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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 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.