“Part One” forces Bryan Cranston into another morally-compromised position in Showtime’s enticing new crime drama, Your Honor.
This recap of Your Honor season 1, episode 1, “Part One”, contains spoilers.
For a lot of people, Bryan Cranston is virtually indistinguishable from Walter White, the character he played in Breaking Bad who, at least by the end, was virtually indistinguishable from his drug kingpin alter ego, Heisenberg. I mention that since his character in Showtime’s new series Your Honor is similar – okay, very similar – in some key respects. He’s a well-intentioned and upstanding citizen forced into drastic circumstances beyond his control. He has a son (though, thankfully for any Breaking Bad fans, no wife.) In “Part One”, the very good premiere, he makes a decision that crosses both legal and moral lines and will inevitably result in more lines having to be similarly bypassed along a slippery slope of compromise, desperation, and probably tragedy. You can see the resemblance, I’m sure.
But New Orleans judge Michael Desiato is also different from Walter White in many ways. Walter was deeply frustrated with the mundanity of his life and secretly longed for the kind of power that being a meth-dealing underworld figure afforded him, whereas Michael, at least in the scene that properly introduces him, is basically that Rhode Island judge who’s big on social media because he seems to let everyone off with a warning. And it isn’t Michael’s actions or predicament that sends him spiraling down a dark and dangerous path of excess, but those of his son, Adam (Hunter Doohan), who during an asthma attack is involved in a hit-and-run that kills a young man.
The smartest thing about Your Honor episode 1 is that it’s tight-lipped about Michael and Adam’s relationship, and the significance of Rocco, the guy Adam runs over, until much later on. For a while, we’re given snippets of each of their lives and left to wonder how they intersect, and what the significance of certain details are. Michael jogs through the neighborhood – we later learn he’s training for a marathon – and pays a brief visit to a property that we’ll see payoff in court, as he exposes a beat cop’s lies under oath. Adam lays a picture of his late mother at a convenience store and is chased off by some angry locals, who aren’t best pleased to see him. Rocco speeds around on a vintage motorcycle given to him as a gift by his wealthy parents.
There are lots of little details and questions in Your Honor – what happened to Adam’s mother? Who are Rocco’s parents? – that aren’t immediately addressed. We’re to understand that these are three figures from different backgrounds and in different predicaments whose lives become entangled when Adam, experiencing a bad asthma attack and reaching for his inhaler, runs Rocco over. The sequence that follows, of Adam trying to perform mouth-to-mouth when he doesn’t even have enough oxygen for himself, is a bit needlessly gory and desperate, like the show is trying slightly too hard to make a rather obvious point about how traumatic running someone down and killing them is. But it gives us a good sense of Adam. He’s scared and a bit hapless but fundamentally pretty good. He tries to help even at the expense of his own wellbeing, and it’s only after dragging himself back to his inhaler that he can concentrate for long enough to make a bad decision.
His bad decision isn’t even that bad of a decision, really – you can at least understand it. Yes, he flees, but he turns to his stand-up father for help, and his father pushes him to turn himself in. Yes, of course, Adam knows that dad is exceedingly well-connected in the justice system and will probably take the edge off any possible consequences, if not swerve them altogether, but I never got the sense that Adam was trying to get himself off the hook. He was doing what all young people do when they know they’ve messed up – begging for help from his parents. And the help Michael provided was an urging to be responsible and take ownership of what had happened. Until his advice became… something else.
That’s the big twist of “Part One” – Rocco’s father is Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg), the head of the local crime family. That means that Adam isn’t just facing legal reprisal, but gangland justice, and that isn’t something that Michael is willing to risk. So, he crosses that first line by destroying all the evidence and dumping the remainder over a bridge in the middle of the night. But that doesn’t tie up all the loose ends – not by a long way. There were potential witnesses to the crime in the first place, a loose bloody garment, and Adam’s inhaler that, at the end of the episode, is discovered by one of Baxter’s henchmen. On television, Baxter warns that whoever killed his son will be found. Is he right?
Thanks for reading our recap of Your Honor season 1, episode 1, “Part One”.