Updated: Dec 13, 2020
I’m always wary of judging pilots too harshly. The number of shows that began roughly but then evolved into something great is too many to count. Pilots have an important job. They need to establish many elements that make up a show like characters, conflict, tone, etc. It sets the precedent for the rest of the series. The best way to measure the success of a pilot is by measuring how many people watch the next episode. The new premiere of Showtime’s Your Honor’s success remains to be seen but I will be watching the next episode.
Your Honor spends a third of the first episode focusing on Adam Desiato, a teenager with asthma, who has a mission to place a family picture and some flowers on-site where his mother was killed as a tribute. The location is in a dangerous part of town and as Adam sets his tributes down at the location, local residents start to surround him, menacingly! Adam hurries back to his car and quickly drives away but is all of the sudden, out of gas! Flustered, he starts to have an asthma attack when… uh oh … he drops his inhaler and now he’s being followed! Not willing to slow down, he takes his eyes off the road to grab the inhaler.
We all know what that means in TV land. It’s the perfect convergence of coincidence that breeds calamity. Then, he crashes into a motorcycle and sends the rider flying. Adam gets out to check on the rider in which the rider is pretty banged up. It doesn’t look like he’ll make it. Adam agrees and after a couple of minutes of trying to call an ambulance, he decides instead to leave, cover his tracks, and head home like nothing happened (flashback to Hereditary).
It turns out Adam's father is Criminal Court Judge Desiato (Bryan Cranston) to whom he confesses everything. Judge Desiato does not hesitate to take his son to the police station, being the good man he is. But it also turns out that the motorcycle rider is the son of the cruelest mobster in the city. Thus sets the conflict of the series.
Your Honor starts off as an intriguing story and ends as an insipid crime drama that leans into many tropes. The beginning, while being the strongest part of the pilot, was also painful to get through. Not because the scene was gut-wrenching (although it was visceral) but because of the mind-numbing decisions made by Adam.
Some of these decisions felt contrived to get the plot where it needed to go. Too many times writers will make teenagers make dumb decisions to further the plot and contribute it to “teenagers do dumb stuff” or shock. There is some merit to these reasons but in Your Honor, but it feels forced.
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The plot is pretty slow-moving, especially after the first act. The pilot is 57 minutes long. Yet, we don’t learn much. Other than you know, the car crash, manslaughter, and cover-up. It's very focused on the Desiatos’ reaction to this tragic event. We barely understand the world they live in or the people that are in it. This is the main reason I will watch the 2nd episode skeptically.
Cast and Characters
The pilot was very focused on the Desiato’s in which Bryan Cranston and Hunter Doohan give strong performances. Ironically, Your Honor is similar to another show Bryan Cranston starred in, Breaking Bad. As Cranston gets more material that leans into the dark side, Cranston’s performance will continue to stand out. We didn’t see much of the supporting cast yet but we were introduced to the Baxter family or the antagonistic crime family.
With any mob, there are two different sides, the side they show to their family and the side they show to their enemies. Michael Stuhlbarg (Jimmy Baxter) and Hope Davis (Gina Baxter) give a convincing performance as a mob family but now we’ll get to see how they portray the side they show to their enemies.
Should you watch it?
Your Honor has strong performances, an interesting premise, and intriguing questions but the pilot leaves a lot to be desired. It felt forced at times and undermined what could be a compelling story with clichés. But like with any pilot, we have to wait to see if the miniseries will evolve into something exceptional or if it will degrade in quality.
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