am a fan of Goliath, a show on Amazon. It was a great four-season story about a very shrewd lawyer who lives out of a bottle in a Malibu bar, brought back from the pasture by a case involving is suspicious boating accident. It’s a fun set, with Billy Bob Thornton playing it to the hilt, amicable and shrewd all at once. I loved the line where an apposing corporate attorney tries to bluff him by asking if he’s trying to make a million or so in settlement and Thornton replies, “I’m going to reach up your client’s ass and pull out billions”.
The fourth season involves the companies involved in the opioid crisis, with Thornton’s character Billy McBride attempting to win another unwinnable case. However, it had two moments that were arty and strange enough to be distracting.
One of them involved a random Chinese woman he kept encountering. She was like a spirit, exchanging a few words with him in passing, looking at him with knowing eyes and a slight smile. The other involved his one-time assistant and now PI Brittany Gold, an ex-hooker. There is a deal where a character lives in the apartment across the way, rear-window-ish. Suddenly McBride notices that a woman visits this cross-alley fellow, a woman who looks exactly like Brittany! Is it? Isn’t it? Is it some sort of visage or hallucination? A betrayal? And then when Brittany visits McBride one night, the woman is right in the opposing apartment. McBride and Gold marvel at the likeness. So what is it with these mysterious women, the spirit-like Chinese woman and the Gold doppelganger?
The answer is: nothing. Eventually he confronts the Chinese woman, desperately demanding who she is and why she is. Her answer? She’s just some woman. She’s not following him – he’s always encountering her. She has nothing to do with anything. And the doppelganger? Nothing ever comes to that. It’s not explained away in any method. It did happen – the real Brittany saw her counterpart. So what did this represent?
I’ll note the following definition which I have discussed in the past:
Chekhov’s gun is a dramatic principle that suggests that details within a story or play will contribute to the overall narrative. This encourages writers to not make false promises in their narrative by including extemporaneous details that will not ultimately pay off by the last act, chapter, or conclusion.
And that’s the deal – the Chinese woman and the doppelganger were frustrating false-leads as far as I was concerned. They introduced uncertainty but were never explained. To this, they distracted and detracted from the story. Without a payoff, it felt like a cheat.
I’ll mentioned that I looked around for about twenty minutes for some sort of explanation on these and saw nothing online. Strange that I’m the only one bothered by this. To me, it tarnished what was a great season. Introducing characters and encounters that lead nowhere is not art – it’s poor writing. Anyway, that’s my take – as a member of the audience.
Still, a good series, worth your watch.