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Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon: Chandra Shines on HBO’s The Night Of, 107, Review




HBO’s limited mini-series, The Night Of, is an intense and merciless crime drama. Created and written by Steven Zaillian and Richard Price, and based on BBC’s Criminal Justice, it examines the contemporary criminal justice system in America through the case of Nasir “Naz” Kahn (Riz Ahmed), a Pakistani-American college student, in the post-9/11 world of New York City. Accused of raping and murdering a rich, white girl, Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black-D’Elia), who got into Naz’s father’s cab after Naz “borrowed” it, without permission, in order to attend a college athletes’ party, Naz has been subjected to the impersonal maws of the justice system, which simply does not care whether or not he is innocent. The police, the detectives, the DA, the Judge, the Medical Examiner don’t care about the evidence unless it fits their preconceived storyline about Naz’s guilt. Meanwhile, interred inside Rikers since his arrest, Naz has steadily been rising in the criminal ranks, under the tutelage of inmate-murderer Freddy Knight (Michael Kenneth Williams). Now entering the Defense phase of the trial, Naz revealed more ugliness to his character in “Ordinary Death,” while his attorney, Chandra (Amara Karan), began to shine.


Chandra at Trial

We already had a glimpse of Chandra’s talent last week, when she gave a concise opening statement, after agonizing over it for hours, as well as when she dismissed DA Weiss (Jeannie Berlin, below) with the statement to the jury, “She likes to be called Mrs. Weiss.” You wouldn’t think a small statement like that would make a difference in your perception of someone, but it did. Instantly, you realized that DA Weiss is misrepresenting herself, for some unknown reason, in a professional world where she already has an impressive title: District Attorney. Chandra’s swipe was powerful and unexpected.


In “Ordinary Death,” Chandra continued to shine as she took the role of lead Defense Attorney in Naz’s trial. Though it was settled earlier in the season that she would handle the trial because Naz’s original attorney John Stone (John Turturro) had no trial experience, she surprised me with her confidence and her handling of the witnesses. Without even knowing that Box (Bill Camp, below) and his fellow detectives discovered another victim that is, according to him, clearly identical to the murder of Andrea Cornish, Chandra shredded Box on the witness stand. She made him seem like an arrogant punk in his mis-handling of the evidence (when he took the asthma inhaler from the crime scene and gave it back to Naz). She made Box seem incompetent because he hadn’t interviewed — or even found — any other suspects. Just before his retirement, in fact, she trounced him so soundly that he couldn’t even enjoy his own party.


Chandra was as effective dismantling Box as DA Weiss was at shedding doubt on one of the Defense’s key witnesses, Dr. Katz revealed evidence about the Five-Finger-Filet (FFF) Knife Game, which Chandra (or the show writers) mistakenly called Mumblety Peg.  Katz revealed that The Victim’s skin cells had been found in a gash in the coffee table, indicating that her wound had come from playing FFF with the suspect, Naz.  Katz also revealed things about the crime scene that the detectives seem to have missed, such as the defective lock on the security door. Katz gave good testimony for the Defense, but Weiss attacked his character in her cross-examination. Chandra did the same thing to Box on her Cross. That’s a Defense Attorney at her professional best.

Though Chandra didn’t see the threatening looks Naz was giving a former classmate who was on the witness stand — testifying that Naz dealt drugs, selling individual Adderall pills from his prescription — Chandra managed to stay cool despite the Reveal of more negative aspects of Naz’s character. After we learned that Naz dealt drugs, though on a small scale, and was attempting to intimidate one of his “customers” on the witness stand, we learned that the violence Naz displayed while in high school was not an isolated incident. Chandra was in the midst of cross-examining Naz’s high school basketball coach — who earlier in the season revealed to Stone that Naz had thrown a classmate down the stairs, breaking his arm, without provocation — when the coach revealed that two students had been assaulted by Naz.

Though Chandra’s voice went quieter, and her body went slightly more rigid, she managed to continue to ask about the Two. It seems that our boy Naz threw a full can of Coke at another student, just as soon as Naz returned from the suspension he earned after assaulting the first boy. Despite Chandra’s attempt to relate these violent assaults to post-9/11 persecution of American Muslims, the only thing viewers — and jurors, presumably — took away from the coach’s testimony was that Naz, once again, has lied about his past. Chandra acted like it was a mere blip on her radar, though it surely rattled her. At the Defense table, Stone was giving Naz wary, almost terrified glances while Chandra managed, somehow, to continue the trial and retain her professional demeanor.


Chandra and Naz’s Mother

Chandra is handling all aspects of the murder trial professionally, including the behavior of Naz’s mother. Safar (Poorna Jagannathan, above) conspicuously walked out of the courtroom while slides of the victim were being shown. Chandra later went to the bathroom and told Mrs. Khan that the jury had to look at the slides, so Mrs. Kahn had to do it, too: for Naz’s sake, Safar couldn’t walk out like that. Safar Khan was having none of that, however. She wouldn’t let Chandra comfort her, she didn’t return to the courtroom, she stopped coming to the trial, and, furthermore, she continued to refuse to talk to Naz when he called her, despite Chandra’s telling Safar that Naz wanted to talk to her.

Though Safar’s leaving the courtroom and no longer attending the trial are going to look bad to the jury, I can’t say I blame her. Naz’s behavior on “the night of,” even if he didn’t kill the girl, has ruined his family’s life. Both parents are working crappy jobs, desperately trying to support the family; they had to pawn their silver, jewelry, and other precious objects to get cash; and both parents were victims of attacks. Naz’s father Salim (Peyman Moaadi) has been continuously confronted with racism, and his cab partners forced him to sell out his third of the cab so that they could buy a new one — without him. When he objected and called them “thieves,” one of them said, “And you are the father of a murderer.”

While looking at pictures of Naz as a baby and a young child, Naz’s mother was threatened with a rock thrown through Naz’s bedroom window. His parents’ lives have been permanently altered for the worse by Naz’s selfish and careless behavior. Safar has reached a point where she may no longer believe that her son is innocent; more important to her, however, is the question, “Did I raise an animal?” She doesn’t want to be responsible herself for Naz’s behavior. Chandra was unable to answer Safar’s question or to convince Naz’s mother to come back to the courtroom, but Chandra showed herself a compassionate professional when she attempted to get Safar back into court, and to answer Naz’s phone calls.


Chandra and The Kiss

The only failure of Chandra Kapoor’s professional character in the episode was the weird moment when she kissed the imprisoned Naz (and let’s just hope the kiss, which was clearly captured on surveillance video, won’t get Chandra debarred). I realize that Chandra doesn’t know that Naz snitched on fellow inmate Victor, who was sexually abusing Petey (Aaron Motey). Chandra doesn’t know that Naz conspired with Freddy to kill Victor, acting as a decoy by asking the guard for a new asthma inhaler while Freddy went to the prison TV area and sliced Victor’s throat. Chandra doesn’t know, as Vikram Murthi of Vulture.com writes, that Naz “may not have murdered Andrea, but he has now murdered someone [i.e., Victor], albeit indirectly.” Nor does Chandra realize, as Vikram continues, that Naz’s “mother may not have raised an animal, but[Naz] has become one.”

Despite Chandra’s professional lapse — which she seemed to regret immediately — and despite the fact that the scene was extremely short, it’s generated lots of discussion, far more discussion than the length of the scene would seem to justify. This may be due to the fact that virtually everyone was stunned by that kiss. Though at least one person on a forum wrote that it was about time the two kissed because “Chandra’s super hot,” that comment had no replies, and other viewers thought the kiss made no sense at all. Most critics and reviewers seemed to agree with Scott Tobias of the New York Times:  (emphasis in quote below is mine.)

“Ordinary Death” makes the show’s first significant misstep by following through on the romantic tension that’s been building between Chandra and Naz. It makes a certain dramatic sense. Naz would have taken the plea deal had Chandra not persuaded him to follow his conscience. Unlike Stone, who doesn’t trust a jury to reach the right decision regardless, Chandra believes an innocent person should assert his innocence. It becomes a contract between them: She trusts in his innocence; he trusts her to rescue him from a life sentence. It could be argued that there’s an intimacy between them that goes beyond a lawyer-client relationship, because there’s so much at stake for both of them. But having them actually kiss, however much Chandra seems to regret it afterward, undermines her as a professional. “The Night Of” goes to great lengths to emphasize the grind-it-out dignity of veterans like Box, Stone, and Helen, but it does a disservice to Chandra by giving her a jailhouse crush.

Jason Concepcion  thought the kiss was “in a subplot that feels like it was teleported in from a different show.” A fantasy or a science fiction show, perhaps, which is certainly not the genre The Night Of  has been aiming for with its scrupulous contemporary realism. Kevin Fallon of The Daily Beast just found the kissing scene to be bad writing (emphasis below is mine).

The extent to which Chandra is out of her element becomes evident not in the courtroom, in which she does a brilliant job casting doubts that Naz could be the killer during testimony from the pathologist she and John hired, and then credibility-ruining questioning with Detective Box (Bill Camp). Instead it becomes evident during a meeting with Naz in which the two end up kissing, she so entranced by his new, confident demeanor, assured manner of speaking, and bulked up sexual appeal. In a show that’s been praised for the realism with which it portrays this kind of crime story, it’s a twist that threatens to, as they say, “jump the shark.”

That kiss was more than jumping the shark, more than “a moment of television in which there is a gimmick or unlikely occurrence that is seen as a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.” Beyond the fact that most viewers are already sufficiently interested in The Night Of without any sexual activity beyond the premiere episode’s (mostly implied) interaction between Naz and The Victim, that kiss between Chandra and Naz was completely unnecessary to the storyline. If anything, the kiss alienated many, if not most, viewers. Further, it didn’t evolve from anything in the previous episodes. Though Naz called Chandra late at night at least once, letting us know that he was either extremely lonely or that he might be attracted to Chandra, she has never given any indication of reciprocal feelings. It’s true that she broke up with her boyfriend and was distressed about it, telling fellow attorney Stone about the break-up in a previous episode, but there has never been even the slightest hint that Chandra found Naz even least bit interesting as a person rather than as a client, let alone that she found him sexually attractive.

Unprepared for by earlier episodes, completely out-of-character, and unnecessary to the storyline, the kissing scene was more than “jumping the shark” because it was more than just bad writing. The Chandra-initiated kiss was an insult to professional women. Many reviewers and critics were appalled by Chandra’s blatantly unprofessional act. As a professional woman myself, I was most sincerely offended. Virtually all professional women I have ever worked with or known personally have gone out of their way to be even more professional than their male colleagues, simply because women must be more professional and more successful than males in the same field in order to succeed. Having Chandra kiss Naz, who is not only a prison inmate but her client, who is not only her client but a college boy several years younger than she is, was insulting and offensive to professional women everywhere. It was also ludicrous: are we to believe that a grown woman, already established in a law firm, albeit as a young lawyer, and already experienced in trials, would risk her entire professional career by kissing a boy client?

I wasn’t the only reviewer who found it insulting. Peter Allen Clark of Mashable.com complained that

Everything we have been shown presents [Chandra] as a professional, intelligent, competent woman who would never start making out with Naz in a jail cell. That, one of the very few things that actually happened this week, was insulting to her and to us. I get that Naz reached out more and more, but she never seemed interested in reciprocating. That scene made The Night Of seem like boring, pedestrian TV. (emphasis mine)

Very boring. Very pedestrian. Very jumping the shark, I’d say. It would have made more sense, given Naz’s ability to dissemble, had Naz initiated the kiss: in fact, even though he did not, at least one reviewer postulated that Naz may to use that kiss to betray Chandra and frame his appeal. But it was Chandra who initiated the kiss. Chandra kissed Naz first, though he responded. So we are left with this question: did Chandra kiss Naz because she’s unprofessional, or did the writers simply throw it in because there hasn’t been any sexual activity in The Night Of since episode one?

If the former, we have no idea why Chandra would suddenly become so severely and flagrantly unprofessional.

If the latter, then Shame on you, Writers.

In any event, Chandra, this is for you:

Girl, you’ll be a woman soon.
Soon, you’ll need a man. 

A man, Girlfriend, not a boy.

And certainly not a boy who’s a criminal besides.

Next week is the finale of The Night Of, which is rumored to be about an hour and 45 minutes long. Though we don’t know if we’ll get any resolution to the question of Naz’s guilt or innocence, and I seriously doubt that the show is suddenly going to disintegrate into any Perry Mason moments and have the real murderer confess, the finale is bound to be an intense episode. The finale airs Sunday 28 August at 9p.m. ET on HBO.

Related Posts

Gripping Crime Drama:
HBO’s The Night Of Mini-Series,
episode 1, “The Beach,” Review and Recap

HBO’s Dark & Powerful Mini-Series:
The Night Of, e2-3, Recap & Review

Legal & Medical Pariahs:
Naz & Stone are the Victims in HBO’s Limited Mini-Series
The Night Of, Episode 4, “The Art of War,” Recap & Review

The Stone Also Rises: HBO’s The Night Of,
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Did Samson Kill Delilah in HBO’s The Night Of ?
Episode 106, “Ordinary Death,” Recap & Review



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The Stone Also Rises: HBO’s The Night Of, episode 5, “The Season of the Witch,” Recap & Review




It is certainly no surprise that Naz, the Pakistani-American college student arrested for rape and murder after a night of drink, drugs, and sex with a hot stranger whom he picked up in his father’s “borrowed” cab in Manhattan, is slowly but ever so surely sinking under the oppressive weight of the American penal system.  Inmates don’t learn to be good in prison: they learn to be better criminals. It’s a matter of survival, and who can blame Naz for his increasingly dangerous criminal activities, especially since they will no doubt help him survive? As Naz (Rhiz Ahmed) is steadily deteriorating at Rikers, his attorney, John Stone, magnificently portrayed by John Turturro, is steadily rising. From the bedraggled and rumpled ambulance-chaser who happened to be in the “right place” at the “right time” to catch the big case, Stone has become the best investigator in all of New York city.


Naz Sinks

In “The Season of the Witch,” episode 5 of the 8-part limited HBO mini-series, The Night Of, created and written Steven Zaillian and Richard Price, viewers were given adequate evidence that Naz is morally drowning in Rikers. Naz shaved his head so he’s not quite the pretty boy any longer (though, of course, it’s a really bad move for his impending trial). After an invitation from Freddy and his crew, Naz beat the guy who burned him with baby-oil-and-boiling-water napalm.


Naz flexed his metaphorical muscles by blocking the view of prisoners watching television, then changed the channel on them when one of them told him to get out of the way.

On visitor’s day, at the behest of his protector, Freddy, Naz swalllowed four “eight-balls” smuggled in by another prisoner’s mother. Naz is sinking so quickly that, soon, he may not even come up occasionally for air.


After Stone questioned Naz about taking illegal substances, Naz lied about having amphetamines in his system on the night of the murder; he tried to pretend the tox-screen was mistakenly identifying  his asthma inhaler ingredient as “uppers.” Stone quickly dismissed that, badgering Naz by naming various controlled substances that he suspected Naz of taking. Naz finally admitted using Adderal, a controlled substance, which can cause anger, agitation, and psychotic episodes. Stone (above, R) and his new associate Chandra (Amara Karan, above L) aren’t the only ones crossing Good Boy off Naz’s list: Detective Box (Bill Camp) also crossed it off. Literally.


In addition to using amphetamines illegally and lying about it to the police and to his attorney, Naz has a serious amount of rage under his placid exterior. Even gangsta Freddy (Michael Kenneth Williams) was astonished by the violent anger Naz displayed, commenting on it later to Naz.


I still think Naz might be innocent — which doesn’t mean he won’t be convicted — if only because, as Todd VanDerWerff of Vox.com writes, his attorney John Stone still believes Naz to be innocent. Stone is so street-smart that he doesn’t seem likely to mistake guilt for innocence; in any event, Stone would represent Naz even if he were guilty, as Stone made clear to his son’s high school class when questioned about whether he would represent someone he knew to be guilty. Representing someone who “deserves” fair legal representation is quite different from doggedly pursuing evidence of a client’s innocence. Stone seems to be doing the latter. While seriously investigating Naz’s case, Stone has proven that he is more than street-smart: he is the most competent “detective” in the series.


Stone Rises

Of course, Stone doesn’t have to do everything himself to become a good investigator. He clearly has the connections necessary to be a top-notch criminal attorney. At the murder scene, Stone and Chandra watched as Stone’s hired investigator went over the place, noticing that the outer security door didn’t latch, even when locked, and even when repeatedly closed tightly. The investigator also found blood outside in the back courtyard (?), which may be “squirrel blood,” but which also might be the blood of another suspect since Naz left by the front door. Stone may not have the requisite trial experience to warrant the respect of the police, detectives, and prosecuting attorneys, but he has more important connections in the investigative field. Further, Stone is doing what no one else in The Night Of is doing: looking for other suspects who might have killed the girl.


While Box is compiling the timeline of the murder night (above), and while DA Weiss (Jeannie Berlin, below) is getting her witnesses in line, having them practice their “Naz is Guilty” lines, as she did with the coroner after showing him a photo of Naz’s cut hand and asking if it could have happened when Naz’s “hand slipped from the handle to the blade as he was stabbing” the girl,


Stone is not only looking for another suspect, he found a couple.

Remember the two African-American males who were walking down the street in front of Andrea’s home? Remember how one of whom insulted Naz by calling him “Mustafa” and asking if he’d forgotten his “bomb” materials? That’s Trevor. When interrogated by Detective Box, Trevor lied, saying he was alone that night. Viewers know he wasn’t. To make sure viewers didn’t miss the fact that Trevor wasn’t alone, the camera zoomed in on the face of his (silent) partner. After Stone found silent partner Duane in episode 5, the camera zoomed in on his face again, like this,


just in case any viewer forgot that Trevor was, indeed, with another person in front of Andrea’s house when Naz was going up her front steps.


In a laundromat, Stone intimidated Trevor into revealing the identity of his partner that night, something that even DA Weiss was unable to do (though, in fairness, she may not yet realize that he was with another person, though this may be evidence of her lack of investigative skills and her over-reliance on the detectives). So, Stone not only found one viable alternative suspect on paper, Stone found the guy in person, even if the guy started running, leaving Stone in a dangerous-looking abandoned warehouse at the end of the episode. Stone proved that he is, so far, the most competent investigator on the case by finding evidence at the crime scene that police missed, and by finding other viable suspects.

Yes, you read that correctly. Suspects. Stone found Trevor’s silent partner, but Stone also found Andrea’s drug dealer, and coerced him into admitting that Andrea owed him money. Considering the fact that the dealer owes other people money himself, Stone found a motive for the dealer’s violence: if he was attempting to get Andrea to pay her debt, the dealer might have gotten carried away. Another suspect. Stone is really shining as an investigator. He’s using the same heavy-handed, coercive tactics as the police and the detectives, but by assuming that Naz may not be guilty, Stone is finding more suspects.


Stone also got himself a partner in Chandra, who came to him after her boss, Crowe, quit the case. Crowe had arranged a plea deal with DA Weiss, and when Naz muffed it in court, Crowe quit in a tiff. I guess she didn’t want to go to trial, despite telling Naz’s parents that she was more qualified to represent Naz in a criminal trial than Stone would be. Chandra not only asked Stone if she could help him on Naz’s case, she offered to pay him (from the large firm that employs Crowe). Stone didn’t get the $50K he requested, but he got $30K. Since he’s been working pro bono so far, that’s an improvement as well as a testament to the fact that he’s no pushover. Street-smart and savvy as an investigator, Stone has also proven himself to be an adequate financial negotiator.


Stone is also standing up for himself personally: he is beginning to doubt the medical treatment prescribed for his eczema, if only because the steroids are making him unable to perform sexually. After his pharmacist loudly and publicly announced that no pharmacy in the area had any Viagra, Stone bought some on the black market. (It was in vain, since his sexual partner is a prostitute, and she ignored Stone after a paying customer appeared at the bar where Stone had ordered champagne to “celebrate” his return to sexual activity.) Though I find the eczema story the least interesting so far, I suppose its purpose is symbolic, as I said in “Naz and Stone are the Victims,” so who am I to complain about the continuing exploration of Stone’s medical condition, which symbolizes the frustration and hopelessness of Naz’s legal condition? In any event, Stone rose to the occasion, metaphorically and literally, in last night’s episode, taking control of his own health and treatment plan.

Naz is morally sinking into the morass of prison life as well as in the opinion of his attorney. Naz, with his hidden reservoir of rage, his lies, and his illegal prescription drug-use, is no longer a shining star, a perfect young man with nothing to hide. While Naz is falling, his attorney John Stone is steadily rising. From the ethically low but not necessarily immoral “ambulance-chaser” who took on Naz’s “assault” case without realizing that the young man was being charged with rape and murder, to the most competent investigator involved in the murder case,  Stone is beginning to shine, casting all the others involved in the prosecution into shadow, if only because they are all operating under the assumption that Naz is guilty.

Of course, whether or not Naz is innocent, he may end up convicted, and not necessarily because Stone is incompetent as a trial lawyer. At the trial, John Stone may surprise everyone, including himself. Given The Night Of’s negative portrayal of virtually everyone involved in the criminal justice system, however, Stone’s being competent as an attorney at a criminal trial may be completely irrelevant. In The Night Of, the entire criminal justice system is corrupt, so Naz will probably be convicted, and viewers may not ever learn if he is actually innocent. After all, it would be more realistic if viewers did not know whether or not Naz was guilty. It would mirror the real world more accurately.

In any event, Naz’s guilt or innocence is irrelevant to the show’s bigger message: no one involved in the criminal justice system has anything other than self-interest in mind when s/he makes decisions that impact someone else’s life. Viewers are already learning, however, that Stone, who may have only had his own self-interest in mind when he took Naz on as a client, is much more than the Columbo he seems to be. Instead, Stone is the most competent and clever investigator New York has ever seen. The sun may be setting for Naz and his freedom, but The Stone shines ever brighter as he rises.

Related Posts

Gripping Crime Drama:
HBO’s The Night Of Mini-Series,
episode 1, “The Beach,” Review and Recap

HBO’s Dark & Powerful Mini-Series:
The Night Of, e2-3, Recap & Review

Legal & Medical Pariahs:
Naz & Stone are the Victims in HBO’s Limited Mini-Series
The Night Of, Episode 4, “The Art of War,” Review


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