HBO’s The Night Of
Season 1, Episode 2: “Subtle BEast”
Directed by Steven Zaillian
Written by Richard Price & Zaillian
* For a review of the premiere, “The Beach” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Dark Crate” – click here
Memories of that fateful night. Sounds of making love, as Naz (Riz Ahmed) and Andrea (Sofia Black D’Elia) fall into bed together.
Naz sits in his cell remembering it all. The officers that picked him up are busy giving their statements to other cops.
John ‘Jack’ Stone (John Turturro) comes to see his client. Between worrying about his own skin troubles. “Shut it,” he tells Naz when the young man tries to explain himself fully. Problem is that the lawyer still believes there’s a chance the young man actually did it. However, Stone is concerned mostly with hearing what the prosecution will start saying. Then they can work on their “story” – a word which doesn’t make Naz feel comfortable.
Meanwhile, Detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) calls somebody on his way into the crime scene where Andrea was murdered. Sounds like it’s her father. The whole scene is ghastly. Box goes over things. Outside he runs into Eddie (Ray Abruzzo), a newspaper man, who sniffs around for something, anything to print.
At the same time, Stone knows Box well, how good he is at his job. Our title for this episode comes from Stone’s description of Box and “all good cops“: they are subtle beasts. They work within the law and do you in just inside the confines.
Next of kin to Andrea is Don Taylor (Paul Sparks) – stepfather. He’s brought in to identify the body, though it’s done without the corpse, using photographs. Still brutal. Don is shown the photographs, but says it isn’t her. Then they’re off to see the body, which changes his tune altogether: “It‘s her,” he confirms.
We see more of Jack Stone, his style of doing things. He’s a bit more than relaxed, alienating people with his troubled feet, and late to his court dates. He carries tons of things in his jacket, from skin cream to a hardboiled egg. Simultaneously we’re given a look at Naz’s family. His mother and father, Salim and Safar Khan (Peyman Mooadi & Poorna Jagannathan) go to find him in jail. They’re unhappy to hear their boy labelled a “Muslim freak” that carved some woman up by an ignorant cop.
Dt. Box gets talking to stepfather Don, who for his part doesn’t exactly have a whole lot of information. At least not how he sees it. It’s obvious the death of Andrea affects him in some way, just not in any meaningful sense. Here we begin to see more of the prejudice against “Arabs” (a great blanket statement many white people like to use too liberally), as we’re likely to find more of that affecting Naz and his case.
The Khans finally get to see their boy, as they wait endlessly at the station with Stone. Naz tells his parents the truth, however, to the cops listening in the whole thing does sound fishy. Then Naz clues in, he starts talking in their native tongue – possibly Urdu, but I’m not sure. Either way they get a bit of chat in without any immediate understanding. Box keeps an eye on them. And Naz is really starting to smarten up in terms of listening to Stone.
Speaking of Jack, he and Box know one another quite a bit. They know each other, their game. The detective sees Jack as a bit of a vulture. Although the dried skin lawyer knows the law. He keeps the tough act up, though these two aren’t exactly at their throats. When Stone gets talking to the Khans, to let them know what he knows, or at least what he thinks.
Afterwards, Stone lets Naz know he should not have talked to his parents. Not anybody. He knows that they’ll be recording. Yet Naz still holds onto the truth. “The truths can go to hell because it doesn‘t help you,” Jack assures him.
Is there a sliver of doubt lingering in Box? Hard to tell. But I think so.
Around the precinct everybody keeps referring to Naz as Arab. We continually watch the ignorance flow while they all think the guy is guilty, through and through. Box tries to push Naz, too. He hopes to convince the young guy to say something, to give more up under the guise of believing his attorney is essentially against him. He acts like a friend, even giving Naz his inhaler. “What am I not seeing, Nasir?” Box asks him, almost pleading to see the real truth. No dice, though.
Just seeing Naz go through the system, every step of the way, it’s so obvious that he isn’t a criminal. Watching him being sat next to other prisoners o a transport is almost jarring. Particularly once he watches another prisoner get a cellphone pulled out of his asshole. Then a sick prisoner is beaten mercilessly by another in the new holding cell. Imagine what it feels like for him, others like him. And still, something about Box feels similar. That he isn’t at all a typical, expected detective, as he heads off in his car listening to classical music loudly. Neither is Jack the same downtrodden lawyer we’ve seen before. There is a different, fresh quality about him. He’s got a son from a former marriage, he and his wife aren’t the same old cats-and-dogs we’re normally accustomed to, so that’s definitely refreshing.
A good series full of atypical characters, so far.
Salim’s taxi is being combed over, as evidence concerning Naz’s night out come to light. We learn more that Box is a guy who reads, who knows things. Whereas others call Naz Arab and know nothing about him, Box knows about the Muslim faith, at least a little. In other news, he goes to see Salim and his wife with a court order for a search of the residence. Safar has come to learn a few things about her son, secrets he’s hidden from them. Either way, they’re forced to let Box and his officers take their computers, toss the house, and generally show no regard for them. Not surprising.
The D.A. is finally around, Helen (Jeannie Berlin), and she’s starting to wonder if maybe Box does indeed have doubts. He insists it’s only lack of sleep making her feel that way. We’re seeing more of that leak out. I wonder if there’ll come a tipping point for Dt. Box.
During arraignment, Naz pleads Not Guilty to the charges. Even the criminals waiting for their own arraignment are amazed when they hear about his supposed crimes. Also, we get more of that racist leaning from the court. The opposite side believes he is a flight risk because of his apparent deep ties to Pakistan. Jack can’t do anything to fight that, as the judge agrees; no bail. More waiting in a cell for Naz. Only now it’s off to Rikers Island, not some holding cell. He’s about to discover an entirely new, brutish world behind its walls.
Frequently we get POV shots from Naz’s perspective. As he’s thrust against a wall, spreading his legs. As he walks from the court into the prison transport. Amongst all the excellent cinematography, these perspective shots allow us a way into the headspace of Naz and how he’s seeing this all transpire. Makes the whole thing more emotional and filled with weight. We can only hang on like Naz, allowing the process to work its way through.
Another amazing episode. This follow-up to the premiere was fascinating and starts to push the characters, the plot, everything forward with a spectacular degree of intensity. The next episode is titled “A Dark Crate” and I can only image what we’re about to witness.