For the last seven weeks, HBO’s The Night Of has served up burning questions with the swiftness and regularity of a New York City pizzeria doling out oven-hot slices.
Who really killed Andrea? Is there any chance Naz is guilty? What’s the deal with Duane Reade and Andrea’s ladykiller (pun intended) stepdad and especially that darn cat? Does Stone’s eczema have anything to do with anything? Does Box entertain secret doubts about Naz’s guilt? And is there any way showrunner Steven Zaillian can wrap things up in satisfying fashion with only a 95-minute finale?
Sunday’s finale finally put some answers on the menu, even though not all of them were especially sweet.
Let’s recap the key revelations — and the nagging open-ended plot points — from the season finale, “The Call of the Wild.”
* Despite the prosecution’s very solid case, Chandra counters impressively, calling to the stand Duane Reade, The Undertaker and Creepy Personal-Trainer Stepdad — casting at least a bit of suspicion on each of ’em. (That revelation that Don filed for control of Andrea’s trust fund at 8am the Monday after her death proves especially disturbing.) On the flip side, though, Chandra agreeing to smuggle more drugs into jail for Naz — and extracting them from inside herself during a jailhouse meeting — seems to be the exact opposite of brilliant legal strategy… even if it’s ultimately a means of helping her client stay alive inside Rikers.
* Box, meanwhile, leaves his retirement party to go review more surveillance footage of Andrea getting into Naz’s cab, and with a little backtracking, discovers she’d had a nasty argument just minutes prior with her financial adviser, Raymond Halle (the dude that previously offered intel to Stone), who’d recently removed $300,000 from her account.
* Unfortunately, Box’s bombshell revelation arrives after D.A. Helen Weiss has all but gotten Naz convicted, following Chandra’s disastrous decision to put Naz on the stand. The Bambi-eyed student seems so convincing when he tells the jury he knows in his heart he couldn’t have brutally murdered his casual sex partner, but Weiss’ plainspoken questions dismantle the aura of sweetness he’s trying to convey. After all, he had the presence of mind to flee the scene, remove evidence including Andrea’s drugs and knife, and drive a cab, but not to call 911 or check Andrea’s pulse. “The Prophet Muhammad has this to say about that — ‘Hurry with all the strength of your legs to help the one who needs help,” Helen says, driving her prosecutorial blade deeper. When she asks again if Naz killed Andrea, the accused’s final answer is as startling as it is damning: “I don’t know.” Fret not, Chandra, you don’t weep alone.
* Freddy delivers to Stone the surveillance footage of Naz kissing Chandra, but the judge says it’s not grounds for a mistrial — only for Chandra to sit second chair and Stone to handle closing arguments. (“Chin up. Finish the trial,” Chandra’s slick boss commands her. “Then clear out your f–king desk.”)
* Weiss’ closing speech — comparing Naz’s blackout from the night of the murder to a redacted paragraph in an FBI document that protect only the agency — gets thrown off track when Box noisily exits right as she’s saying the police never found another genuine suspect. Stone, meanwhile, despite a raging relapse of his eczema, rises to the occasion with a beautiful, emotional speech that leaves the jury deadlocked — six to six — ending Naz’s case in a mistrial. Weiss, for her part, does the right thing and declines to prosecute any further, instead, tempting Box back onto the force with the goal of putting the sketchy moneyman behind bars.
* Naz exits the prison without saying his goodbyes to Freddy — who the night before the mistrial compared him to a unicorn and sat so close to him that I almost thought he’d go in for a kiss. Unfortunately, though, Naz can’t seem to forgive his mother for thinking he was guilty. Plus, he’s hooked on the same brand of smack he’d shared with Freddy at Rikers. That addiction isn’t his only parting gift, though, as Freddy gifts him a copy of The Call of The Wild delivered by a prison guard on the day of his release.
* Our final shot of Naz finds him back at the beach where he shared his first moment of intimacy with Andrea, smoking drugs he purchased on a street corner. Is there a bright future for the kid in a post-Rikers world? The forecast is unclear.
* There’s at least one truly happy ending here, though. Andrea’s cat gets sprung from the shelter onc more, roaming freely through Stone’s apartment in the finale’s final scene.