Your Honor review: Bryan Cranston's crime thriller holds a mirror to racial and social inequalities in the US
Your Honor holds up a mirror to present-day America, and draws focus to the heinous issues that have been shunted around for long.
A good crime thriller is a difficult job, especially when the murderer is revealed at the get-go. Peter Moffat’s Showtime series Your Honor delves deep within this genre and does a brilliant job of maintaining an edge that keeps viewers guessing.
In Your Honor, Bryan Cranston’s Michael Desiato is a judge who ensures that his plaintiffs receive worthy justice. In a first-world country still ridden with deep-rooted racism and vile crimes, Michael believes his professional ethic and a strong conscience allow him to work smoothly along with providing him a peaceful night of sleep.
Despite having lost his beloved wife Robyn to a random shootout by a Black man robbing a store, Michael refuses to join his fellow white, privileged, ‘respectable’ socialites in stereotyping the people of colour. He prides himself over his unprejudiced outlook and toes the line as a law-abiding citizen of state.
The irony hits when his only son, Adam (Hunter Doohan), mistakenly kills Rocco Baxter (the youngest son of New Orleans’ crime warlord, Jimmy Baxter) in an unfortunate car accident.
Michael breaks down as he witnesses his frail, asthmatic son whimpering in fear, confessing to him about the inadvertent crime that he’s committed. Robyn’s death resurfaces in his mind and Michael realises he ought to save his son before it’s too late, a reflex which he could not exercise during his wife’s demise.
Hence begins Your Honor’s cat-and-mouse chase with Jimmy and Michael standing on opposite ends of the spectrum — one trying to unveil the events that took place on the morning of Rocco’s death, and the other building a defence to clear his son’s name from it. Showtime’s focus on the crime drama transcends the usual whodunnit. Moffat is also interested in unearthing the socio-economic dynamics at play.
A particular scene where a Black boy enters a “white” neighbourhood to carry out a shady job that, in fact, Michael had indirectly requested for, draws the suspicious attention of neighbours and passers-by. They frown and look at the boy, and despite his confident stride, he sheepishly pulls up his hoodie. But after a second thought, he firmly pulls the hood off and keeps walking. Small signifiers like this are strewn all over the episodes to throw light on a strong disparity between the white and coloured people in the US.
Subsequently, the show explores racism more definitively with Police brutality against the coloured as a predominant narrative thread. Cranston’s character acts as the perfect bridge between these two hemispheres. Michael stands as the moral conscience of the series even though his actions are the most sinful.
As father and son fall apart over their ideas of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, Cranston paints a compelling picture of a troubled family-man, desperately trying to save his kin, even though it means blurring the very lines he considered sacrosanct for all these years. He has no intentions of being a criminal, but his actions have grave repercussions and consequently bury him further in guilt and anxiety.
The fact that Moffat bases his series in New Orleans rather than America’s busier cities seems purposeful as it makes Michael’s job of hiding this event that much more difficult.
Your Honor leaves less to the imagination. James Friend’s wide angles and Marla McGuire’s incisive background scores aid in creating an intense sense of foreboding. Director Edward Berger takes on a slow pace to establish each scene, which works wonderfully in favour of an otherwise fast-paced genre.
Showtime’s drama holds up a mirror to present-day America, and draws focus to the heinous issues that have been shunted around for long.
Your Honor streams on Voot Select from 7 December and is scheduled to stream on Zee Café early next year.
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