The first season of The Night Of is about to conclude and the final episode looks like a barnburner. HBO’s new hit show has succeeded in replacing the True Detective series. That goal being a similarly themed show that draws praise from critics (91% Rotten Tomatoes) and sits well with the audience (95% Rotten Tomatoes).

The Night Of follows the story of Nasir Khan (Naz), a Pakistani-American whose path crosses with Andrea Cornish. After partying and hooking up at her place, Naz awakens in the kitchen and finds Andrea dead with multiple stab wounds. What follows is Naz’s trial – both in the courtroom and in surviving prison life – and the unlikely lawyers who are trying to prove his innocence.

Many storylines have entangled themselves around the night in question and they should unravel this Sunday. Consequently, episode 8, which is titled “Call of the Wild”, will have to tie off some pretty loose strings.

Spoilers, Beware!

Naz is on trial but Stone plays an equally important role

Did Naz Do It?

The major issue yet to be determined is whether or not Naz (Riz Ahmed) is guilty. The series has done a great job of leading us to one conclusion without making it a foregone conclusion.  We feel pretty confident that he is innocent.  However, there is no conclusive plot point to confirm that.  Also, as we get deeper into the story of the night in question, more people who believed in him are having their doubts.

Stone Has to Play The “Drumpf Card”

Jack Stone’s (John Turturro) importance dominates a major portion of the storyline.  Stone has been as major a character as Naz.  Regardless of whether Naz is innocent or guilty, I would find it hard to believe that Stone isn’t the one hammering or removing the nail in his coffin.

Why Does the Show Succeed?

The Night Of succeeds for a reason many of us would usually not request: the audience is never comfortable. No one in this show makes us feel at ease.  We cannot fell comfortable with Naz, the seemingly innocent Muslim student who has lost some shine off of his golden boy image.  It’s also not true with Detective Box (Bill Camp) who appears to be questioning his motives at the 11th hour.  The DA, the other cab drivers, the victim, and the other cops involved refuse to let us accept anything at face value.  Even Stone with his vices and infections makes it hard for us to get completely on board.

Where Do We Expect From the Finale?

With most shows, one might expect a nicely tied up ending.  Going with the theme thus far, I would expect something else.  However, I’m not really even comfortable with that expectation. The only fact I know for sure is Ahmed and Camp can be seen together in the new Jason Bourne movie.

I think Naz is not guilty. My only real hope for the finale, though, is closure. Regardless of the outcome, I’d like this case wrapped up rather than left open ended. Consequently, a second season could pivot to a completely different set of circumstances where we follow Stone and a new client. [Ryan Aday]

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Did Naz Do It?

Despite Naz’s accounts of the night possibly coming from an unreliable narrator, certain pieces of evidence suggest he’s innocent. Firstly, when he wakes up in the kitchen, there’s no blood on him. Not his clothes, his body, nowhere. Given the state of the crime scene, Naz is either extremely good at maneuvering around blood or he cleaned up afterward. Following this reasoning, say he showered, his hair would’ve been wet or something would indicate he used her bathroom.

Secondly, in episode seven, some focus is placed on the Ventolin inhaler. When you look at it in the crime scene photo, it stands out. Once again, where’s the blood? If he cut his hand while stabbing her, wouldn’t the blood transfer to the inhaler? Why isn’t there blood on the side that was touching the bed? Something about this piece of ‘evidence’ stinks.

Whodunit?

I’m hopeless at predicting Whodunits. My track record is embarrassing, so take my ‘prediction’ with a giant boulder of salt.

From episode one, I’ve been suspicious of the neighbor who first reported the incident. We haven’t seen much from him, which leads me to feel like something is up (see: True Detective season one). Crime dramas often talk of the first person being on the scene as being the killer, or at least considered a suspect. This resembles the ‘he who smelt it dealt it’ theory. Why was the guy across the street awake? Why was he so near the window that he would catch a glimpse of Naz going in and why did he stay to watch him leave? And why not call the police at the point of hearing/seeing the glass break?

On top of that, living across the street from the property would mean he would have an idea of Andrea’s comings and goings. He would also likely know about the faulty door and other access points to the property. This is evident in the picture that John Stone takes from across the street – the neighbor’s perspective (gasp).

The police haven’t addressed any of these things; he hasn’t been properly interviewed or asked why he was awake that late, what he was doing, if he knew Andrea or her mother, nothing!

The Finale

My concern for the ending is that it’s going to be a letdown. Much like True Detective’s finale, the killer may be someone obscure rather than taking a traditional path for whodunits.

Interestingly, The Night Of hasn’t gone into Naz’s recent past. We know he sold Adderall to fellow college students, but do we know if he had any enemies who may want to set him up?

Naz’s downward spiral in prison could be considered a look into Naz’s inner self. Here, his dark side has permission to come out and his rage is allowed to be unleashed. Where will that lead? And if found not guilty, what does it mean for the rest of his life?

There’s a lot to catch up on in the last episode, and its title, ‘The Call of the Wild’, could be a hint as to what happens next. Take away the audience’s advantage of seeing a version of what happened that night, from an outside perspective, Naz seems fairly guilty. Will Naz be Making a Murderer’ed? I can’t wait to find out! [Colette Smith]

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The Best Show on Television

For the past seven weeks, The Night Of has been the best show on television. It had an explosive opening featuring a comedy of errors. Every side of this case has been making mistakes from the very beginning. It seems like a case filled with so many coincidences and random bad luck could never happen. The scary part is that because of the blunders, The Night Of feels horrifyingly real. The horror of a young woman being murdered is bad enough. But the horror of the criminal justice system might just be scarier.

Right now it is clear that the traditional elements of a police procedural will not be followed. There are plenty of suspects for the “real killer”, but it is doubtful anybody will solve Andrea’s murder. Nobody has an incentive to do so. The Night Of is really about the long game of the criminal justice system. It is not about finding a killer, it is about putting on a more convincing show. After last night’s episode, our main character Naz might just be Not Guilty.

But the Question Now Is: Do We Want Him To?

At the start of the series Naz seemed like a nice boy. We have since found out that he is not so sweet. He has a dark angry side that has been essential to his survival in Riker’s. He might not have been a monster when he was arrested on the titular night of the murder, but he is a monster now. Last night a key moment came when the defense used Naz’s spotless inhaler to discredit Detective Box. It was blood-free on the bed where Andrea was murdered, a symbol of Naz’s innocence. Now Naz is using it to help another murder happen inside Riker’s Island. Naz is not guilty of the crime the State of New York wants to convict him of, but he is guilty of at least one other. And there are probably more to come.

With his life in ruins, his mother having abandoned him, and the chances of him returning to be a math tutor unlikely, what does Naz have to return to? One weird romance subplot could never work? No. He’s got one life left now, and that’s a life of crime. He’s been transformed by the prison system into exactly what it needs: more criminals to fill beds. This works for everybody. Naz’s attorney Stone has a future repeat client. The crime lord

Freddy has a loyal soldier. The police have created plenty of work for themselves with this kid.
If The Night Of is about anything (other than Stone’s eczema), it is about how this really happens. Think of it like a sixth season of The Wire, finding another place in modern society full of corruption. The justice system actually devours people like Nasir Khan, guilty or not guilty. And all too often, there is no escape. [Eric Fuchs]

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Appointment Television Like Few Others

It’s astonishing how HBO has maintained momentum on Sunday nights. The teaser trailers for The Night Of did nothing aside from build curiosity out of extremely vague marketing. It was so ineffective that the show barely registered a blip. Like all the great dramas, once it had its hooks in deep.

The season has had dramatic ups and downs and like the others, I got tired of John Turturro’s feet. But the majority of the show has been an example of tension and intrigue winning out over overt action. Answers are always at arm’s length and it’s fine. Richard Price and Steven Zaillian have created something special here and it has shown that Zaillian’s skill as a director has become something very substantial. It’s an extremely artful show that Zaillian has directed the majority of and it borders on what Cary Joji Fukunaga pulled off with True Detective. He’s become a director worth serious attention.

What Does the Finale Need to Succeed?

This series has constantly given us very little in terms of easy solutions, so it would be futile to expect the last episode to tie everything up tidily. As Serial, The Jinx, and Making a Murder have shown us, answers only lead to more questions. Since there’s no guarantee we’ll ever see these characters again all we can really hope for is that The Night Of continues to maintain. It came in with confidence and mystery and it ought to leave us wanting more and with questions about our legal system and the people it burns through.

Great creators make work that takes us on a journey and it becomes less and less about the outcome. It’s about the ride. Why it’s foolish to bash seasons of classic shows like Breaking Bad and The Wire because the quality of the material is on such a high level that the audience puts their own wants into them. The Night Of has entered that pantheon. It’s a ride that is magnetic. I don’t care if Naz is guilty or innocent. He’s tainted forever regardless. His family is tainted. The murder that is central to the plot has affected many lives on many levels and it becomes about much more than accountability. If I were to gamble a guess I’d say that the killer will be revealed and it’ll be someone we’ve met who isn’t Naz. But the fact remains that Naz is no hero. Nor is Paul Sparks’ personal trainer and the same applies to the shady limo driver and street thug.

The epidemic is human nature and its ability to devour fresh souls on a scary level. Next Sunday can’t come soon enough. [Nick Nunziata]

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