We are three episodes in of THE NIGHT OF and we are getting deeper into the slow mechanics of the criminal justice system and all of its rough edges and semi-truths. The title for this week’s episode, “Dark Crate,” is a valid metaphor for the all of the enclosed spaces the characters feel they have been placed in.
The episode is the first one that veers away from the mystery aspect of the plot and shifts its focus more towards the characters in their present conflicts. Our main perspective is John Stone (John Turturro) and his search to find evidence that will paint his client in a more innocent light. The client in question, Naz (Riz Ahmed), has arrived at Rikers Island, a state prison full of nightmares.
John struggles quite a bit in this episode: his orthopedic doctor informs him that his eczema hasn’t improved (he prescribes Stone to put Crisco and saran wrap on his feet to improve his condition) and Naz must inform Stone that he is no longer his lawyer because his parents can’t afford him (all the while Stone has brought Naz clothing to help him out). The sadness that Stone conveys in his scene with Naz is surprisingly touching, considering Stone had taken the case to further his own career. Turturro’s performance continues to be a highlight of the show. He plays the loss in effective fashion and continues to subvert our expectations in the role. It appears he might be the only lawyer who genuinely cares about Naz’s case.
Naz’s parents Salim (Peyman Mooadi) and Safar (Poorna Jagannathan) feel as though they are cornered in their options. They finally visit their son in prison and get the his side of the story of the night in question. Instead of chastising him (which would be the predictable response), they express support and concern. The scene in which Salim checks-in at Rikers to visit his son and is met with rudeness and discontent by one of the employees is a small, but vital detail that creators Richard Price and Steven Zaillian have injected terrifically into lending the show authenticity with our real world.
Salim’s taxi cab has been in impounded for evidence and is told by the impound that he won’t get it back for a while. This doesn’t sit well with the taxi cab co-owners, who are losing money on the loss. Salim is told he can sue his son to get the cab back, but Salim refuses and walks out. The officer then hands Salim’s co-owners a card for a lawyer and who happens to be on the card, but our very own John Stone, which foreshadows that Stone will be in play, but in possibly a different manner. This a clever piece of writing that continues to surprise viewers in the outcome of how things will play out.
There are two new characters that have arrived on the scene occupying vastly different worlds. The first is lawyer Allison Crowe (Glenne Headly), who works at a large law firm and takes an interest in Naz’s case after seeing a press conference. Like all of the characters on the show, she is someone who functions in different dynamics. She appears like a strong lawyer, but her motives appear murky because she is able to poach Naz’s parents into hiring her after she speaks ill of Stone’s lawyer abilities and wants to do it pro bono, in addition to bringing a fellow colleague is of similar ethnic background. Headly is excellent in her performance in how she conveys her character’s manipulative approach in subtle ways.
The other new character and the one with great potential is Freddy Knight (Michael K. Williams), a former boxer who is now serving time for a violent crime. He takes a special interest in Naz, which makes Naz feel very uneasy. Williams is fantastic in his work, making Freddy into a charismatic, yet dangerous character. Williams is able to tap into the duality of Freddy and make the viewer empathize in Naz’s uncertainty of him. Everyone in the prison seems to be under Freddy’s influence and this is someone not to make an enemy out of.
The scenes in the prison are presented in a gritty manner, creating tension that is palpable throughout. Once again, Ahmed is wonderful in showing Naz’s anxiety of the danger and vulnerable position he has been placed in. Price and Zaillian beautifully exploit his fear to the fullest potential. Naz can be never feel a peace in this environment and his fear might be the only thing that keeps him alive.
The episode is probably the most slow-burn we’ve had so far, which does take some of the suspense out of the narrative, but thanks to the strong cast, directing and artful cinematography we continue to be invested in what will come of Naz’s situation. This still remains one of the most provocative shows on the air. The social topics of race, gender, class, and the legal system are presented with meticulous detail. For Naz’s sake, we hope he survives to see the outcome of his trial. Until next week!
Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
The Night Of airs Sundays at 9PM on HBO
Cristian is a lover and a fighter for great TV shows….and some guilty-pleasures along the way.
Cristian Barros | Contributor