After seven episodes of build-up and anticipation, THE NIGHT OF has reached its conclusion in the case of Naz (Riz Ahmed), on trial for the murder of Andrea. Things took some interesting and unexpected turns in the finale as some people found redemption, while others paid the price for their actions. The final chapter was titled “The Call of the Wild” and indeed all of the key players did just that on their way to proving Naz’s innocence or guilt. Co-creators Richard Price and Steven Zaillian stay true to the authenticity of the world they have created until the bitter end.
Chandra (Amara Karan) continued to do strong work in the courtroom, putting all of the possible suspects on the stand and making effective arguments in making them into likely suspects. First, the elusive Duane Reade, who was caught and now in custody for another crime he had just committed, in which he used a similar-looking knife to the one used in Andrea’s murder. Second, Mr. Day, the creepy hearse driver that Chandra had an unnerving encounter a few episodes back, who had a couple of restraining orders made against him from women he knew. Third, Don Taylor, Andrea’s step-father, who had everything financially to gain in Andrea’s death. Chandra presented plenty of damaging evidence, the fact that he filed a form, just a couple of days after Andrea’s murder, in which he would inherit a large sum of money. Also, there had been assault charges by Andrea’s mother, while she was alive. He also didn’t have a good relationship at all with the victim. All of these are great arguments that play in Naz’s innocence, but Chandra makes some key mistakes that lead to her demise in the case. That surprising kiss that she shared with Naz in the previous episode, was caught on security footage. We knew that kiss that would come back to haunt Chandra. What was surprising was that Freddie (Michael Kenneth Williams) got his hands on the footage and in an attempt to help Naz, sends it to Stone (John Turturro) in hopes of a mistrial. Chandra also decides to put Naz on the stand, much to Stone’s dismay. She also helps Naz score drugs, so that he can functional on the stand. This decision backfires as Naz ends up telling the jury that he doesn’t know if he killed Andrea or not, leaving that doubt of his innocence in the jury’s mind. Karan’s performance has been one of the highlights of the show as she effectively conveys the dynamics of a women who is greatly skilled and confident in the courtroom, but gets caught up in her emotions outside and makes illogical choices that doom her.
The District Attorney, Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin), stays mostly quiet during the array of suspects that Chandra presents to the courtroom, mainly taking notes during their testimonies. Until Naz takes the stand, Weiss gladly makes her line of questioning in proving Naz’s guilt. She makes a valid point in saying that if he was in his right mind flee the scene of the crime, then he could’ve easily dialed 9-1-1 and called for help. The fact that he didn’t makes Naz appear highly suspicious of committing the crime. Berlin’s performance has been of the more delightfully surprising elements of the show this whole season. Her no-nonsense approach as a lawyer is refreshing for its lack of melodrama. Even when she is cornered with damaging information towards her case, she stays as calm as a cucumber.
Stone had quite the roller coaster of circumstances in this episode. He first decides to take the cute cat we have come to love, including Stone himself, back to the pet shelter. He then receives the disk with the damaging footage of Chandra and Naz’s kiss. With Naz’s permission, Stone presents the disk to the judge, which puts Chandra in the hot seat and pushed to second chair, making Stone first chair by default. Stone is upset, since he was hoping for a mistrial, but the judge insists to move forward and have Stone give closing arguments. As Stone prepares, his eczema comes roaring back and has to go to the emergency room, in which they inform his that the Chinese medicine he was taking was completely bogus. Back in court, Stone is back in his allergic state, with the visible scars now on his face and wearing gloves, makes a passionate argument to prove Naz’s innocence. He has been one of the few people who truly believed in Naz’s innocence and points out how Naz’s time in Rikers has turned an innocent-seeming guy into the hardened and tattooed man seated in front of the jury. Stone gets emotional during his speech, showing the emotional toll he has taken with this case. Turturro’s performance has been excellent all season long, doing award-worthy work. The finale encapsulates the range and subtlety in which Turturro injected into every episode.
As the trial comes to a close, newly retired Detective Box (Bill Camp), is still shaken from Chandra’s cross-examination in his lack of follow-through with key evidence and tampering with the scene of the crime (removing the inhaler). Box feels new invigorated in doing what is right by the case and dives deeper into properly closing Naz’s case. He stumbles onto footage of Andrea arguing with a man the night of her murder, along with footage outside of her house, where he is seen lurking outside of his car. The said man turns out to be the accountant we met a few episodes back named Ray Halle (Paulo Costanzo), who happened to have been romantically connected to Andrea, taken a large sum of money out of her account to use towards his gambling addiction, and has a history of physically assaulting women. All signs point to him being very guilty of Andrea’s murder. This leads to one of the best scenes of the season, where Box confronts Ray inside a casino. Ray is blindsided, but Stone stays clam but assertive, knocking Ray by a few pegs. Ray presents this footage to Weiss, but she is not interested in using it because she is confident in her evidence against Naz. As Weiss gives her closing arguments, Box storms out of the courtroom in frustration, shaking Weiss to the point where she can’t ignore what Box has presented to her, but it’s too late now, since closing arguments have been made. Camp’s work this stellar among the group of actors on the show, where his subtle shifts speak volumes. He is a man who is worn down by the system and he makes some important errors because of his own stubborn assumption that Naz is guilty. Camp illustrates beautifully that Box is capable of admitting his flaws and rectifying them to bring justice to the table.
Now that all of the evidence and closing arguments have been presented to the jury, it turns out that the jury is in a deadlock (six to six) and can’t decide on a proper verdict, which forces the judge to announce a mistrial. The judge quickly addresses the prosecution about bringing in a new jury for a re-trial, but based on Box’s findings, Weiss decides to not pursue any longer, which sends Naz free man. This is a surprising turn of events, since all roads were leading to Naz’s guilt, but Stone made a compelling argument. Naz leaves Rikers as Freddie ignores him by boxing from afar, it appears Freddie doesn’t do goodbyes. Being free, as we see, is not all that it cracks up to be as Naz has to acclimate himself back in society, where people give him suspicious looks and his mother’s doubt about his innocence still leave a stinging mark. Stone gives him advice that this will be a new way of life and to just learn to bear with it. Naz continues to be addicted to drugs and decides to smoke by the water, where he and Andrea shared a moment the night of. He gets a quick flash of that moment, which was sweet one and mourns her memory. This is a moving moment in the episode because no one in her life has taken a moment to mourn her and it’s ironic that her “supposed” killer is the one that does. Ahmed’s work was terrific through and through in portraying a good guy in an unfortunate circumstance transformed into a drug addict, accessory to murder, and tattooed criminal because of his presumed guilt from the judicial system.
In the end, Stone goes back to being the lawyer he was before, with his eczema condition and all. Box is now a campus security guard, but Weiss approaches him to team up and take down Ray, who is clearly the guilty party in Andrea’s death. Chandra loses her job and must face the ethics committee. Naz must now find a way to move forward, but no matter what comes of Ray’s case, he will always wear the scars of what he endured at Rikers. We never get to see the images of Andrea’s murder being committed because Naz never remembers himself, which is a smart move from the writers in keeping us arms length because Naz was never able to get proper closure. Price and Zaillian have done an extraordinary job of wrapping up the series in a satisfying, but honest fashion. They never went for showboating theatrics in creating drama and instead always kept true to the characters, by illustrating the exhausting grind of the criminal judicial system and how police and lawyers can make crucial mistakes that can send innocent men to prison and spit them out into newly-made criminals, instead of preventing more crime in society. All of this is seen through the haunted eyes of Naz, who we hope can overcome his past and move to a better future (put down the damn crack!). At least in the end, the one who was saved the most was the cat, who now lives freely with Stone once again. Thanks to exceptional writing, directing, acting and cinematography, Price and Zaillian have created a work about the way we live that will linger with us long after the credits have rolled.
Season 1, Episode 8 (S01E08)
The Night Of airs Sundays at 9PM on HBO
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Cristian Barros | Contributor