Though there are only five episodes left in HBO’s The Night Of, the show is still setting the table for plot conflicts to come.
Tonight’s episode, titled “A Dark Crate,” took us with Naz into his first few days getting acquainted with the messy politics of living on Rikers Island, as his parents try to come to terms with their immediate future. It also, notably, introduced us to two new characters, both of whom will surely complicate Naz’s life even more.
These new characters are fascinating additions to the show, while also adding a needed, more subtle approach to how the show deals with race.
Let’s start with Freddy, played by
Omar Little Michael K. Williams.
He’s plays an archetype we’re well familiar with. He’s the big man in the prison, the man that can get things, the man who can do things. And he’s offering Naz protection.
The plot allows for some uniqueness in its prison setting given the fact that Naz’s crime has just become public and the other inmates don’t like him very much. As Freddy says, “Theres a whole separate judicial system in here and youve just been judged and juried and it didnt come out good for you.”
So, for some reason, Freddy takes to Naz, gets him to touch meat, gives an on-the-nose metaphor about veal and offers protection. We don’t know why, and I think that is a pretty important question. What will associating with the now-infamous murder suspect get him either in or out of prison?
As I mentioned, the prison scenes allow for the show to give better subtext to its ideas of race than it has in previous episodes. Instead of random characters making slurs and assumptions based on the color of Naz’s skin, the show uses the prison setting to examine the politics of race within the criminal justice system. When Freddy says that a lot of the guards and inmates are from the same neighborhoods and sometimes the same families, it helps frame the world of The Night Of, and ours as well.
When Freddy says that a lot of the guards and the inmates are from the same neighborhoods and sometimes the same families, it helps frame the world of The Night Of, and ours as well.
The character of lawyer Alison Crowe, played by Glenne Headly, is a different matter altogether.
The show introduces her during a press conference as she’s defending a woman who received a botched plastic surgery job. It’s a great way to show that she takes unpopular cases and she takes them publicly. Additionally, she gave an excellent speech that questioned whether a woman who works with the public getting plastic surgery is voluntary. It was biting and aggro and really gave a sense of what Crowe is all about.
Her introduction was underlined as she brought an underling of Indian heritage (“Close enough”) to talk with Naz’s Pakistani parents. She’s clearly ruthless, interested in the public notoriety that the case would bring and probably willing to lead Naz’s trial along whichever path she chooses.
Even with the two new characters, this episode was all about John Stone, whose feet should get credits of their own.
We walked wayyyyy more than a mile in his terrible shoes in this episode and got a sense of what is driving him (money/possibly a good conscience), what he needs (acceptance from the world around him) and how he treats others (he’s a total mensch).
From buying Naz prison clothes, to giving cops coffee, to kindly ribbing the other members of his eczema support group, Stone’s character took shape in this episode. He’s a good guy, but not an unbelievably good guy. You know he gives the cops coffee as a part of a mutual professional bargain, but it was altruism that had him try and rescue the cat.
It felt a little ham-fisted to see the cat he was trying to save walked down the pet shelter’s tunnel, surrounded by barking dogs, with limited time until death (JUST LIKE NAZ!!!). But it still gave a real insight into Stone’s mind and his sense of righteousness in a complicated world.
Who is Naz? That is still bugging me.
This show has a real stake in the idea of how other people see the characters and how that relates to how the characters want to be seen. Stone, in his ridiculed clothes, underestimated (he believes) in his profession, staring at an ordinary pair of shoes he cannot wear, is a struggling character the show parallels with the case. Stone wants to believe that the truth could be better than everyone suspects it is at first glance. That a nice-seeming kid with all the evidence of murder around him, really might just be a nice kid in a terrible situation. That Stone is better than his feet, clothing and career history suggest.
Who is Naz? That is still bugging me. He is a blank slate, against which this whole thing is set. Everyone is painting all of these words and actions in his name, when we still know very little about who he is. How religious is he?
The whole shell-shocked reaction to everything can only last for so long before Naz needs to act and become a discernible character. He says “No” to his unnamed prison guardian angel regarding Freddy’s protection, but why? We don’t know enough about him to understand that decision.
Lastly, I believe it’s time that the show gets things moving. I’m certainly not asking for a change in the pace or in the quiet nature of the show. I truly love those things about it. But with only five episodes remaining, I’m ready to start seeing some of these conflicts unfold and so the plot can really get going.
Look, The Night Of, we are all very delighted with the table you have set. These look like some great utensils and some lovely dishes. It is now time to eat.
I’m really ready for some hints as to what actually happened to Andrea. Whether it’s more evidence for or against Naz. Remember that hearse driver from the first episode who stubbed his cigarette out on the car window in front of Andrea? What was that about? Again, good table setting, show. Bring on the first course.
“Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and hes muslim. Were [going to be] on Nancy Grace every night.”
No Det. Box tonight, other than a quick shot of him looking at some pictures. Hopefully, we’ll learn more about him next week.
Showering in shoes will probably give Naz gross feet like Stone.
Personally, I was very glad to see Williams back in a role that I could appreciate. In the years following The Wire, he has appeared in a number of things (mostly comedies), and I’ve been underwhelmed by his performances. It’s been like watching him walk around in a suit that doesn’t fit. It’s great to see him flexing his fantastic acting chops, though very unfortunate that it has to be in another role as a criminal.
There’s something I don’t understand about the feet. Didn’t Stone say in the first episode that he was wearing sandals to air them out? Well covering them with Crisco and saran wrap is the very opposite of airing them out. I’m no podiatrist, but it seems like the doc wants to try and combat the dryness. So Stone probably doesn’t need to wear the sandals! I will continue to develop my feet fan theories.