The Night Of Recap: Making a Murderer

Don’t feel insecure if you find yourself intermittently hitting the “pause” button to relieve the sense of nameless dread that creeps in during any given episode of The Night Of.

With only one episode left of HBO’s methodical, meticulous summer crime thriller, I find I’m often overcome by the urge to take a break and refill my wine glass or breathe into a paper bag or just gently rock back and forth, my hands around my knees, chanting the word “Mommy.”

Much like the origin and meaning of Donald Trump’s coiff, we still have more nagging questions than answers: Is there a chance Naz is actually guilty of killing Andrea? And now that he’s played a part in the death of a fellow inmate, can he ever be labeled “innocent”?

If not Naz, then who: The creepy stepdad? The creepy funeral director? The outlandishly named Duane Reade?

What to make of the Great Asthma Inhaler Mishandling? Why am I so obsessed with D.A. Helen Weiss that I want an entire procedural franchise built aroun her? Is Det. Box gay — or are straight bars decorating with twinkling lights and  playing “I Will Survive” nowadays?

And Chandra, girl, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?

As you ponder those queries, let’s recap the action from Season 1, Episode 7, “Ordinary Death”:

THE PROSECUTION RESTS | Don’t get me wrong, I’m on Naz’s side here — and because of the lack of blood on him at the time of his arrest, I’m pretty sure he’s innocent. But D.A. Weiss puts on a convincing case. If I were on the jury, I’d have a hard time questioning the medical examiner’s contention that Naz’s hand wound came from his own knife slipping as he stabbed Andrea 22 times. Naz’s best friend gets used against him, too, as we learn Naz had been selling him (and many other students) heavily marked-up doses of Adderall. “Which of you would you say is learning the most?” as a business major, purrs knowingly. And as Chandra cross-examines Naz’s former high-school coach, another bombshell gets detonated: Turns out Naz didn’t just push a fellow student down the stairs in the months following 9/11, but also sent a second kid to the hospital after throwing a coke can at his head. Chandra is dogged in her questioning, but she lacks Helen’s world-weary gravitas, and I’m not sure she sows reasonable doubt.

GO, CHANDRA, GO! | Our not-exactly-veteran defense attorney calls on her expert witness, a celebrity forensic examiner with some intriguing observations. There’s a fourth knife from Andrea’s set that’s not accounted for. It’s his contention that Andrea’s hand wound came from a game of “mumbly pick” (and we know he’s actually correct). He also points out how her back gate didn’t lock properly; how even in his 70s, he was able to scale Andrea’s tree and get into her first-floor window; how an intruder coming through the back of Andrea’s building wouldn’t have been able to see Naz passed out in the kitchen. Helen’s dance with the defense’s main man is flirty, seductive, wry and utterly engrossing — one of my favorite TV scenes this summer. Helen undercuts the guy by using his celebrity credentials against him, and by the time she’s done, it’s hard to imagine the jury won’t vote to convict. But then…

Stone notices that Naz’s inhaler captured in the crime-scene photos isn’t in the evidence log. Turns out Box gave the medicine back to Naz — a break in the chain that Chandra paints as “grossly unprofessional.” It’s a strange twist in the case that ought to weigh heavily in juror’s minds, but what does it all mean? Chandra also presents alternate suspects: funeral home director Royal Day and the never-investigated Duane Reade, a man with a rap sheet of violence who encountered Andrea on the night of her death. It’s an uphill battle for sure, but Chandra’s not letting up on the accelerator. Box, meanwhile, gets golf clubs and Gloria Gaynor tunes at his retirement party — and looks utterly dejected as he nurses his final drink, alone again, naturally.

LOOK AT THAT BODY… HE WORKS OUT? | Behind the scenes, Stone continues to dig into Andrea’s stepdad Don as a suspect. He enrolls at the gym where Don trains women of a certin age, and learns from Andrea’s investment guy that stepdad dearest’s Visa, Master Card and AmEx are all maxed out. Stone even meets with Don’s comely older ex-wife, who reveals that toward the end of their marriage, she’d had to call 911 when Don tried to choke her. “He’s a trapeze artist. He swings from one old bag to the other,” she jokes, bitterly, but we get an added sense of Don’s dangerous tendencies when he pins Stone to a bench at the gym using a hefty barbell. “Maybe I should have a talk with your son at that artsy-fartsy school of his,” the lothario huffs, letting his rival know that he’s been doing some stakeouts of his own. With only one hour left of The Night Of, I’m not sure how Stone and Chandra can make any inroads into equating Don with reasonable doubt, but it’ll be fun to watch ’em try.

HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE NAZ? | Naz’s main people are all reeling in the wake of his trial. His mom flees the courthouse and refuses to return his calls after she sees pictures of Andrea’s body. “An animal did that. Did I raise an animal?” she asks. Naz’s dad finally sells his third of his taxicab medallion for $75,000, instead of the quarter-million it’s worth. And Chandra, in a moment of heated pity/lawyerly affection kisses Naz in his holding cell — a smooch that’s captured on surveillance camera but hopefully won’t fall into Helen’s crafty hands.

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION? | Naz has learned to swallow the smuggled drugs from Petey’s mom without the slightest gag reflex, but Petey himself isn’t handling jail so well. He winds up slitting his wrists in the bathroom, and when Freddy questions why, Naz makes a confession to his jailhouse mentor: Freddy’s right-hand man had been coercing oral sex from Petey, and the fallout means that Freddy’s drug supply has gone up in smoke (pun intended). As Naz goes to the warden’s desk to ask for a new inhaler, Freddy uses the distraction to quickly and effortlessly slit his erstwhile friend’s throat, and just as certain as Paris Hilton wonders how Kim Kardashian stole her spot in the celebrity pantehon, Naz is clearly complicit in this slaughter, whether or not you find it justifiable. If our protagonist isn’t guilty of Andrea’s death, here’s hoping he gets his walking papers soon, before his soul becomes irreversibly compromised.

What did you think of this week’s The Night Of? Share your thoughts in the comments