Creator – Peter Moffat
Roles – Brian Cranston, Michael Stulbarg, Isaiah Whitlock Jr., Hope Davis, Hunter Duhan, Carmen Eyogo
Your honor reaches its peak in its first episode. Specifically, it peaks within the first act of the first episode. That’s worrying, as the 10-hour showtime miniseries is considered the return of the great Brian Cranston on TV – he spends the rest of his time struggling to reach his original peak.
It is a bit strange that Cranston chose this as its TV vehicle, after Breaking Bed ended its historic course seven years ago. They are very similar – not only thematic but also stylish. The impression is that Cranston does not go back to his roots as much as is in line with what the audience expects from him. His tenure as a movie star won him considerable recognition (and an Oscar nomination), but crucially, little success at the box office as a leading man.
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In “Your Honor,” he plays a popular New Orleans judge named Michael Desiato, who is still recovering from the recent death of his wife and is learning to be the single parent of his teenage son Adam. Michael is the queen of court dramas – in an early scene, we see him play a black woman accused of pushing drugs, first commenting on the effect her imprisonment will have on her young children, and then with holes in the arrest officer’s testimony. The point is: Michael Desiato is a good man, ready to do the right thing.
But his morals are severely compromised when Adam, while driving in anxiety, is involved in a stroke and an escape. When he comes to his father clean, Michael’s initial reaction is to take him to the police and tell them the truth. However, he withdrew from the plan at the last minute when he learned that the young man who died in the accident was none other than the son of a local crime lord.
This is when the play begins to derail slightly and approaches dangerously resembling the Hollywood version of Drishiam, or perhaps the abyss Breath: In the Shadows. How far would you go to protect your child? That is the question these stories ask.
After the sequence of the accident – filmed with patience and tremendous skill by director Edward Berger – the play becomes too entangled in the machine imaginations it makes, committing the most serious crime it can have: setting aside ethical dilemmas in favor of shock and awe.
The reason Breaking Bad has succeeded – or, at least, one of the reasons it has succeeded – and works like “Your Honor” and “Drishiam” and “Breathe” is not, is because “Breaking Bud” has fully accepted Walter White’s origins. in madness. He was never worried about the fact that he was probably a psychopath. But your honor – both Drishiam and Dishet – insist that their protagonists are Good People, ready to do the right thing.
Cranston’s performance is rude – he plays Michael more as a man trying to cope with the situation, than in the clinical characters played by Ajay Devgn, Mohanlal and Abhishek Bachan in those other stories. He is surrounded by a strong team, including Isaiah Whitlock Jr., who plays Michael’s childhood friend Charlie, who is running for the Senate; Amy Landeker as a detective who does not want to work, who may or may not suspect something; and the remarkable Michael Stulberg, who plays the infamous gangster myimie Baxter with an appropriate threat.
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But these characters are just pawns – poorly defined and poorly written by creator Peter Moffat. More often than not, they make decisions that are quite amazing, just to overcome the plot or make a timely reversal. Maybe the show will find its feet as it unfolds, and will expand on the socio-cultural commentary it tries to make into the story – only the first four episodes were given for this review – but the foundation laid is shaky, at best.
The show will air on Voot Select in India and on Zee Café. But in the meantime, you might want to check out in defense of obacob, the underestimated and underrated Apple TV + miniseries with Chris Evans, who deals with similar ideas in a more credible way.