*Kinda one tiny spoiler ahead*
A man perpetrates moral and legal wrongdoings to protect his family – it’s a premise that could easily apply to both AMC’s Breaking Bad and Showtime’s Your Honour. Each series follows a good guy turned criminal, played by Bryan Cranston, whose web of lies and deceptions causes a wide-reaching avalanche of destruction and heartache for people around him.
The similarities between the two shows don’t stop there. The uncommon setting is a major feature in each series, with the endless desert and suburban humdrum of New Mexico mirroring Walter White’s double-life, whilst the swampy gloom and gothic trimmings of New Orleans echo Michael Desiato’s descent into darkness. The “everything I do, I do for my family” phrase underscores each morally dubious decision made by both White and Desiato as we watch on, shaking our heads knowing they’re about to dig themselves into a big fucking hole, while also pumping our fist that they’ve narrowly escaped death again.
The biggest same-same-but-slightly-different feature of the two shows, however, is each of Cranston’s characters’ ability to think their way out of trouble. Walter White does it on the reg, using his science “powers” to escape death, whereas Desiato’s special talent is a mixture of legal knowledge and emotional cunning (which is a pretty sucky superpower). Throughout this season of Your Honor we’ve seen him frequently emotionally manipulate other characters, buying himself and his son Adam (Hunter Doohan) a little more time, before Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg) takes them out.
This is amplified after episode seven when, like heat applied to a volumetric flask, things are reaching a boiling point for Desiato. Similarly to when Gustavo Frings was forced to keep White and Pinkman alive in order to keep his meth business running, Judge Desiato and Adam’s only lifeline at the moment is keeping Carlo Baxter (Jimi Stanton) out of prison. Once again our protagonist’s only way of protecting himself is to dig deeper and become further entrenched in the criminal world.
Even Cranston agrees that, on paper, the shows are kinda the same. “There are always going to be similarities because I am the actor who played him (White). As a result of my age, I am always going to be a parent. The more you work the harder it is to find distinction between characters,” he said. So, to borrow one of White’s phrases, we can put a pin in the idea that these two shows are drastically different.
The only question now is: so what? Is it so wrong to want to feel the way that Breaking Bad made us feel? To want to scratch that itch that El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story didn’t quite scratch (sorry Pinkman fans, but we gotta have more Walter)? I can’t think of any actors that can portray that man-under-pressure character quite like Cranston. I have no doubt that if you can turn off that voice in your head that keeps drawing parallels between the two, you’ll be tuning in every Sunday to squirm your way through each episode and sporadically yell at the TV (seriously, what is Adam doing dating Jimmy Baxter’s fucking daughter?!).
The whole good(ish) guy doing bad things has happened many times since we first met Walter White as well. Shows like Ozark, Sneaky Pete (which Cranston produces), and Perpetual Grace come to mind, but none of the leads in these shows quite pull it off like Bryan Cranston does, and you know it. So even if Your Honor does feel like Breaking Bad 2.0 at least you know you’re watching the crème de la crème do what he does best. BITCH.