“I just don’t get what you get out of watching this” my wife said to me, several times over the past two months, while I watched Showtime’s Your Honor—the Bryan Cranston-led limited series about a series of increasingly terrible moral quandaries a New Orleans judge finds himself in after making a series of increasingly amoral decisions. “This show is painful.”
She was right, of course. Your Honor’s depictions of the intersections of race and class and how the privileged lead consequence-free lives at the expense of Black people were painful to witness. Shit, even my entry to it was excruciating. While flipping channels one night, I came across a scene where a Black teenager was being tortured by the police in a way reminiscent of what I’d read about the Chicago police torture house. But I endured because it possessed all the trappings of prestige television—the Emmy-award winning actors, the Dickensian theme of the stickiness of poverty, the self-conscious sobriety, the monologues, the long cuts when depicting brutal deaths, the Lady Macbeth-ass white women who say overwritten shit like “Graves are above ground so the dead can hear what’s being whispered about them”—and I trusted it to have a satisfying payoff. And also, I think, after years of consuming fares like The Wire and The Sopranos and The Walking Dead, I’ve been trained to believe that “a show that gives me anxiety” must automatically be a “good” show.
Your Honor, however, was not a good show. It wasn’t even a “not good” show like most shows are. It was a bad show. A shitty show. It had the potential to be an un-shitty show, but then the series finale happened, and that was so bad that it made the entire show retroactively bad, like if you finished a bowl of soup and found a dead roach in it.
This is not always the case with series that have terrible endings. I did not believe Game of Thrones was a waste of time just because they botched the landing. It’s hard to end things! Movies, shows, blogs, marriages, brunches—all hard! And because of this, I usually give creators grace if an ending feels rushed or untrue. Your Honor, however, was Black trauma bukkake with no real resolution or payoff. It was just 10 hours of Black torture, Black injustice, and Black death for nothing but a gang of red herrings, unanswered questions, and upper-middle class white angst. And then the literal ending, which was supposed to be some karmic retribution, seems to have been written by Van Jones.
I’m done thinking about this terrible fucking show so I’m done writing about it, too. Bye!