A little boy is murdered, and a well-known, respected local coach is accused of the crime.
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.
HBO’s The Night Of
Season 1, Episode 7: “Ordinary Death”
Directed by Steven Zaillian
Teleplay by Richard Price & Zaillian
* For a review of the previous episode, “Samson and Delilah” – click here
* For a review of the finale, “The Call of the Wild” – click here
Detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) is at the scene of another homicide; one that bears a striking resemblance to the murder of Andrea Cornish.
In court, Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed) has to see the pictures of Andrea’s bloody, desecrated body along with everyone else. District Attorney Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin) does her best to steer the evidence where she hopes the jury will see it go. Her Medical Examiner pal, Dr. Chester, repeats the line he’d been working on the last time we saw him. Once Chandra Kapoor (Amara Karan) gets at the doc things start slipping. The whole testimony on his part does not look good after she pokes holes in both what he’s said, as well as his reputation. She is a sly lawyer in her own right, even compared to Weiss.
Meanwhile, John Stone (John Turturro) has become honed in on Don Taylor (Paul Sparks), stepfather to Andrea. He’s keeping a close eye on the guy. Especially after Chandra, in court, makes clear the wounds on Andrea’s corpse look like a crime of passion; a personal one. And though we don’t know everything, Naz did not know Andrea before that night.
Sadly it’s Safar Khan (Poorna Jagannathan) who suffers most, it seems. She is torn up having to see the pictures of the supposed crime Naz committed. She seems adrift, alone even within her own family. Salim (Peyman Moaadi) isn’t having any better of a time. He finds himself an object of derision in his own community, as other Muslims don’t look pleased with his family bringing shame on them all. Worse still, his own business partners Tariq (Mohammad Bakri) and Yusuf (Nabil Elouahabi) are essentially turning their backs on him. They’ve blamed Naz for bringing shame “on all of us,” they tell him. “You are the father of a killer,” says Tariq. Now that is brutal. I like that the series shows the good and the bad of the Muslim community. While trying to show the positive aspects, they also don’t shy from showing how within their own communities there’s so much of this type of thing; guilty before proven innocent.
Lots of anger being thrown at the Khans, from graffiti poised towards the community in general right down to rocks tossed through their windows.
All the while Stone keeps his eye on Don as he woos women for their money. Plus, Johnny gets to keep his feet moving since they’re no longer wracked by the bubonic plague. He’s got all sorts of information rolling in on Don. He even gets in contact with an older woman that was once romantically involved with him. She actually had to call the police because he strangled her. A bit of money and then the Don problem went away. So he’s got himself a history of nastiness.
A witness for the prosecution tells the court he bought Adderall off Naz at school. Turns out the young Muslim had customers. He has secrets in his past. Not so innocent after all. But a murderer? Nah.
With his feet fixed, John’s already got a new rash started on his neck. In other news, his family – what’s left of it – is falling apart. One thing gets better, another gets worse. The tragic life of a Greek-like figure, that Stone.
At Rikers, Naz is getting along well enough. At least he’s not doing sexual favours like Petey (Aaron Moten) whose mother smuggles in the drugs that Naz takes in for Freddy Knight (Michael K. Williams). Then again, having to swallow drug balloons from a strange woman’s vagina isn’t exactly glorified behaviour. Especially considering Naz does it now without hesitating, not a single choke. Similar to how his behaviour is described in court, by a man on the witness stand testifying about Naz’s incident of violence years ago nearly killing another student.
And yet again, another secret. A second act of violence, not known by the defence. Naz threw a full Coke can at someone’s head and busted him up good. Hearing this in open court like that rocks Chandra. Her idea of Nasir seems to constantly be changing.
Poor Salim and Safar. They’re giving up everything to pay for their son’s defence. They pawn off jewellery, anything possible just to keep their boy with a lawyer. What’s sad is that Safar is really beginning to doubt the illusions of her son; they’re becoming just that, a mirage.
Finally, Don confronts John. He does so in fairly violent fashion, though not enough to freak anybody out, other than Stone. A threat’s been made. Easy to see that Andrea’s stepfather might have more rage in him than anybody knows.
In court once more, Dt. Box is on the stand. He is a pretty rational, sensible talking man. He doesn’t beat around the bush, even as Chandra gives him a proper going over.
Alone together, Naz and Chandra talk. He wonders why she defends him, lamenting that his father is the only one who believes him. Not even his mother. There’s an air of sexual tension, and then Chandra leans in to kiss Naz. Images of the night Andrea died flash, her and Naz embracing. Ah. No good for their professional relationship, that’s for damn sure. This can only complicate things further.
Chandra has Dr. Katz (Chip Zien) on the stand. He talks about a missing knife from a set found in the brownstone. He also testifies that the wounds on Naz’s hand were not from stabbing. That it came from a game of five finger fillet (though she incorrectly calls it mumblety-pegs). Katz pokes a lot of holes in the evidence of the prosecution, as best he can. Remember that odd picture he took in the apartment? Well, he’s got an answer for that one, too. Smart chap. Weiss gets hold of him then to try poking her own holes, such as attempting to link Naz and O.J. Simpson in a snide remark. She goes at him head-on. Admirable. But clearly she’s only trying to sneak one past the goal post.
John finds the picture of Naz’s inhaler. He wonders what happened to it, then the young Muslim tells him about Box having given it to him that night in the holding cell. So John goes to see the retiring detective, along with a subpoena.
Quickly, Stone and Chandra have him back on the stand. She asks him about the interviews, witnesses, all sorts of things. She eventually brings into question Box’s mishandling of the inhaler. He willingly admits to having given it to Naz. Chandra spins it to look as if Box took the inhaler from the evidence in order to ensure their narrative fit; can’t stab someone 22 times and take hits off your puffer, right? Box does his best to deflect. However, there’s no guarantee this won’t reflect badly on him, or the prosecution.
Back at Rikers, Naz finds Petey dead in the shower. He cut his wrists to pieces, to not suffer the sexual abuse any longer. That’s terrifying tragic. Naz looks on in desperate sadness. In Freddy’s cell, the big man doesn’t know about the real reason for the kid dying. And the rapist, he sits there trying to keep Naz silent. Even sadder.
In private, Naz confides in Freddy the reality of Petey’s suicide. This precipitates a shiv being made. The rest, you can guess. Criminal justice within the criminal justice system.
What about the real justice?
Another fine episode from HBO’s excellent series. One last episode left! Its title is, fittingly from Jack London, “The Call of The Wild” – will the truth all come out? You can be sure of it.
HBO’s The Night Of
Season 1, Episode 4: “The Art of War”
Directed by James Marsh
Written by Richard Price
* For a review of the previous episode, “A Dark Crate” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Season of the Witch” – click here
Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan (Riz Ahmed) is finding that things are getting pretty rough at Rikers Island. The burning of his bunk makes clear, there are worse things to come. Like a declaration of intent.
At home, John Stone (John Turturro) is getting his ankles covered with Crisco, wrapped up in Saran. Headed to the jailhouse, as usual. Representing killers. Yet you can see there’s a sense of loss, something missing in him. There’s something clear and different about the people he usually represents and the young Muslim man in jail for murder/rape.
And at their home, Salim and Safar Khan (Peyman Moaadi & Poorna Jagannathan) have the media just about crashing down their door.
Their son Naz is having the worst time, obviously. He’s discovered that there are completely different rules for surviving on the inside than the outside. You’ve got to look but “not look” someone in the eyes. You have to constantly be on your guard and pumping up your masculinity. If not, you’re “fair game.”
Detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) runs into Stone, as the latter is out trying to get a beat on what may or may not have happened at Andrea Cornish’s (Sofia Black D’Elia) house. Of course Box dismisses the sly lawyer. But Stone winds up seeing Don Taylor (Paul Sparks), stepfather to the deceased, lose his cool with another man at the girl’s funeral. So, he snaps a little video.
What I like is that it looks as if we’re starting to head towards a kind of redemption song for Jacky, I think. He’s now got further doubts about Naz’s guilt. He wants to know the truth, maybe for the first time. Instead of gunning for a big pay day. Morality’s tricky like that. It can make even some of the worst types change their minds. John isn’t terrible, though he is shady. Let’s hope that changes.
There are other troubles for the Khan family. Salim and Safar are finding their other son, Hasan (Syam Lafi), is discriminated against at school because of what’s going on. This is where the writing of Richard Price excels. Because he gets into the repercussions, the far-reaching consequences of when someone is in jail for murder and their family is left behind in the wake. Great depth to the story they’re telling.
Stone runs across a rehab facility linked to a picture from Andrea’s phone. He winds up talking to a guy named Edgar (Max Casella) willing to cough up information for a price. I guess if there’s any way John hopes to get ahead, cash is king.
Naz is getting schooled in jail by Calvin Hart (Ashley Thomas) on how to live by the code of the criminal behind bars. At the same time, I wonder what’s going to happen with Freddy Knight (Michael K. Williams); he keeps a watchful eye over the young Muslim. What exactly is Freddy’s interesting there? I feel like he’s a good guy, while the others – the vultures – soar around Nasir.
On the side, John brings what he got from Edgar to Chandra (Amara Karan), employee to Alison Crowe (Glenne Headly) now handling the Khan case. I suppose Stone isn’t changing too much. Not yet. He’s charging $500 for the information; a markup on what he paid Edgar.
Heading out on a prison transport, Naz gets a new, different coloured jumpsuit to put on. Courtesy of Freddy. Now, that’s interesting. Any meaning to that? I’m better there is, absolutely.
At the courthouse, the Khans are all but terrorised heading inside, as Box heads in relatively left alone, and John eats a hot dog in obscurity. Alison is busy readying Naz for his first appearance – she gives similar advice to that of Calvin, in that he should make eye contact, but not full-on. Intriguing little point that parallels nicely. Moreover, Alison says she’s glad they didn’t put him in an orange jumpsuit. Looks like ole Freddy’s a guardian angel after all, or so it seems. Better than that Alison proves herself worthy of taking on such a tough case. She drops “9/11 profiling” and “media pressure” and dances all over the place. Still, it doesn’t do anything for bail. So in Rikers he stays.
We also see the Khans struggling, as if they’re being suppressed, even by Alison. Salim wants to address people at the press conference, but it isn’t even entertained.
Back in Rikers, someone cuts Naz walking through a corridor, blindly slicing his arm. A little later he goes to see Freddy. The former boxer and the young man chat. Naz wants to know: “Why me?” This prompts a story from Freddy, about his pride, his accomplishments. He is very proud of having graduated high school, keeping his diploma on in a frame right there in his cell. They go on to talk about books – Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon, Jack London and his novel The Call of the Wild. Most of all, they bond. It isn’t every single day an educated, real person walks through the gates of prison – like a “care package” for Freddy’s own brain. He wants to help Naz survive his stay.
I can only wonder what this will bring between Nasir and Calvin, who isn’t exactly impressed with Freddy and his high profile prison status. Not to mention Calvin is quite a vicious cat in his own right.
There’s also trouble around the city. People are lashing out at anybody, Sikh, Muslim, and using anti-Arab slurs. This is pressuring D.A. Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin) to try and get the Khan case settled quick. Yikes.
In the Rikers gym, Freddy brings a decent sized guy in to box with him. This is actually a way for Freddy to size the man up about a possible cellphone business being run without his permission. All ending in a good, hard beating at the hands of the former boxer. Further serves as a bit of a lesson to Naz, seeing what happens to people who cross the man himself.
Poor Stone is out searching for an end to his skin pain. A doctor prescribes him a heavy dose of testosterone to fix his issues. The guy’s stuck in an epidermal hell.
At the same time, D.A. Weiss is trying to suss out a deal with Alison. They throw different charges about, terms, sentences, as if a young man’s life is not on the line. Alison starts bringing the deals to Naz. He isn’t looking to plead out. He knows he’s innocent. Also, he wonders why Chandra isn’t around. Maybe he’s slowly understanding that Alison isn’t all she appears either. Let’s face it – lawyers have records, they don’t like to lose. But when Naz gets back to his bunk he finds a note from Freddy: TAKE THE DEAL. Nobody’s exactly thrilled. The Khans don’t like to hear that their boy will plead guilty just to get a reduced sentence. That will forever tarnish him, and them, too.
At the courthouse, Chandra goes in to talk with Naz. She explains things about how pleas work, deals, so on. He appreciates being talked to “like a person.” However, this woman is the only one talking truth to him. She advises that if he believes in his innocence, the deal is not worth taking. And this is setting up the fight we’re ready to see, Naz does not feel right letting things go this way. Stone even thinks he should take the deal, mostly out of a lost sense of youth, I think. Everybody, except the parents and secretly Chandra, wants the deal.
But when the chips come down, Naz can almost remember the night in question. Just not quite. He won’t make up murdering Andrea. He can’t. Simply because it isn’t true. When Alison confronts her client, he tells her to quit. She does.
Now Chandra is the main attorney. No more pro-bono work for the firm. Quite a change.
Once Naz gets back to jail, Calvin eventually tosses a nasty mix of water and other things onto his arm, burning him up. Yeah, we know where the snakes are lurking. And you can be sure that Naz will start calling in Freddy favours at this point. Only thing that’s for sure: Rikers is about to get fucking intense.
“Say the words to me, Nasir,” Freddy asks. And with that, he does say them. What comes next is sure to be rough.
What a spectacular episode. All around. There’s a lot going on and I’m interested to see how Price juggles all the various plots and stories happening. Great mix of emotions happening. Next is “The Season of the Witch” – hoping for more wild stuff. Willing to bet we can count on that.
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
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.
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 didn‘t kill her,” he tries to assure them: “I‘m 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.
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. “You‘re 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. “It‘s 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?
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.
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.
HBO’s The Night Of
Season 1, Episode 1: “The Beach”
Directed by Steven Zaillian
Teleplay by Richard Price (The Wire, The Color of Money, Sea of Love, Ransom)
* For a review of the next episode, “Subtle Beast” – click here
As usual, HBO opens us on a nicely produced title sequence, accompanied with music by composer Jeff Russo who many will know from his work on the series Fargo as of late, plus plenty more. Always good to open up on a title sequence that grabs you.
The episode begins with a young man, Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan (Riz Ahmed), as he frequents the various locations at college many do: classrooms, gymnasiums, locker rooms, so on. He’s a real hard worker, studying while everybody around him is mostly disaffected. Then he gets an offer to party with some of the basketball players, clearly not a life he’s used to, but it seems to excite him anyway.
Naz is a Pakistani-American living in Queens, New York. He’s as much connected to his family and their culture as he is to the American world of basketball and night clubs. Or at least he wants to be connected to the latter. Waiting to go out we see Naz practise meeting people, fixing his hair and making sure everything is right.
The night starts out normally. Well, for the most part – Naz has to steal his dad’s cab in order to get to the party. What’s most interesting is the fact he can’t find his way. We see both his inexperience with the city, as well as his general immaturity, not knowing even how to operate the car other than drive it forward. Soon, he ends up with a woman in his cab despite insisting he can’t take any fares. But she talks him into it. Her name is Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black-D’Elia), though we don’t know that, nor does Naz. Not for a while yet.
She’s going far uptown somewhere, looking as if she’d prefer to go anywhere at all. Naz makes a stop when she needs a drink. Outside the gas station, Andrea has a run-in with a hearse driver at whom she inadvertently tosses a cigarette. All these little events pass and Naz wouldn’t once begin to think any of them matter. Why would he?
Off he and Andrea go. They talk; about the cab, about the party. Neither of them get where they were headed originally. Naz stops off near the water where they sit and talk some more. We really get a good insight into Naz’s character as a person in these moments. He seems normal, quiet, laid back and subdued, almost shy even. When Andrea puts a pill in his palm, he refuses. You can tell he’s straight laced. Andrea appears to have a deep seated pain inside her: “I can‘t be alone tonight,” she tells him. And that begins their evening together, as Naz decides then to take the pills, and dive in, head first.
At one point, Naz hears a guy make a comment about him and bombs, as he walks to Andrea’s place. The two men stop when he questions what was said. An eerie look from one of them after they leave speaks volumes. Inside, Naz and Andrea relax, they drink tequila with limes. They still don’t exchange names. They just drink, and talk, and flirt. Most of all we’re privy to Naz stepping outside his comfort zone and following along, as he says he does, listening to everyone but himself. Perhaps a bit too much this time. They play a game with a knife that ultimately ends with Andrea getting stabbed in the hand. Although that almost turns her on. They embrace, taking off their clothes and falling into bed. We can already see how so much of this is going to add up, if anything bad were to happen.
Naz wakes in the early morning, still dark, and finds Andrea dead in her bed. Murdered viciously. Blood everywhere. He rushes out of her place and takes off down the street to his father’s cab. Only no keys, so back in he goes, and the door’s locked. He has to break a window. Christ, this only gets worse and worse with each passing moment. A nearby neighbour sees Naz go inside. He also takes the bloody knife from their previous night’s foolishness. Oh, man. This is shaping up to be nightmarish in scope. And here we are, in the shoes of Naz, knowing his innocence. When he pulls out with the cab he even cuts someone off. So many events that are adding up to fuck him legally. At a red light, a biker looks over and possibly sees the bloody knife on the cab dashboard.
Tragic, and a slice of real life, as well as how something so innocent on his part could become something so nasty. Naz winds up pulled over by two police officers, which gets worse when they smell the booze off him. The downward spiral now begins to twist. When they get a call, the cops take him with them, and before they do Naz leaves a nice little bloody smear on the door. I love the writing here. It is brilliant and takes us to the heart of what can constitute a false accusation like the one for which Naz is headed.
So the cops find Andrea, bloody and dead. The big American legal machine gears up to start ploughing poor Naz, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, though it would’ve done a world of good for him to call the police right away. Still, it’s understandable when someone innocent and naive comes up against a dead, savaged corpse, especially belonging to someone he’s just been with sexually. How would you react? Hopefully you’ll never have to know.
Now we’re watching the process move. Detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) is called in on the stabbing murder. He’s a bit time worn. He enjoys classical music. Generally, he appears to be the man for this type of case. Andrea’s brownstone apartment is now a spectacle with neighbours out looking around, police tape everywhere, cameras trying to poke their heads in. Naz, still not found to have been in the apartment, is being brought to the station in regards to his run-in with the two officers. “Is she dead?” asks Naz to the uniforms transporting him. Probably not a great question to ask at the moment, as he technically shouldn’t know anything about the scene. Uh oh.
Box and the others process the crime scene in all its horrific messiness. Meanwhile, Naz is at the station. He calls home, but hangs up quickly. A million things racing in his head. He’s just waiting for things to come down on his head. Something that plays well is seeing an unruly prisoner blow through, and Naz recoils. We understand so well he’s not used to this world, whatsoever. It frightens him. You can just feel his innocence oozing, and as the audience we’re right in his perspective; unable to prove anything at all, having to wait for the situation to pop. At the brownstone, Box gets more information from the Medical Examiner about time of death, the weapon, and outside the men that ran into Naz previous in the night, making racist statements, they show up talking. The gravity of all these elements coming into play, all poised to make life hellish for Naz, is again some fascinating writing. Hats off to Richard Price and his teleplay.
With no idea where his son is, Salim Khan (Peyman Moaadi) calls around to find him, obviously getting no answer on his boy’s cell. In the meantime, all the pieces are falling together against Naz, as he sits and waits in the station. One thing that’s been passed over is a breathalyzer, so that could be good or bad for him. Depending. Then Box and the two officers with him put it all in place. They eventually find the bloody knife in Naz’s inside jacket pocket. It’s incredibly poignant, this moment. They find the knife right as Box describes what they’re looking for, like the tragic twist of fate curls right onscreen in front of us. At least Box acts friendly. Until Naz flips out and tries to run, yelling that he didn’t do it. Doesn’t help the black guy from the scene, the one who possibly had a hand in actually killing Andrea, is right there to finger Naz as the suspect.
Now the young man is in the box, ready for interrogation. The cop that brought him down recounts what Naz asked about the girl being dead. Everything’s thickening to the point it could choke you. Box sits in for a talk with Naz, about how he met Andrea and the events which led up to those fatal moments. It’s so awful to hear Naz asked the questions necessary, but that’s all part of the process. He tells Box what he can manage. Nothing he says can convince anybody right now. Nothing he says helps him, in any sense. But how can a man be remorseful, be filled with regret if he didn’t commit the murder? For now the interrogation is over. Thus begin the DNA tests and so on. The legal system is pumped up, ready to roll. Naz has to give over his clothes, revealing scratches on his back. Further than that Box, I believe, sees the very timid, shy nature of the guy. Not that he can see the truth, but there’s a glimmer of understanding somewhere within everything for the detective. Likewise, Naz appreciates the slight kindness he’s shown.
Naz finally decides he wants a lawyer. He locks eyes with Jack Stone (John Turturro), who’s around the station serving a bunch of his low class clients. He looks weary, beaten down, but when he sees Naz, the big doe eyes, and hears the apparent crime which he’s committed, something in Jack lights up, deep inside. One thing we see inside is a break in the chain of evidence, involving the knife and Naz’s clothes. Ahhh, not only are the elements to break down Nazi present, there are those hovering around which Stone, if he’s a good lawyer, will use to their advantage. More instances of solid writing that hopefully will continue as the series does, too.
Jack and Naz meet together. They do a bit of initial talk, re: citizenship and all that good stuff. We see the laid back nature of Jack along with all the lawyer-client introductions. Jack asks about politics, every last thing of which he can think. We start seeing how the American legal system could work against a young Pakistani Muslim such as Naz.
Simultaneously, Box is putting all his bits and pieces together, including the possibly faulty witness Trevor Williams (J.D. Williams) trying to make Naz go down for something he, or his friend, or both of them did. Box begins to wonder if Trevor is credible, seeing as how the guy uses the word “towelhead” and doesn’t exactly have a good view of Muslims.
The pieces are all there, for everyone. It’s just a matter of how and where they’ll fall. As for Naz’s family, his father wants to run to his son, though begins to see the first slippery spot, as his cab isn’t where it ought to be. Just the beginning.
This first episode sets up a ton of amazing stuff. The writing is beyond impressive and it really caught me off-guard, though I’m always sure HBO is going to put out quality work. Patiently awaiting the next episode named “Subtle Beast” and all it promises. Another hit, to my mind. And there’s a heavy load of emotion winding up to let loose on us.