Michael Desiato tanked his career and his reputation to save his son. His efforts are the foundational element of Your Honor, which means that this is a series about family and the allegiances people within different families have to one another. That motivates the Baxters, who want revenge for their son’s hit-and-run death. That motivates Eugene, who lost his mother and siblings in separate killings. And it explains a lot of the interactions that happen in “Part Fifteen,” which isn’t about revenge per se but tries to explore the various family obligations that bind its characters together — usually in violence, sometimes in mercy.
For a drug dealer of Big Mo’s stature, mercy doesn’t come easy. After all, she has to deal with hostile and deadly parties on two fronts: the Baxters, who are jostling with her for influence over the new mayor and control of the city more broadly, and the cartel backing the supplier who’s extremely unhappy that she reneged on a massive cash deal. It turns out these hostilities are related in that Big Mo needed the cash set aside for the deal to beat back an offer from the Baxters on the French Quarter nightclub she intends to own. But, in both cases, her instincts tell her to project strength, either by standing up to a threat or unleashing violence to show she means business.
Her girlfriend, a nightclub singer, doesn’t feel great about walking out to see Little Mo zip-tied to a rail, presumably with urine-soaked pants since his keepers won’t even let him use the bathroom. It makes her think less of Big Mo — not because she’s naïve to her line of work or even because she’s witnessed this grim torture scene. What’s really upsetting is that Little Mo is Big Mo’s nephew, and how can she stay involved with someone who treats family members so shabbily? (Of course, if the girlfriend knew the context, she might also ask why Little Mo is taking the fall for a deal his aunt blew up.) Her words are enough to shame Big Mo into cutting him loose rather than cutting his throat, but not before he’s beaten within an inch of his life and tossed out of a van. His exile seems unlikely to last, however. This is what Mike in Breaking Bad would call “a half-measure.”
Family drama has been raging among the Baxters for a while now with Jimmy and Gina at odds and Fia taking up residence at the hotel away from the unsavory business she’d rather deny than confront. The reemergence of Gina’s father, Carmine Conti, a gangster of greater repute than even Jimmy, has the potential to make things worse for the Baxters because it’s less clear who’s in charge. As Carmine says over dinner, “The Baxter business was built on the Conti name,” and there’s a sense that Gina has called on her father to leverage control of that business over her husband, whom she sees as weak and ineffectual at a moment when the Baxters need to show strength. The new mayor, Charlie Figaro, seems empowered to walk away from the city’s commitment to give the Baxters control of the waterfront property Big Mo has established a beachhead in the French Quarter, and Jimmy still hasn’t done anything to get justice for their dead son Rocco. She wants blood. He wants patience.
“There are things we must do for ourselves, and there are things we must do for our family,” says Jimmy at a contentious dinner with both kids and Carmine at the table. Gina and Fia have had another blowup about Fia balking on having her baby baptized, and she’s enraged at Jimmy for his impromptu offer to make Charlie the child’s godfather. The bitterness between Gina and Fia over the baptism gets amusingly spicy with Gina sniping that the child has been condemned for all eternity and Fia responding, “Save us a seat when you get there.” But maybe this is just a hot-blooded family in general because it doesn’t take long for Jimmy to withdraw his choice for godfather or for Fia to offer her brother, Carlo, for the role. As for the battle of wills between Jimmy and Gina, it’s Carmine who acts as a surprising peacemaker, comparing the dynamic between them to the hidden contentiousness of his own marriage, in which his wife was a lot like Jimmy.
As I’ve written in a previous recap, Hope Davis has made an absolute meal out of playing Gina this season, stepping up to a larger role now that Your Honor has evolved from a show built around Bryan Cranston’s compromised judge to more of an ensemble New Orleans crime series. It’s an absolutely ludicrous part with Gina displaying zero awareness of how her fierce religiosity might clash with her insatiable bloodlust. (No Catholic has ever suffered less from guilt.) Gina doesn’t trust that Jimmy has a game plan until it actually comes to fruition, like the way he executes various behind-the-scenes power plays to win back his stake in the waterfront.
Or so it seems. In the strongest scene in the episode, Jimmy and Charlie map out an arrangement to give Jimmy what he wants but with some important concessions to the mayor’s agenda, like union labor, a 35 percent allotment to Black-owned businesses, and social institutions like a school, a library, and low-income housing. On top of that, Jimmy will be leasing the property from the city, bringing the Baxters into a real partnership with the mayor’s office. That’s some savvy politicking on Charlie’s part, especially given Michael’s warning that the Baxters have dark intentions for him if he doesn’t make a deal. When it’s revealed later in the scene that Charlie is working with Olivia, presumably because she has a recording that can end his career and send him to jail, the toughness of his negotiations acts as an excellent cover. If Charlie had simply given him the property with no strings attached, Jimmy might have smelled a rat. Now Jimmy leaves thinking he’s just a savvy closer.
It remains to be seen, of course, how those family ties might fray under pressure. Big Mo might regret letting her nephew live. Fia might stop denying what her family does for a living or notice that her brother is a vile sociopath. Michael has no more family left to lose. Others may join him soon.
• Why in the world is Big Mo looking at Eugene askance? He completely saved her hash by returning that giant bag of money to her even though he wasn’t supposed to come back to New Orleans. She remains oddly unwilling to hold herself to account for how that drug deal went bad.
• Gina dismissing the kitchen staff and rustling up birthday cannolis herself is pure camp delight. The transition from her telling Jimmy, “Now eat your fucking cannoli!” to the opening credits rolling (“Showtime Presents”) is irresistible fun but perhaps also a sign that Your Honor has lost much of its seriousness in its second season.
• Carlo’s odd fantasy about death by popsicle makes it clear enough, if it wasn’t already, that he may not be leadership material for the family.
• Michael’s only real friendship appears to be over — or at least severely strained. He surely knows that telling Charlie about what the Feds have on him will break the trust between them, but he also realizes Charlie would be in deeper trouble if he doesn’t confess. He’s a good, loyal friend for ruining that relationship.
• Nice little cliffhanger at the end about Nancy’s discovering new revelations about the murder of Michael’s late wife. Does the good judge have a more unsavory past than anyone realized? Stay tuned …