I know I’m in the minority at this point, but I’ve become disappointed with the otherwise well-acted ‘The Night Of’ as it continues to throw (what I believe to be) red herrings at the audience, all while changing the very substance of its main character to make him look more suspicious each week. In this week’s entry, Naz’s trial finally gets underway, and it looks more and more likely that he may be guilty after all.
Remember how last week’s episode ended with John Stone trying to track down suspect Duane Reade? Well, that’s all but forgotten this week, as the storyline continues with little (if any) mention of Reade at all and no real concern shown by Stone in trying to track him down. Instead, Stone heads into Chinatown to visit a doctor to find a cure for his continuing foot ailment. The doctor gives Stone a mixture of powders to drink and sends him on his way.
At Rikers, Naz has proven his worth to Freddie after smuggling in what I’m assuming was/is heroin. (You’ll excuse me if I don’t have my illegal narcotics memorized.) As a reward for his loyalty, Naz is given his own cell phone, which he can use to call his parents (or whomever) at any time. Freddie also points out later to Naz that he should charge other inmates to make use of the phone. Freddie offers some of the heroin to Naz to smoke, but Naz refuses… something that will change by episode’s end.
Remember that hearse driver at the gas station back in the pilot episode? Chandra notices him on video taken from the station on the night of the crime and sees how the driver not only talks to Andrea, but then seemingly follows Naz in the cab when he leaves. She tracks the man down and visits him at his mortuary, where he has suddenly (okay, he was a bit off in the pilot, but not this off) turned into a woman-hating, Bible-quoting, crazy person. He tells Chandra to look up Judges 16, and later when she does, she learns it’s the story of Samson and Delilah (the title of this episode). Furthermore, it’s all about how women use their prowess to weaken men. Not only is Chandra convinced now that this guy is a major suspect, but she fears for her life, as she gave the guy her card before realizing just how loony he was.
Detective Box continues to dive into Naz’s past, and is curious about why he transferred to a different high school when he was younger. Visiting Naz’s former school (the one he transferred away from) and talking to the principal there, Box learns that Naz got into a fight with a fellow classmate and threw him down a flight of stairs. Box eventually passes along this information to Stone, who then tells Chandra that they’ve caught Naz in yet another lie.
With his trial about to get underway, Naz suddenly decides it would be a good idea to get a tattoo on the fingers of one hand that spell out the word “SIN.” Later, Naz also decides to take up smoking heroin in Freddie’s cell on a regular basis. There’s even a creepy scene at the end of this week’s entry where Naz calls Chandra up on the phone and seems – for a second at least – like he’s going to tell his lead attorney that he’s got the hots for her. He hangs up before that happens, but has a good laugh about it after he disconnects. What the hell happened to the shy, young innocent we saw in the pilot? More about that further below.
The biggest development this week may be the fact that, on the morning of the first day of the trial, Stone discovers that his feet have miraculously healed. For the first time, he’s able to wear proper dress shoes in the courtroom. Later on at his support group, he praises the abilities of the doctor he found in Chinatown.
A couple more things happen in this week’s episode that are probably worth noting. First, upon returning to Rikers during one day of his trial, Naz happens to see young inmate Petey performing oral sex on one of Freddie’s close associates. Naz stares just a little too long and the associate sees that Naz is watching. The next morning in the shower, Naz gets threatened by the guy, who warns him that Freddie better never find out what Naz saw. The other development concerns Andrea’s stepfather. Stone learns that the man fighting with the stepfather at the funeral was Andrea’s mother’s CPA, and that following her mother’s death, the stepfather was set to inherit half of the mother’s estate, something Andrea was fighting to prevent. Furthermore, Stone learns from the CPA that the stepfather has a history of wooing older women just to get his hands on their money.
But let’s get back to Naz and the way this series is portraying him. I’ve brought this up in prior recaps, but it’s now reached a point where it’s affecting my overall opinion of the series. In the pilot episode, Naz was this innocent, primarily clueless young college kid, who seemed to genuinely be in over his head the entire night of Andrea’s murder. This wasn’t just some act Naz was putting on for those around him. There were a number – no, actually a ton – of scenes where Naz acted this way when he was all by himself. Now, for whatever reason, be it because he really is the killer or just because the writers want us to think he is, Naz suddenly not only acts like a badass in prison (which might be acceptable given the rough circumstances there), but seems to have a dark, violent past which is totally at odds with everything we knew about him up until this point. The prison transformation I can accept (although I’m a little wishy-washy if someone could change their personality so quickly), but the background stuff just doesn’t jibe at all with me.
If Naz really was (or used to be) a violent young kid, would he have acted the way he did in the pilot episode? And if he really were a killer, would he have made all the stupid mistakes he did? Or – worse yet – will the show-runners try to explain all this away by saying that Naz had some kind of multiple personality disorder? (Honestly, that’s about the only explanation if they really do want him to be the killer.)
I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with this series, and am actually glad there’s only a couple of episodes left. I hate being jerked around as a viewer, and this series seems to do that every week. While ‘The Night Of’ continues to get raves by most mainstream critics, this minor-league one has been less than impressed. The acting remains top-notch, but that doesn’t excuse the soap-opera storytelling.