Creator – Peter Moffat
Cast – Bryan Cranston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Hope Davis, Hunter Doohan, Carmen Ejogo
His Highness reaches its peak in the first episode. More precisely, it culminates in the first act of the first episode. That’s worrying, as the 10-hour Show Time miniseries – touted as Bryan Cranston’s great return to TV – spend the rest of the time struggling to reach those early heights.
It’s a little odd that Cranston chose this as his TV comeback vehicle, after Breaking Bad ended its historic journey seven years ago. They are very similar – not only thematically, but also stylistically. This gives the impression that Cranston didn’t go back to his roots so much as he was adjusting to what audiences expected of him. His stint as a film star earned him a lot of praise (and Oscar nominations), but most importantly, minor box office success as a leading man.
Watch the Your Honor trailer here
In Your Honor, he plays the well-liked New Orleans judge named Michael Desiato, who is still recovering from his wife’s recent death, and is studying to be a single parent to his teenage son, Adam. Michael is a court drama queen – in the early scenes, we see her releasing a black woman accused of drug-inducing by first commenting on the effect of her incarceration on her young children, and then by punching holes in the testimony of the officers who arrested her. . The bottom line has been made: Michael Desiato is a Good Man, willing to do the Right Thing.
But his morals were severely compromised when Adam, while driving anxiously, was involved in a hit-and-run. When he came clean to his father, Michael’s initial reaction was to take him to the police and tell the truth. However, he backed away from this plan at the last minute when he learned that the young man who died in the accident was none other than the son of a local crime lord.
This is when the show starts to get off the rails a bit, and almost resembles a Hollywood version of Drishyam, or maybe the terrible Breathe: Into the Shadows. How far will you protect your child? That is the question these stories are asking.
After the crash sequence – filmed with extraordinary patience and skill by director Edward Berger – the show becomes too tangled up in its own plot intrigue, thereby committing the most serious crime possible: setting ethical dilemmas aside for the sake of surprise and admiration.
The reason Breaking Bad works – or, at least one of the reasons it works – and things like His Majesty and Drishyam and Breathe don’t, is because Breaking Bad completely embraces Walter White’s lineage into madness. There is no doubt about the fact that he is, most likely, a psychopath. But His Holiness – and Drishyam, and Breathe – insist that their protagonists are Good People, willing to do the Right Thing.
Cranston’s appearance was indifferent – he played Michael more of a man struggling through situations than the clinical characters that Ajay Devgn, Mohanlal and Abhishek Bachchan play in those other stories. He is surrounded by a strong cast, including Isiah Witlock Jr, who plays Michael’s childhood friend Charlie running for the Senate; Amy Landecker as the overzealous detective, who may or may not suspect; and the incredible Michael Stuhlbarg, who played the gangster who mourns Jimmy Baxter with the threat he deserves.
Read also: Breathe Into the Shadows Review: Incompetent and illogical, Amazon’s weirdest show makes Abhishek Bachchan, Amit Sadh fall
But these characters are just pawns – obscure and thinly written by creator Peter Moffat. More often than not, they make completely unbelievable decisions, only to advance the plot or to deliver changes in time. Perhaps the show will find its footing over time, and expand on the socio-cultural commentary it is trying to incorporate into the story – only the first four episodes are provided for this review – but the foundations it has set are shaky, at best.
The event will be broadcast on Voot Select in India, and will also be broadcast at the Zee Café. But in the meantime, you might want to take a look at Defending Jacob, the underappreciated miniseries Apple TV + starring Chris Evans, which addresses similar ideas in a more believable way.