaries of this environment while having to figure out a way to escape. He has an ally who is absolutely terrified. This is the largest physical threat he has ever faced as well. And yet, he manages to survive. That's thrilling. And yes, it is important to just see him appear in Los Angeles again without having to worry about how he got over the border without a passport. But again, it feels like all of the big breaks in the case happen in some pretty innocuous ways where the season just realizes it needs to start exposing everyone for their bad behavior. Billy might suspect that Gabriel is behind his kidnapping and the deaths of Roman and Julio. But he doesn't know for certain. Meanwhile, Marisol's former campaign manager is just able to quickly discover that she has been lying about her true identity. Somehow her political opponents didn't think to find that out and use it against her in this campaign. And then, Danny kills himself instead of allowing Gabriel's henchman to do it. That death is the only way that Patty learns about the gym and the Broker. Meanwhile, Brittany should be very suspicious of just how emotional Tom seems to be right now. And yet, the show really hasn't put in the work to make me care about their dynamic because it has always been so completely toxic. B

208. "Tongue Tied"
Written by Marisa Wegrzyn and directed by Dennie Gordon

I'm perfectly fine with stories leaving things off in an ambiguous way to leave the audience left to determine what would have happened. And yet, the story of Goliath Season 2 definitely needed more resolution. It seemed like the creative team was struggling to get this finale even to 41 full minutes. There were lots of establishing or lingering shots of the Los Angeles cityscape. There were so many flashbacks as Billy remembered all of the conversations he had with Marisol. But more importantly, it's lame that everything revolves around The Broker worried about being the next to be killed and flipping against his fellow partners. The show needed Billy, Patty and Hakeem to become aware of everything that Gabriel and this grand conspiracy did this season. And yet, The Broker was never an important character. Frankly, we didn't even know his name was Pete until this episode. Similarly, there is no reason why so much time should be spent with Elena, Marisol's campaign manager who was threatened into leaving town. It's suppose to be this really dramatic act that she destroys the proof of Marisol's true identity. And yet, that just doesn't seem earned because so many people already know the name Marisol grew up with. As such, there is no reason to be spending time with her. And then, it's frankly just dangerous and stupid for Billy and Patty to be going down to Mexico. This finale makes a point in having the two of them confront all of the players in this grand conspiracy to explain just how much they are fucked now. It has the impression of them being able to intimidate them. And yet, they never seem all that threatening. Yes, Billy knows how to get under Tom Wyatt's skin. That's effective. But the show never earned the creepy undertones of worrying about what would happen to Brittany. The show simply didn't know what to do with her this season and probably shouldn't have included her at all. However, its just foolish for Billy and Patty to go down to Mexico in order to confront the cartel. Yes, nothing happens because everyone has been silenced so that a case can't be built against them. But Billy barely got out of the country alive just an episode ago. And now, he is more than willing to stand in the same location and confront the same people behind his kidnapping. That's just foolish. And in the end, only Tom Wyatt really gets what he deserves. Gabriel escapes with no real repercussions at all except the feds going against him more severely moving forward. But that was already a threat he was facing. Meanwhile, Marisol is just Mayor of Los Angeles. Billy hopes she will do what she promised to do despite the many ways she compromised herself during this campaign. She wants to move past all of this by saying she never really loved Billy. That feels anti-climatic because her entire story has been about her being so uncomfortable and conflicted about what she had to do in order to survive. As such, it's not a fitting ending in the slightest. C-