The Night Of Review: Subtle Beast

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This is the most open and shut case that I have had in a very long time. – Dennis Box

Last week, I told you The Night Of doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, it’s just flawless in execution. It’s basically the ultimate Fix-A-Flat. One of the aspects of production that separates the series, and it shows up repeatedly in last night’s episode, is the way natural sounds are employed in the mixes and edits. There’s a score to be found, but it’s secondary to effects that reveal the desolate and hopeless feel of a police precinct, a courtroom, or a trip in a paddy wagon. We think we know Naz is innocent, though to be fair, we didn’t see anything between the beginning of the sex and the kitchen wake-up, so in actuality, he could have murdered Andrea.

The show wants us to see Naz as a wrongfully accused 23-year-old young man in a world of trouble because of a series of mistakes, both before and after he discovered the body. We feel sorry for him and his family, so when the only noises we hear as he rots in a cell are the echoes of keys hitting a table or doors slamming or the occasional conversation, the effect is undeniable.

When we see the pathologist preparing to work on the body, we hear the pitter patter of the shower nozzle and the sound of him picking the saw up from the tray. When Hightower assaults the woman – assumably as she’s in drug withdrawal, but possibly because she’s legitimately sick – we hear each kick, but not any unnecessary music. Everything is on the ground level and nothing needs to be covered up, because glitz is the opposite of what Steven Zaillian and Richard Price want from the show.

Dennis Box is a great detective, something Jack Stone notes to Naz, in order to keep his client from speaking to the wily veteran. Everything points to Khan, and Box thinks this one will be a cakewalk, but even he recognizes something is missing from the story. Bill Camp is doing some outstanding work here, in particular as he tries to bring Naz’s guard down while Stone is downstairs and out of earshot. Camp has the ability to speak and move in a way that connotes both friend and foe. We know he’s in effect the villain in the story, because he’s the one trying to put the protagonist away for life, but it’s hard to despise him. Again, the evidence, though somewhat circumstantial, is overwhelming.

The eczema angle is interesting, and revolting. It’s hard to watch, which plays right into the series being uncomfortable. Stone isn’t a high-powered lawyer. He’s a divorced man, not incredibly wealthy, who deals with an ailment that keeps people at a distance, including the woman on the subway who can’t bear to sit next to him because of his feet. The characters of The Night Of are real, with scars and bruises. Nothing’s perfect here, but the skin condition was such a focus last night that perhaps it will fade now that we’ve seen it in action. Hopefully, that’s indeed the case, because it’s a bit distracting.

John Turturro has a tendency to be funny, even when he’s not trying to, because he’s loud and has an awkward way of speech. He wasn’t the original person cast for the role, but he’s extremely talented and the show was lucky to land him. Eczema removes the humor, but keeps the strange feel he’s adept at providing. In that way, it works well, because it allows him to use the weird without eliciting laughter. Still, it’s unsettling, even in a fictional landscape, and I feel for those afflicted with it.

Riz Ahmed’s face is what makes Naz sympathetic. He looks frightened and confused, and when we see him behind bars, head down, eyes wide open, not only do we hope he’s innocent, we want him to be free. His parents display no negative qualities whatsoever, instead they’re caring people who are concerned and behaving in a manner entirely consistent with what you’d expect from a loving mother and father in the worst situation imaginable. Their reaction to the court order isn’t violent and it isn’t even angry, it’s just sorrowful and accepting. When Stone tells them on the phone they’ll just have to buy another computer as the police confiscate both Naz and the family’s laptop, I couldn’t help but think that line was written because we know it would be a financial strain. They aren’t poor, but the disposable income to go out and purchase a laptop isn’t something readily available to many households.

“Subtle Beast” advanced Naz’s story, but Dennis Box was the featured player, as the episode title itself came from Khan’s description of the detective to his parents, who called him a nice man. He’s manipulative, but stays within the rules, even though he occasionally tiptoes across the border of appropriate and inappropriate. We have to remember, based on the evidence, he thinks he’s expediting a murder conviction following a heinous, horrific crime. This was a homicide after possible sexual assault, possibly even after a kidnapping.

It wasn’t a busy episode, as really only one thing of note happened, the arraignment and the trip to Rikers Island. So why was I so exhausted at the end of it? I wasn’t bored. I was emotionally spent. It was a riveting, slow burning hour that left no doubt that Jack Stone has his work cut out for him if he wants to win the biggest case of his career.

He doesn’t have experience in homicide trials, and everyone who knows him, including the judge that remanded Naz with no bail, was surprised to see him involved. He wasn’t offended; instead admitting it was a “right place, right time” thing that worked in his favor. Turturro wouldn’t be right to be the guy in the $5,000 suit, playing the shark, but the trench coat defense attorney with the open-toed sandals trying to stay afloat? That’s John Turturro.

Six more episodes remain, and I’m waiting for us to get to know Andrea a bit better. We met her stepfather last night, and found out through his conversation with Box that her mother died of cancer and her father passed away as well. She lived in her mother’s house, with no supervision, and had been in trouble for drugs in the past. Usually, pharmaceuticals from the streets aren’t accompanied by the classiest of folks. Eventually, for Stone to gain ground, he has to create an alternate version of the crime and put a face to a new perpetrator.

Now that Naz has been charged with a list of crimes that stunned the rest of his “colleagues” in the courtroom, it’s time to get to the trial. We know what Box and his crew have, and we know Helen and the district attorney’s office feels pretty confident with what they have. Because of the limited episode count, it’s time to start unraveling Andrea’s life and figuring out who actually wanted her dead, which wouldn’t include the timid boy who couldn’t believe she wanted to sleep with him.

HBO has to be thrilled to finally have The Night Of on air, especially against light competition on summer Sunday evenings. It’s a fantastic series and is definitely one of the few things keeping us tethered to anything resembling standard television right now. I usually don’t ask questions I want specific answers to on Twitter, but I’ll ask this one…

Who killed Andrea? Does anyone want to jump out on the ledge and posit a theory THIS far in advance, even though we likely haven’t even laid eyes on the murderer? Or, was it Naz? Remember, he’s isn’t even a drinker, so who knows what the drugs could have done to him. It’s just something to keep in mind.

I’m @GuyNamedJason on Twitter. I’m also doing my school report on Jamie Foxx, but not because Denzel was taken.

Written by Jason Martin