From Max Casella

The Night Of – Season 1, Episode 3: “A Dark Crate”

HBO’s The Night Of
Season 1, Episode 3: “A Dark Crate”
Directed by Steven Zaillian
Written by Richard Price

* For a review of the previous episode, “Subtle Beast” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Art of War” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 6.37.32 PM
Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed) is heading into Rikers Island. You can tell from the look on his face there’s a terror lurking in him. He doesn’t outright express it, but even the woman admitting him can see it.
Meanwhile, Detective Box (Bill Camp) is talking with the two officers – Maldonado (Joshua Bitton) and Wiggins (Afton Williamson) – who picked Naz up. They’re starting to get to the heart of the case. Box reminds them the most important thing is making sure the court and the jury, the judge, they see that Naz could possibly have committed that horrendous murder. Not to get caught up in things like who threw up at the scene of the crime, as Maldonado seems so concerned.
What I love most about John Stone (John Turturro) is that he’s a completely laid back person, even in his lawyer-ing. He takes a talk with anybody he can, whether that’s in a bathroom or someplace else. He soon makes his way over to the Khan place, to level with Salim and Safar Khan (Peyman Moaadi/Poorna Jagannathan) about what “can be done” and what can’t exactly be done, the prices. All that type of stuff. Problem is the Khans don’t believe, at all, that their son could’ve committed murder. At the same time, ole Jack doesn’t worry about that end. He’s only worried about doing his thing. However, the Khans cannot afford $60-70K for a lawyer. Part of me thinks that Stone is a little bit of a hustler.
Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 6.39.09 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-25 at 6.42.20 PM
In Rikers, there’s a criminal named Freddy (Michael K. Williams), a former boxer. He’s afforded certain privileges. He has a television, a decent one for the jailhouse, a bunch of cellphones at his disposal, posters on the wall, pictures. Also, he gets a bit of sex, too. He passes Naz and a strange glance happens between the two. Meanwhile, young Naz is seeing first hand a life he’d never thought would be in front of him. Quite a culture shock. A social devastation. The danger posed to those innocent people, and non-violent offenders, when exposed to a jail with men who are serving life (and some without any chance of parole) is absolutely horrific. The fact that we as a society allow those situations where young men are preyed upon, a few of them like Naz even completely innocent, is disgusting. Although the cracks in the justice system are inherently deep and wide.
Johnny Stone goes over to see Helen (Jeannie Berlin) at the District Attorney’s office. Just before she was ragging on him for being a nightcrawler at the precinct, trawling for cases, and here she is congratulating him, saying she was SO glad to hear he’s taking the Khan case. The dual faces of friends and colleagues in the justice system are just as nasty as any of its faults. Stone tries getting to work, even if Helen is a hard-nosed legal opponent.
In other news, Salim is finding himself troubled over his missing cab, as he tries to figure out how he’ll pay for his son’s defence. At the very same time there’s someone watching, snapping photos.
Naz gets a bit of helpful advice from a man in the bunk next to him. He starts understanding exactly what sort of environment in which he finds himself. A scary one.
The Khans go to see their boy. Their experience is similar, in that they’ve come to know this world completely other to them. They’re not used to such a place, and yet everyone else around them seems in a complete flow, as if second nature. For Safar in particular, the process is upsetting, degrading even. When they see Naz he tells them the truth about his night with Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black D’Elia), how he found her dead, bloody. “I didnt kill her,” he tries to assure them: “Im so sorry I did this to you.”
That’s my evidence, right there – he’s more concerned for what it has done to them than what is happening to him.


In jail, men hear about Naz’s supposed crimes. At that very same time, Alison Crowe (Glenne Headly) notices the mention of his religion as Muslim. And Jack Stone gets his mouth running on camera while Alison tracks down the address of the “Khan kid killer” family.
That night some prisoners come to see Naz. They ask about whether he raped that woman, to which he obviously replies no. A guard shows up and scares them off. Right as Naz receives a pair of sneakers from Freddy. Y’know, for “traction.” Something he’ll need in the showers, in the halls. Anywhere somebody might come for him. The tension and suspense during the brief scene where Naz showers is unbelievable. I thought, knowing HBO, it might come to a different conclusion. Still, my whole body was tightened the entire time.
And Salim, he’s getting more difficulty over the cab. They may never get it back, as it’s now evidence in a crime. Well, supposedly. By bringing charges against Naz they can likely get restitution, or the car back. Something possibly. Salim would never do that. Different story for his partners in the cab company. Funniest part? The cop they talk to about it hands over Stone’s card.
Speaking of Stone, he’s lubing his feet and ankles up with Crisco, sealing them in Saran wrap to help them heal. The irony in his situation, like that of a tragic literary figure, is that by being the type of lawyer he is, scrambling for any case that means a bit of cash, Stone is not only never reaching his capabilities (face it, he can be a good lawyer), he’s further not helping his own health; all those long hours, not willing to take time and let his feet heal, he’s completely disregarding himself to make a living. Typical of many lawyers, even the most honest kind. Many of whom are struggling in ways quite similar to Jacky Boy. Later, he goes to the crime scene with an officer escort. He comes across the cat, even feeds it. This sort of gets to him a little in some way. Very interesting little moment to include.
Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 7.08.01 PM


Alison hopes to steal the case from Stone. Not that she is totally out of line, as there’s a certain aspect to John which seeks out the easy, sure-shot cases where he can plead out, never see much court time, if any at all, and get his fee. With Crowe in the mix, she seems ready to fight. She’s even brought along a woman named Chandra (Amara Karan) whose similar background to the Khans helps ease things along. But is Alison in it solely for justice? Seems so. Just not totally sure yet.
Back with Stone, he goes to meetings for others with awful skin problems. A bunch of men with the same types of incurable rashes, et cetera. There is a real sad side to John. I love to learn more about him each episode, just as much as Naz, too.
When Stone goes to see Naz he isn’t aware of what’s been going on. Naz fills him in about Crowe, to his dismay.
What sort of fire will all this light under Stone, if any? He at least goes to see Alison, only to receive news from Chandra that her boss is gone. What Stone does now is try to show Chandra how she was a “prop” to be used, all to steal his client from under him. Sort of true, though, right?
Back in jail, Naz is summoned by Freddy to his cell. Ominous. A guard named Tino (Lord Jamar) leads the young Muslim in, as Freddy lies smoking in bed. Now, we uncover why exactly Freddy’s so interested in him. He warns about the Nation of Islam, how they’re jealous of true born Muslims like Naz. “Youre a celebrity in here,” he tells the kid. And not in a good way. He tells Naz about the OTHER judicial system, the sort carried out behind bars, by the prisoners themselves. Judge, jury, execution. Things for Mr. Khan aren’t looking so hot.
Except now he’s got an ally in Freddy. Or, does he? Time will tell. “Its up to you,” says Freddy.
We see that Stone takes the cat from Andrea’s place over to a shelter. Part of his character comes out, as he’s reluctant to leave the cat. He’d take it if he weren’t allergic. While the shelter attendant takes the feline to its 10 day home, possibly its tomb, Jack watches as the dogs all start to bark. A great editing moment has us cut to Naz in the jailhouse, the cat amongst the hounds. Other inmates light his bed on fire, threatening his life. Freddy watches on. Will Naz take his help? If so, what’s the price?
Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 7.29.03 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-25 at 7.32.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-25 at 7.38.35 PM
This fucking show, man. This show is unreal! What a great series. HBO and BBC have done some nice stuff together. The next episode is titled “The Art of War” and I’m wondering if we’ll see something more vicious while Naz tries to survive behind the bars of Rikers Island.

Vinyl – Season 1, Episode 8: “E.A.B.”

HBO’s Vinyl
Season 1, Episode 8: “E.A.B.”
Directed by Jon S. Baird
Written by Michael Mitnick

* For a review of the previous episode, “The King and I” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rock & Roll Queen” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.37.49 PM
Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale), his boys Zak (Ray Romano) and Skip (J.C. MacKenzie) are out talking with a loan officer named Allen Charnitski (Michael Kostroff). Trying their best to woo him, which starts with Skip hugging the man as they come in the bank, to awkward reception especially from Richie. But life goes on. They do the best they can. Although, their best may not be enough.
Meanwhile, Richie needs some cocaine. He needs to get things done and that requires the boost he knows will work.
Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.38.09 PM
Richie: “And besides, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, Sherlock Holmesthey all thrived used cocaine.”
Zak: “Sherlock Holmes; not a real person.”
Richie: “Give me the fucking coke!”
Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.38.23 PM
In other news, Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse) is trying to turn the company image around. She’s left dealing with Hal Underwood (Jay Klaitz), whom she eventually fires because he’s outdated like a dinosaur in a cheap shirt. Plus, this shows us how big her balls are, and that she can get shit done.
Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh) is still going hard at managing The Nasty Bits. Kip Stevens (James Jagger) has all but completely lost his edge, as the band is now some sort of watered down bit of Brit Pop. Doesn’t seem like Richie’s too impressed anymore – they’re opening up for the New York Dolls soon. He tries to light a fire under the Bits. Jamie (Juno Temple) and Julie (Max Casella) watch on, as Richie talks about how their demo was the “soundtrack” for “all the madness of this city” and that they need to recapture that essence. “I dont need a hit, guys,” Richie explains: “I need a Nasty Bits song.”
Zak and Scott (P.J. Byrne) attempt to sign the singer from the Bat Mitzvah – Gary (Douglas Smith) – whose voice they hope to exploit, in order to get American Century Records back on track proper. And his voice is incredible, for sure.


At the office, Richie finds Joe Corso (Bo Dietl) waiting. He’s worried about the cops poking around concerning Buck Rogers. They know about the three of them together that night. There’s all sorts of animosity between the two of them. Corso all but threatens to out Richie to the police if he’s caught himself. Yikes. That situation might degrade faster than expected.
In studio, Lester decides a lesson in “foundation” is necessary for the Bits when they’re tapped out. He drops a bit of rhythm on them all, even singing slightly to a riff. Nothing like the blues to get things hoppin’. “Dirty it up,” Lester even suggests. This starts to get the blood flowing.
Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.39.31 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.39.49 PM
Richie deals with a bit of Skip’s mutinous feelings. He knows that Skip is likely doing the skimming that’s alluded to on his part. But in bust the other two yokels, flying high about signing the kid from the Bat Mitzvah. Zak is willing to put a lot on the line to get the guy signed, even putting his personal finance on the line – all because he still thinks he’s the one who lost all that money in Vegas, unknowing that Richie was the one who did them in. Afterwards, up turns Hal who is a Satanist of some sort, and lays a hex or something on everybody in the office. A hilarious and also kind of sad moment.
Up on the rooftop for a smoke, Lester bonds a little with Kip. Until Kip tries to get Lester to teach them his song, so they can turn it into a Nasty Bits tune. No response from the manager. For now.
At the same time, Clark (Jack Quaid) is making better friends at his new position in the mail room. He and one of the other guys bond also, only over a bit of cocaine. They bump a little then get to talking. Then to dancing.
Across town at the Chelsea Hotel, Devon (Olivia Wilde) has troubles with some of the neighbours. Not the place for children, that’s for certain. To stay she needs to produce more work, as they cater to artists. Those dreams of hers don’t come easy.


Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor) receives Richie at his office. The younger of the two is admitting to trouble with ACR. He starts leaning towards going to the mob, but Maury knows the price of those decisions. Richie doesn’t want to see his friends, particularly Zak, go in over their head. “Have you ever seen somebody choked to death?” asks Maury, as a preamble into his advice about going to the mob for loans.
At a club, Devon goes with friends to see Bob Marley (Leslie Kujo), Pete Tosh (Aku Orraca-Tetteh) and the gang onstage. Beautiful reggae music flows over the crowd, as everybody jams to the gorgeous rhythm. She sees John Lennon at a booth, but across the place Julie spies her. Interesting. Even more so because she ends up getting Lennon’s picture, as well as finding herself getting close to another man.
Richie and Zak head to see Corrado Galass0 (Armen Garo), whose disposition is scary to say the least. They manage to get a cash guarantee. Then there’s also a request to share office space. Naturally, the boys don’t push their luck and accept readily. Without admitting to any guilt, Richie tries assuring Zak things will be fine, and that he takes responsibility for the mess they’re in currently. Not long after Richie’s picked up by the police.


The cops try grilling Richie, but he’s a fairly cool cucumber under pressure. They’re very convinced of his guilt. Yet he manages to keep them off his back, for the moment. Then they bring up Corso’s name. They throw suspicion, doubt onto the fire. A tape is played for Richie. No surprise – they’ve bugged his office.
And so the plot thickens.
We end on the finale of this episode with The Nasty Bits playing a new tune. Their manager has come through big time. Zak and Scott each fantastize about the potential of Gary’s career. A nice little montage culminates with Richie in his jail cell, and a cut to Clark joining his new buddy on an excursion to a club somewhere in a big building, people dancing everywhere. Amazing. Like Clark stepped into a brand new world.


Excited for the penultimate episode of this season. A great show. Not my favourite episode, but a good one. Stay tuned with me for “Rock & Roll Queen” next Sunday!

Vinyl – Season 1, Episode 6: “Cyclone”

HBO’s Vinyl
Season 1, Episode 6: “Cyclone”
Directed by Nicole Kassell
Written by Carl Capotorto & Erin Cressida Wilson

* For a review of the previous episode, “He In Racist Fire” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The King and I” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 2.19.58 PM
With everything all but falling down around Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale), the first season of HBO’s Vinyl moves further towards the finale.
This episode starts with “Tequila” by The Champs playing on a radio outside the home of Mr. Finestra, as he sits inside railing cocaine in a craze. This guy is seriously developing more of a habit each day. He’s hanging out with old pal Ernst (Carrington Vilmont). He isn’t much of a good influence, pretty much egging Richie on about Devon (Olivia Wilde) and what she might be up to. At the same time, in come his kids while he’s high as fuck. What a father. What a dude.


Richie: “I should freeze my accounts
Ernst: “You should fuck!”
Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 4.10.44 PM
Meanwhile, Devon’s off on her own at the Chelsea Hotel. Seems there’s a bit of plaster casting going on, in which she’s involved. And then she gets even more involved when the shoot gets troublesome, offering to take off some clothes and jump in, head first. If Richie can have fun, why can’t she? Nobody should be judging her any more than him. All around a very provocative scene. All the same, nothing makes her feel full. Like Richie, constantly chasing a bigger, better, high.
Off the rails spins Mr. Finestra. He rampages through American Century Records like the titular cyclone, shouting orders, talking to himself.
Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano) welcomes Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse), and she seems ready to do business. Everybody’s happy to see her, from Skip Fontaine (J.C. MacKenzie) to Scott Levitt (P.J. Byrne). Then there’s the bossman who is a bit too over-the-top for everyone, clearly higher than Jesus. He leaves a little later, and it makes things easier for all involved. He heads off to cheat on his wife, but that doesn’t work.
Zak asks a little about Hannibal, to which Richie replies: “Because he tried to shove his dick inside my wife. Any other questions?” It’s just all out madness around the office. Richie’s falling apart, completely, right in front of everyone’s eyes.


Elsewhere, Julie Silver (Max Casella) requires Richie and his presence, concerning The Nasty Bits. “You kissed this broad not me,” says Julie. The problem is there are too many hippies at the auditions for a new guitar player. Richie trips out in front of everyone. We literally watch his tragic descent in front of the room. Then there is Ernst, reporting on Devon and her whereabouts. It’s all too much for Richie to handle right now, on top of the mountain of cocaine in his head. He takes off on the auditions leaving Jamie (Juno Temple) with Julie, the band, and no coke of her own.
Andrea takes Zak with her to go see David Bowie (Noah Bean), who jams onstage: “Is that Andy fucking Zito?” he calls down between jams. The guy playing Bowie looks SO MUCH like him, particularly in that era. Great sequence including him. Love the inclusion of all these musicians played by actors. Also gives Andrea lots of credibility, introducing her as a character quickly and efficient. But then Zak goes too heavy at Bowie and drives him away. Hilarious.
Outside a club, Richie ends up assaulting Andy Warhol (John Cameron Mitchell) by tossing him to the ground, then getting tossed into the road himself. His paranoia is building, especially after he finds out Ernst knows about what happened to Rogers – because Richie told him. The pair hotwire and steal a car, heading out for a little nighttime drive. Where to? Probably to track down his wife.


Devon is enjoying herself, blowing off steam. They talk about Ernst, Richie, all kinds of things. But Devon would rather not talk of her husband, his “bender” and such. Or is it more than that? She’s more drowned by the monotonous life at home, stuck with a husband, children. It isn’t exactly what she wanted, yet that life was forced upon her. This whole thing brings up the idea of artistry, what it means to be one, when you are one, who says, and so on. Love this whole sequence. Because then there’s the side of Devon which knows she’s bringing chaos to her kids, the family, and it pains her. Not all her fault, though. “Im so lonely,” she says: “Its pathetic. Im not myself anymore.” And that’s what it’s about: losing herself in the life of her husband, giving him everything with nothing left for herself.


Devon: “Day after day in that house I hear this creaking, back and forth, its the sound of me hanging myself from the rafters.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 5.50.32 PM
While his wife is pondering the big questions, Richie’s sleeping off a bender in the car. And forgetting important things. Simultaneously, in a guitar shop Kip (James Jagger) might’ve come across someone worth having in the band. Not only for his guitar player skills, but his scheming initiative. They both take off with guitars from the shop, and eventually Kip turns it into an offer.
Devon heads home, and almost instantly the sad quiet of that life returns, smothering her. Before she hears the kids, the one thing anchoring her there at all.
At the Bat Mitzvah, things are pretty much over. Zak isn’t overly happy to see Richie, after a six hour party. Such an awkward scene, as Richie makes a fool of himself, higher than the sky itself. He tries to apologize for everything over the past few months. Is it enough? Not so sure. “You ruined my life, and my familys life,” Zak yells at his boss. And Richie gets the toss, naturally. High and yelling at a Bat Mitzvah. Not a pinnacle of good living.


Worst of all, though, Richie knows he’s responsible for his problems, all those issues plaguing his life. He recognizes it all too well. Likely why he huffs down the drugs at such an incredibly dangerous rate, why he’s pretty much intent on self-destructing.
At home he finds Devon. He talks a good game – “Im gonna fix this” – but will anything truly change? He says the right things, makes the right moves, only she knows there’s more behind it all. Then he goes way too far and pushes her past the point of no return. She quickly grabs a few things, as well as the children. She finally decides to get out of there, recognizing the cyclone that is Richie, fueled by rage, ego, and cocaine.
Great montage of scenes as Trey Songz sings Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” and Zak mulling over his life, plus Richie discovers Devon and the kids gone.
Then we discover Ernst is dead – a hole in the back of his head. Has been all along. Could’ve guessed it, yet I still love this episode. A great bit of writing. What follows is an eventual car crash, as Richie hallucinates his long dead friend and gets totaled by another car in the road. A massacre to end such a wild, frantic episode. Then out steps Buddy Holly (Philip Radiotes) for a quick jam. And then Richie sits in his car, totally fine, staring at the Cyclone rollercoaster in front of him. Psyched out, man. Did he kill Ernst in a crash, is that how he died? Pretty sure. Love the intricacies. It becomes more and more clear with each passing episode that Richie turns everything to shit once it comes into his life, one way or another.


This was a whopper of an episode. Fun writing, excellent direction, and dedicated to the memory of David Bowie. Looking forward to “The King and I” next. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans!