The Night Of: “Ordinary Death” Episode Review

Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

I’ll take evidence over a confession, every time.

Seven episodes, and we have no idea who stabbed Andrea to death in the bedroom. It’s to the show’s credit that we keep tuning in. The story is strong, but the beams are built entirely of character:

  • Chandra, the strong but unsure lawyer who gives it her all this episode. 
  • John Stone, who no longer stands on feet of clay (or eczema, for that matter).
  • Freddy, the boxer-turned-criminal who runs Rikers Island. (Even though it’s a jail, they treat it like it’s a prison where he’s a long-timer, but I’ll let that pass. Suspects have lingered in Rikers for up to 3 years before trial, but it’s unlikely Freddy would get transferred there from upstate prison, even if he had a buddy pin a murder on him and he’s waiting for trial). 
  • And, of course, the mysterious Naz, whose good boy exterior has transformed into a tattooed, head-shaved, heroin-smoking, hard-faced man over the months, with a street name of “Sinbad.” 

Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

It’s almost like he’s daring Chandra and Stone to get him off. And, at one point in the episode, it looks like he’s going to get off with Chandra, who seems to have fallen for those doe eyes of his. She truly believes he is innocent, and she puts forth a strong case.

Her expert counters the physical evidence of the knife and says he found Andrea’s skin cells in the coffee table, corroborating what we saw that night, that her hand wound is the result of a game of “mumbletypeg.” All Helen Weiss has got is that the expert, Dr. Katz, testified in the O.J. Simpson trial and once said nice things about the Medical Examiner he is contradicting. But, juries have been swayed by much less.

More importantly, Chandra tells the jury that Box took Naz’s inhaler out of evidence and gave it to him in an attempt to get him to talk, breaking the chain of evidence, and leaving it out of the prosecution’s case. An asthmatic isn’t as believable as a killer who stabbed his victim 23 times. Box resembles, and may be modeled after, disgraced retired NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella, who has had many cases overturned for wrongful conviction. But, we don’t see him blatantly trying to make the evidence fit the suspect—except for the inhaler…

Meanwhile, in the streets, anti-Muslim graffiti is sprayed on homes and cabbies are beaten for being brown. Naz’s mother sees the photos of Andrea’s savaged corpse and runs from the courtroom, wondering if her little boy could do such a thing. The neighborhood has already decided. They’re throwing rocks through her windows. Naz calls her and she doesn’t answer. His past comes to haunt him; he was dealing his Adderall prescription to friends and he gave one kid stitches and another a broken arm when they bullied him after 9/11. 

Stone keeps hunting Don Taylor, Andrea’s stepfather and serial arm candy for older, wealthy women. One’s a famous author, and in an amusing scene, she flirts with Stone while her young trophy date looks on. Turns out Taylor choked her during an argument and she paid him off two hundred grand in the divorce to get rid of him. He’s burned through that with three bankruptcies and maxed-out credit. And, when he finds Stone sniffing around at his gym, he presses the barbell to his throat and tells him to back off. Which makes the courtroom drama surprising. Is Chandra saving Taylor for the coup de grâce?

With character and story-weaving so compelling, I have trouble believing that there won’t be a twist at the end—that it’s not one of the characters tailor made for us to hate: the misogynist funeral director or the violent swindler. 

Naz finds the pretty boy who Freddy’s henchman has been punking dead in the shower—a suicide. And, while Naz doesn’t kill the man himself, he distracts the guard by getting his inhaler refilled while Freddy cuts his throat. He doesn’t need to be talked into it this time. In fact, he’s been swallowing 8-Balls straight from the boy’s momma’s nethers like candy. With one episode to go, we don’t know if Naz will have to live the jailhouse life he has embraced, whether guilty or not. 

Who do you think killed her? Do you think we will ever know what happened the night of?

See also: The Night Of: “Samson and Delilah” Episode Review

 


Thomas Pluck is the author of Bad Boy Boogie, a Jay Desmarteaux crime thriller coming from Down & Out Books in 2017, and the editor of the Protectors anthologies to benefit PROTECT. He has slung hash, worked on the docks, and even swept the Guggenheim (not as part of a clever heist). Hailing from Nutley, New Jersey, home of criminal masterminds Martha Stewart and Richard Blake, Thomas has so far evaded arrest. He shares his hideout with his sassy Louisiana wife and their two felines. You can find him at www.thomaspluck.com and on Twitter as @thomaspluck.

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