HBO’s The Night Of
Season 1, Episode 6: “Samson and Delilah”
Directed by Steven Zaillian
Teleplay by Richard Price & Zaillian
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Season of the Witch” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Ordinary Death” – click here
Mr. Stone (John Turturro) is doing his best to take care of the cat, still. Despite his terrible allergies. He keeps the cat locked in the room, cleans out its litter and feeds it through opening the door quick, tossing everything in. But why does he do it? Because it’s the right thing to do. Similar with how he’s starting to feel about Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan (Riz Ahmed), whose own concerns mount by the day, sitting at Rikers Island with Freddy Knight (Michael K. Williams) and watching the top dog prisoner prepare then smoke some drugs. At least now, after the favour he did for Freddy, Naz can call his parents; he has a cellphone, courtesy of Knight.
What more is to come from their relationship?
Safar Khan (Poorna Jagannathan) and her husband Salim (Peyman Moaadi) are in dire straits financially. Without her husband, Safar is out trying to find work. She’s a tough woman, I hope we get to see more of her character. At the same time, Detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) is digging into the Facebook account of Naz. He starts to see maybe a side of the young Muslim which may not be good for the prosecution. Or, are there deeper secrets to Nasir we’ll soon find out?
Well, D.A. Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin), she’s busy trying to make the drug intake of Naz look proper for their version of the story. As her unlikely competition, Jackie Stone, is busy juggling his life and that of Naz alongside the horror story of his feet. I love that we get a ton of Stone’s character amongst everything else, but further than just that his feet are representative of the mindset in which he’s lived so long, to the detriment of his health while pursuing case after case trying to chase the all-American glorious dollar.
All this time, Naz is in prison falling farther into the lifestyle. Even has himself some knuckle tattoos.
We can’t forget Chandra Kapoor (Amara Karan); another of my favourite characters. She watches video footage of Naz at a gas station the night of the murder. A man in a hearse stops, though doesn’t get any gas, and then leaves when Naz does, too. Hmm. Now that is suspicious right there. Leave it to Chandra. I have a feeling she’s the most underestimated of the entire crew of lawyers in the series. Once she tracks down the hearse driver he’s full of eeriness, lots of misogyny and the like. When he mentions some biblical verse, this is where I imagine Samson and Delilah comes in, giving us our title.
John drinks a bit of strange powder the Asian doctor gave him. Another supposed cure. It’s amazing he can even keep his head on straight. A terrified Chandra shows up at his door, though. She has a Bible with her. She talks about Samson and Delilah, reading verse for John. “That‘s what he thinks of women,” she tells John re: the hearse driving mortician. Could this man have anything to do with the case, or merely a red herring?
Back to Rikers, Naz is constantly doing push-ups, always honing his image. First, push-ups. Then, tattoos. What comes next is anybody’s guess. Paralleled with Naz figuratively and literally pumping up his image is Box flicking through his past. What the detective begins unravelling is there’s a rage underlying the identity of Nasir Khan; he was involved in an altercation at school where he nearly paralysed another student, luckily only breaking an arm. But there’s a temper in Naz we’re not exactly seeing outwardly just yet, only in glimpses.
But what I wonder now is: could Naz actually have killed Andrea? Is there a chance? Because we never actually saw what happened. We assume Trevor Williams (J.D. Williams) and his buddy may have done something. However, at this point the doubt is creeping in. Perhaps that’s what Richard Price is aiming for. To plant the seed, let it grow. Except never sure, until the end, where it’s headed. Love, love, love it.
Also, the jury is being sorted out. Yet we’re privy to a real view of the selection, as a group of people up for the “honour” of doing their citizen duty fall asleep watching a video introducing them to the process.
John and Chandra are beginning to see that Naz has a problem with the truth. Afterwards, the young Muslim explains himself to Chandra. He talks about post-9/11, the hate to which he was subjected because of his skin and his religion, the fights and the beatings. This is what led to his fight with the boy at school. He challenges Chandra’s view of him, wondering if she believes he’s capable of having killed Andrea. Little flashes of the night come back in pieces to Naz. I can’t imagine what else he might remember down the line.
One thing’s for sure – the state has piles of evidence against Nasir at their disposal. They’re fitting to bury him under anything and everything they can.
I love how suspenseful and tense much of this series has been. This episode in particular is so well edited, scored, shot, paced, that all of the suspense is at the forefront reeling us in tight. When Salim arrives at Chandra’s door, delivering food, we’re almost as surprised as she. I half expected it to be the unsettling mortician hearse driver. A wonderfully put together sequence.
We’re on the verge of the trial, which is poised to be possibly the most intense and interesting portion of Season 1. What I dig most in this episode is that John has finally beaten the foot pain. His feet, at least right now, are cured. He’s able to actually wear a pair of shoes for the first time in so long. He looks professional, for once, and this will hopefully give him a bit of an edge, finally without pain and not worrying about the zombified flesh at his toes.
Moreover, Freddy proves to be looking out consistently for his friend Naz. He offers a white shirt and black tie, although the young man refuses. In court, Stone then has to switch his own shirt over for Naz to wear; another stroke of honesty for Mr. Knight. Interesting.
But on we go, into the opening statements and ready to see the court proceedings at the trial of Nasir Khan. “This case isn‘t about Andrea‘s life, it‘s about her death,” Weiss explains to the jury. Afterwards, Chandra gives a poignant, brief opening statement that makes her look pretty strong. A good start. Things will get rough, as the trial wears on and the ugly truths and dark corners are brought into the light.
When Naz is back home, in prison, Freddy bonds with him some more. About himself. He talks about why he’s in Rikers instead of another place, leading to the discovery that Freddy has a couple “bodies on” him. Worse, he leads Naz into smoking some drugs – what I imagine is heroin – and this is the beginning of further trouble in Khan’s life. So, whereas Freddy seems to have his best interests in mind when it comes to Naz’s court appearances, he’s not always looking out for him like he should.
In court, Naz watches the video of him getting pulled over by the police on that fateful night. One of the officers is on the stand giving her statement, if not a bit hyperbolic. The knife is discussed, as well as the fact Naz tried to run. Doesn’t look good when the video of the station is shown where Naz attempts breaking free from the cops surrounding him.
Naz, a.k.a Sinbad – which is what he has tattooed across his knuckles now – discovers more about the prison life than he had hoped. He sees one of Freddy’s crew getting a blowjob from another young inmate who recently came in, the one whose mother helped smuggle the drugs in last episode. Following this event, Naz calls Chandra. Far as he falls into the mitt of Freddy, there’s still shock when he sees what’s happening around him. So he talks to her for comfort, if only for a minute. Even the cell is more of him becoming further criminal, as he gets money for letting others use it; more criminality, all the time.
Next day in the shower, Freddy’s boy puts a blade to Naz, right at the neck, and threatens him over the blowjob he witnessed. Great, more and more issues each passing day.
On the outside, Johnny’s mind is constantly working. He wonders how Andrea afforded to live in such an expensive brownstone apartment. He starts to dig into the records, finding an Evelyn Cornish – deceased – linked to the place. Finally, Stone has tracked down the guy he snapped a picture of arguing with Andrea’s stepfather Don Taylor (Paul Sparks) at the funeral, a chartered personal accountant named Ray Halle. This gives us a better idea of Don.
And it muddies the waters. Seems like Naz really ended up in the middle of a life that was burning all around Andrea. No telling anymore exactly what the story is, as Naz, Don, everybody has a secret they’re keeping, just as it is in real life.
What a powerful episode, all around. This series is just fascinating, from writing up to the visual aesthetic and overall execution. Next episode is “Ordinary Death” and I’m looking forward to another big heap of revelation.