THE NIGHT OF Review: “Samson and Delilah”

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In last week’s episode of THE NIGHT OF, John Stone (John Turturro) was in hot pursuit of a key witness/possible suspect with the hilariously clever name of Duane Reade (the identical name of a pharmacy chain in New York city). Needless to say, Stone was left wandering in the dark and dreary basement of a building, unable to catch Reade. In this week’s chapter, “Samson and Delilah,” Reade is still on the run and not mentioned. The more crucial event is the trial of Naz (Riz Ahmed) finally starting up.

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The defense, Stone and Chandra Kapoor (Amara Karan) and the people, Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin), gather their evidence to present to the jury. Chandra stumbles upon security video from a gas station, showing the victim speaking to a mysterious driver of a hearse (since the pilot, we’ve all been wondering when this guy would come into play). It turns out the police never spoke with him. Chandra takes it upon herself to question him, which leads to the most unsettling and unexpected scene of the season.

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The elusive hearse driver goes by the name of Mr. Day and let’s just say, from the minute Chandra enters the funeral home of his employment, a feeling of unease and possible danger gathers over her. She asks him if they can go somewhere to talk, so naturally, Mr. Day feels the mortuary is an appropriate place to have such conversation. He is working and on the clock, after all. Mr. Day is not direct with his answers to Chandra, referring to the victim as having a “vibration” about her. He goes on to make some troubling statements about the nature of women and that the victim probably had it coming to her. Kudos to co-creators Price and Zaillian for staging this scene in the most subtle of manners to create a haunting quality to their interaction. Mr. Day goes on to quote a verse from the Bible (which refers to the episode title of Samson and Delilah), which alludes to the wicked ways of women towards men. The conversation leaves Chandra rightfully shaken, with Stone warning her to not go down this path and to let him do the questioning if need be.

The role of women on the show is an interesting one because we are seeing a wide range of portrayals, from victim (Andrea) to crusader (Chandra) to morally questionable (Helen). The scene of Mr. Day and Chandra conveys the predatory nature of men towards women in a disturbing manner. What it also highlights is how we’ve been seeing the transformation of Chandra from a novice attorney to getting to play in the big leagues, which she stumbles at times, but always pushes forward. It’s nice to see a show that may have the victim be a woman, but who the surrounding female players are presented as dynamic and multifaceted.

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One of these dynamic women, Helen, makes her opening statement to the jury, trying to discredit the defense and making the focus about the victim and her final hours. For the defense, Chandra makes her opening statement to the jury and keeps it nice and short (Stone’s advice) by saying the prosecution will focus of slandering the defense and to keep that in mind. Both sides seem to have advantages and disadvantages with their evidence for the case. We see a number of witnesses called to the stand by the prosecution. One of the best elements of the show is the care that is taken to make things as authentic as possible, there is no veering into melodramatic shouting, which seems to occur on many legal shows. We are being presented information in a matter of fact manner, which dilutes the melodrama, but plays up the realism of the facts.

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Things with poor Naz continue to get darker for his circumstances. He is now under complete influence of Freddy (Michael K. Williams), going further down the rabbit hole, by starting to smoke crack and getting a tattoo on his knuckles that reads as “SIN.” The show continues to effectively present the deconstruction of a seemingly good guy into a convict because of prison life. We also learn that Naz had gotten into a physical altercation with a classmate shortly after 9/11. The show is also terrific at presenting the racial issue in a non-preachy manner and by doing so is able to provide powerful insights into our current issues on racial divide.

A second new periphery character comes into the fold, when it is discovered that the victim’s step-father is looking to inherit a lot of money, based on the victim’s death. This new player is named Ray Halle (the victim’s mother’s accountant) and we’ve already met him at the victim’s funeral, seen arguing with the step-father and videotaped by Stone. This new piece of information is important and places the step-father at the top of the suspect list for Stone, who also learns that he has a reputation for dating much older women with money.

Though there is still a slow-burn nature to the show and mystery, the characters and their motivations are what continue to draw us in. The attention to detail continues to impress in the writing, directing, and acting department. As we close in on the final two episodes, we will see if the pieces of the puzzle start to gel together and if new or old players pop up to either help or hinder Naz’s case. All I know is that I wait in anticipation as to what Price and Zaillian have in store for us. Until next week.

Side note: it was a wonderful moment of levity when Stone’s eastern medicine seemed to cure his ongoing foot problem and allowed him to wear new dress shoes to court. The smile on Stone’s face was priceless and Turturro keeps knocking it out week after week.

 A- Grade
Season 1, Episode 6 (S01E06)
The Night Of airs Sundays at 9PM on HBO

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Cristian is a fanatic and can never get enough, he needs a constant fix or doesn’t how to function.

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