In season one of the hit Showtime drama Your Honor we watched the unraveling of Bryan Cranston’s Michael Desiato, a dedicated, widower father and respected New Orleans judge – who would do anything to protect his son. Spoilers ahead! While fighting systemic injustices in his day job, Michael must descend into the dark underbelly of New Orleans crime…after his son Adam is involved in a fatal hit and run – one that sets off a chain reaction, impacting the lives of every character in the show. As it happens, the person Adam killed is not just any young man.
“The boy you hit this morning is Jimmy Baxter’s son. Jimmy Baxter is the head of the most vicious crime family in the history of the city. “
- Your Honor, Season 1, Episode 1
And so our previously upstanding judge is forced to mix himself with corrupted officials and criminals – becoming one himself.
In a season full of twists and turns – heavily underlined by secrecy, revenge, familial duty and gray ethics – we’re brought to the precipice when tragedy strikes the Desiato family once again…the fallout from this undoubtedly causing another ripple effect of consequences. And we won’t have to wait much longer to find out where all the pieces fall. Streaming Friday, January 13th, on Showtime NOW, we’ll see what has become of Cranston’s antihero. Is Michael destined to perpetuate a cycle of revenge? Or can he restore his integrity and learn to live the life of distinction he once held?
Here’s our take on the first season of Your Honor, how one man’s actions can cause a chain reaction of anguish – and how that cycle is set to continue in season two.
We begin Your Honor with what the entire first season meditates on – a man running in the gray. Judge Michael Desiato sprints through the streets of New Orleans towards his wife’s grave on the anniversary of her murder.
We’re shown a good and honorable man who is dedicated to upholding justice. He even travels to a defendant’s home to disprove a lying police officer’s testimony. But on that very same day, his morals are tested when his son – the only direct family he has left after the death of his wife – makes a choice that leaves them both in a deadly predicament. Michael is initially stunned by Adam’s confession to the hit and run but we see a first glimpse of how this upstanding judge might abuse his privilege – as his decades-long legal career gives him and Adam a jump-start on damage control. Before his son can even finish telling him what happened, Michael begins coaching him on how to tell the story of the accident. They arrive at the local police station, primed to do the right thing and turn Adam in – that is until Michael realizes whose son was killed. Michael knows that the infamous New Orleans crime boss, Jimmy Baxter, will stop at nothing to avenge the death of his son. Confessing to what he had done would be a death sentence for Adam – which changes everything. And so the downward spiral domino effect begins.
Michael’s character deteriorates throughout season 1 from an honorable judge to a manipulative criminal mastermind. He intentionally and tactically uses his legal acumen, white privilege, and government connections to orchestrate the absolution of his son. One of the first favors he calls in is from his best friend, Charlie Figaro, a well-connected mayoral candidate. Charlie, mistaking Michael’s request as a form of grieving his dead wife, obliges. Michael chooses to let Charlie remain uninformed of his true motives, despite understanding the consequences for anyone involved in the cover-up of Rocco Baxter’s death. Michael’s decision to try and disappear the car ends up implicating another innocent and uninvolved Black person – Kofi Jones. And the injustices of our justice system can be easily examined in a side-by-side comparison of what happens to Adam Baxter and Kofi Jones once the police are in their proximity.
Kofi is coincidentally the eldest son of the low-income, Black mother, Female, who Michael sought to protect from corrupt police in the season’s first episode. Knowing her son isn’t a hardened criminal but is affiliated with the gang “the Desire Crew” for survival, Female begs Michael to help save her son to no avail. In Michael’s callous response, we see his darker side emerging – undermining his very own work. This exchange also shows the unfair weight of personal connections – or lack thereof – in our justice system and how they can literally be life or death.
Out of guilt – and perhaps in an effort to reclaim his once more honorable sense of self – Michael calls in another favor, this time from his protege and love interest, Lee Delamar. He asks her to represent Kofi in hopes of reducing his sentence and keeping him safe. Ultimately, Kofi remains in the crosshairs of Michael and Adam’s choice to cover up the hit-and-run and is murdered in jail by Jimmy Baxter’s eldest son, Carlo. And, in an act of further, mind blowing retaliation, the Baxter’s matriarch, Gina, pushes her husband, Jimmy, to blow up the house of Kofi’s family while she believes they’re all inside. This leaves Eugene, Female’s second oldest son, an orphan who has to bury his entire family. Only after Kofi’s death and his family’s execution does Jimmy Baxter learn that he and his son have killed the wrong people.
The Baxters and Desiatos become more and more entangled as Jimmy works tirelessly to figure out who actually is responsible for the death of his son – narrowing in on Michael. Complicating matters even further, Adam Desiato and Fia Baxter — Jimmy’s only daughter — begin a romantic relationship. And Lee, Kofi’s lawyer, toes closer to the truth as she seeks justice for his murder, working with the Jones family’s sole survivor, Eugene. But Carlo Baxter evades the consequences of murdering Kofi, being found not guilty when Michael, once again, abuses the power of his judicial position by manipulating the case’s evidence and the jury pool. Michael is forced to confront an awful truth: he and Jimmy Baxter aren’t so different after all – they’ll both do anything to protect their families.
“I don’t want to lie anymore. But he is my son.”
- Your Honor, Season 1, Episode 9
Alert: to viewers who have not seen the season finale of Your Honor, massive spoilers are ahead! With his compromised moral compass, Michael has betrayed everything he’s lived to uphold and all the people who’ve trusted him most in exchange for what he believes will ensure his son’s protection. But he fails to save Adam – an ending that was alluded to in an earlier episode. The cycle of revenge that was kicked off by Rocco’s death and solidified by Kofi’s – ends Adam’s life in the final moments of season one. As Eugene seeks retribution for his brother’s life against the Baxters, he points his gun at Carlo, shoots and misses – killing Adam instead. Adam dies in Michael’s arms, gurgling blood – hauntingly similar to Rocco’s final moments. And we hear the same Mozart song that played at the end of episode 1 as the father-son pair watched The Shawshank Redemption together – a movie underscored by wrongful imprisonment, but ultimately freedom – something it seems no family in Your Honor will ever really get.
We’re forced to reckon with the weight of Michael’s actions: how he spun a web of lies that instead of freeing him, traps him within it – how everything he did to protect Adam did the very opposite – and how identical he and Jimmy are now. down to the loss of both of their sons.
Your Honor’s first season spun a tragic tale underscored by themes of mismanaged grief, misguided revenge, the failures of our justice system, the boundless privilege of white men in America, and family – specifically, the lengths we’ll go to protect them. Season 2 is primed to explore these themes further, led by a broken, grieving Michael, who is a shell of his former self.
We are reintroduced to Michael Desiato – as an emaciated, ill-kept, and bearded version of himself – a look that Bryan Cranston impressively achieved on his own. Without his wife and son, Michael has become completely unmoored. Although, it seems he will have a chance to unravel more of the mystery surrounding his wife’s untimely death and the infidelity that potentially led to it.
Despite the fact that Michael seems without reason to live – he’s offered one through the introduction of a federal prosecutor, Olivia Delgado, played by Rosie Perez. But whether or not Michael has the will to help Olivia bring down Jimmy Baxter remains to be seen. The case findings or the possibility of righting some of his wrongs may be enough to bring Michael back from the edge. But it seems there are some other ways Michael is seeking redemption and forgiveness for what he’s done. Including trying to absolve his friend, Charlie Figaro.
Meanwhile, in the Baxter’s world, Fia grieves the loss of Adam as Carlo is poised to step into Jimmy’s shoes and take his rightful place in the leadership of their crime family. The ever-grieving Gina, appears to be shying away from confronting her pain and leaning into the externalizing we’ve learned is integral to who she is
I want to stay in anger. Anger is where I flourish.
- Your Honor, Season 2
And war brews for the crime organization and the local Desire gang – where we find Kofi’s brother Eugene entangled. Eugene, who was last seen fleeing the scene of Adam’s murder (Carlo’s attempted murder) on foot, will have to deal with the repercussions of his failed revenge. Because Big Mo, the matriarch of the Desire crew, in all likelihood, won’t take kindly to Eugene going against her direct order to leave the Baxter’s to her and her “long game”.
After an electrifying first season wrought with tragedy, we’re excited to see Michael pick up the pieces and potentially get a redemption arc. We’ve learned from season 1 that withholding the truth, skirting the law, and dancing with the devil only leads to more destruction. While nothing can bring Adam back, if Michael can work with the feds to bring down The Baxter family, perhaps his character – the lawful judge we met in the very first episode – can be restored. According to Cranston, who is also an executive producer of Your Honor, “The first season [was] where the central character compromises his principles and loses himself … and the second season … is about redemption and where in our society, in the larger picture, and where in our story on a more micro-picture, does redemption fit — sorrow and forgiveness, is there a place for that in our world?”