Roush Review: Judging Bryan Cranston’s ‘Your Honor’ for Questionable Actions

Your Honor Hunter Doohan Bryan Cranston

It’s one thing to break bad. But steering into stupid is less forgivable.

By now it’s a given that no one can express sorrow, and the grim resolve of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, with the humanity of multiple Emmy (and Tony) winner Bryan Cranston. He’s a pillar of tortured conscience in Your Honor as compassionate New Orleans judge Michael Desiato, who apparently never learned a basic rule of justice: The cover-up is almost always worse than the crime.

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Still, a widowed father’s duty comes first, as this grim melodrama from Peter Moffat (HBO’s The Night Of) repeatedly reminds us. Michael’s ordeal begins when he learns that his teenage son, Adam (an intensely vulnerable Hunter Doohan), fled in a panic from the scene of a car accident where he struck and killed the motorcycle-riding son of “the head of the most vicious crime family in the history of the city.” (As played with an anguished snarl by Michael Stuhlbarg, you believe it.)

When Michael realizes the enormity of the situation, and the danger his family is now in, he warns Adam never to tell anyone: “I can keep you safe if no one ever hears about it.” So what does the good judge do? Time and again, he alerts people to the mess — first, a dogged detective (Transparent‘s Amy Landecker), then more inexplicably, a former clerk turned posh lawyer (Carmen Ejogo) — who aren’t willing to look the other way once innocents get caught in the fallout, igniting a racially charged mob war.

Your Honor Season 1 Bryan Cranston

(Credit: Skip Bolen/SHOWTIME)

Moral ambiguity succumbs to absurd clumsiness in this shaky narrative, and no reasonable jury would acquit this series of its lapses in logic. Still, there are saving graces in the scene-stealing performances of Hope Davis as the mob family’s chilling Lady Macbeth and the marvelous Margo Martindale as Michael’s salty mother-in-law, a senator who barks, “Rules are like doughnuts. They have holes in them.”

Now, about those plot holes…

Your Honor, Series Premiere, Sunday, December 6, 10/9c, Showtime