Judges 16. That’s all a man needs to know.
The long-awaited trial begins midway through the episode, and it is oddly anticlimactic. We’ve seen hints of strife and trial by media—a Nancy Grace lookalike eviscerates Naz whenever there’s a TV in the shot; his brother vandalizes the school because he’s getting bullied with no recourse; Mrs. Khan is let go from her job for the same reason and no one wants to hire her; and his father is still without his cab.
The final flourishes of the investigation are the meat of the story, and we get an unsettling look at the reality of the justice system. On both sides, we’re getting the best that overworked but dedicated people can give us. Once a suspect is charged, the investigation focuses on conviction. Last time, we saw D.A. Helen Weiss coaching a statement from the medical examiner; this time around, she’s getting a doctor who’ll testify that the cocktail of drugs Naz was on wouldn’t necessarily put him to sleep. He might have been able go on a Manson-style knife spree.
We don’t see “Duane Reade” again after Stone lost him in the basement chase, but Chandra takes the lead investigating the hearse driver who talked with Andrea while Naz bought gas and got them drinks at the bodega. Mr. Dey is the proprietor of a funeral home, and he tells Chandra right away, “that girl was a predator, and he was a ball of yarn.” It’s almost too good to be true, but the police never followed up with the camera footage that shows him following the cab in his hearse.
You don’t get much stronger symbolism than that. Only a show like The Night Of can pull it off. Mr. Dey tells Chandra that “Judges 16 is all a man needs to know.” She looks it up—it's the story of Samson and Delilah, the strongman brought down by a treacherous woman. It makes me wonder why Chandra didn’t pull his criminal record to see if any “Delilahs” pressed charges against him. He haunts her long after her interview.
Stone is on the job as well, following up with the man who was arguing with Don Taylor (the victim Andrea’s “stepfather”). This one’s also a defense lawyer’s dream: Taylor married Andrea’s mother, 20 years his senior, shortly before she died of cancer. He wanted half her estate, which includes the ten million dollar brownstone that Andrea lived and was murdered in. She said he would get it, ahem, “over her dead body.” Another motive the police left unexplored that brings reasonable doubt to the jury.
Well, we can’t blame them. They found a guy who fled the scene with a bloody murder weapon. And, Naz continues to make questionable decisions. He does not partake of smoking heroin with Freddy, but he gets prison tattoos, including “SIN” and “BAD” across his knuckles, where a jury can surely see.
Oddly, that gets overlooked, as does his shaved head. You would think Chandra and Stone would have paid Freddy to tell him to grow his hair out to look less threatening. He’s gone from the doe-eyed boy to looking like Travis Bickle. At least one crime-writing friend of mine was apoplectic over Naz’s bad decisions once he was brought to the police station. We’re learning that impulsive behavior is in character for him.
In freshman year, he changed schools; he got in a fight and pushed another kid down the stairs and broke his arm. This was after 9/11, when his father was getting jumped and he was getting taunted in class.
And, in case you were drawn in by the heartbreak of John Stone’s foot condition, he gets some relief this episode after going to a Chinese herbalist. Turturro has truly made this a role to remember, like a manic preacher for justice. I wish he had the trial so I could hear his opening and closing statements. Chandra does her job well and the actress is utterly believable in inhabiting the part, but she is a rookie and makes that abundantly clear. Stone has been bottom feeding for decades, and this trial isn’t just a career redemption, it’s one for his soul.
If Naz is truly innocent. I’m keeping my mind open. Partly because I have trouble forgiving the “dead girl causes boy trouble” trope that forms the story and how little we get to know of Andrea. All I know is I’m eager to view the next episode and, of course, the finale. The BBC show had a second season; I would watch more of John Stone, Chandra, Detective Box, and Helen Weiss for sure.
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.