Everything’s coming up Desiato!
Sort of. For 15 minutes or so, anyway.
After last week’s cliffhanger brought Kofi Jones to Carlo Baxter’s cell, it looked like the jig was up for the Desiato boys. Told that the Baxters had the juice to knock him off on the inside or the outside, Kofi decided that doing the time for someone else’s crime was not the best of his bad options. And so his only choice was to walk straight into the lion’s den and tell Carlo the truth about his role (or lack thereof) in the hit-and-run that killed Rocco. But the danger of walking into the lion’s den is that sometimes the lion eats you, which is what happens to poor Kofi.
While the book is far from closed on Kofi’s death at Carlo’s hands, this turn of events feels like a shocking cop-out, as if the writers of Your Honor had gotten themselves into a corner and couldn’t imagine any other scenario in which the Desiatos could still keep their ruse afloat. Had Kofi convinced Carlo of his innocence, that would likely mean the Baxters would turn their attention to the Volvo station wagon Kofi was asked to boost and the whole scheme would completely unravel. The Desiatos would be dead or in jail, Charlie’s political ambitions would be thwarted at a minimum, and the city of New Orleans would be scandalized for a minute or two.
It’s obvious that none of this could have happened, because the series would have ended abruptly a third of the way into its run. But it’s a significant disappointment for the cliffhanger that ended “Part Three” to get shrugged off immediately in “Part Four” with Kofi’s dead body zipped up and loaded into a van. The one semi-intriguing wrinkle is that Sheriff Ray Royce, who runs the prison, simply refuses to allow the incident to be understood as a murder. (“There are no homicides in my jail,” he insists.) So Carlo, who should have decades added onto his sentence, is now advised to quietly serve out the remainder of his time in Angola.
The abruptness of Kofi’s demise does open up an avenue on the city’s racial politics that the episode wisely exploits, however. From the first episode, when Michael presided over a case where his mother was dubiously accused of acting as a drug mule, Kofi’s family has stood in for the city’s abused Black underclass, subject to police harassment and racial injustice. Michael may have saved Kofi’s mother from a false charge, but now Kofi’s brutalized body has been shuffled away without it being classified as a crime and the episode ends with the Baxters, convinced that a gang targeted Rocco, blowing up his modest shotgun house in the Lower Ninth Ward. All for agreeing to “steal” a station wagon by picking up the keys and driving it to the junkyard.
For the Desiatos, though, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire. The juxtaposition of Kofi’s dead body getting wheeled out and the Volvo finally getting crushed into a cube takes care of two big threats to Michael and Adam, even if the former lays heavy on the conscience. (“Adam, bad stuff happens in jail,” explains Michael unhelpfully. “It just does.”) But the emergence of a new character, Elizabeth Guthrie, played by the wonderful Margo Martindale, pokes new holes in their story. Elizabeth is Adam’s aunt on his mother’s side, and she happens to be a senator, which gives her more-than-casual insight into the political machinations at work here. And now she arrives under fraught circumstances, having been summoned to Adam’s high school after he gets into a fight, which isn’t what anyone expects from such a self-effacing shutterbug.
The centerpiece of “Part Four” is a dinner scene at the Desiatos that’s like the thriller equivalent to the famed “stateroom sequence” in the Marx Brothers comedy A Night at the Opera, when an entire ship full of characters cram into a small cabin. Each person is like their own little bomb, ready to detonate, vulnerable to triggers from the others at the table. There’s hardly a plank in the Desiato story that can’t be taken away. So let’s all sit down in front of a heaping plate of cajun-style shrimp and go through them one by one:
• Elizabeth: From the moment she picks Adam up from school, she seems to sense that something fishy is going on. She knows that Michael and Adam did not leave any flowers or cards on her sister’s grave on the anniversary of her death and she catches them lying about it separately. This blows a major hole in Michael’s plan to establish the flowers and card as an alibi for the day of the hit-and-run. Elizabeth doesn’t understand why they would lie about something like that and she’s unwilling to let it go.
• Charlie: Charlie was the guy-behind-the-guy who arranged for the blue Volvo to get stolen and crushed, only to have Kofi’s arrest reverberate back to him through some extremely shady channels. The only good news for the Desiatos is that he is actively engaged in the cover-up, which isn’t true of anyone else at the table.
• Lee: Lee is a lawyer whose excellence has become a problem for Michael, who convinced her to accept Kofi as a pro bono client out of guilt, but now faces the consequences of her doing her job much more thoroughly than a court-appointed public defender ever could. She’s not going to let Kofi’s death in prison pass without scrutiny and, beyond that, her romantic involvement with Michael is raising some eyebrows, especially from Elizabeth.
• Nancy: Nancy is going to catch the bastards that did this. She’s that kind of cop, as she made clear when Michael tried to credit the car thief with doing him a favor for taking the Volvo off his hands. She may be a family friend, too, but she would have no reservations about turning on the Desiatos if evidence surfaces against them. And at the dinner, evidence surfaces against them, as the dog alerts the room to the bloody garment it has tucked underneath a piece of furniture. Nancy notices the blood and she also gets a good look at the weird photographs Adam passes around
The dinner does not end in Michael and Adam getting removed from their house in cuffs, but that’s about the only positive outcome for them. All of their guests, who also happen to be their closest allies in the city, are left feeling that something is a little off about their behavior. And other than Charlie, all of them are probably going to pick away at certain incriminating questions after they leave. Expect many more of Bryan Cranston’s signature “wait, I can explain everything” moments to follow.
• Adam keeps doing everything possible to incriminate himself, including making an appearance at a candlelight vigil for Rocco, where he allows Rocco’s sister to stare at him for a small eternity. So that will certainly come up later.
• The coroner comes to the obvious conclusion that Kofi was beaten to death and quotes Voltaire: “To the living, we owe respect. To the dead, we owe only the truth.” Sheriff Royce’s response: “Well, Voltaire didn’t live in New Orleans.”
• That damned Mariano Rivera-signed baseball remains with Kofi’s little brother, who wasn’t in the house when it got blown up. Much like Rivera himself, the ball will likely come in later to close out the game.
• “This is New Orleans, Jimmy. Everything connects. Everybody connects. Graves are above ground so the dead can hear what’s being whispered about them.” This show could stand to dial back on this stuff a little.
• “His lying couldn’t be better-motivated.” Michael’s excuse to Elizabeth about why Adam lied about leaving a card and flowers at his mother’s grave is a neat summation of the show’s moral quandaries. The lies the Desiatos are telling continue to escalate, but they come from an understandable place. At what point does that cease to matter?