The Night Of Review: A Dark Crate

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Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, and he’s Muslim? We’re on Nancy Grace every night. – District Attorney

An eight-part miniseries brings along with it advantages and challenges. And, you can see certain good things that also double as the opposite, for instance the time itself. Think of how many shows you’ve seen that have had too much time to fill, especially those on network television, where the order might be 24 episodes. You can be assured that there will be several during the year that won’t advance the story or might not even have anything to do with the main plot. Shorter seasons don’t have the opportunity to waste time, so while there’s less available real estate, there’s also far less time to be creative.

As a showrunner in a limited run, you have the same overall job to do, and virtually no time to waste.

Tonight’s installment of The Night Of still brought us no closer, whatsoever, to learning who else might have been involved in the death of Andrea Cornish on West 87th Street. Just as last week’s episode focused on Naz and on the unproven nature of John Stone’s professional life, this week did the same. Tonight, the story was purposed in a way that we didn’t see seven days ago, as again, we’re down to five episodes remaining and the method must be crisp and deliberate.

One thing I didn’t expect was the fight for Naz’ case, but when we saw Alison Crowe (Glenne Headly) speaking to the television cameras about a separate legal action, it had to mean something. It was explaining to us that this woman seeks publicity, and considering Nasir Khan’s background and religion, this was something she couldn’t pass up.

We were supposed to feel sorry for John, and I did, although watching him sit down with Salim and Safar Khan and immediately begin talking money with them was a little uncomfortable. It felt similar to the moment when a player gets called into the coach or general manager’s office in an episode of Hard Knocks. It’s how things are done, but it’s less than optimal and can be hard to watch. Not as hard to watch as Crisco and Saran Wrap on eczema, but difficult nonetheless.

John Stone is a “precinct crawler,” which is just as derogatory as it sounds, and he’s nearly out of his depth from the second he leaves the Khan house. Before he ever walked in the door, he had to talk himself up the steps, and the necktie was completely wrong on him. Crowe runs the big-time firm and is definitely the Patty Hewes, or perhaps the Gloria Allred of the story, though Allred never would have defended a man for the death of a woman. It might have harmed her brand.

Once Crowe sits down and convinces the Khan’s of her acumen and intentions, we know Stone has at least temporarily lost the case. Of course she doesn’t want a retainer, or even a fee, because her payment is in front page headlines, primetime appearances, and added name recognition. Because the family has but eight thousand dollars in the bank, free sounds awfully good to them. No question Alison is good at her job, but we know she doesn’t care at all about Naz, except how she can use him to enrich herself and her firm.

When John finds out what’s happened, but doesn’t get angry with Naz, still leaving his card for the young man, trying to think of advice to impart to him, that’s when it’s clear that while he’s trying to make a living, he’s the hero of the story. He even apologized to the cat for his allergies, and made sure the animal received food and water as he toured and documented Andrea’s home.

Here’s a question for you. Who survives longer (if we didn’t know it was an eight episode series where Naz is the key character), Naz or the cat in the kill shelter? Keep in mind kitty has ten days to possibly find a home, and John may well come back and take it, as it really bothered him to know he might have doomed the cat. For Naz, things aren’t good at Rikers Island, and they were trending downward long before inmates set fire to his bunk.

Michael Kenneth Williams is a truly great television actor, and his characters always seem to stay with us after the series is done. It was Omar on The Wire, it was Chalky on Boardwalk Empire, and especially after that final meeting in his cell with Naz, it’s going to be Freddy on The Night Of. When he speaks, there’s something about the voice that always makes me pay mind to the seriousness of the situation. When he tells Naz how dire his very survival is as long as he’s in lockup, you believe him. He has guards on his side (one in particular), others in the facility are afraid of him, and even the first inmate to give Naz advice says Khan has to accept protection if that’s what was offered.

His motives aren’t entirely clear, but what could he possibly get from Nasir Khan? There’s no money, no power, so I’m fascinated to see the relationship between the two grow over the next few episodes. But, The Night Of is less concerned with Naz’s life in prison as it is about the judicial system and the trial process, so that’s where we’ll be headed rather quickly. Call that a prediction, but it’s an easy one. There’s nowhere left to go.

We’ll see if Alison Crowe is in this ordeal for the long haul, and if she’s the one that brings alternative theories into the mix. It’s clear John Stone will be hanging around and he’s going to be the one, if anybody, who gets Nasir Khan out of jail. Chandra (Amara Karan) also joined us this week, and her parents’ origin was “good enough” for Crowe to want her at the Khan family meeting. Alison’s a villain, maybe the first real one we’ve seen.

We root against Dennis Box because he’s trying to put Nasir away, but he’s doing his job. He’s trying to make sure someone is punished for a young woman’s murder. Crowe wants fame, and is willing to crush John Stone or anybody else to get there. How exactly he gets the case back is another question that will make the next part of the story intriguing.

The final thing I’ve noticed about each episode, but especially this latest installment, is how callous the NYPD and those at Rikers Island are to the family, the attorney, and generally to everyone who needs any help or assistance from them. It’s not supposed to be vacation, but not wanting to answer questions from a scared mother and father, the lack of a smile or even any expression, I can only hope that’s being enhanced for dramatic purposes.

We’re pulling for Naz, but these guys and gals are straight up jerks. It may even be a little overdone, but that’s speculation from someone who has never so much as walked into a police station. Nasir’s mom being searched before visiting her son was invasive, to say the least, and it angered me. That was probably the point, even if it’s legitimately how those things are handled.

The case itself hasn’t been touched on all that much, but it’s about to take center-stage. Week one was the crime and the arrest, week two was the arraignment, and tonight we saw the toll being taken on Naz and his family, including the taxicab that might require a lawyer just to recover from the police.

Everyone in the world of The Night Of has some type of agenda, but the simplest is Naz and his family, who just want freedom. It’s possible guilt or innocence will end up meaningless as the story comes to an end in five weeks, but I hope for something different. As of now, however, it’s time to start pointing fingers at others, and that’s going to come during the preparation phase, which hopefully begins next week.

It continues to be a painfully stupendous drama, and a summer standout. Every second brings us nearer to either a resolution or a finish for which we may not be prepared. The trip to that point might be worse than Naz’s bus ride to Rikers, but television doesn’t get much better, even when it’s tough viewing.

I’m @GuyNamedJason on Twitter. I’d give you some last minute advice, but I can’t think of anything. You’ll be okay.

Written by Jason Martin