Right from the opening moments of The Night Of, I’ve wanted to believe in your inherent goodness, to draw a correlation between your big, beautiful eyes and your inevitable innocence — and this week’s episode finally gave me a shred of hope.
Sure, last Sunday’s new contender for big-bad status, the hilariously named Duane Reade, gets as much attention this time around as Jeb Bush on the November ballot (more on that in a moment), but two other parties emerge as contenders for the role of Andrea Cornish’s Killer: Her skeevy Lothario stepdad and the stern, hearse driver whose path Naz and Andrea crossed at the gas station back on murder night.
So Naz, riddle me this: How come you’re tattooing the word “sin” on your knuckles and puffing away at illegal drugs with your mentor in the life illegal, disgraced former boxer/convicted murderer Freddy. When a dude smiles at your descent into the moral abyss like he’s witnessing a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, perhaps you ought to be secretly pumping the brakes on your trip down BFF Blvd., no?
While you ponder that thought, allow me to recap the action from Season 1, Episode 6, “Samson and Delilah,” an hour with a faster, more frantic vibe than the quintet of installments that preceded it:
BE CAREFUL OF WHAT YOU PUT ON FACEBOOK | Det. Box learns from a search of Naz’s Facebook page that the accused murderer transferred from a high school in his home borough of Queens to one in the Bronx — and that strikes him as odd. Turns out Naz threw a fellow student down a flight of stairs, precipitating the move. “Our golden boy lied to us again,” Stone sighs, but when Chandra grills him about the incident, it’s a mixed bag of answers. Turns out that in the wake of 9/11, Naz was being relentlessly bullied just for being Muslim, and the resultant act of violence had all the emotional impact of “pushing open a door. In the aftermath, Naz felt bad for his mom, but “other than that, I felt nothin’.”
THE CASE BEGINS | ADA Helen Weiss is the character I most want to follow if The Night Of gets a Season 2. She’s hard-charging, hard-boiled and damn foxy, too. “My real employer is a young woman who lies in a grave,” she tells the jury, before using witnesses and surveillance video to paint a damning portrait of Naz. Indeed, Naz kicking two men out of his cab before driving off with Andrea; Naz buying a beer for Andrea but water for himself; Naz asking the cops who picked him up on a traffic violation “Is she dead?”… none of it looks great. But Chandra, green as she may be, is no pushover. Would Naz have asked “Is she dead?” if he’d just stabbed Andrea 22 times, she wonders. Plus, she follows Stone’s advice and keeps her opening statement deceptively simple. “The burden is on the state” to prove guilt, after all. Still, streetwise Freddy contends Chandra is too young, and is less than impressed that she believes Naz is innocent. Does dude have a point?
HEART OF STONE | Stone can’t help but wonder (a la Carrie Bradshaw) what a “22-year-old drug-addled party girl” was doing living in a swank brownstone “like Eloise at the Plaza.” He does a property records search and learns that Andrea’s stepdad Don was fighting for half of Andrea’s inheritance — and the deceased woman’s CPA fills in the defense attorney about the personal trainer’s penchant for gray-haired ladies and history of restraining orders. When Andrea learned of the sketchy dude’s demands, she said he’d get the dough over her dead body — and it’s hard not to imagine the kind of reasonable doubt that soundbite might raise for a jury of 12 of Naz’s peers. As Stone ends the episode watching Don flirtily help a woman of a certain age with her arm exercises, I’m ready to call 911 to preemptively stop another lady-killing.
ONE MORE SUSPECT | Chandra finds an alternate theory of her own, after tracking down the hearse driver from the gas station surveillance video. Dude knows how to quote the Bible — and apply it to his own misogynistic philosophy (without ever mussing the manicure he’s performing on a dead body in his funeral home). “I saw her for the destroyer that she was, and I did not like that,” he tells Chandra about his encounter with Andrea, describing her as the kind of woman who thinks she’s “God’s gift, ’til [she] finds out otherwise.” Um, if dude is worried about looking guilty, he’s got a funny way of hiding it.
WHAT HAPPENED WITH DUANE READE? | I’m just asking about last week’s winner of Mr. Red Herring, since that story arc was unceremoniously dropped this time around.
(BEHIND) BARS ASSOCIATION | Naz turns down a plain white shirt from Freddy in favor of his mom’s more colorful selection, but Stone’s horrified response clues in our protagonist that his jail mentor actually knows best. I mean, dude took on potential suspicion for a second murder rap just to get sent back to Rikers and save his wife on commuting time for visitation. Naz, though, is falling more under the boxing champ’s spell than he ought to, sharing the steely dude’s drugs, getting tattoos on his knuckles and shoulder, and witnessing coerced fellatio from a Freddy cohort who winds up holding a shank to his throat and demanding his silence. In light of that, is it kind of understandable — or just plain upsetting — when Naz calls Chandra from his burner phone and declares, “I hope it doesn’t scare you if I say… goodnight.”
IN OTHER NEWS | Is any of the following pertinent to the case? We’ve only got two episodes left to find out. Andrea’s cat is living the good life in Stone’s spare bedroom, with plenty of food and toys and concern and clean litter (albeit a lack of direct human contact). Naz’s mom takes up a janitorial job to help pay the bills. Stone’s eczema (and his impotence) are cured through the wonders of Chinese medicine. And Stone gives the newly single Chandra a lesson in jury selection: No members of law enforcement, working-class whites, people with relatives killed on 9/11, golfers, bowlers, or sailors. But “young urban women” are ideal, because they don’t care about anyone’s opinion except their own. Alrighty then!
What did you think of this week’s The Night Of? Share your thoughts in the comments!