Creator – Peter Moffat
Cast – Bryan Cranston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Hope Davis, Hunter Doohan, Carmen Ejogo
Your Honor peaks in the first episode. More specifically, it peaks in the first act of the first episode. It’s disturbing because Showtime’s 10-hour miniseries – touted as the return of the great Bryan Cranston to television – spends the rest of their time struggling to reach their initial peak.
It’s a bit strange that Cranston chose this as their TV vehicle after Breaking Bad ended its historic run seven years ago. They are very similar – not only thematically but also stylistically. He gives the impression that Cranston is not so much going back to his roots as adjusting to what the audience expects of him. His career as a movie star has earned him considerable recognition (and an Oscar nomination) but most importantly, little box office success as a leading man.
Watch the Your Honor trailer here
In honor, he plays the popular New Orleans judge Michael Desiato, who is still recovering from his wife’s recent death and learning to be the single parent of his teenage son Adam. Michael is the drama queen in court – in an early scene we see him release a black woman accused of drugging, first commenting on the impact of her imprisonment on her little children and then punching holes in the arrest officer’s testimony. The point was introduced: Michael Desiato is a good man, ready to do the right thing.
But his morals are cruelly compromised when Adam, riding in a fit of anxiety, is hit. When Michael tells the truth to his dad, Michael’s first reaction is to take him to the police and tell them the truth. However, he withdraws from this plan at the last minute when he learns that the young man who died in the accident was none other than the son of a local criminal lord.
This is when the series starts to deviate a bit from the tracks and dangerously close resembles the Hollywood version of Drishyam, or maybe the hopeless Breathe: Into the Shadows. How far would you go to protect your baby? This is the question these stories ask.
After the disaster sequence – filmed with patience and amazing skill by director Edward Berger – the series becomes too entangled in its own plot machinations, thereby committing the gravest crime he can commit: pushing back ethical dilemmas for the sake of shock and admiration.
The reason Breaking Bad was successful – or at least one of the reasons it did – and things like Your Honor, Drishyam, and Breathe didn’t, is because Breaking Bad completely embraced Walter White’s descent into madness. There was no doubt that he was most likely a psychopath. But Your Judgment – and Drishyam and Breathe – insist that their heroes be Good People, ready to do the Right Thing.
Cranston’s play is sketchy – he plays Michael more as a man struggling through the situation than as the more clinical characters that Ajay Devgn, Mohanlal, and Abhishek Bachchan have starred in other stories. It is flanked by a strong cast, including Isiah Witlock Jr., who plays Charlie, Michael’s childhood friend and Senate candidate; Amy Landecker as an overzealous detective who may or may not suspect something; and the prominent Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays bereaved gangster Jimmy Baxter with the appropriate threat.
ALSO READ: Breathe Into the Shadows Review: Unexpected and illogical, Amazon’s weirdest show lets Abhishek Bachchan, Amit Sadh down
But these characters are just pawns – poorly defined and poorly written by creator Peter Moffat. Most often, they make decisions that are downright unbelievable, just to develop a plot or deliver a plot twist in time. Perhaps the show will fall into place and extend the sociocultural commentary it is trying to make into the story – only the first four episodes have been provided for this review – but the foundation that has been laid is shaky at best.
The show will be airing on the Voot Select channel in India as well as the Zee Café, but in the meantime, you might want to check out Defending Jacob, the underrated and underrated Apple TV + miniseries starring Chris Evans that tackles similar ideas in a more credible way.