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




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.


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.


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.



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.



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.


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.


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
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The Stone Also Rises: HBO’s The Night Of,
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Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon:
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Filed under Actors, Crime Drama, Movies/Television, Recap, Review, The Night Of, The Night Of miniseries

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