‘Goliath’ Season 4 Review: Billy McBride’s Last Case

Billy McBride has reached the end of the line. The fourth and final season of Goliath (streaming September 24 on Amazon Prime Video) brings the story of Billy Bob Thornton’s unorthodox lawyer to a satisfying close, with standout performances from the series star as well as new cast members J.K. Simmons, Bruce Dern, and Jena Malone. 

Billy McBride takes on big pharma in ‘Goliath’ Season 4

The new season of Goliath trades season 3’s sun-baked Central Valley for rain-soaked San Francisco. A noticeably subdued Billy is adrift after his near-death experience at the end of season 3. He shows up in town after Patty Solis-Papagian (Nina Arianda) — now working at white-shoe law firm Margolis & True — recruits him to work on a massive case involving three big players behind the opioid epidemic: pharmacy chain Russell Drug, distributor Tillinger Health, and manufacturer Zax Pharma. (The fictional case bears some similarities to the U.S. Department of Justice‘s recent settlements involving OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.)   

At first, the case seems relatively straightforward. Zax founder George Zax (Simmons) has already agreed to a massive settlement. All that remains is to negotiate a similar deal with the other two companies. But unsurprisingly, things are far more complicated than they initially seem. Lead lawyer Tom True (Elias Koteas) has vanished. Billy soon begins to suspect that his top-notch legal skills aren’t the only reason he’s been brought into the case. 

‘Goliath’ brings Billy Bob Thornton’s character back from the dead

The case at the center of Goliath Season 4 involves the prescription drug epidemic. But as in past seasons, there’s more to this last installment of Goliath than just “lawyer trickery bulls***,” to quote Frank, Billy’s paranoid neighbor with a complicated past (played by Dern with just the right mix of crankiness and sincerity). 

Billy has obviously survived after being shot by Diana Blackwood in the season 3 finale. But there’s a sense he’s not fully present, at least at first. “I flatlined for six minutes, that’s what they said,” he tells Margolis & True’s Samantha Margolis (Malone). She has MS and is facing her own mortality. “I was dead and then I wasn’t … It’s like I’m supposed to take care of something. I don’t know what it is.” 

On one level, Billy’s here to unravel the truth about the case involving Zax Pharma. He does that in predictable style, delivering impassioned courtroom speeches and using his legal knowledge to get a leg up on his opponents. But there’s also the matter of his relationship with his daughter Denise (Diana Hopper), from whom he’s now estranged, and his own quest for redemption. (Strained parent-child relationships are a theme this season.) 

‘Goliath’ doesn’t give up on the weirdness in season 4 

Unlike your standard legal thriller, Goliath has always leaned into its weird moments and more eccentric characters. Who can forget the nasty (if fitting) fate that befell season 2’s amputee fetishist Tom Wyatt (Mark Duplass)? Or Billy’s hallucinations in season 3?

The show hasn’t given up that Twin Peaks vibe in season 4. Black-and-white dream sequences see Billy stuck in limbo in an Old West town, chatting with his dead father (Robert Patrick) while waiting for the noon train. (In these scenes, the aspect ratio shifts to evoke the feel of old movies and TV.) In one episode, Simmons dons a top hat and belts out a jaunty tune about being “the painkiller” accompanied by a troupe of costumed dancers who wouldn’t be out of place in a classic Hollywood musical. The whole season is filled with nods to classic films, from several obvious Hitchcock references to the noir-ish feel of Billy’s Chinatown apartment. (This season of Goliath is literally dark. Much of the action takes place at night or in Margolis & True’s offices, which are all dim lighting and dark wood finishes.) 

But Goliath Season 4 pulls back on the action and violence. There’s one (offscreen) murder, no shootouts or chases, and definitely no assaults with a tree-shaking machine like we saw in season 3. And there’s plenty of courtroom drama in the season’s later episodes, when Billy and his team face off against a smug George Zax in court. (Simmons is entertainingly evil in the role of the ruthless CEO.) 

An appropriate send-off for Billy McBride

The legal maneuvers this season are a bit hard to follow, and it’s obvious this multi-billion dollar case is moving forward way faster — and with considerably more lawyerly theatrics — than it likely would in real life. And with so many new characters, some old faces fade into the background. Julie Brister, always charming in past seasons as Billy’s assistant Marva, gets little screen time, which is a disappointment. The same goes for Tania Raymonde as prostitute-turned-investigator Brittany, though we see a bit more of her once she shows up in San Francisco to help with the case. 

Viewers impatient with Goliath’s more fantastical aspects in previous seasons may be frustrated by those elements in season 4. But those who don’t mind a dose of weird with their legal drama will find Goliath’s last season an entertaining, watchable, and occasionally bizarre ride, and an appropriate send-off for Thornton’s troubled, complicated character.  

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