TV Review: Your Honor27th April 2021
One of the key, lingering themes Bryan Cranston can deliver so well is how he interacts with family. His greatest shows have always had him interact with loved ones. Malcolm in the Middle was the bumbling family man looking to keep it all together, and Breaking Bad was much the same, although with the obvious difference of drugs, destructive behaviour and a finite amount of time to spend with people he begins to distance himself from. Your Honor presents an odd mixture of both, then. He is the family man, a New Orleans judge with a wife and child, but is also deep in the throes of devastation, as he defends his son from a hit and run charge that embroils him in the underworld of mob crime.
Muted, grey and dark, Your Honor presents the erratic, saturated colours that so closely combine how these characters feel. Cranston cuts through with style once again, but it is nothing we haven’t seen before. With five episodes of somewhat comfortable, yet forgettable thriller components, the nosedive occurring in the latter half of the series is troubling and worrisome. Cranston and Isiah Whitlock Jr manage to pull through with some interesting moments together in these episodes, but they are bogged down by underdeveloped storylines and obvious foreshadowing that will appeal only to the writer of the script, who is struggling to balance so many stories at once. It is muddled and wishy-washy, and this style bleeds into the rest of the series.
There are some magnificent shots throughout, but they don’t symbolise much and are there with the express intent of using drone shots for narrative padding. Edward Berger is a fine director, and there are no doubts about his thorough style, but there are times when his direction is a tad senseless or corrupted by a desire to shoot tension into every scene. Nothing goes right for Adam Desiato (Hunter Doohan), it would not be much of a thriller if we weren’t up to our eyeballs in fear. What the issue is, then, is the screenplay. A knack for everything to go wrong takes over the semblance of a story, which is where throwaway lines from Cranston come into play. After a tense flutter with a washing machine and a storming off, Michael Desiato (Cranston) mutters “Ah, the anniversary”, to solidify the date of the tragedy. We are lucky both Cranston and Doohan are incredible performers, and their chemistry deflects much of the written drawbacks.
There is only so much they can offer though, and once Your Honor begins to devolve into erratic behaviours and mania-induced actions, it loses both its footing and my interest. Michael Stuhlbarg shines through, most of the cast do. They are performing well and for some, it is their chance to either cement or breakthrough as a serious actor. Stuhlbarg in particular has flirted with dramatics in A Serious Man and Shirley, but Your Honor gives him the time necessary to solidify himself as a menacing force. It soon devolves, as all things do when they are promising and hopeful. He deflates like a dying balloon, puttering away in the background, trying his absolute best to salvage some level of tension or variety. It is to no avail because the writing feeds the audience too much, and the characters too little.
Ultimately, Your Honor drowns in its own destruction. Its narrative is affected by current issues in the world today, and there is no way to circumvent them, other than to acknowledge them. While that is necessary, it creates a limited window of time Your Honor can survive. This is not a piece that wishes to comment on the specifics of our times, but its hand is forced. Where its early moments of silent shock and brutality are displayed with raw energy and passion, it peters out towards the end. Part of the problem is that inability to withstand the allure of modern cultural and political shifts, but also because the writing begins to falter, waning away until it becomes a routine dance, thrusting the family man into the out of this world issues.