The Night Of Review: Samson and Delilah

You understand that, but maybe I did kill that girl. That’s what you’re thinking. — Nasir Khan

This series has become two separate entities, and one of them is increasingly bothersome. It’s still a great show, but Naz’s descent into madness hasn’t just been unnatural, it’s been unfathomable. After the events of last week, Khan has taken everything up a notch. He’s now sporting knuckle ink on both hands, with three letters on each, reading “SIN” and “BAD,” respectively. Tattoos are questionable for people in orange (or blue) jumpsuits, or they are for those who still have a chance at freedom, even if one is a Jack London-inspired wolf. Knuckle decorations are straight up thug. He also smoked crack with Freddy, and even though he seems to realize who he’s in bed with, there’s not much he can do about it.

My issue with this side of the story hasn’t changed from last week, as The Night Of doesn’t have length that permits a metamorphosis such as we’ve seen from Nasir Khan. It’s too fast, and it’s totally TV, rather than enhancing the narrative or pushing the plot. He’s turning into a non-sympathetic character, and I have to think he’s going to make a dramatic switch in the final episodes of the story, so that if he’s convicted, we’ll still be angry about it. This new guy, whether he’s attempting to survive or not, is certainly not Andy Dufresne, and it’s much more difficult to pull for him.

The overall point is to show the horrors of incarceration, particularly as a minority (and especially as a Muslim), but it’s coming across more contrived than it should.

However, the second portion of the show is the exact opposite. It’s moving quickly, but not at a pace that doesn’t fit the frantic nature of an understaffed, non-experienced defense team trying to find out who actually committed the crime. The hearse finally made its reappearance, and that character was a little bit overdone. It was basically watching Candyman, who talked in a creepy voice and also threatened Chandra, although he did it in more of a subtle fashion.

The sequence was overly aggressive and jarring because of his presence, not necessarily because of his words. He mentioned the story of Samson and Delilah, indicating his feelings on women, and also explained his strange behavior at the gas station by saying Andrea was one of those girls that “think they’re God’s gift.” He wanted to call her out for the “destroyer she was.” All right. He’s sketchy. Got it.

So sketchy, in fact, that I promptly ruled him out. His existence on this show isn’t to be guilty, but to be a terrible human being. You might want it to be Mr. Day, but it’s not him.

Amara Karan sold the proper emotions as he spoke, and the setting almost came across as if she was trapped and in immediate danger, though it was more an aesthetic than a reality. She was very good throughout the episode, especially in the conversation with Naz where her client revealed the story of his life after September 11, 2001. “It was open season on anything that even looked Muslim,” and Chandra was able to understand it in a way Stone or very few others could have. It’s her that may actually bring him back from the nastiness that’s overtaken him at Rikers Island.

That said, the story of him nearly killing a fellow student in fifth grade, in the aftermath of the terror attacks in New York and Washington D.C., did give us a glimpse at the quiet rage Freddy spoke of last week.

Outside of the Candyman, we also found out what we suspected long ago, that Andrea’s stepfather is a real peace. Ray Haile tells Stone of Don Taylor’s propensity to attach himself to wealthy older women, using his job as a personal trainer to lure them into a web of deceit. He was 25 years younger than Andrea’s mother, had a history of restraining orders, and also had a history of not working one day longer than he had to once the hooks were in the unassuming, lonely widows, divorcees, or singles.

He could definitely have killed her, but I continue to believe all of those we’ve seen as actual suspects are innocent. They’re all dirtbags, but that doesn’t necessarily make them murderers. The ending of the episode was relatively telling, though. Don has found himself a new mark. He’s still attempting to get a minimum of five million dollars from the unfortunate circumstances of his last conquest. “Over my dead body,” was an affecting line, to say the least.

The problem for Naz is that there are many potential suspects, but there is yet to be any evidence whatsoever that would place them at the scene at the time of Andrea’s death. All the physical evidence, the DNA, the blood, the weapon, it’s all still pointing directly at Nasir Khan, and no one else. Even if there’s a way to link someone else, where’s the proof? Chandra is still struggling with being the lead in a trial of this stature, and Stone hasn’t played Sherlock Holmes very often. The deck is stacked, and even if Khan is a hell of a poker player, he may take a bad beat on the river.

He was behind on the flop, didn’t change his circumstances much at the turn, and we’ve only got two episodes left. I feel we should have seen less of Rikers and more of the courtroom. Maybe it’s because I’m more a fan of legal drama and less a fan of prison scenes. Also, we’re seeing an awful lot of it lately, including a tremendous fourth season of Orange is the New Black, and an obnoxious arc on Suits that is dangerously close to pushing that show off a cliff.

Prison stories are almost always the same, and after watching The Shawshank Redemption and OITNB, I’ve seen the Michael Jordan and LeBron James of that concept. There’s nothing new here, but as we said from the get go, The Night Of isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Its concern is execution, and there’s not much to complain about in that area.

It’s definitely more enticing to see Andrea Cornish’s case unfold, rather than spend all our time with Naz behind bars, and there’s so little time left to focus on the motives and evidence.

The cat was still around, but didn’t factor into the proceedings as deeply as the past two weeks, but the biggest development was a 399-dollar Asian concoction that might actually have cured John Stone’s eczema. The scene of him buying shoes he’s always wanted and slipping them on, and even Mr. Day referred to a cat, asking Andrea if she thought he was just a ball of yarn.

The opening statements showed a difference in strategy and expertise. Helen Weiss made Nasir Khan out to be a villain, and Chandra Kapoor kept it short and didn’t score any points. That may also be because she doesn’t have an alternate theory of the crime, which was one of the key concerns in Making a Murderer, as Buting and Strang weren’t allowed to point any fingers in other directions.

Here, we’re seeing Stone chasing after one suspect, watching another, and Chandra has interviewed a third. But, nothing ties them to the crime, so she can’t wade in those waters, because she doesn’t know if she’s going to step on a jellyfish. They’re investigating the crime as they’re defending Naz. It’s a tough position to be in, and that’s clearly by design.

Dennis Box checking Facebook and continuing to get to know Naz through secondary sources remains the best hope for the defendant. He’s the one guy who could actually uncover the truth, and if that’s the way The Night Of chooses to take its story, it will end up being a climax based on timing. I don’t expect the tired “race into the courtroom at the last second” scene, but the suspense may be in how quickly Box (or possibly Stone) figure out what actually happened on 144 West 87th Street.

Naz’s parents are working, but it’s a tough time for the family. Salim is doing delivery work, and his wife is serving as a janitor. The stress on those closest to Naz is another example of The Night Of’s commitment to audience misery. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s relentlessly compelling in its darkness.

Now that we have multiple “others” in the picture, who do you have your money on, or are you with me, where the real culprit, and thus the real story, hasn’t been found yet? Also curious for your thoughts on Naz’s changes, and whether you think the pacing works or if it feels rushed and artificial. We’re drawing nearer to the close of The Night Of, and these last two episodes are going to be heavy, and they’re probably going to be ugly.

I’m @GuyNamedJason on the tweets. Anybody got a white shirt? I heard that’s a good thing. I look like an effing criminal right now.

Written by Jason Martin