HBO’s The Night Of
Season 1, Episode 8: “The Call of the Wild”
Directed by Steven Zaillian
Written by Richard Price & Zaillian
* For a review of the previous episode, “Ordinary Death” – click here
Detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) is going through the motions. He watches security footage of the night in question, over and over. He watches Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed) pick up Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black D’Elia). He keeps the crime scene photos nearby. He’s meant to be retiring and yet can’t let any of this go. He notices, in the security footage, that Andrea looks behind her, as if watching for somebody. Her eyes widened. Box knows there is something else going on behind those eyes, so he wonders.
In court, Trevor Williams (J.D. Williams) is on the stand. Chandra Kapoor (Amara Karan) grills him on the lie he told, about being alone on that night. He’s not exactly a credible witness. District Attorney Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin) opts not to ask any questions, probably for the best. But then Duane Reade (Charlie Hudson III), the other man with Trevor the night of the murder, is put on the stand, too. Well, Chandra dives on in to get more information. It works. Seems that Duane’s M.O. is to find the weapon of choice for his crimes while inside the victim’s home. Doesn’t look good for Mr. Reade. Except Weiss asks no questions to him, either. John Stone (John Turturro) thinks Chandra’s doing a splendid job, so he heads out. She later gets the hearse driver, the creepy misogynist, on the stand. He does his best to make himself credible, yet Chandra pokes holes in his explanations. The whole scene is very eerie.
Meanwhile, John still has eyes on Don Taylor (Paul Sparks), Andrea’s stepfather. He brings a subpoena for Don, to appear in court on the stand. Plus he makes sure the sly dude knows there’ll be no more threats, or else a guy “from New Jersey” – one of John’s clients – will be paying him a visit. Next day on the stand, Don reels off a story about Andrea being an addict, her mother, as well. The details of their relationship come out while Chandra prods about the will, so on. Not looking good for ole Don. Not looking good for several people. I also worry about Weiss, she seems so tricky. Biding her time, not cross examining. What’s her plan?
There’s so much mystery, though. It’s why I love this series so god damn much. Don is implicated, as is Duane, even Trevor to an extent. And you know what, even Naz is still slightly suspicious simply because of his secretive past of violence that he let nobody know of, as well as his history of selling Adderall to fellow students.
And then there’s Box, tracking down more security footage that they never bothered to find before. Andrea argues with a man, heated and intense. She leaves him standing alone on a street corner, before the man then follows behind her a little ways. This sends the detective on a journey.
Naz has all but become a junkie while waiting in Rikers Island for the nightmare to be over. He scrapes out every last balloon and package he can to get a tiny little bump, to keep him straight. At that very same time, Chandra wants to call him to the stand. Stone doesn’t want that to happen. She really feels the court will need to hear from him. So, against John’s wishes, she asks Naz about it, whether he can handle going up there. With one little gesture he lets her know he’ll need some “help” and that means getting him clean, or who knows what. Detox is the best option, although they may not have that time.
So off Chandra goes to get condoms. Then she goes to find the other ingredients to help her client as best she can. On the corner, recorded by cameras, she buys drugs. The ethical boundaries of this case have effectively disappeared. But when your client can barely make it through the day without the lingering effects of withdrawal, what do you do? You smuggle drugs into jail. Sort of embarrassing to see a good woman like her have to do that, the look on her face is one of shame. There’s obviously no length to which she won’t go for Naz, to help him out.
On the stand, he’s bright and clear eyed. John isn’t happy to see him up there, but Chandra goes ahead with her questions. He describes the night of Andrea’s murder, finding her in the bed dead. Once Helen Weiss gets up, she opens up the discussion of Naz marking up and selling drugs to people at school. Then she dives into information about Andrea. This gets to Naz talking about when he went back to get his keys, breaking the window, taking the knife, none of which makes him look good. At all. “I knew how it looked,” he tells Weiss and the court when asked why he did such a thing. Mostly what goes down is Helen drags Naz through the mud by making him seem inconsistent, or at the very least irresponsible for not having bothered to call 911 even though he was supposedly of sound enough mind to run off with evidence from the scene. A terrible idea to have Nasir up there in front of the court. Stone knows it, and he tells Chandra: “You just convicted him.”
Helen: “Did you kill her?”
Naz: “I don‘t know”
Along with the hope of Nasir going free is that of the cat going free. John brings it back to the shelter, likely to be put down eventually. A tragic, sad turn of events in the metaphorical sense. He’s given up. Simultaneously, Naz embraces the prison life further, getting tattooed from the neck on down. Everyone acts like there’s no longer any hope.
However, hope may reside in unlikely places. Box is sleeping at the station, he can’t let go. He knows there is another explanation lying beneath what sits at the surface. Letting this case go without completing all the good leg work isn’t something he’s willing to do. Nor should he, as he and the others were probably too quick to jump all over Naz’s guilt.
Dt. Box tracks the man in the video with Andrea. He finds it’s Ray Halle (Paulo Costanzo), the one Stone talked to awhile back. He was also a victim of violence some time ago. Because he beat up a prostitute. So it all leads to the detective questioning Ray a little about that evening when Andrea got murdered. Another viable suspect emerges late in the game. Very intriguing stuff.
At Rikers, Freddy Knight (Michael K. Williams) and Naz play cards. A new inmate arrives and the young Muslim goes to talk with him. His name is Terry (Charles Brice), and Naz hopes to bring him into the Knight Gang. He’s been indoctrinated. Nasir doesn’t even need to be led into the whole thing. Sad to watch.
Box goes to see the D.A. He’s worried about $300K that disappeared from Andrea’s finances. He talks about Halle, the lies he told, his meeting with Andrea. There’s also a picture of him at 3 AM tossing out some garbage bag in an empty street. “We‘ve got more on the kid,” she tells Dennis. The look in his eyes is disappointment. Helen doesn’t want to admit she’s wrong. At what price? A young man’s life.
On his doorstep, Stone finds an envelope; inside is a disc. It’s been sent from Freddy. It shows Chandra kissing Naz in the cell when they spoke awhile back. Needless to say, John is not a happy camper. Regardless, he brings it to Naz and suggests there could be a retrial if they divulge what Chandra did. Only that means she most likely loses her career in the process. Still, any means necessary to escape the prison system’s lure.
The video of Chandra and Nasir is brought to Judge Roth (Glenn Fleshler). What happens is that John is put up as the lead defence lawyer. He must give the closing argument. “This is clearly grounds for a mistrial,” Stone exclaims again unhappy with the outcome of things raining down on his head. But the Judge sees through it as a tactic. It’s all up to him at this point.
Weiss does her best to give a big final push. She likens the lost time in Naz’s memory to an FBI classified document being redacted: “Self preservation,” she tells the jury. Everyone in the court notices Dt. Box get up in the middle of her statement and leave. Quite telling.
In the midst of stress, John takes a bleach bath trying to get rid of the itch in his skin. Later in court, he gives his closing statement with his skin absolutely destroyed, gloves on his hands, the whole nine yards. But Stone talks about the first time he met Naz, the look of the kid, and how different he is from the regular clients which he takes on. Furthermore, John makes a good case for how Naz has decided to survive in Rikers, looking the way he does. He lays out the “rush to judgement” against his client, how people were caught up in a flood of his guilt, as it seemed then. His speech is heavy, important, sensible. Beautiful, even. His eyes tear up near the end where he pleads with the jury not to ruin the rest of his client’s young life.
Now it’s all in the jury’s hands.
John goes back to trying to fix his skin. Chandra starts to think about moving on. At Rikers, Freddy talks to Naz about what happens if the verdict comes out guilty. The former boxer talks about prison not being so bad while Naz is around: “You smell like innocence.” He feels it’s a source of pride, to be alongside the young Muslim. To have a person with him who isn’t like everyone else is refreshing. Not a nice situation to live forever, though. Especially seeing as how the drugs have all but taken over Naz’s life.
The jury finally returns. They’ve deadlocked; six to six votes, no change ahead. So Judge Roth dismisses the jury, wondering what D.A. Weiss would like to do. She opts not to prosecute any further. “You‘re free,” says John turning to Naz. An unexpected yet happy finish for Mr. Khan and his family, Dt. Box sees it so, as well.
Nasir has to pack up and get moving for his release. He doesn’t get to see Freddy before leaving. Probably because the one time boxer doesn’t want to have to say goodbye to a friend. Either way, out goes the young Muslim, back into the real world sporting his jailhouse tattoos. He does get one parting gift from Knight: Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. On the outside, his father waits with open arms to take his son back home. Back at their place, the Khans try getting back to normal, all at the dinner table together and eating happily. Yet until someone else has been caught and prosecuted, the Muslim community judges him, staring. Worse, he’s still fighting addiction, which won’t ever go away. And he’s left for a lifetime with memories of that night with Andrea.
Stone: “Everyone‘s got a cross to bear, Naz. Pardon the expression. Fuck ‘em all. Live your life.”
A perfect ending comes when we see that John has taken the cat back in, or we hear it in the background, anyway. He’s been renewed with hope. Then the cat traipses through the apartment, free from its locked room. John has certainly changed to a degree.
Also, like a real trial often we’re not privy to who really did the deed. Maybe Halle will get prosecuted. Maybe it’s actually Don. We’ll never know. Often too true to reality.
What a great finish to this first season. Lots of poignant little moments to take in, and I can’t wait to go back for a re-watch soon enough. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. A great set of eight episodes.