'Your Honor' Season 2 Review: A Minor But Still Worthy Follow-Up

Grief, corruption, and power are all at the heart of season two.

Back in 2019, we saw Bryan Cranston getting entangled in a twisted web of lies where it seemed the only way out was death. Your Honor season 1 follows Judge Michael Desiato (Cranston) as he does his best to cover up his son's hit-and-run. Not an easy task for any parent, let alone one whose victim is the son of New Orleans' most notorious crime family boss, Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg). Michael's deceit and cover-ups lead to the wrongful conviction of local gang member Kofi Jones (Lamar Johnson). Coffey's family was killed in a bombing by the Baxter family, and except for one member, he himself was beaten to death in prison by Jimmy Baxter's eldest son, Carlo (Jimmy Stanton). This leads Michael to fix Carlo's trial in order to stop the Baxters. Oh, and Michael's son Adam (Wednesday's Hunter Doohan) and Jimmy's daughter Fia (Lily Kay) get together. Did you get all of these?

Michael's ordeal never seems to end, nor does the web of lies open until the very end, when Eugene (Benjamin Flores, Jr.) - the only surviving member Kofi's family - Aims to shoot Carlo and eventually get Adam, kill him. Season 1 was filled with so much drama, death, and pain that you wouldn't be wrong to think that season 1 should end the story there, even if it was a rather tragic and loose ending. No one seemed to be looking for Season 2, but we found it anyway. Five episodes later, it's clear that a second season is not only necessary, but beneficial to the overall story.

The first episode of season 2 flashes back to the immediate aftermath of season 1's brutal finale, but the main action takes place a year after Adam's death. Michael is in jail, but not for the reasons you might think. He was frail, old, and suicidal. He starved to death, but was force-fed by guards. It seems all hope is lost until District Attorney Olivia Del Monte (Rosie Perez) walks in. She proposes a deal with Michael to protect his best friend and New Orleans' new mayor, Charlie (Isiah Whitlock Jr.). She wants to use him to finally bring down the Baxters, so She orchestrated Michael's release.

Season 2 was by no means perfect, nor did it surpass its predecessor in any way. Representation is sometimes indeterminate. Characters do things or say things that in no way reflect the identities they've built just for further drama. Again, I can only comment on the first five episodes, but as far as I can tell, the pacing isn't as consistent as it was in season one. Season 1 did a great job of following a central plot and weaving various subplots into it. For season 2, it's hard to figure out which episode we should be most concerned about. Is it a breakdown in the stability of Lust, the local gang and arch-rival of the Baxters? Is it the dysfunctional Baxter family, especially Pia and her unexpected secret? Is it all the corruption that seeps into New Orleans from the top down?

Or was it Michael himself? He's been through so much trauma that he's just a ghost of the person he once was. The show tries to throw things at him to make his life count - but he catches nothing. No spoilers, he is Gives something worth fighting for, though it still doesn't ease his pain. All the stories and characters and drama just don't come together well. There are brief scenes and pointless encounters between some very good TV shows - but you spend half the time waiting for the real action to happen.

Without a doubt, the saving grace of this season is the cast. Michael Stuhlbarg again plays the gangster who threatens and intimidates. Scenes with Jimmy and his wife Gina (Hope Davis) elicit some of Sturba's best work as he develops his own character in season 1. Compared to the brash, belligerent Gina, you almost start to identify with Jimmy, but you never trust him - all because of Stuhlbarg's complex and dynamic performance. The women of this season were given more room to play, and they took that opportunity with a firm fist. Rosie Perez brings some much-needed energy to Cranston's pain with her smug smile as the confident and manipulative lawyer. Lilli Kay also has more to do, as Fia becomes a more fateful character, and her scene with Cranston is the most tender of the entire show, providing a A much-needed respite from the intensity of nail biting.

Andrene Ward-Hammond as the head of Desire, Big Mo, was promoted from recurring to regular this season, and the show got better for it. What Your Honor is good at is showing different types of power, and different types of people bowing to power. Influential judges, terrifying mob bosses—these are straight white men we've seen before. Ward-Hammon's Big Mo is charming and unsettling at the same time -- you can't take your eyes off her, but you're still terrified of seeing what she's doing. Ward-Hammond chews the scenery without raising his voice - proving subtly is only an effective tool for establishing power as all-out rage.

Your Honor effectively demonstrates the consequences of violence. We've grown accustomed to reveling in stories about powerful gangsters, glorifying them and the lives they lead. Whether it is the Baxter family in the ivory tower, or the Lust Gang on the lower nine floors, these characters cannot hide from money and power. Michael Desiato is a living example of the devastation that organized crime can wreak - and it's nearly impossible full stop. The show sometimes lags behind all these themes and dialogue it's trying to execute, but when it catches up, it's a disturbing but thought-provoking account of what happens when it feels like all trust and hope is gone. It's grim, slow, and not quite as exciting as the first season, but Your Honor season 2 paints a true picture of grief, corruption, and power struggles. ^Rating: B ^Your Glory Season 2 premieres on Showtime on January 15, with a streaming/on-demand premiere on January 13.

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