The captivating premiere had us all on the edge of our seat. How was innocent-seeming Naz (Riz Ahmed) to untangle the predicament at the center of THE NIGHT OF? In the second chapter, entitled “Subtle Beast,” the saying refers to the quiet desperation facing all of the characters.
Naz continues to be in police custody and wonders how he will prove his innocence. Naz’s lawyer, Jack Stone (John Turturro), councils his client to remember to keep his mouth shut, no matter what. As you can guess, this is short-lived because Naz’s parents eventually visit him in jail. There is a wonderful scene before their visit that shows Naz’s mother filtering through the stuff in his bedroom, desperate to find something that could explain the confusion she feels. All she discovers though, are Maxim magazines and condoms, typical for a male college student. She keeps her discoveries a secret from her husband by saying she was just putting away laundry. This creak in their relationship will most likely play a part in the future development of Naz’s situation. Her actions are a beautifully subtle example of a mother’s need to prove her son’s innocence at all costs. Actress Poorna Jagannathan plays these scenes in the most sincere fashion without ever losing her composure. The journey of Naz’s parents visiting their son is full of bumps due to the number of cynical police officers they encounter, who show them no compassion for their situation.
The main focus of the episode is honed in on Stone and detective Box (Bill Camp). These are two men who operate in different modes. Stone is charismatic yet disheveled and messy in his demeanor, but who also displays keen observations and understanding of the law. Stone plays by-the-book and functions within the system of conduct, but knows how to manipulate information within those confines. These are two men that are “subtle beasts” in gaining what is needed. Stone may at first appear to take Naz on as a client out of sympathy and necessity, but is fully aware that this type of high-profile homicide case would bolster his career. We learn that he has an African-American son, so cases involving race are of importance to him. Stone’s personal background continues to be elusive, but there is a level of sympathy he displays for Naz, which shows that Box is capable of compassion, to a certain degree.
As Naz awaits his fate in jail, we are introduced to two new characters, Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin), the district attorney who easily gives Box the okay to press homicide charges against Naz. Her and Box appear to have a history of working together and how that history plays out the rest of the season should be of great importance for Naz’s case. The other and more mysterious new figure is Don Taylor (Paul Sparks), who is Andrea’s step-father. There is something off about him in the manner in which he reacts to photos of Andrea’s dead body. He tells the coroner he doesn’t recognize her and then changes his mind. His body language is full of nervous energy. Someone not to be trusted, perhaps? His backstory will be fascinating to discover.
The pacing of this episode moved at a more deliberate pace compared to the tension-filled premiere, but it doesn’t take away from the fascination of the proceedings. Creators Richard Price and Steven Zaillian (who also directed the episode) do a terrific job of placing the viewers in the first-person perspective of Naz’s isolated frame-of-mind. He is still piecing together the hazy fragments of his night with Rebecca. The shots of the characters being out of center frame, artfully displays how everything is off-kilter and not what it appears to be (the talented Igor Matrinovic is the director of photography). By the end of the episode, Naz is denied bail and sent to state prison on Rikers Island. The scenes of Naz’s journey to the prison are terrifying and gritty, capturing the violence and aggression of being confined with other inmates. Price and Zaillian bring an authenticity to everything, coupled with the great work from everyone in the cast. His arrival to Rikers closes the episode and we can’t help but fear for our dear protagonist’s fate. One thing is for sure, I continue to be addicted to finding out the outcome and where we are headed. Until next week!
Season 1, Episode 2 (S01E02)
The Night Of airs Sundays at 9 PM on HBO
Cristian is a lover and a fighter for great TV shows…and some guilty pleasures along the way.
Cristian Barros | Contributor