Those hoping to see some progression in the mystery of who killed Andrea Cornish will need to wait for at least one more episode. This week’s entry of ‘The Night Of’ focuses primarily – but not exclusively – on Naz’s first couple days as a prisoner at Rikers Island. This is a better episode than last week, but one gets the sense that the show-runners are stretching out a story to eight episodes that could have been told in two or three hours of televison.
As this week’s episode gets underway, Naz answers questions as he’s checked into the prison – such as whether he’s homosexual, if he’s suicidal, and if he’s scared for his life. He’s then taken with other prisoners to an open area where everyone is assigned a bed. I’m not sure if it’s standard at the real Rikers to have newcomers all sleep together in an open area like this, but it seems like a bad idea. As Naz’s check-in process proceeds, viewers notice that he’s been watched by an inmate named Freddy (Michael Kenneth Williams from ‘The Wire’), who we’ll soon learn has a lot of pull at the prison.
Stone goes to visit Naz’s parents and tells them he’s going to charge them a flat fee of $75,000 to defend their son. When Naz’s father explains that they don’t have that kind of money (and his friends are even poorer than he is), Stone eventually lowers his asking price down to $50,000 but tells the father than he’ll need to sign off on their agreement as soon as possible. While Stone comes off as less than admirable in this sequence, I have to give the writers credit for adding this moment to their script. Rarely in crime dramas do we see this kind of negotiation going on, and of course, it does cost a fortune to hire a decent attorney… although how decent Stone really is remains to be seen.
Stone also visits the prosecutor on the case, Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin). He tries to get Naz’s charges reduced to manslaughter, but Helen isn’t budging. When Stone asks if she’ll give him at least something in return, she passes him info on a tailor so he can buy better clothes for the trial. Stone then returns to the crime scene, where he takes photos of the bloodied bedroom and films some video of Andrea’s apartment. While he’s doing this, he sees her cat outside trying to get back in. He lets it in and gives it some milk. Later in the episode, he’ll take the cat to an animal shelter and learn it will be gassed within ten days if no one adopts it. Even though he’s allergic, I’m guessing Stone goes back for that cat – which, as I’ve mentioned before, may pay a pivotal role in how the murder occurred. (Andrea letting the cat out the back door is almost certainly how the killer gained access.)
After the police hold a televised press conference telling the media that they’re pressing murder charges against Naz, a lawyer named Alison Crowe (Glenne Headly) decides she wants to be Naz’s attorney in the case. She takes one of her young associates (the girl is of Indian descent, but Crowe hopes she’s close enough to being Middle Eastern to appeal to Naz’s parents) with her on the visit and tells the family that she’s willing to take on the case for free. That’s enough for Naz’s father, who calls his son at Rikers to tell him that Stone is no longer his attorney.
When Stone comes to Rikers to visit Naz and drop off some clothes for him, he’s shocked to learn he’s no longer on the case. He goes to Alison’s office to confront her, but is told by Chandra (the Indian girl) that she’s not available. Stone figures out how Alison lured Naz’s parents into hiring her and berates Chandra for her involvement.
Back at Rikers, Naz is told that Freddy wants to have a meeting with him. During the course of the episode, we’ve learned a lot about this particular inmate. Given the number of boxing items in this cell, he appears to have been a former prize fighter (and a successful one), and he also has a very close relationship with most of the guards. He even has sex and receives drugs from one of the female officers. When Naz meets with Freddy in his cell, Freddy tells him that he’s a “celebrity” at Rikers – and not in a good way. The other inmates want to kill him because they believe he raped and murdered a young girl. Freddy then offers to protect Naz, but Naz refuses (or, at the very least, doesn’t give an answer). Naz may wind up changing his mind, however, as when he leaves his bed in the middle of the night to use the bathroom (do they really let prisoners get up and wander off like that on their own?), he returns to find the inmates have set his bed on fire and are giving him really nasty looks.
This is an entertaining episode to be sure, but unless Freddy is going to play a significant role in the ongoing story (I still can’t figure out exactly why he wants to protect Naz, nor does the episode give us any hint of what he expects in return), this entry may just seem like a lot of filler once the whole story has played out. Also, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Stone will wind up defending Naz at his trial after all, so why even waste time going down that road in the screenplay? As I said earlier, a lot of this seems like material just to stretch out the story over eight episodes.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that once again we get scenes involving Stone’s foot condition. This week, he’s told by his doctor to grease them up with Crisco and wrap them in Saran Wrap. I’m surprised he wasn’t told to stick them in the oven for 20 minutes. Also, Stone seems to be a member of a skin condition support group. Do groups like this actually exist?
Anyway, this is a solid episode, albeit possibly an unnecessary one. It will be interesting to go back after the series ends and see if anything significant was introduced here – other than the cat, of course.