Your Honor review: Objection Milord! Bryan Cranston’s new show is an inferior copy of Breaking Bad
Creator - Peter Moffat
Cast - Bryan Cranston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Hope Davis, Hunter Doohan, Carmen Ejogo
Your Honor peaks in its first episode. More precisely, it peaks within the first act of the first episode. That’s concerning, because the 10-hour Showtime miniseries — touted as the great Bryan Cranston’s return to TV — spends the rest of the time struggling to attain that initial high.
It’s a bit odd that Cranston chose this as his TV comeback vehicle, after Breaking Bad ended its historic run seven years ago. They’re very similar — not just thematically, but also stylistically. It gives the impression that Cranston is not so much returning to his roots as he is conforming to what the audience expects of him. His stint as a movie star won him considerable acclaim (and an Oscar nomination), but crucially, little box office success as a leading man.
Watch the Your Honor trailer here
In Your Honor, he plays a well-liked New Orleans judge named Michael Desiato, who is still recovering from the recent death of his wife, and learning to be a single parent to his teenage son, Adam. Michael is a drama queen in court — in an early scene, we see him let off a Black woman accused of pushing drugs by first commenting on the effect her incarceration will have on her young children, and then by poking holes in the arresting officer’s testimony. The point has been made: Michael Desiato is a Good Man, willing to do the Right Thing.
But his morals are cruelly compromised when Adam, while driving in a fit of anxiety, is involved in a hit-and-run. When he comes clean to his dad, Michael’s initial reaction is to take him to the police and tell them the truth. However, he backs out of 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 crime lord.
This is when the show begins to go off the rails a little bit, and comes dangerously close to resembling a Hollywood-ized version of Drishyam, or perhaps the abysmal Breathe: Into the Shadows. How far would you go to protect your child? That’s the question that these stories ask.
After the crash sequence — filmed with patience and tremendous skill by director Edward Berger — the show gets too tangled up in plot machinations of its own making, thereby committing the gravest crime that it could have: sidelining the ethical dilemmas in favour of shock and awe.
The reason why Breaking Bad succeeded — or, at least one of the reasons why it succeeded — and stuff like Your Honor and Drishyam and Breathe do not, is because Breaking Bad wholly embraced Walter White’s descent into madness. It made no qualms about the fact that he was, most likely, a psychopath. But Your Honour — and Drishyam, and Breathe — insist that their protagonists are Good Men, willing to do the Right Thing.
Cranston’s performance is perfunctory — he plays Michael more as a man scrambling his way through the situation than the more clinical characters that Ajay Devgn, Mohanlal and Abhishek Bachchan played in those other stories. He’s surrounded by a strong cast, including Isiah Witlock Jr, who plays Michael’s childhood friend Charlie, who’s running for the Senate; Amy Landecker as an overeager detective, who may or may not suspect something; and the outstanding Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays the bereaved gangster Jimmy Baxter with appropriate menace.
But these characters are merely pawns — ill-defined and thinly written by creator Peter Moffat. More often than not, they make decisions that are downright unbelievable, just to further the plot or to deliver a timely twist. Perhaps the show will find its footing as it goes along, and expand on the socio-cultural commentary that it is trying to inject into the story — only the first four episodes were provided for this review — but the foundation that has been set is shaky, at best.
The show will stream on Voot Select in India, and will also air on Zee Café.But in the meantime, perhaps you might want to check out Defending Jacob, the underseen and under-appreciated Apple TV+ miniseries starring Chris Evans, which deals with similar ideas in a more believable manner.