The Night Of Review: The Art of War

Naz, I’d kill to be 35 again. Take the deal. – John Stone

This week’s episode of The Night Of had a responsibility and a goal, one extending past a depiction of the incomprehensibly terrifying way of life at Rikers Island. There had to be some kind of advancement in the case itself, because there’s simply not enough time to continually put us through the misery behind bars. There was still plenty of that, but Zaillian and Price gave us much more of the legal maneuvering, but the main change was in John Stone actually investigating the crime, which came not a moment too soon.

Stone is going to end up defending Nasir, and because of the truncated episode count, we saw Alison Crowe explode on her client, who took Chandra’s advice and refused to take the deal that would have seen him plead guilty, serve 15 years for a charge of Manslaughter I, and be freed around his 35th birthday. After so much was made of Stone being a dealmaker who had no interest in going to trial, Crowe couldn’t wait to clear the case off her books. She bluntly told him, “We are way past, ‘I didn’t do it,’ Naz,” and the character did all she possibly could to give us a reason to sympathize with John Stone, taking the low “professional counsel” shot at the bail hearing.

As for Stone, he got a working girl off, and then asked for her to get him off, and unfortunately for us, that meant a disgusting sex scene between Mr. Eczema and Ms. Lady of the Night. He got what he was after, and she was happy to do it, but she wasn’t happy WHILE she did it, as her ambivalence was evident on her face while he was on the road to climax. Outside of the intercourse, John witnessed an argument at Andrea’s funeral between her stepfather and a young man we haven’t been formally introduced to as of yet.

Detective Box spots the precinct crawler and comes over to him, and Dennis knows John has been removed from the case. Stone puts Box on the spot though, as he tells him he can see in his eyes a reticence to believe Nasir Khan is guilty. Box does his best poker face, but the more I see from him, the more I think Box might end up a defense witness. Also, I’ve mentioned it before, but Bill Camp has been terrific throughout the series, which puts him near the top of a long list of stellar acting work on this show.

It seems unlikely the stepfather will end up being the guy, if only because he’s the first person other than Andrea that a character on the show has looked at with a sideways eye. He’s definitely sketchy, but that feels too cut and dry. Considering the kind of things the victim was involved in, from drugs to a continuous, reckless, unsupervised lifestyle, it would be almost too simple for it to be the dirtbag pseudo-daddy. It wouldn’t surprise me, but it wouldn’t be where I’d put my own money.

Naz had another rough week, as even though Freddy has offered his assistance and also portions of his library, Naz doesn’t utter the necessary phrase until the end of the episode. Jack London and Sidney Sheldon, a post-it that read “TAKE THE DEAL,” and a pretty uncomfortable sparring session all played their roles, but it was the homemade napalm treatment from his neighboring inmate that finally gets the job done. Within the episode, Nasir had to make the most important decision of his young life, deal with getting cut with a blade, and then try not to watch the flesh sear off his arm from the baby oil and hot water.

It was not a fun time, for either Naz or his family. The story from the cellmate was just brutal, and the attack later was not at all unexpected. Adding in the Freddy protection portion, it was the final way to get Naz to give in and admit how much trouble he was in while inside Rikers.

Freddy is supremely compelling, and no one can play this type of guy quite like Michael K. Williams, who excels in bringing home the realism of that kind of life. With each new character he portrays on television, I wonder when a smart showrunner will actually craft a show around him as the lead, because that’s the one opportunity he hasn’t had, and deserves.

Freddy’s motivations are still interesting and unclear, because his help doesn’t tend to make all that much sense. Why does he care about Nasir Khan? Could Freddie be the orchestrator of all the things happening to Naz in the joint? What better way could there be to get someone under your thumb than to create a sense of insecurity and a climate of terror? In the interim, he has been useful, even down to wardrobe choices.

I’m not saying Freddy has nefarious motives, but I haven’t figured out what his reward is here, and looking at how many people are afraid of him, there stands to reason that something is up. It could be innocent, but this is a really dark story and it would be inconsistent with the tone of the series. Regardless, the second Khan drops the, “I need your help,” line, Freddy owns him. He tries to explain why Naz is important to him, but I’m not buying the “care package for my brain” angle yet.

The courtroom scene was well done, because the show took us right to the brink of an admission we’ve been conditioned to believe is a lie, and then Naz backs away and can’t say he murdered a young woman he didn’t kill. It also quickly gets The Night Of past Alison Crowe, and although I do like Glenne Headly as an actress, that character was just there to illustrate how attorneys take advantage of certain clients and their families for all the wrong reasons. We knew she never gave a damn about the Khan family, but when the workload and the risks outweighed the publicity, she found the nearest exit.

Before she departed from active duty, however, we got a great few minutes with Headly and Ahmed, where Naz told her to quit. That dialogue was razor sharp and it was also brief. Crowe basically told him he had effed himself in the worst way possible, seeing no way he wouldn’t be convicted of murder. Naz stood his ground, and proved he wasn’t lying to himself about having somehow been the perpetrator. The lack of blood remains the reason I don’t think he did it, even though we’ve only seen what The Night Of has allowed us to see. Is it possible he took the most successful shower of all-time, cleaned up afterwards in the bathroom, and didn’t have splatter all over his clothes? It is, but it’s a reach.

Nice to see Aida Turturro in a scene with her cousin, John, even though I’m not sure it means much. It was more a cool couple of seconds with the two together on screen. Stone taking photos of the scene – this time outside – and the show also takes us back to the kill shelter, as John checks on the cat we all know he’s going to end up owning, allergies or not. He hears dogs barking loudly in the background, just as he did when he dropped the animal off, and it’s hard not to see the parallels between the cat and Naz, with the loud, ferocious, caged dogs barking like the inmates that wouldn’t mind seeing their Muslim inhabitant carved into pieces before a jury can decide his fate.

The cat storyline has to be headed somewhere. It’s different than the eczema, which I think is there just to add a layer of depth and added sadness to the John Stone character. Finding that cat outside Andrea’s residence as he was surveying and documenting the scene is going to be a clue. I’m not sure if it’s going to be THE thing that breaks the case wide open, but it’s going to be something more than a reflection of Naz behind bars.

Based on the stepdad at the funeral service, next week may well bring along with it more suspect and more doubt on Naz’s involvement in the murder. Chandra is technically the lead attorney, but Stone is nearby, and it won’t take long for them to partner up. Amara Karan will be a much bigger part of the show from this point forward, and she’s already done some fine work.

I look forward to more scenes with her and John Turturro, and, if you can believe it, we’re already halfway through The Night Of. One month to go in the story of Nasir Khan, and unfortunately it still feels like a tale where Naz’s innocence is immaterial. Even though Crowe is pretty repulsive, she may not be wrong about Khan’s future. Also, I’m expecting more to come from the Muslim side of things, which was teased by the “Sikhing Revenge” headline.

The Night Of remains one of the best television experiences of the summer, and as the suspects are starting to leak out, I leave you with this trio of questions.

Who did it? Have you changed your mind? Do you think we’ve met or even seen the actual villain in this story yet?

I’m @GuyNamedJason. Say the words for me, folks. I need to follow you. I need your help.

Written by Jason Martin