Everybody’s a Victim: HBO’s The Night Of Season One Finale, “Call of the Wild,” Recap & Review

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Despite some viewers’ disappointment that we never learned whodunnit on HBO’s hit crime drama The Night Of, the finale “Call of the Wild” was a good deal like I expected it to be. I didn’t think the writers would ever reveal who actually killed Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black-D’Elia), and I didn’t think the police or the District Attorney would ever pursue anyone else as her murderer — at least, not as long as they had Naz (Riz Ahmed) in custody. I was glad to see Detective Box take another look at the suspects — finding yet another in the long list of those that Attorney John Stone had already turned up. I was glad, though a bit surprised, that DA Weiss decided not to prosecute Naz again after the hung jury resulted in a mistrial. I suspected that Naz would be found guilty and imprisoned for life; I predicted that he might commit suicide as Petey did in a previous episode. “Call of the Wild” gave us an even more somber finale, one in which everyone is a victim of violent crime as well as of the criminal justice system.

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Detective Box

The lead investigator, Detective Box (Bill Camp), was shredded on the witness stand in last week’s episode, when Chandra questioned his handling of the case and his never looking for other suspects. Since we saw Box not enjoying his retirement party, it wasn’t a surprise that he returned to the investigation and found another suspect. I don’t know if the obvious nature of the other suspect was the result of poor writing on the part of the show’s staff, or the result of bad investigating on Box’s part, but his finding another suspect so incredibly easily — after looking at more surveillance video and phone records — made it a bit implausible that no one in the police department had ever found the guy. Isn’t a look at financial records a given in a murder investigation? Still, Box became a victim because his career was already publicly blighted during the trial. Since he didn’t do his job properly in the first place, he wasn’t a victim for whom I felt sympathy, but he was still somewhat of a victim because everyone would always know that he didn’t go out with a bang but with a really whispery whimper.

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DA Weiss

District Attorney Weiss (Jeannie Berlin) has been concerned with nothing but winning ever since Box first brought the murder suspect to her attention. From the beginning, she was more interested in how she might lose the case than she was in whether justice was being done. It was no shock then that, when Box brought her evidence of another strong suspect  — Andrea’s financial advisor & part-time boyfriend — Weiss said, “We have more on the kid.” She has long shown that she was willing to manipulate witnesses and script their testimony as long as it helped her win.

Did she ever want justice for the murder victim, Andrea? That wasn’t clear. But after the jury came to its split 6/6 decision, making Weiss a victim of the very system she has obviously long manipulated, I didn’t feel much sympathy for her either, though I was surprised that she didn’t wish to try Naz a second time. Even though she asked Box to help her go after the other suspect, she still didn’t win the case against Naz. That’s all she’s cared about since the beginning, so she became a victim of the criminal justice system.

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Naz

Oy, vey, Naz (Riz Ahmed) is such a victim, it’s hard to feel sorry for the guy even with those Bambi-eyes of his. After all, this is a guy who did so many stupid things — not to mention all the criminal things  — that his presumed innocence of Andrea’s murder is the only thing that makes him at all empathetic. Let’s recap some of his dumb acts:

stealing his father’s cab,
taking unknown drugs from a stranger,
taking more drugs from said stranger,
having sex with that complete stranger,
taking the knife from the murder scene,
breaking back into the murder scene after he forgot the keys to the stolen cab,
ignoring street signs that clearly state No Left Turn,
throwing a classmate down the stairs, breaking his arm,
throwing a full Coke can at a classmate, hitting him in the face,
swallowing condom-wrapped drugs,
smuggling said drugs into Rikers,
shaving his head before trial,
getting prison tattoos in places that can’t be hidden,
selling his prescription Adderall to classmates,
leaving a paper trail of his drug-dealing,
lying to his attorney,
lying to his attorney,
lying to his attorney,
helping Freddy kill another inmate…

In fact, Naz has committed so many stupid and criminal acts that I actually ended up not feeling sorry for Naz, though he was clearly a victim of the criminal justice system. Predictably, prison made him more of a criminal. At trial, Naz wasn’t found guilty, but he wasn’t found not guilty, and he’ll pay for that for the rest of his life. He got out of jail, but he will certainly never be free because, as Sam Adams of Slate.com writes, Naz is “saved only by what amounts to a spanner in the works: a deadlocked jury, split 6 to 6, which is like escaping a firing squad because the gun jammed.” And, furthermore, because the firing squad decided not to reload.

Naz returned to his parents’ home, knowing his mother thought him capable of monstrous violence, if not actually guilty of rape and murder. His brother’s evil-eye as they sat at dinner made it clear that Naz is going to have problems with his sibling as well as in his community, who members shunned him. Naz is addicted to crack-cocaine, and his violence is more blatant now, as evidenced by the intimidating look he gave the classmate who testified about Naz’s drug dealing. Naz may have become an unwitting victim of the criminal justice system, but he was a victim of his own poor choices and of his own criminal behavior first.

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Chandra

Chandra, Chandra, Chandra… Did she become a victim of a young and inexperienced professional woman’s poor choices? Or was Amara Karan, the actor portraying Chandra, merely a victim of supremely bad writing? Quite a few reviewers vote for the latter choice, and I’m among them. Because of the ridiculous Chandra-initiated kiss in the penultimate episode, a kiss which didn’t logically follow from anything previously presented in The Night Of or from anything in Chandra’s character, there was never any question that Chandra would become a victim.

But to have her deteriorate to the point where she supplied illicit street-drugs to her client just before his testimony? To have her smuggle the drugs into the holding cell in her bra and in her private parts? To have her remove the drugs from her body cavity under the unforgiving eye of surveillance cameras? That is just bad writing, as Matt Wilstein of TheDailyBeast.com points out.

But it is the sight of Chandra pulling a condom of heroin out from between her legs that is far more disturbing — and far less believable — than the makeout session that scandalized viewers the week before. If The Night Of, so subtle and nuanced in its first several episodes, had a jump the shark moment, this was it. (emphasis mine)

I’m not even going to mention the fact that Chandra would be supremely unlikely to know how or where to purchase illicit drugs, that no street-drug dealer with half a brain would sell drugs to a young woman wearing a business suit and heels, that said drug dealer would he be highly unlikely to hand over illicit drugs to a young woman in a business suit in the open on the street corner, that rich or professional people would usually get their drugs from their similarly rich or professional companions or colleagues, or that Chandra would be an absolute idjit — I mean, IDJIT — to hand over illicit street-drugs in the very same holding cell where she kissed Naz and already got caught on surveillance video and got seriously Busted to the point where she is not able to deliver the Defense’s closing statement, has lost her job (with instructions to clean out her desk as soon as the trial is finished), and will, most likely, be disbarred. I’m not going to discuss those things because they all fall under the category of really bad writing. While those things make Chandra a victim, they make her character more a victim of bad writing than of bad personal choices.

Of the reviewers who thought it was probably necessary for Chandra to make bad decisions so that Stone could deliver the closing argument, many still thought it was bad writing as it was handled. Scott Tobias of The New York Times thought that

[the] one victim of the show’s machinations is Chandra, whose dignity has been martyred for the cause. Until tonight, the show’s biggest misstep was her moment of indiscretion with Naz in the holding pen, which undermined her as a professional by having her succumb to a jailhouse crush. In an otherwise stellar finale, the incident gets further reduced to a mere plot device to bring Stone in front of the jury for closing arguments — something that may need to happen for dramatic reasons but leaves Chandra’s career in ruins. It makes sense for Stone to have his day in court, since he’s not second chair in this series, and his words to the jury are specific to his instinctual faith in Naz and his own poignant shot in the big leagues. But there’s a cost: Andrea was the first victim in “The Night Of,” Chandra is the second. (emphasis mine)

I agree with Laura Bogart of Salon.com, that “almost anything else, even catching a bad flu, would have sidelined Chandra and positioned Stone to prove that he is far better than his subway ads might suggest.” And, as Todd VanDerWerff of Vox.com pointed out,

the last two episodes seemed custom-designed to push Chandra into many bizarre decisions and directions. Why did she want Naz on the stand? It was never clear — and she very nearly got him sent to jail for it… Why would she smuggle in drugs for him? This was also not entirely clear. To be sure, I can come up with answers for both of those questions. But Chandra never made sense as a character in the way that Naz or Stone or Helen or Box did.

Chandra was, in fact, marginalized in the finale. As Laura Bogart writes, once Stone is given the responsibility of delivering the closing argument,

Chandra is more or less iced out of the finale, a development that is so fundamentally dissatisfying because she’s the only character who is so thoughtlessly disregarded. Everyone else gets a complete arc except the aspiring young career woman.

Yes, Chandra became another victim, but Amara Karan’s character was more a victim of bad writing than of any logical behavior on Chandra’s part.

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Attorney John Stone

Stone (John Turturro) was proven right when he insisted that Naz’s testifying would be a really bad idea. As he told fellow-counsel Chandra after the testimony, he thought Naz had a 10% chance of getting off before he testified; after, Stone thought that slim chance had completely evaporated. Despite Stone’s attempt to “cut a deal” by getting a mistrial with the surveillance tape of Chandra kissing Naz in the courthouse holding cell — which, surprisingly, was delivered by Freddy (Michael Kenneth Williams), who considered Naz his own private unicorn — the trial not only went on, but it went on with Stone’s having to deliver the closing argument. (Don’t worry: he did just fine, which is what you’d expect when an actor as tremendously talented as John Turturro takes on the part.)

Despite the severe flare-up of Stone’s asthma and eczema, necessitating a visit to the ER, Stone was less of a victim than anyone else in the finale of HBO’s The Night Of. After all, he’s proven himself a frightfully good investigator, and he got a chance to prove himself as an attorney at a murder trial. Even though he returned to his life representing guilty scum who no doubt got his name and number from the subway ads, Stone proved himself a more than competent attorney, and one of the few truly moral characters in the show.

Besides, he got to keep the cat.

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Filed under Actors, Crime Drama, Movies/Television, Recap, Review, The Night Of, The Night Of miniseries

2 Responses to Everybody’s a Victim: HBO’s The Night Of Season One Finale, “Call of the Wild,” Recap & Review

  1. jazzy

    There were many inaccuracies, re the plot points, in your above review. Everyone has a right to point out TNO’s many glaring script mistakes, such as Box assuming Andrea’s murder was an open and shut case, though, had Box researched more suspects in the beginning, such as Andrea’s step-father, the financial advisor etc….TNO would have been a 2 or 3 part series!

    Many viewers and reviewers were flummoxed by ‘The Kiss’ between Chandra and Naz. ‘The Kiss’ was about comfort, Chandra had just broken up with her boyfriend, she had previously discussed her break-up with Stone during the time they went to have drinks. Stone had to cut off her excessive drinking.

    Chandra was not a seasoned lawyer, her boss used her because of her nationality to rope in Naz parents. For me ‘The Kiss’ , while a ridiculous thing for her to do, was not all that shocking.

    As for Naz, he felt alone and abandoned. Naz felt his own mother thought he killed Andrea, the only visitors he had at Rikers were Stone and Chandra, then Petey’s mom. It was clear, Naz was slowing giving up, he was actually thinking Rikers would be his home for a very long time. Naz likely thought, “I will become the criminal so many think I am.”

    From seeing the Rikers scenes, we didn’t see Naz have ‘prison sex’, perhaps he simply wanted a human touch? Naz needed something else, besides drugs, to make him feel human again. I’m quite surprised that so many reviewers didn’t ‘get’ The Kiss.

    Remember, the last woman Naz had sex with ended up dead. That surely has to mess with your head.

    Sure, ‘The Kiss’ could have been handled differently, perhaps this quickie dalliance with Chandra should have started with a phone sex conversation on the cell Freddy gave Naz? If you recall, the only person Naz contacted on that cell was Chandra. Even after Chandra told Mrs. Khan that Naz would be calling her, his mom refused his calls. When he first called Chandra, Naz told her he missed saying goodnight to his family.

    As for Chandra and the drug smuggling, she did not smuggle in heroin for Naz. Chandra smuggled in Methadone tablets, or another type of heroin withdrawal tablet, it was definitely NOT heroin she smuggled in. Look closely at the condom bag she left on the bench for Naz, those were tablets, not any sort of powder. The first tablet Chandra took out of her bra, Naz swallowed it immediately, he was in withdrawal. He looked awful.

    When Chandra asked Naz to take the stand at his trial, Naz asked her to “help” him. Initially, Chandra thought Naz meant that he needed to be coached, then Naz motioned to his clenched hands. Chandra understood, through Naz’ body language, that he would be unable to take the stand if he was going through heroin withdrawal.

    Remember, Petey, whose mom was smuggling drugs into Rikers in her vagina…the heroin bags which Naz swallowed…had killed himself. Because of Petey’s suicide, the drug smuggling was halted. Naz was addicted at that point, it was obvious he was going through withdrawal symptoms and without the Methadone tablets, Naz could not take the stand.

    In Rikers, Naz became addicted to smoking heroin, not crack-cocaine. This plot point MANY reviewers got wrong. There is a huge difference between how a person acts on crack and how they act on heroin, Naz was not a crack addict, crack makes people manic. Naz became sedated after smoking the heroin, he did not act ‘crazy’ like a crack addict. Many reviewers assumed Naz became a crack addict, they were 100% wrong.

    Chandra bought the Methodone tablets from a man who walked out of a CLINIC. Watch the scene again, the word ‘clinic’ is clearly etched into the wall above the doorway where the man exits onto the street. As Chandra looks across the street, we see the dealer walk out of a clinic, this was not difficult to miss. I saw the word ‘clinic’ immediately. The dealer got the Methadone pills from a rehab clinic.

    In all likelihood, Freddy arranged the Methadone sale for Chandra, there was no problem re how she was dressed, in a business suit and heels. There are many people who wear business suits who have serious drug habits and, yes, they sometimes meet their dealers after work, this scene was not an anomaly at all.

    Freddie, though still in Rikers, was a very powerful man, he still had connections in the outside world.

    If you recall, when Freddy welcomed Naz into his fold at Rikers, he mentioned protecting the unit’s head guard’s (played by Lord Jamar) daughter’s quinceañera party from local gangs in the guard’s neighborhood. One hand washed the other, even outside of Riker’s, Freddie still had connections. In turn, that head guard ‘worked’ for Freddy, he was the person who showed and gave Freddy a CD copy of “The Kiss’ between Naz and Chandra. Freddy sent the CD out, he thought it would help Naz get a mistrial.

    A lot of viewers and reviewers missed many VERY important plot points in this series, in turn, not paying 100% attention caused many to misinterprete exactly ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘who’. Many reviewers ended up blaming the ‘bad’ writing, when, in many instances, they were simply not paying attention which caused them to misinterpret many scenes.

    Perhaps you need to watch TNO again. The linked reviews in your review also got plot points wrong.

    I’ve read reviews where the person writing it stated that Naz WOKE UP NEXT TO Andrea’s dead bloodied body! These same reviewers also stated all of Andrea and Naz’ drug use/alcohol drinking took place in Andrea’s bedroom, also wrong. You have to wonder if these people actually watched the series at all.

    Despite the less than perfect writing in TNO, I feel the acting transcended the writing. TNO was not the usual TV crime procedural, the TNO was a powerful indictment of the US justice system. Riz Ahmed and John Turturro were excellent, hopefully they will be nominated for, and receive, Emmys in 2017.

    Riz was so committed to his role, he stayed with the Queens accent, offscreen, throughout the entire eight months of filming. Riz also researched the Pakistani community in Jackson Heights Queens, he even lived there for awhile. After a day’s filming, he then hit the gym at 11PM! Not many performers go to these lengths for their craft, Riz excellent, heartbreaking and nuanced performance proved how committed he was to this role, Riz became Naz.

    Despite some lukewarm reviews and way too many unnecessary ‘red herrings’ in the script, this HBO series brought a little known UK actor, Riz Ahmed, to the attention of many. I’ve seen most of his UK films and UK TV series, many viewers and reviewers discovered Riz through “The Night Of”.

    I predict we will be seeing a lot more of this amazingly talented British actor. If only for that aspect alone, bringing Riz to the attention of a much broader audience…an audience which actually cares more about talent, than discovering the ‘next big movie star’….”The Night Of” has done it’s job remarkably well.

    • Dear Jazzy,
      Thanks so much for the very detailed comments on The Night Of.

      I can see your point that Naz wanted comfort, especially since his own mother thought him guilty, but Naz didn’t initiate the kiss: Chandra did. That’s the part that didn’t make sense. Even an inexperienced lawyer would know that she is not permitted to get involved with a client. That’s the American Bar rules.

      Yes, I saw the review that said, erroneously, that Naz woke up next to Andrea’s dead body, when, in actuality, he woke up in the kitchen, then went upstairs, got dressed, turned on the light, then turned it off, then on again to reveal her body.

      I agree that John and Riz deserve Emmys for their outstanding performances. They were brilliant. I didn’t realize that Riz actually lived in Queens, but it was obvious that he hit the gym to transform his body for the Rikers sequences.

      I also think Amara Karan did a brilliant job, even if I didn’t think the kiss was predicated by anything in her previous storyline. All the actors did a wonderful job, and I hope we see more of them on the small screen.

      Best,
      Alexandria

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