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.