Review: The Night Of (S1 E8/8), Thursday 20th October, Sky Atlantic

1920I’ve been so busy recently, I almost forgot to post this review altogether. That astonishes me because this series has been one of the year’s better crime dramas, dripping with New York grime, sultry, noirish dialogue and some fantastic acting across the board. After seven episodes of high tension and fascinating but heartbreaking character development, we were finally at the end, where we would find out whether Nasir Khan was guilty of the murder of Andrea Cornish. Or, at least, whether the jury thought that Nasir Khan was guilty of the murder of Andrea Cornish.

There was a short scene at the start of this final, feature-length episode that was enjoyably meta, perhaps even with a hidden meaning. Box, still sitting at the bar alone after his retirement party and  ruefully contemplating life after the job, listened to two of his drunken colleagues, sitting at the end of the bar. They were talking about how life as a policeman wasn’t all that, and if someone was to make a TV show depicting the real life of a copper it wouldn’t be much of a watch. Cop does work, goes home, bangs his wife, falls asleep.

In many ways, that was the authenticity The Night Of had been aiming for throughout the whole series – its depiction of paperwork, of procedure, of soul-numbing routine and of weather-worn detective and beat cops both blunted and addicted to the night and the city they worked in was perfectly balanced with the case at hand. This verisimilitude, or at least aspiration to it, was what set the show apart. But as the two drunken coppers said: if you depicted what cops really did all day it make for boring viewers, so I certainly excused the show for throwing in some of the more familiar thriller tropes.

This is what interested me. The fact that the final scene showed Stone (and not Naz) going back to what he did before his big break case – piffy little in-and-out rescue jobs that earned him a couple of hundred bucks here and there – underlined the fact that this wasn’t about Naz at all. It was about a system, or systems within systems, that kept churning; kept throwing up new victims into each chamber for the vultures to feast on. John Stone represented a system, Box and Weiss and Kapoor represented their respective systems. Each system had rules. Some adapted, some didn’t. Rarely did one character exist in both. Naz, meanwhile, represented the victim, and it’s sure as shit there would be another one along any time soon.

In the early courtroom exchanges, Chandra Kapoor was seemingly jabbing nicely at the prosecution – witnesses were cross-examined and new suspects began to emerge, eating away at the idea that Naz was the culprit. Chandra was becoming confident, especially as Helen decided not to ask them any questions. Stone, meanwhile, warned against complacency and explained that Helen wasn’t answering these witnesses any questions to make it look as though they weren’t credible or worth questioning. It was a clever, but slightly risky, ploy on Helen’s part, and you couldn’t help think that Chandra was gaining the upper hand.

So all was seemingly going well, but soon Chandra’s world was about to collapse. She went against Stone’s wishes and called Naz to the stand (where, under expert probing from Helen, he admitted he didn’t know whether he had killed Andrea or not… he just couldn’t remember), which suddenly turned the case against her. At that moment Naz seemed doomed to a life at Riker’s. The way he had become tight with Freddie, became his right-hand man and adapted to this new system… you had to ask whether Naz actually wanted to be free at all. He had made quite a life for himself inside.

Earlier in the episode Chandra had visited Naz in jail and smuggled drugs in for him. But THAT kiss at the end of the previous episode came back to haunt her. It didn’t really ring true for me at the time and seemed so out of character for the show – it had been nagging away at me all week. Why did this feel out of place? I then thought of the usual female character stereotype: overly prone to emotion and weakness, not as strong as men etc. And that’s what rankled with me, and what rankled with me in this final, otherwise excellent, episode. As an anonymous sender dropped CCTV footage of Chandra kissing Naz onto Stone’s doorstep, she was subsequently dropped from the case and fired by the ruthless Alison.

It was now down to Stone to save the day, or at least give the final address. The man stepping into the breach to save the day. It perpetuated a myth and stereotype that a show like The Night seemed impervious to. But, sadly, no.

Don’t get me wrong. In a lot of ways, I was pleased that Stone had an opportunity to redeem himself. And he did, splendidly, even though he had a hideous outbreak of eczema and asthma the night before his big moment. He turned up at the courtroom with his skin pasty, blotchy, wearing gloves and sandals. You felt for him, and rooted for him. He delivered a knock-out final address, by just being honest. The jury was split; Naz was set free.

Except he wasn’t quite free in every sense. He had been swallowed up, torn apart, reassembled and was now a different man on the outside. He was having a hard time adjusting to normal life: people knew who he was, looked at him. He was paranoid. He went to the beachside where he and Andrea took drugs. He smoked amphetamines and imagined her with him, smiling, eyes glinting in the moonlight; ripples from the tide coruscating across her skin. He was broken and scarred.

Before I finish up, I just want to briefly discuss John Stone, or at least his characterisation, affectations and physical ailments. He was really the big hero in this piece and John Turturro was utterly fantastic, but many reviews I’ve read were a bit critical of his ailments and the amount of time afforded to them. What’s with his feet? Why are we seeing so much of that? I’ve been pondering that, too. I actually liked the fact he had these ailments – they kept him on an anxious hamster wheel, helping to illustrate his entrapment on his level of the food chain. Only when he began to rise up and take this case did we see his eczema improve. When it flared up hideously on the final day of the trial it was because of stress, yes, but also, I felt, because he would soon slip back down into anonymity. As a metaphor, the eczema and the sandals almost gave him a Biblical look (the leper and the outsider), and illustrated his Sisyphean existence – always toiling, never able to truly break out from loneliness or mediocrity. Oh, how he tried but was forever doomed to this limbo existence, always dreaming of better things. He knew his place and he hated it.

Like any crime drama, we not only want to see the innocent party be redeemed in a finale, but also a credible bad guy get his or her justice. We didn’t quite get complete finality in The Night Of, but a hint that some justice would be served to the guilty party. And that’s where Box came in. He turned up something after poring over CCTC footage (which should have been done during the initial investigation, if I’m being honest) – Andrea’s financial adviser Ray Halle was almost certainly her murderer. That wily old Box; even in retirement he couldn’t just sit there and not scratch an itch. His mission now Naz was exonerated was to bring Halle to justice.

So that was the end of The Night Of: slightly uneven towards the end of the series with a few head-scratching moments, but for sheer depth of character, acting and dialogue, this was one of the year’s best and the best American crime drama since the first series of True Detective.

Paul Hirons

For our episode one review, go here

For our episode two review, go here

For our episode three review, go here

For our episodes four and five reviews, go here

For our episode six review, go here

For our episode seven review, go here





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