“There's nothing he cares about that's left in the world,” says new showrunner Joey Hartstone of Cranston’s devastated judge.

Your Honor

Principled New Orleans judge Michael Desiato (Bryan Cranston) spent the entire first season of Your Honor contorting and perverting the law. It was all in the name of protecting his son, Adam (Hunter Doohan), who had killed the son of mob boss Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg) in a hit-and-run accident. And then in the legal thriller's finale, when Adam was accidentally shot to death, viewers were left in shock — and to wonder: Now what? "We had a man fighting for the most important thing in his life," new showrunner Joey Hartstone tells EW. "And now, in season 2, he's in a very different place. Even motivating him to do anything becomes a challenge, because there's nothing he cares about that's left in the world."

Viewers can see that in these first-look photos of the new season (premiering Dec. 11), one of which features Cranston's Michael sporting a rather impressive and ragged grief beard, which the actor himself suggested. (Think Walt at the end of Breaking Bad, but next level.) "It's a real beard and for continuity's purpose, it becomes a challenge for production, but a challenge that we embrace," quips Hartstone. "I hope people at least appreciate that it's all real hair and it's not being pasted on and off. I was watching some clip from season 1 the other day, and man, he just looks so different. I think it's great because [Cranston] is very… I don't want to say minimalist, but he's often trying to not do too much in a scene and it helps convey where his character is without a lot else having to be said. The absence of self-care feels very authentic to a guy who is where he is at this point."

Your Honor
Credit: Andrew Cooper/SHOWTIME

Of course, it's quite a challenge to make compelling TV about a man shrouded in gloom and rendered inactive. So, (lack of) grooming aside, what intrigue will unspool around our reeling protagonist? "What were the lies that have yet to be revealed or yet to be uncovered? And what are the ramifications of those lies going to be?" Hartstone asks rhetorically. "There are new characters, but we hope we picked up everything that was unresolved, and we're going to dive into it and get kinda messy with that stuff."

That includes an intensifying struggle for power on the streets between the Desire gang, led by Big Mo (Andrene Ward-Hammond), and the Baxter crime family, headed by Jimmy. Much to Michael's horror, Jimmy had just taken Adam under his wing in an act of you-took-my-son-so-I'll-take-yours revenge. But Eugene (Benjamin Flores, Jr.) — who was on his own revenge mission — marched into the Baxter hotel and fired a bullet at Jimmy that took down Adam instead. "Adam's death just ripples through so many of the characters," hints Hartstone.

Jimmy also has his hands full with his own family — especially his equally formidable wife, Gina (Hope Davis), who isn't happy with how her husband has been ruling the town. Here, you can see them in an intense moment with right-hand man Frankie (Tony Curran). "There's something to the way that they're standing," says Hartstone. "They're together right now. And I would say we're going to slowly force them apart. They're standing next to each other with nothing dividing them, and the story that we're going to tell in large part is to separate them and see how they function independently of one another and if they ever make their way back."

Your Honor
Credit: Andrew Cooper/SHOWTIME

You also can speculate about the tension in this photo of Jimmy with Charlie (Isiah Whitlock Jr), the much beloved, super connected mayoral hopeful who happens to be Michael's best friend. (And who now knows about the deadly mess that Michael created in the wake of Adam's accident.) "What I love about that image is there's no dialogue in that scene between them," observes Hartstone. "They do so much with one look…. I don't know if they've ever really interacted, but you get the sense that they know exactly who the other person is. There's no false pretense there. They see through each other and they know exactly what the other one wants."

Your Honor
Credit: Skip Bolen/SHOWTIME

Complicating matters is the arrival of one of those aforementioned new characters. And her wants are very clear. Grudge-wielding federal prosecutor Olivia Delmont — played by Rosie Perez — will work an unwilling asset in an attempt to bring down Jimmy and clean up New Orleans. She might lighten the mood as well. "It's a very dark show in some ways," says Hartstone. "One of the reasons we wanted this new character — and we were so thrilled that Rosie wanted to play [her] — is that we wanted someone who brought none of the trauma from season 1 and could bring some comedy, some levity, and also a new tone and attitude to the scenes she was in."

Will this second season — which sounds both darker and Rosie-r — also serve as the final one? In July, Cranston referred to season 2 of the limited series as its "last." Showtime has subsequently made no public ruling on Your Honor's status, but Hartstone is keeping hope alive. "I'm treating it the same way as season 1, where [season 1 showrunner] Peter [Moffat]'s direction was just like, 'Let's tell the best season that we can and hope that if everyone loves it enough that maybe there's good things after that,'" he says. "We're trying to tell a complete season of television and not really worry about what may or may not come."

Whatever the future holds, looks like things will only be getting hairier for Michael.

Make sure to check out EW's Fall TV Preview cover story — as well as all of our 2022 Fall TV Preview content, releasing over 22 days through Sept. 29.

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