The first season of Your Honor premiered on Showtime in December 2020 to lackluster reviews, with most critics comparing it unfavorably to Breaking Bad, for which Bryan Cranston won a slew of Emmys. Similar premises centered on fine guys who lost control in an attempt to safeguard their families. What was supposed to be a limited series earned a second and final season, in which Cranston’s character, Michael Desiato, is humiliated and in mourning. Where can the situation move from here?
The opening shot depicts a swamp followed by a state prison.
Guards enter a cell to get a convict, while an emaciated man with wild curly hair and a large beard slowly unwinds himself from his bed. It turns out to be former judge Michael Desiato (Bryan Cranston), who has been in prison for several months since Eugene Jones shot and killed his son Adam (Hunter Doohan) (Benjamin Flores Jr.). Eugene intended to assassinate Carlo Baxter (Jimi Stanton) in retaliation for killing his brother.
We don’t know why Michael is in prison, but we do know that he’s so depressed that he’s starving himself to the point where he needs a feeding tube. He receives a visit from U.S. Attorney Olivia Delmont (Rosie Perez), who seeks to suppress all of Michael’s remarks linking him to Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his crime family in exchange for Michael’s assistance in bringing down the whole Baxter organization. Michael objects.
We also show the immediate aftermath of the shooting, with Carlo pursuing Eugene, who cannot escape the Desire gang; Big Mo (Andrene Ward-Hammond) intends to kill Eugene, but Little Mo (Keith Machekanyanga) may resist his boss there. Adam’s girlfriend Fia Baxter (Lilli Kay) was present when he was shot, and her parents Jimmy and Gina (Hope Davis) comfort her while searching for Eugene.
When Carlo comes to the Lower Ninth Ward in search of Eugene, Big Mo’s men catch him, and she suggests a compromise to Baxter: Let me handle Eugene, and we won’t harm Carlo. Ultimately, she believes there is no use in beginning a gang war at this time.
In the meantime, Delmont informs the local law enforcement officials, notably Detective Nancy Costello (Amy Landecker), that they must suppress Michael’s admissions in order to examine the overall picture, but that he can be incarcerated on other counts. Michael volunteers for the prison rodeo (which is a genuine event, by the way) with the expectation that a rogue bull will end it all. Delmont uses his acquaintance with soon-to-be-mayor Charlie Figaro (Isiah Whitlock Jr. ), whom he implicated to the police after the crime, as leverage to convince Michael to assist her.
What Shows Does It Bring to Mind?
Your Honor Season 1 was, in our opinion, a subpar adaptation of the Breaking Horrible idea of a decent guy compelled to do bad things. This season seems to focus more about Michael Desiato’s aftermath and redemptive journey.
We were perplexed as to why Peter Moffat’s Your Honor was renewed for a second season, given that the first season’s story seemed to finish somewhat abruptly. Michael goes to great measures to protect Adam from the Baxter family, but Adam is nonetheless murdered. It was planned to be a limited series, so the conclusion seemed appropriate.
Which is one of the reasons why the beginning of the second season perplexes us. Michael gets released from prison by Delmont to assist her in bringing down the Baxter family months/years after Adam’s death. Because the timelines are quite close together — perhaps a year or less, based on what we observe with Fia — they are difficult to keep track of.
Nonetheless, some facts are also unclear. Delmont advises to the District Attorney of New Orleans that Michael be charged with tax evasion. Unless he is charged of dodging state taxes, he would be incarcerated in a federal facility rather than the Angola State Penitentiary. Therefore, what is he doing there? And, other from his profound grief over his kid, why has he stopped caring for himself?
In addition to all of this muddled storytelling, though, the primary issue with Your Honor remains, despite the superb cast: the characters surrounding Cranston lack significant depth. With so many moving pieces, such as the Baxters, the Desire gang, and Figaro’s jeopardized political career, there doesn’t appear to be enough time to give anyone more than the broadest of personalities. Now, we’re concerned that even Cranston won’t be allowed as much to do as he did in the first season; at the very least, we see him a lot less in this first episode than we anticipated.
Skin and Sexuality: None.
Michael has been freed from prison; he stands outside the gates unsure of what to do. He receives a call on a burner phone from Delmont, who compliments his decision to cooperate.
As we did last season, we’ll watch Hope Davis perform virtually any role. A moment in which she embraces her adult son Carlo suggests that they are, well, a touch too close.
The most pilot-like line is when Delmont finds Michael hurt and laughs, “If it’s any consolation, the bull has been denied parole.” This joke is significantly less humorous than it may have appeared in the writers’ room.
Our Advice: AVOID IT. With a touch less Cranston, a great deal of confused storytelling, and people that are no more developed than they were in Season 1, the final season of Your Honor feels like a notion that should have been left as just that: an idea.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes on cuisine, entertainment, parenting, and technology, but he’s not going to lie: he’s a TV addict. His work has been published in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, and Fast Company, among other publications.