Freedom isn't free

By Amanda Bell
August 29, 2016 at 05:24 AM EDT
Craig Blankenhorn/HBO
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After eight episodes of so much ado, the biggest question on everyone’s mind is still left unanswered: Did Naz kill Andrea? To borrow his own testimony on the subject, the answer is “I don’t know.”

The series finale of The Night Of, HBO’s newest addition to the crime-show craze, doesn’t deign to fill in the gaps of Naz’s spotty memory — despite the multiple hints throughout that there might be some sliver of blurry detail that existed just one pipe hit away from his own subconscious. But no, that would’ve been too easy, too satisfying, and possibly too simple for a show of this architecture.

Instead, what we’re left with is the same idea we’ve always had about Naz…an inkling of doubt about his guilt that, for all the term of art’s indefinability, might just meet the legal precipice of reasonableness well enough to justify his exoneration.

Joe McGovern wasn’t available to bring your usual buffet of post-show witticisms and screengrabs from the episode, but I’ll do my best to swap in and walk us through what happened to close out Naz’s trial.

Chandra’s investment

As someone with a law degree, I can tell you the process of becoming a new attorney includes a heavy layer of professional-ethics education that should have absolutely deterred Chandra from striking up a physical relationship with her client. The smooch she shared with Naz might have seemed like an innocent, heat-of-the-moment act of passion, but there is a litany of legal issues that arise with such an entanglement — most importantly, the question of her ability to fairly counsel Naz, which makes his decision to take the stand and sacrifice his Fifth-Amendment right to remain silent (a subject Mr. Williams really needs to brush up on, by the way) a justifiable reason to seek a mistrial.

Even against Stone’s tacit threat to tarnish his reputation on appeal, Judge Roth decides not to order a new trial based on video evidence that will still destroy Chandra’s career…which means Stone and Naz’s decision to throw her under the bus was in vain, as Stone’s now in the hot seat for closing arguments.

Other than putting Naz on the stand, Chandra’s done a bang-up job of providing an array of alternatives to Naz’s criminality: Duane Reade is a knife-happy burglar and known batterer, who was there on the night in question and intimidated his friend into not admitting as much at first; Mr. Day, the undertaker, is as creepy and shifty as they come; and the stepdad has 10 million reasons to have wanted Andrea dead himself.

Is it enough? Possibly not. He had a 10-percent chance of winning, in Stone’s estimation, before Naz told the jury that, ultimately, he can’t say for sure he didn’t hurt her, only that he doesn’t believe he could or would. Now, Stone thinks he’s done for, which is why he encourages Naz to pursue the incompetent defense route against Chandra (his biggest fan), to no avail.

Now Chandra, who was in this thing enough to (stupidly) put herself in the guilty column and score Naz enough drugs to cope with being on the stand, has been told — in so many words — to “clear out her f***ing desk” by her boss. She’ll also face her bar’s ethics commission with a large chance of disbarment and zero chance of making it in the already-competitive law-job market. Understandably, as soon as the jury issues its (in)decision, she’s out the door before the mallet can even drop. Tough break, kid.

Box starts thinking outside of the box

Another character whose reputation has been sullied by this trial is Detective Box, who made a few questionable calls during the course of his last investigation, like removing Naz’s inhaler from the crime scene and returning it to him — probably to butter him up for a chance at nabbing a confession in his final pressure-room hurrah — and failing to investigate other persons of interest.

Instead of packing it up and moseying on to a retirement of nine holes and no responsibility, though, Box decides to buck up and do a little freelance investigation of the case, following some leads he probably couldn’t have officially. Like everyone else involved, he’s willing to have a little dirt on his hands after discovering Andrea was possibly being followed by someone when she so hastily stepped into Naz’s cab with no real destination in mind. This time, his hunch pays off — thanks to a little bullying and someone who’s also willing to inculpate himself for an old friend from the force, he’s able to discover that not only was Andrea followed by someone she’d just argued with at a bar, but also that the person happened to be Raymond Halle, her financial advisor.

You might remember him from a few weeks back as the money man who’d been so helpful in tracking down the stepdad’s records at Stone’s behest. Apparently, he’s not as competent with cash as he’d have everyone believe; in fact, he may have relieved Andrea’s account of $300k for another one of his casino binders. We probably should’ve seen this twist coming… You don’t bring a guy like Paolo Constanzo on the cast to occupy the background; also, he drew a few too many convenient conclusions and set up the perfect diversion with the stepdad’s monetary motives.

Box is visibly disappointed when his efforts are answered with Prosecutor Weiss’s determination to still go after “the kid,” since they have an apparent slam dunk on their hands here, so he may or may not have handed Stone the CD that sent Chandra up river.

NEXT: The cuffs come off…

Weiss makes a difficult call

You’ve gotta hand it to her: Weiss is one heckuva trial attorney. It’s been refreshing to see a female prosecutor on a high-profile case such as this not be put through the public wringer about her appearance, à la Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson.

But she’s far from perfect. After Box’s revelation, she now has the seed of Naz’s innocence planted in her mind by way of Box’s lead on Ray, though she decides to stick to her guns — or knife, as the case may be — out of either sheer distaste for the defendant or her own reluctance to eat the words she’s used against him. Either way, she’s doing her darndest to convince the jury that everything coming from the other side is mere diversion from the cold, hard reality: They’ve already got their killer in their clutches right now and should throw the book at him.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), Stone’s closer is a little more convincing than hers. His emotional attachment and utter belief in Naz’s innocence, new neck tat and all, is palpable for enough of the jury members to side with the defense. The foreman even stands up to the judge’s suggestion that they give the deliberation room another whirl, declaring they’re a 6-to-6 hung jury that will not continue with this trial. End of story.

The person who now has Naz’s fate in her hands is Weiss, and while she would’ve probably rejoiced after a guilty verdict and is encouraged to retry the case as soon as next week by the all-too-eager judge, she throws in the towel (and her Mary Jane pumps) and decides not to go after Naz again. And with that, the kid is free at last.

Weiss doubles down on her aim at redemption by tag-teaming with NYU’s newest security guard (Box) to “go get him” — meaning Ray Halle, who’s strolling the streets with the cavalier of a man who thinks he just got away with murder.

The night after

The show cast its prosecutorial squad — Weiss, Box, and Judge Roth — as these gung-ho players who prided themselves on getting their targets behind bars once they’ve convinced themselves they’ve got the right perp (and possibly when they’re not so convinced). Weiss originally dismissed a very possible alternative to Naz; Box failed to question other potential suspects based on his sureness about his snap judgment; and the judge basically tried to bully the jury into handing over an actual verdict and refused to recognize a mistrial when he had one on his hands. Ultimately, though, justice prevailed — we think — and all of them rose to their responsibilities. But is this an optimistic end? Hardly.

Naz might have gotten off for the crimes he was accused of, but the court of public opinion is still actively condemning him all over town. Not only is he getting dirty looks from everyone around him, including his former friend Amir, but his own mother still wonders, deep down, whether she raised a monster who could have committed this heinous act. She denies having ever doubted him, but he knows the truth. She didn’t even come to pick him up from prison, after all. He’s a pariah to everyone he ever knew, except for Stone, his Rikers friend Freddie, and his father.

His status as that good schoolboy with the fine family and a bright future is forever eliminated by his stint in the slammer — his body bears jailhouse insignia that commemorates his stay, he’s now deeply addicted to drugs, his family’s financially ruined, and whatever presumption of innocence the Constitution might afford him in a courtroom isn’t required of society at large. Stone tells him to expect a life like his, where he lives in a bubble of disgust thanks to what people think they see when they look at him, so he should probably just adopt a cat and accept it.

Even if Weiss and Box are successful in prosecuting Ray for Andrea’s murder beyond a reasonable doubt, Naz will forever carry the stain of his accusation and subsequent imprisonment. On the night Andrea was killed, a part of Naz also died, even if he didn’t do it. Sorry to be a bummer, but the bitter truth is what’s made this show so great, and the lack of a happy ending is part and parcel with the reality of Naz’s story. 

Episode Recaps

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 1
Genre
Premiere
  • 07/10/16
Status
  • In Season
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