Bryan Cranston’s face tells much of the story in his new series, “Your Honor.”
A judge in New Orleans, his Michael Desiato worries about the victims in his courtroom, the friends from his childhood and, most important, the son he’s trying to raise alone.
When he discovers Adam (Hunter Doohan) has killed another teen in a hit-and-run accident, his first inclination is to go to authorities and confess.
And then? He sees the dead boy’s parents and realizes they’re part of a powerful mob family. Quickly, he spirits his son away and begins to fill him with alibis.
Written by Peter Moffat, the 10-part Showtime series puts Cranston’s Desiato – and us – in that “what would we do?” situation repeatedly. He knows what future his son faces and he’s going to do everything he can to protect him.
In that first episode, we get a good look at the two boys. One is struggling to find his way after the death of his mother; the other is the envy of his rich father. After paying tribute to his late mother, Adam finds himself being followed by someone in an imposing vehicle. His asthma flares up, he reaches for an inhaler and hits the other boy, who is riding a vintage motorcycle. Realizing what he has done, Adam reaches out and tries to help but it’s not enough.
Director Edward Berger squeezes every bit of tension out of the situation.
Meanwhile, Adam’s dad is in court, trying to get at the heart of what he thinks is flawed testimony. In time, he discovers his son’s crime and begins plotting his own strategy.
Over the course of the series, Moffat unravels the tangled world of New Orleans justice. He leans into the power of a crime syndicate and shows the dead boy’s parents (Hope Davis and Michael Stuhlbarg) are as driven as the judge.
While “Your Honor” spins into a handful of worlds as it tries to get to the bottom of the crime, it never loses when it stays focused on Cranston and Doohan. The two complement each other almost as well as Cranston and Aaron Paul in “Breaking Bad.”
Based on the Israeli series “Kvodo,” “Your Honor” might have been more efficient as a two-hour film. Like “Defending Jacob,” it sprawls more than it should.
Still, it’s never wrong to focus on Cranston and the wheels that turn when he’s in a situation that’s hard to defend.
Pulling in folks from his past, he shows just how much hurt can stack up, all in the name of defense.
Doohan is a fascinating young actor who expresses the emotions Cranston bottles. He has an interesting relationship, too, that is more than it seems in the opening episode. Sharing information – a real enemy of secrets – becomes the crack in his credibility.