With only one episode to go after this one, a big chunk of the latest entry of ‘The Night Of’ is devoted to Naz’s trial – which means that much of this episode is a rehash/reexamination of plot points viewers are already familiar with. Still, the performances this week are good enough that the episode doesn’t feel like it’s completely treading water, and there are a few interesting (and one annoying) developments along the way.
The episode opens with Box and a fellow detective being called to the scene of a murder of another young girl. Box states how the m.o. of the crime seems to match that of Andrea’s killing as well. However, after this opening, the episode doesn’t mention this murder again. Was this scene just inserted to imply that Box (a few days from retirement) doesn’t care about finding out the truth anymore? Will it come up again in the finale? Is it just another red herring for viewers to mull over?
The episode has a lot of trial testimony scenes, starting with the coroner that Helen talked to a few weeks back to make sure he testified properly about the knife wounds on Naz’s hand. During the questioning, photos of Andrea’s bloody body are shown in the courtroom, causing Naz’s mother to get up and exit – which everyone, including the jury, notices. Throughout this episode, the mother seems to believe that Naz is guilty after all. Even Naz comments later on that only his father believes he’s innocent. (For more about that moment, read on.)
Stone continues to investigate Andrea’s stepfather, following him around the city and watching him trying to woo a couple older women. Stone learns that the stepfather has pretty much maxed out all his credit cards. One of the stepfather’s former lovers also reveals that she gave him a $200,000 settlement just to get him out of her life.
Naz’s father is almost having as bad a time as his son. Meeting with the two other owners of his still-impounded taxi, they talk him into selling his share of the cab license to them at an extremely reduced rate. The father refuses at first, but desperately needs the money to continue paying for Naz’s trial. Eventually, he relents. Naz’s mother also sells her wedding ring and some other jewelry at a pawn shop to raise some money for the family.
This episode still has time to show us the most interesting character on the series – that darn cat Stone is still taking care of. He’s gone as far to wear gloves and a mask so he can pet it, but he accidently leaves the door ajar one night and the cat gets out. It immediately goes to Stone’s bed and spends the night there. Stone wakes up to both the cat and a swollen throat from his allergies. When he goes back to see the doctor in Chinatown who cured his foot problem, Stone asks if there’s anything he can get for his allergies. The doctor tells him to get rid of the cat, but Stone confesses that he doesn’t want to.
Now let’s get to the most annoying scene in the episode, something that’s here just to manipulate the plot for the final episode, rather than believability. After court one day, Chandra meets with Naz to talk about the case, and Naz tells her that his father is the only one who believes in him. This leads to Chandra holding one of his hands in support, which in turn leads to Naz taking her other hand, and then to a passionate kiss between the two. Chandra does not pull back immediately; she’s totally into it for several seconds until she realizes she’s doing the wrong thing. This scene is complete hogwash for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which is that Chandra hasn’t shown any attraction toward Naz up until this point in the series. More importantly, it could not only get Chandra kicked off the case (something that’s almost guaranteed to happen, just so the writers can get Stone to defend Naz in the courtroom), but – at least in real life – would probably get her disbarred. It’s another one of those soap-opera moments that have happened in this series a few times now that lessen both the quality of these episodes and my overall opinion of them.
While getting some of the crime scene photos copied at a local copy store (you know, like Kinko’s), Stone notices an evidence photo of Naz’s inhaler, then realizes that the inhaler was never placed into evidence. Talking to Naz about it with Chandra, Naz tells them that Box gave him the inhaler while he was in the holding cell at the police station. This leads to Stone getting a subpoena for Box (who has already testified once) to appear in court for questioning a second time. On the stand, Box doesn’t deny supplying Naz with his inhaler, confessing he was more than happy to break the rules to help someone who was suffering. Again, for a seasoned detective to risk ruining his entire case against Naz by breaking the chain of evidence seems highly implausible, but ‘The Night Of’ (as I’ve pointed out week in and week out in these recaps, it seems) is more concerned about getting its characters into situations the writers want them to be in each week, believability be damned.
When Naz returns to Rikers that night, he goes to relieve himself in the bathroom and sees blood on the floor a few stalls down. There, he finds the dead body of Petey with his wrists slashed – made to look like a suicide, although we know it’s the guy who Naz witnessed getting oral sex from Petey in last week’s episode. When Freddie finds out about the death, he’s pretty upset, because Petey’s mom was supplying him with crack on an ongoing basis. (In fact, earlier in this episode, we see Naz involved in yet another prison drug exchange.) He suspects that Naz knows something about the death and asks if he has something to tell him. This episode ends with Naz distracting the guard on duty in their part of the prison (claiming he needs his inhaler replaced) while Freddie takes a razor to the neck of the guy who killed Petey.
I understand that a big point of ‘The Night Of’ is to show viewers how the prison system can affect a person, but does anyone out there actually care what happens to Naz at this point in the show? We’ve already found out he was both violent (we learn of a second student he assaulted in high school this week) and a drug dealer before Andrea’s murder happened, and he’s both a drug dealer and user in prison, to say nothing of beating a guy within an inch of his life and now being an accomplice to murder (justified or not).
With one episode left, I’m not sure there’s any way ‘The Night Of’ can end with a satisfying conclusion. Most of these characters act so stupidly at times, the only two I really care about are Stone and Det. Box – characters (both played by great actors) who deserve to be in a much better show.
OK, everyone, it’s your last chance to predict how this is all going to end. I’m working with the theory that Stone will take over Chandra’s spot in the courtroom and talk the jury into bringing back a not guilty verdict. Then, most likely (although I’m not as sure about this part), viewers will learn that Naz is guilty after all. That would be an implausible end to a continually implausible series that has never lived up to its great pilot episode.