A Lesser But Still Worthy Follow-Up

Jan 15, 2023

Back in 2019, we watched as Bryan Cranston spiraled deeper and deeper into a web of lies so twisted, it seemed like the only way out was death. Your Honor Season 1 followed Judge Michael Desiato (Cranston) as he goes to extreme lengths to cover up his son’s hit-and-run. Not an easy task for any parent, let alone when the victim is the son of the head of New Orleans’ most notorious crime family, Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg). Michael’s deceit and cover-ups lead to the wrongful conviction of a member of a local gang, Kofi Jones (Lamar Johnson). All but one member of Kofi’s family is killed in a bombing by the Baxters, and he himself is beaten to death by Jimmy Baxter’s older son, Carlo (Jimi Stanton) in prison. This leads to Michael fixing the trial of Carlo to keep the Baxters at bay. Oh, and Michael’s son Adam (Wednesday’s Hunter Doohan) and Jimmy’s daughter Fia (Lilli Kay) get together. Have you got all that?

It seemed that Michael’s torment was never going to end and the web of lies had no opening, until the final moments when Eugene (Benjamin Flores Jr.) — the only surviving member of Kofi’s family — aims to shoot Carlo and ends up getting Adam, killing him. So much drama, death, and pain permeated the first season that you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that Season 1 should have ended the story there, even if it was an ending of considerable tragedy and loose ends. No one seemed to be looking for a Season 2, but we got one anyway. After five episodes, it’s clear that a second season was not only warranted but beneficial to the story as a whole.

The first episode of Season 2 features flashbacks to the immediate aftermath of Season 1’s brutal end, but the main plot takes place a year after Adam’s death. Michael is in prison, but not for the reasons you think. He’s frail, decrepit, and suicidal. He starves himself in an effort to die but is force-fed by guards. It seems like all hope is lost until District Attorney Olivia Delmont (Rosie Perez) walks in. She proposes a deal with Michael in an effort to protect his best friend and the new mayor of New Orleans, Charlie (Isiah Whitlock Jr.). She wants to use him to finally bring the Baxter family down, so she orchestrates Michael’s release.

Image via Showtime

Season 2 is by no means perfect nor does it in any way top its predecessor. The characterization is iffy at times. Characters will commit acts or say things that in no way reflect the identity they’ve established just for the sake of furthering drama. Again, I can only comment on the first five episodes, but from what I’ve seen, the pacing isn’t as consistent as the first season. Season 1 did a great job of following a central plotline and weaving various subplots into it. For Season 2, it’s hard to decipher which plot we should be giving our most attention to. Is it the crumbling of Desire’s (a local gang and the Baxter family’s main opponent) stability? Is it the dysfunctional Baxter family, particularly Pia and her very unexpected secret? Is it all the corruption that permeates New Orleans from the top down?

Or is it Michael himself? He’s gone through such considerable trauma that he is merely a shell of a ghost of the person he once was. The show tries to throw things at him to make his life worth living — but he doesn’t catch any. Without spoilers, he’s given something worth fighting for, although it still doesn’t make him any less miserable. All of the stories, characters, and drama fail to blend well together. Short scenes and meaningless encounters fill in between some pretty good television — but you’re spending half the time waiting for the real action to take place.

This season’s saving grace, undoubtedly, is its cast. Michael Stuhlbarg is again, superb as the menacing and intimidating gangster. Jimmy’s scenes with his wife, Gina (Hope Davis), draw out Stuhlbarg’s best work as he gets to layer on the character he established in Season 1. Compared to the rash, belligerent Gina, you almost start to identify with Jimmy, but yet you never trust him — and it’s all due to Stuhlbarg’s complex and dynamic performance. The women of this season are given more space to shine, and they grab this opportunity with a firm fist. Rosie Perez wears her smug grin with pride as the confident and manipulative lawyer, bringing some much-needed energy against Cranston’s misery. Lilli Kay is given more to do too, as Fia becomes a more fateful character and her scenes with Cranston are the most tender of the entire show, offering a much-needed respite from the nail-biting intensity.

Image via Showtime

Andrene Ward-Hammond as the head of Desire, Big Mo, is bumped up from recurring to regular this season, and the show is all the better for it. What Your Honor excels at is showing different types of power, and the different types of people who yield it. The influential Judge, the terrifying mob boss — these are all straight white men we’ve seen before. Ward-Hammon’s Big Mo is both enthralling and unsettling — you can’t take your eyes off her, but you’re still terrified of what you might see her do. Ward-Hammond chews up the scenery without raising her voice – proving that subtly is just an effective tool in establishing power as all-out rage.

Your Honor effectively shows the fallout and aftermath of violence. We’ve been so conditioned to revel in stories about powerful gangsters, glamorizing them and the lives they lead. Whether it’s the Baxters in their ivory tower or the Desire gang on the lower ninth, these characters can not hide behind the face of money and power. Michael Desiato is a living example of the destruction that organized crime can cause — and how it’s almost impossible to fully stop. The show sometimes falls behind all these themes and conversations that it tries to execute, but when it does catch up, it makes for an unsettling but sobering depiction of what happens when it feels like all trust and hope are gone. It’s grim, slow, and not as exciting as the first season, but Your Honor Season 2 paints an authentic image of grief, corruption, and the fight for power.

Rating: B

Your Honor Season 2 premieres January 15 on Showtime, with a streaming/on-demand premiere set for January 13.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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