THE NIGHT OF Review: “The Season of the Witch”

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A flashing blue light is how this week’s episode of begins and ends. Literally, we see it at the very beginning used as ultraviolet in order to help Stone (John Turturro) restore the natural skin of his feet condition, but restoring is the last thing happening in “The Season of the Witch,” instead change and adapting is the name of the game.

Stone decides to align himself with Chandra (Amara Karan), to defend Naz (Riz Ahmed) once again, but at a proper price (with all of the money being spent on his foot condition, Stone certainly could use the steady income). They go digging for new evidence that will help their client. They end up in Andrea’s (the victim) apartment with a CSI expert, who Stone hired for a “flat-fee.” The expert, with his sharp eye for detail finds blood outside in the back of the apartment, which could become key evidence in the case. He also notices that the back door is not able to shut properly, which indicates that someone must have broken into the apartment at some point. These are big clues that could lead to Naz’s innocence.

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Out of all of the episodes this season, this has to be the most surprisingly funny so far. Much of the humor is derived from Stone getting that darn cat (which he is deathly allergic to) back from the animal pound and his possession, which he takes a liking to, whether he wants to admit it or not. He puts the cat in his son’s room, but he makes sure to feed it and buy it toys. The scene in which Stone is at the checkout counter of a pet store, buying said toys, is priceless for the smile he flashes at the cash register clerk. Turturro is a master in subtly conveying humor with the smallest of gestures one minute and showing the wounded heart of Stone the next.

As Stone continues to search for clues to exonerate Naz, we switch over to district attorney Helen (Jeannie Berlin), who appears to be doing everything in her power to find Naz guilty, whether she believes his innocence or not. When evidence turns up that Naz had Adderall in his system the night of, she crosses out “good boy” from from her board and in an neat trick of cross-cutting, we see Stone cross it out on his board. This helps Helen and hurts Stone because Naz failed to mention this in his testimony. Zaillian’s direction in this scene is exceptional in driving this point home. Helen takes things a bit further by visiting a coroner and persuades him to testify that Naz’s cut on his hand was as from slipping on the murder weapon, when in fact, it’s the result of him breaking back into Andrea’s apartment. Co-creators Price and Zaillian continue to display great writing in showing the cracks in our judicial system.

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Naz goes through a dramatic transformation from scared puppy to tough guy. Freddy (Michael K. Williams) has manipulated Naz’s transition in order to have him under his control. Freddy has provided Naz with his own jail cell and protection within the walls of Rikers. He also manages to tap into Naz’s inner rage, by allowing him to beat up a fellow inmate that tried to kill him in last week’s episode. The anger that Naz unleashes is alarming, but it’s a display of the frustration and injustice he’s been withholding this entire time. Riz Ahmed is fantastic in showing the subtle, but dramatic shift that Naz is experiencing. He quickly learns that the only way to survive is to behave in a primal manner. All of this protection comes at price and Freddy makes sure to collect by forcing Naz to smuggle in drug pellets by digesting them. Price and Zaillain’s excellent writing conveys how our criminal justice system can turn a good guy into a criminal, all in the name of survival.

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Of course, this is very concerning for Stone, who while visiting Naz in prison (along with Chandra), notices that he has shaved all of his hair in order to adapt. Immediately, Stone notices a shift in his client’s demeanor. He confronts Naz as to why he lied about not having any drugs in his system the night of the murder. As this exchange occurs, Naz is nervously waiting for the drug drop from a nearby inmate. As he receives the drop from behind his chair, he immediately, but covertly, swallows each pellet one by one. Stone, being as street savvy as he is, knows what’s going on and tells him that he understands it’s for survival, but to be very careful because one false move and you’re done. This scene is the highlight of the episode. Zaillian’s direction is expertly done because we are able to see the exchange that Riz and Stone are having on two levels, one in their verbal exchange and another in the body language, where the truth lies. This is all happening, which Chandra sits next to them, unaware of the desperation of Naz’s situation.

The episode ends with Stone chasing after a key witness (by the coincidental name of Duane Reade, like the pharmacy in New York) that could help Naz’s case. Reade is initally found in the back of a bodega, playing cards in a hidden room. Stone wants information, but Reade quickly bolts before answering. Why is Stone chasing Reade? It appears Stone is desperate to find any shred of evidence that will save Naz, due to his escalating situation at Rikers. Stone is left wandering the dark basement of a crummy apartment searching for Reade. Stone appears helpless in finding answers in Naz’s case.

The writing, directing, and acting in the episode is exceptional once again and continues to expand on the players of this ever-changing case, effectively conveying the flaws and danger of the judicial system and the victims it leaves behind. The flashing blue light at the end has Stone in the dark and indicates that things will only continue shift. Will Naz be able to survive and not lose himself at Rikers? Will Stone find Reade and get some concrete answers? Will the DA get her way? Will the blood and broken door become a saving grace in the case? Only three episodes left and we continue to find ourselves invested for more answers. Until next week!

TB-TV-Grade-A-
Season 1, Episode 5 (S01E05)
The Night Of airs Sundays at 9 PM on HBO

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Cristian is a lover and a fighter for quality TV shows, but we all have our guilty pleasures. 

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