The Night Of – A
After all of John Stone’s tactical maneuvers, Chandra’s mistrial-worthy kiss, Freddie’s DVD’d reveal of it, the reasonable doubt of the three initially known very likely alternate suspects, Box’s post-retirement sleuthing uncovering yet a fourth suspect (and almost certain culprit), it was ultimately Gordon from Sesame Street who swept the clouds of guilt away from Nazir Khan. Well, technically, it was Roscoe Orman, just recently fired by this same network as Gordo, who as an obstinate jury foreman would not back down from a deadlock and ultimately gave Naz his (semi-)unconditional freedom.
While some might find it a bit of a cop out for such a dark-edged show as The Night Of to close on a positively up beat, there was a bit of relief in the reprieve. HBO’s latest delivered on its promise as the best-written crime drama since that Wire show with a prismatic, shapeshifting episode which gave most non-killers at least a bittersweet end, with even a neatly wrapped little final scene for the cat. Chandra Kapoor is pretty well screwed; we’ll never know what she was thinking from the kiss to stupidly displaying Naz on stage after the case — did she want him to get his voice or did she sabotage him so she could bury their ill-advised affair. However, most everyone came out scathed but not broken, even Naz.
The Night Of thrived on the five fathom depth of its characters. John Turturro truly sold subway ad shyster John Stone’s descent into empathy sans sappiness, as he was forced into delivery of the defense’s final argument, and it was a stirring one, drawing emotional intensity from his true belief in the sanctity of initial innocence. Riz Ahmed continued his savage stillness as Naz was forced on the stand to confront his inner truth — he never wholly knew he was NOT capable of being the killer. Michael K. Williams is always perfect, so we won’t even go into his final turn as jailhouse philosopher Freddie. The most valuable performance of the night came from the surprise source of Jeannie Berlin, whose prosecutorial shark Helen Weiss subtly broke down as she realized mid-prosecution that Naz almost certainly was not guilty, but could not stop from going forward with her perfect case — that is until Gordon saved us by declaring his jury deadlocked. While HBO may have sinned in its dismissal of an actor who’s been in a role since before I was even born, they made some amends by finding him an unlikely landing spot.
– Jason Thurston