John Stone continues to search for evidence in Naz's defense, but he's felled by a raven named Crowe
Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

What is a dark crate?

That might be the biggest mystery in this third hour of The Night Of. The titles of both previous chapters have been allusions to enigmatic dialogue spoken in the episode. “The Beach” was where Andrea asked Naz to take her in his taxicab. “Subtle Beast” was John Stone’s description of Box. But what is a dark crate?

Is it another reference to Det. Box (Bill Camp), whose name is synonymous with crate and whose motives are perhaps a bit on the dark side? Or is it a reference to Rikers Island, the dimly lit horror house where Naz has been sent to await trial for murder? Or is it a reference to the cardboard box that John uses to bring Andrea’s cat to the shelter? The orange feline is transferred into, quite literally, a black crate. Or should we drop the “c” and interpret the title as “A Dark Rate,” which might summarize the pro-bono arrangement that Naz’s new lawyer has made with his parents?

But no, the title literally refers to this:

That’s a slab of veal held in the hands of Freddy Knight (HBO veteran Michael K. Williams of The Wire and Boardwalk Empire), a former boxer now incarcerated at Rikers for violent crimes. He’s the unofficial pope of the prison, as evidenced by the mighty close relationship he has with the guards. That includes having sex with one and receiving goods from another, whose family in Brooklyn he promises to protect, sort of via the old “Nice house, shame if something were to happen to it” technique.

It’s that guard who brings Freddy the veal, and Freddy says this to Naz about it:

“See, the reason it feels like silk is because from the day it’s born they keep it in a dark crate. So small it can’t even turn around. And it stays there, half blind in the dark, drinking baby formula, waiting to die.”

Freddy is maybe being a little melodramatic — or maybe not, since the chances of Naz surviving in the wild west of Rikers is increasingly in doubt. He’s a Pakistani Muslim, who everybody thinks is Arab, accused of raping and stabbing a white girl 22 times. So as we can see from how the episode ends, with Naz’s bed having bit lit on fire, that he’s not liable to last long without Freddy’s offer of protection.

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The jailhouse scenes are thick with a jungle-like sense of foreboding, though there’s also a feeling like we’ve been here before. Notably, in HBO’s own Oz. This episode is undoubtedly stronger in the scenes that take place on the outside — and most of all with the introduction of these two new characters.

NEXT: Crowe flies in to knock over Stone

Many of the characters in The Night Of have blunt one-syllable names with a Dickensian punch. Box, Stone, Khan. Say hello to another, with a surname that immediately summons the mental image of a black raven, Alison Crowe. (She’s played by the excellent actress Glenne Headly, fondly remembered from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Dick Tracy.) When we first see Crowe here, she’s holding a press conference to defend her client, a woman who is suing the doctor who botched her cosmetic surgery, plus the airline that fired her after her 25 years of service as a flight attendant.

The scene only lasts a minute, but it stands as one of the rare times that overdone plastic surgery has been treated in a movie or TV show as more than a comic punchline. Even though Crowe ends her melodramatic remarks with a smile — warning a Channel 7 reporter that cosmetic enhancement is often “what any woman over the age of 40 who deals with the public to earn a living has to do” — it’s a smile laced with contempt. Credit to writer Richard Price for including this brief interlude, especially given the fun that we have all had laughing at all the altered faces of people (you’ve already thought of at least five names) who go under the knife for reasons that we know nothing about.

But that’s not to say Crowe’s soul is totally pure. When we next see her, she’s watching a press conference about Naz’s case and refers to him on the phone with an assistant as “this Khan kid killer.”

At that press conference, led by a not-ready-for-primetime NYPD spokesman who says Naz’s first name Nasir as “Narsia,” we see one of the merely three brief appearances of Det. Box in this episode. Here he is at the press conference, standing next to Andrea’s still-suspicious (even without having done anything) stepfather Don.

Box also opened the episode by explaining to the two officers from the crime scene that Naz’s eyes, which he admits are not the eyes of a killer, will make the jury question whether he could have committed the murder. And we see Box in a dingy file room at the police station — another dark crate — looking at photos of Naz (presumably Riz Ahmed) from when he was a very young boy.

Crowe, meanwhile, is quick to pluck a junior associate at her firm named Chandra (the quiet but steely Amara Karan) to help her poach Naz’s case for her own firm. Poach is actually Stone’s term when he confronts Chandra later, but if there’s one thing that The Night Of has been particularly effective in establishing so far, it’s John Stone’s good heart. (If not his feet.)

And so it stings a bit for us when we see Crowe talking to Naz’s parents about him like this:

“Basically, Mr. Stone represents drug dealers and prostitutes. That’s the world he lives in. And when I say “represents,” I mean pleads. He doesn’t want to be in a courtroom any more than a courtroom wants him in it. Mr. Stone is not a trial lawyer. He’s barely a lawyer. He wants his fee, wants things over fast, and then onto the next case. Which works for him, but doesn’t work for his clients. Well, they’ll never know. They’re in jail.”

And immediately after that Crowe speech, director Steven Zaillian knows exactly what he’s doing when he cuts to Stone at a group therapy meeting for eczema sufferers. He light-heartedly jokes with another man who says that he’s “holding his own” after reentering the dating scene. “How are you doing, John?” the moderator asks. “Oh, you know,” Stone says, “I’m holding my own.” Everyone in the circle laughs, because they all inherently know that Stone is a class guy.

So Stone has to simply sit there moments later, when he goes to Rikers meet with Naz (and bring him clothes) and is informed that his services are no longer required. It’s John Turturro’s best moment in the series so far, as we can see his pain and heartbreak in his face.

Stone later passes by a pair of men’s dress shoes in a window, crestfallen that he now has no reason to buy them — as we also see Naz being gifted a pair of shoes by Freddy. “For traction,” Naz is told by a Freddy associate. In the prison’s showers, traction might just save his life.

And of course, things can’t possibly be over for Stone. Could there be a clue in that scene when Naz’s father and his co-owners of the taxicab attempt to get the car back from police impound? And when they can’t get it for legal reasons, they are handed this:

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The Night Of
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