Tagged Season of the Witch

The Night Of – Season 1, Episode 5: “The Season of the Witch”

HBO’s The Night Of
Season 1, Episode 5: “The Season of the Witch”
Directed by Steven Zaillian
Teleplay by Richard Price & Zaillian

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Art of War” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Samson and Delilah” – click here
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John Stone (John Turturro) just wants his feet to get better. To the point of getting a UV light and shades, letting them bake under the rays for a while. At the very same time he’s juggling all the other aspects of his life. He talks to a class that includes his son, although nobody is able to really grasp his place in the legal world. His son is proud of him, to a certain degree, not happy with the treatment the class gives his father. Nice to see the family life of Stone. Gives us a dichotomy from which to work concerning his character, his ambitions, and so on.
Up in Rikers Island, Freddy Knight (Michael K. Williams) is taking care of Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed), getting him into a proper cell and looking out for his well-being. What exactly is the price, though?
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We get to see more of a character I enjoy plenty, Chandra Kapoor (Amara Karan). She goes to see Stone about possibly helping. She’s got to not only haggle with him, but also witness his foot ritual. He manages to get an extra $10K out of her to take part. Meanwhile, D.A. Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin) has her troops in getting their case together. Detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) is there along with a team of lawyers. They try to suss out what the defence may use against them. Back and forth we’re privy to each side attempting to pick apart the whole murder, the night in question, everything possible.
I love Chandra because the writing allows for this racial perspective; one which obviously includes Naz and his race, his religion. This opens up a lot of interesting things.
There are problems with the Khan family on the outside. Salim (Peyman Moaadi) is being pressured by his partners Tariq and Yusuf (Mohammad Bakri & Nabil Elouahabi) to press charges against his own son. All in order to recoup the cost of the taxi they’re now missing because of the trial. This is putting poor Salim in an awful place.
In jail, Naz is keeping himself fit, doing push-ups in his cell. He’s called out by guard Tino (Lord Jamar) to go meet Freddy in the showers. They’ve got Calvin Hart (Ashley Thomas) at their mercy for what he did to the young Muslim. When Naz is goaded, he eventually kicks the shit out of Calvin already lying bleeding on the floor. Already the prison system is changing Nasir, if only slightly. I mean, we’d all probably do the same thing given the situation, what that man tried to do to him. Still, the point of Richard Price’s writing is to see how the prison system is a jungle in and of itself, and how exactly it affects those within it.
All the while Dt. Box puts together a timeline for Weiss on the locations of Naz throughout the night of the murder.
What you need to pay attention to most is the filmmaking here. The close-up shots of Box marking off a map of the city cut with the actual instances of Naz moving through the city itself are magnificent. This is why HBO and many of the writers the network attracts are top notch. Because this is a simple sequence, yet it’s beautifully executed and effective.


Stone is changing, too. It isn’t just Nasir. We see that more every episode. He finally goes back to get the cat from Andrea’s place, the one he brought to the pound. He’s allergic, though still insists on saving it: “Better than the gas chamber,” he mumbles to himself. This is more than a basic little quirky plot point. It is the idea that Stone can’t let go; not of the cat, not of Naz. And gradually he’s becoming altruistic rather than totally selfish. Not entirely, just little by little.
And Freddy, he sees something in Naz. The young man sleeps away, and up in the hospital Calvin suffers from his injuries. There’s definitely rage in Naz. Not long after he shaves his head to get that prison look going. Seeing the jail life ahead of Naz is a bit tragic. He’s slowly falling into things, hanging out with Freddy and his crew smoking weed, playing chess, eating Happy Meals from McDonalds.
Weiss is beginning to weed out witnesses. Trevor Williams (J.D. Williams) is so effortlessly shown as childish, both in how he answers questions and the way he’s brought a cookie and some milk in during the interview. I hope we’ll see more of him because we all know there’s a greasiness behind his motives.
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At a restaurant, Stone starts investigating a few things himself. He tracks down a guy named Cutty (Joe Egender) who was contacted by Andrea the night of her murder; she got some ecstasy and ketamine off him. Mostly, John pokes around trying to stir something, anything up. Afterwards he’s with Chandra having a look through the crime scene. They have pictures taken everywhere, of every last little thing. In the blood spattered bedroom, Chandra is silently shocked at the mess. They make sure to document each inch of the apartment. The tiniest details can crack a case wide open. When their man Dr. Katz (Chip Zien) comes across a possible clue, it’s all the better. Likewise, Weiss is trying to make her case. But we start seeing how the law and justice aren’t always working for the greater good. With a Medical Examiner, she begins coaxing out the proper story the way she wants it told. Tricky, tricky.
The hubris of being in Freddy’s care is starting to make Naz a little cocky. He’s already feeling the benefit, but perhaps a bit too much. Well, now Naz is figuring out there isn’t exactly no price for protection. He’s got to swallow some drugs, get them in for Freddy from a woman who’ll be hiding them… you know where.


The toxicology report comes back. Everyone’s surprised about amphetamines in Naz’s system that night. Chandra is particularly surprised, not enjoying having been lied to, supposedly. He’s the “good boy” everyone imagined. Simultaneously, Naz is behind bars trying to learn how to swallow drugs using grapes. When John and Chandra go to see their boy, he’s not happy to hear they don’t believe him. Turns out Adderall is what Naz lied to them about; he took it for purposes of studying. The whole time John is asking about Naz’s story, the young Muslim reluctantly swallows the drugs to bring Freddy. John isn’t stupid. He recognises what is going on and cautions his client. Things are getting pretty god damn dangerous right now for poor Nasir. He gets the drugs in, even if he has a bit of trouble passing them.
What John and Chandra do get is the revelation of a second man with Trevor Williams when he ran into Naz and Andrea. So this sends Stone out to talk with the man. He puts a bit of fear into Trevor about perjury, hoping to determine who the second man was that evening. We find a sliver of honesty: the second man’s name is Duane Reid. Further putting John on a search throughout the streets. He comes across Duane in the back of a supermarket, then plants the seeds: “Im his lawyer,” John tells him in regards to Trevor. Of course the guy takes off. Now, this arms the lawyer with bit more of an idea about whether Naz might be innocent after all.
Only John is too eager, putting him in harm’s way after Duane runs and he gives chase. Hopefully nothing bad happens. However, just like the stubbornness of John with his feet, the stubborn nature of how investigates his latest case may prove detrimental to his health if he doesn’t slow down.
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Just a downright gripping episode. One of my favourites so far in the series. Such great storytelling combined with wonderful filmmaking technique. All around outstanding!
Next episode is “Samson and Delilah” – can’t wait to see how the significance of that title comes into play.

Sightseers a.k.a Caravan Holiday Massacre

Sightseers. 2012. Directed by Ben Wheatley. Screenplay by Alice Lowe & Chris Oram; additional material by Amy Jump.
Starring Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies, Roger Michael, Tony Way, Seamus O’Neill, Monica Dolan, Jonathan Aris, Aymen Hamdouchi, and Tom Meeten. BFI/Big Talk Productions/Film4/Rook Films/StudioCanal.
Rated 14A. 88 minutes.
Adventure/Comedy/Crime

★★★★★
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I’m a hardcore fan of Ben Wheatley. Some say he’s the best thing to happen to British film in a while. I say he’s one of the best directors to come along in a while, period; not just British, but all over. I think there’s something I enjoy about Wheatley because all of his films are, at their core, fairly simple. Not meant in any way negatively. What I enjoy is that he can take those simple, smaller premises and turn them into something big and exciting.
Even in this case a couple’s week-long trip in caravan, under direction of Wheatley, becomes an intriguing and unexpected story. What could easily be something dull – and I’m sure there are detractors who say it is – turns into a tense and weird ride alongside an equally tense, weird two lovers. Not only is there tension happening, Sightseers is one hell of a riotous black comedy.
Until now I had no idea Edgar Wright was an executive producer on this film. Turns out the screenplay by stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram had been turned down for years – too dark, they said – and Wright came along to greenlight the project. I think this fits so well with Wright’s own style as a director that it’s no surprise he was willing to get onboard.
With the purposefully awkward and tense atmosphere, dark laughs, added to excellent directorial choices, I really think this is one of the best comedies I’ve seen in the last 5 years. A highly underrated film, at least on this side of the pond. I’m sure the British film fans have been ALL over this already.
sit2Little moments which make this so funny, often in a dark way, make the movie so memorable.
For instance, even right after they’ve cleared everything with the police following Chris running over a stranger by accident, killing him, Chris tells his girlfriend Tina “he’s ruined this trip for me“.
Later while Chris and Tina are having some fun, getting the caravan all setup at the campsite, they all of a sudden notice a bright splash of blood on one of the hubcaps, abruptly interrupting their laughs. It’s in the way Chris responds I get a kick, how casual and unassuming he is about the whole thing. Gets me every time.
Then there are the tensely awkward bits of which I can’t get enough. Like the first encounter Chris and Tina have with another couple out in their caravan. Right from the beginning it is so incredibly painful to watch, but in the right way – these two are socially inept, they’re both on the fringe of life in so many ways. However, as the caravan holiday wears on, Chris and Tina find themselves becoming less and less awkward, while becoming more and more sinister. The comedy coasts along with them, only it gets progressively darker and more unsettling; at the same time, it also gets foolish with great effect.
The whole bit of the film with Martin testing his mini-caravan is ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS! So awkward and weird and way too funny. Even from the first scene, as Chris leaves after talking with him and then Martin gets into the mini-caravan only to roll away down the hill chaotically; I burst laughing at this moment. There are a bunch of these great bits.
Sightseers2Something I love about Wheatley’s films are the way in which they’re edited. The are a couple other editors on this film, including Amy Jump and Robin Hill, aside from Wheatley. Hill and Wheatley have worked together ever since Down Terrace; the trio have edited together on Kill List, this film, and A Field in England. I totally dig how these three edit films. There are countless examples of how well they work.
WARNING! SPOILER AHEAD!
My favourite here, I believe, has to be the scene where Chris sneaks up on the writer he and Tina met; Vanilla Fudge’s excellent cover of Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” plays, as Chris follows him along the highlands, creeping behind, then smashes him in the head with a rock. The great part is how it’s edited with cuts of both Tina, as well as the writer’s wife. In particular, the wife is interesting – she steps on a piece of broken plate, one Chris tipped over purposely earlier, then hauls it from her bleeding foot. I thought this was just a genius bit of editing, snapping between these quick cuts at times. Not sure what it means, other than Chris sort of hurting them both simultaneously – albeit one worse than the other; the writer husband more actively, the wife inadvertently. But either way, how the editing cuts here I find is extremely effective.
HERE ENDETH THE SPOILER!
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For me, the greatest part of Sightseers is the juxtaposition of the comedy and its awkwardness with horrific murder at the hands of both Chris and Tina. Every excellently hilarious segment seems to come along with a heart dose of violence.
The best scene of murder, and in turn makeup effects, comes when Chris murders a man chastising Tina for leaving dog shit at a public historical site. Building up to the violence, there’s this funny moment when Chris and Tina sort of land on the same page; if only for a moment. Then Chris traipses up behind the man, who decides to walk away instead of pursue an argument with this manic couple, and proceeds to bash his skull in with a big, heavy walking stick. When we get slight glimpses of the leftover face, it is HEINOUS! In the best possible horror-ish sense.
But this leads me to another part of Sightseers I found interesting. There’s a strange sort of awakening in this scene, as Chris and Tina become closer. While Tina watches Chris bashing in the man’s head, though she appears to be slightly traumatized, not long after she seems to be totally in on it, willingly; a radio report they hear in the car prompts her, and Chris, to go mad with glee. Then later, Tina herself joins in on the murder without even being coaxed into by Chris (except for the dumb and thoughtless flirting he engages in). They become, tenuously, a murder couple.
So it’s this weirdly violent story undercut with a romantic tale. The ending is the ultimate undercutting of the romance, however, there’s still a love between Chris and Tina. It reminds me of the real life story of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley who committed the Moors Murders – as in, if Tina had never gone on that caravan holiday with Chris, she’d probably never have killed a person in her life. Yet Chris and his personality, his actions, draw her into murder. It’s no secret Tina is a bit slow, in many ways, so I’d venture to bet she would probably have lived at home with her mother until the end of time had she not met him.
sightseersThis is absolutely a 4.5 out of 5 star film. While at times it might seem there’s nothing going on, plenty happens under the surface and right in front of us. Dark comedy comes as immediately obvious, but underneath it all there’s the story of two damaged people. Chris and Tina are the victims of unfulfilled expectations – most of all, Chris hates himself and everyone around him who are either more competent or more successful than he is. This is where the violence originates from. However, it’s interesting to see how Tina latches onto Chris and sort of supports this vicious, animalistic side to him; for her, being a muse to his violence is equal to or even greater than being the muse to some writer. It’s only once Chris sort of messes it all up by shamelessly flirting that Tina turns against him, using her own violence to then turn the tables. Without ruining the ending, Tina gets a major last laugh that I’d not expected whatsoever, personally.
If you’re a fan of Ben Wheatley, then absolutely see this as soon as possible. Great black comedy, burnt like toast. As well as there’s a real horror aspect at times, between the violence and a trippy little dream sequence. I’m a huge fan of Kill List, as well as the vastly different A Field in England and Down Terrace. Ultimately, though, I’m beginning to think my favourite of his work is Sightseers. The performances from Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, also the screenwriters along with frequent Wheatley collaborator Amy Jump, are so unbelievable and it’s as if they’re being completely natural; so much so you’d almost have a hard time separating the actors from their characters’ personas. This has got a bit of everything, from a road trip-like feel of adventure, to awkward and dark comedy, and even a nice dash of horror for good measure.
What’s not to like?
If you’ve got any SENSIBLE and thoughtful comments about Wheatley’s film, drop one below and let’s chat!