The Night Of: “Season of the Witch” Episode Review

Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

You got some secrets in you. And some rage. I like it.

The defense attorney has been pilloried since the dawn of the court system. The advocate of the Devil. And today, we still disrespect them as if their job is to keep criminals free instead of providing citizens accused of a crime with their constitutional right of a defense. Stone speaks in front of his son’s high school class and they vilify him. “Would you defend Hitler?” “My Dad’s a deputy, he puts these guys away, you try to set them free.”

The concept of innocent until proven guilty eludes us. We want vengeance, not justice. What is justice? We can’t bring back the dead or erase the scars predators leave on a victim’s soul. And, even with the best defense, someone who is as innocent as Naz appears to be faced with a plea deal: 15 years, or life in prison if he dares proclaim himself not guilty.

We see another side of Naz in this episode. He shaves his head to look tougher. He starts lifting weights and doing pushups to fend off the wolves, even though he’s under protection. Freddy and crew beat down the inmate who burned Naz with the “napalm shot” of hot water and baby oil and leave him in the showers for Naz to get his revenge. The man said he did it to avenge his cousin, who was murdered. An eye for an eye leaves the world blind. Naz doesn’t want to take revenge until the man calls him a pussy, then he puts him in the ICU with a beating that leaves even Naz bloody.

How do we like our brown-eyed boy now, Mr. Death? That’s a side of Naz we haven’t seen before—and there’s more. When the toxicology report comes back, it seems Naz wasn’t just on the drugs he shared with Andrea. He’s been taking Adderall. We learn this in a gripping scene where Naz is coughing into his hand, swallowing eight-balls for Freddy to sell, as payment for his protection. Stone has defended enough drug cases to see exactly what’s going on, while Chandra sits beside him, missing it all. But, is he “breaking bad” or was he bad all along, taking Adderall to study, tutoring for cash to pay for the drugs?

“What else have you lied about?” Stone asks, and we ask ourselves the same thing.

Detective Box and DA Helen Weiss make their case, while Naz digs his grave. We see Box wield the hammer of the surveillance state, tying together EZ-Pass statements, camera footage, credit card charges, and cell phone calls to build a narrative of what happened that night. The dash-cam footage of the cops telling the two men to leave his cab is damning; the DA sees it as premeditation. She says Naz kicked out two men, but let Andrea stay, and that was him choosing his victim. The noose gets tighter. And, to make sure he hangs, Weiss goes to the Medical Examiner with the photo of Naz’s cut hand. “Is this a cut from breaking a window to get his keys, or from using the knife on her?” He’ll say whatever she wants. 

On Naz’s side is Stone, who is working for Chandra, and not for free. We see more of the human side of Stone; his medication effects his “love life” with a call girl, and the doc gives him Viagra. The pharmacy is all out. “Must be the season of the witch.” And there, we have the episode title, whether it fits or not.

Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

The procedural side, as accurate as it may be, is not as compelling as the characters themselves. Turturro is as good as he’s ever been. The role was originally slated for the late, great James Gandolfini, but I can’t even imagine him, after Turturro. (The men were friends, and Turturro directed Gandolfini in the little known, bombastic, and delightful musical Romance & Cigarettes, which you should check out.)

Trevor, the guy who called Naz “Mustafa” and went to the cops to say he saw him with Andrea, lies and says he was alone that night. The DA scratches him off as a witness, unreliable. But, Stone hounds him to learn the identity of the second man, who has prior B&Es and aggravated assault with a knife. Stone chases him—his name’s a joke, which I’ll leave you to learn if you haven’t already—into a dark cellar, where the episode ends on a cliffhanger. Has Stone bit off more than he can chew? 

We’ll learn next week. I can’t wait.

See also: The Night Of: “The Art of War” 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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