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.
I think the methodical approach this show takes is its greatest strength. The mystery of who really killed the girl isn’t the point of the story. The point is to show us, in excruciating detail, how the criminal justice system really works from the perspective of someone trapped in it.
It looks like Freddy is running a pretty straightforward protection racket. It’s not that he wants to protect Naz. If Naz doesn’t do what he wants (likely find a way to get his family to smuggle in stuff), Freddy sends his goons to torment and torture him.
I agree with you here. The scene where we see how Naz’s father and his partners are trying to get their cab back demonstrates how much this case is going to affect a great many people. The Detective Box character intrigues me as well. He seems to be quite revered in the department for his ability to “get his man” and he certainly seems to think Naz murdered Andrea. I’m all in. Can’t wait for the next episode.
FWIW, I saw that Michael Kenneth Williams is only credited for one episode on IMDb. That raised an eyebrow from me.
But I completely agree with you about the strength of the show coming from it’s methodical approach. If you want an hour-long whodunit, turn on one of the dozens of old or new crime shows on basic network television.
This show shows how convoluted the justice system is. None of the beat cops want to do their job. The nightwatch can’t wait to pass the DOA off to another detective. The crime scene unit guys bitch at everyone. The witnesses are stuck at the precinct, making the DMV look like a dream. The moving of suspects/accused from holding cell to holding cell to jail. Jail politics. Slimy lawyers on both sides.
It’s not perfect, but it’s very entertaining. I’ll be in for the full 8 episodes.
They don’t have True Detective for the summer anymore, they pushed The Leftovers to 2017 and they’re banking on Westworld to be a hit. So this will have to do for now 🙂
Yeah, I get Freddy’s “deal”, I’m just unsure what he thinks Naz will have to offer him. He comes from a nearly dirt-poor family.
Maybe we’re starting to find out why HBO was so hesitant about green-lighting this in the first place. While I’m enjoying the performances and the direction, there’s not much here that feels “fresh.”
My knowledge from the American legal system comes solely from movies and television. I’m guessing there’s a large amount of salt necessary and needed. I’m pretty sure a real lawyer would never act the way we see them act on the screen.
So my question is: if it does cost a fortune to hire a decent attorney, why is the other lawyer willing to do it for free? Do some American lawyers work pro deo or pro bono as well?
I see exactly what the show is doing. It’s liberal propaganda with the way a Muslim is being treated along with how corrupt the justice system is. Don’t get me wrong, the show is extremely entertaining and I love it but it’s obvious propaganda. I’m also aware that certain parts of the entire justice system need some work but Naz’s actions after the fact have been pretty unbelievably stupid. There have been several times where I’ve screamed in my head to just tell the people what the F happened.
I don’t think that’s fair. The cops in the show have made some missteps regarding chain of custody that will bite them in the ass later, and I have no doubt that the lawyer will play the race card at trial, but the show has been pretty careful to show that Naz was not racial profiled and the cops haven’t mistreated him due to his race.
As for why Naz hasn’t tried harder to tell people what happened, Stone explained very clearly that the truth doesn’t matter. The more he talks, the more he incriminates himself, no matter what he says. He needs to keep his mouth shut.
Honestly, what could Naz say about the night that would convince anyone to believe him? We saw what really happened (as much as he knows of it), and that story will frankly sound completely implausible from an outside perspective.
As viewers, even WE don’t know how the girl really died or whether Naz is actually innocent yet. How are the cops or a jury supposed to believe him?
Before he met Stone, he acted very suspicious.
He’s a kid. He panicked. He knows that it looks very bad for him and he doesn’t know what to do.
He’s a good actor and the performances have been very well done but I still didn’t buy it.