‘Your Honor’ review: Bryan Cranston’s masterclass doesn’t quite paper over the cracks

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Only similar to ‘Breaking Bad’ in its premise, this new crime drama from Peter Moffat gets a little lost in an over-elaborate plot and too many characters

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that in Your Honor, the premise is as intriguing as that of Cranston’s last crime drama, which set the benchmark for, well, all crime dramas in history.


A highly-respected New Orleans judge, who lives by his own stringent levels of morality, faces the ultimate character test when his son accidentally kills the son of a mob boss in a hit-and-run accident. Michael Desiato (played by Cranston) acts on impulse — the argument here is that any parent would make the wrong choice for the right reasons (in this case, saving their kid’s life) —and thereby unfolds an elaborate web of lies and deceit, as every terrible decision the judge makes, puts him further in harm’s way.

 

A law-abiding father breaking bad in order to protect his family. Ring any bells?

It could have been “tension television” at its finest — Breaking Bad, of course, perfected it to a tee — and with a cast boasting of the likes of Cranston and Michael Stuhlbarg (who plays the mob boss Jimmy Baxter), Your Honor gets all its moving pieces in place. Or so you think, until the numerous sub-plots among the zillion characters in New Orleans unfold, that spoil what could have been one of 2020’s most memorable mini-series.


Your Honor

  • Showruner: Peter Moffat
  • Cast: Bryan Cranston, Hunter Doohan, Hope Davis, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Michael Stuhlbarg, Carmen Ejogo, Margo Martindale
  • No. of episodes: 10
  • Storyline: A respected judge’s son is involved in a hit-and-run that leads to a high-stakes game of lies, deceit and impossible choices.

Based on the Israeli series Kvodo, the show has been written by Peter Moffat (The Night Of), and if the first four episodes made available via screener are anything to go by, it bites off more than it can chew. From racial injustice and politics to privilege and family, a gamut of themes are tightly packed into every episode — and as anxiety mounts onto the sprawling arcs of pretty much every character — it all gets a little too much to stomach, and less interesting to watch.

None of this is to to detract from yet another show-stopping performance from Cranston; the 64-year-old is in his element playing the conflicted dad, the lines on his weathered face expressing more than others could with pages of dialogues. Stuhlbarg, too, is phenomenal, deriving empathy for a multi-layered character that could have easily become caricaturish in the hands of someone less gifted. The rest of the supporting cast (Hunter Doohan as Adam, Michael’s son, stands out) is suitably good in their limited screen-time so far, though as the plot thickens, some — like the fantastic Margo Martindale (Bojack fans, anyone?) — could have more of a say in proceedings.

It’s easy to see that Your Honor tries hard to point a mirror at viewers, almost forcefully, and ask, “Wouldn’t you do the same?” The short answer is no, but then, that wouldn’t work for good drama on television, and that’s fine. The problem is that the knock-on effect of these on-screen choices is more harrowing than thrilling, and you keep wondering about the futility of it all. Will later episodes live upto the benchmark Cranston deserves? We certainly hope so.

Your Honor is currently streaming on Voot Select at 8:30am (weekly drop). The series will also air in India on Zee Café

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