He looks like a normal college kid, and we need to fight that.
The Dark Crate is Riker’s Island, which is Naz’s new home. He’s not a gang member, so he doesn’t get protective custody, he goes into general population and sleeps on a bunk in a dorm.
Shortly after, we see the institutional squalor of New York City’s enormous jail, and we see the penthouse cell where Freddy (Michael K. Williams of Boardwalk Empire, Hap & Leonard, and most famously as Omar in The Wire) holds court, outfitted with a television and a dozen mobile phones. A former boxer with a reach that extends far past his cell and Riker’s itself—a tattooed prisoner tells Naz that if Freddy “holds up five fingers, five men die in the Bronx!”—we get a quick taste of his power as he’s led from his cell by a female guard for sex. Then, she tells him she can’t do it anymore—they’re giving guards lie detector tests. “You don’t have to keep paying my rent,” she tells him.
Cut to Detective Box coaching the two police who found Andrea Cornish’s savaged corpse. The rookie doesn’t want it on record that he vomited. Box makes him leave it in because, unlike the dead-eyed predators, Nasir Khan “looks like a normal college kid.” The jury won’t believe he did it, and even the crime scene photos might not sway them, but hearing that it made a New York cop lose his lunch, that will help them fight that.
Much of this episode focuses on the fiscal burden of the family of a criminal suspect. Nice guy John Stone offers to defend Naz for fifty grand, after talking himself down from 75. Naz’s parents just stare, deer in the headlights.
The cab is still in evidence. The cop at the impound lot tells Naz’s father and his two partners that the fastest way to get it back is to press charges against Naz for grand theft auto because the city will file a civil forfeiture suit against the cab, since it was used in the commission of a crime. NYC Taxi medallions cost anywhere from half a million to a million dollars, so their livelihoods are at stake. When the cop hands them a lawyer’s card, it’s John Stone’s.
“He’s a precinct crawler,” says Alison Crumb—a high-profile lawyer we meet when she takes the case of a flight attendant who received bad cosmetic surgery in an attempt to keep her job. She sees Naz on television, finds Chandra—a Hindi speaking lawyer in her firm—and heads over to the Khan household to offer to work the case pro bono. Sharks are scenting blood in the water.
For the first press conference on what the papers are calling the “Brownstone Butcher” killing, a reporter asks if the killer is Muslim and immediately follows by asking if he was a member of any “foreign organizations.” They’re winding this up to be a media circus, with references to Jodi Arias, and everyone is getting their popcorn ready.
Freddy's reign and talks of jailhouse justice make jail life feels like fantasy—one where Naz “has already been judged and juried” for killing a young woman. Weak fish who have committed sex crimes are sometimes killed or beaten, but it’s not for justice, it’s for money, face, and power.
But, Stone feels like he’s walked out of the pulps as well—a lawyer who’s plead every case, about to get hitched to the trial of his (and Naz’s) life. This gives us a little bit of the same feel as The Wire, where we saw the ugly inner workings of everything from precincts to ports to schools and gangs and politics, minus characters like Stringer Bell and McNulty, who are based on planet Earth, but a little larger than life. Here we have Stone and Freddy, in their place.
John Stone can’t get no respect. When he meets with the D.A., she gives him nothing, except the business card for a tailor she knows. “Very reasonable. Get something for your trial. Not brown.”
John’s a good guy, but we don’t know how good. When he views the crime scene, there’s a shrine to Andrea outside her brownstone with photos and candles. Stone finds her cat begging by her gate and feeds it. He’s allergic, so he takes the cat to a shelter. “How long you keep them, before, you know?” he asks. Ten days. I have a feeling Stone will have a cat, if not the case, in an episode or two.
Freddy has a guard bring Naz a pair of shoes to wear in the shower. “For traction,” the guard says. The wolves come for him in bed, instead, and Freddy saves him by calling him up for a visit in his cell.
Michael K. Williams plays Freddy with heart. We know he’s got power, but he never seems frightening. Naz is on his guard, but there’s never a predatory vibe there, which makes me wonder why Freddy gives a damn.
He tells Naz that the “Nation of Islam” prisoners he’s been praying with are only doing it because the halal meals are better. And, in a puzzling scene, he shows him a piece of veal he’s received from a guard as a gift, and says: “Know why it feels like silk? Since the day it’s born, they keep it in a dark crate, where it gets fed baby formula while it’s waiting to die.” Like a prisoner in a cell, or to take it deeper, a man born with few choices. He offers his protection. Naz does not answer, but when he returns from Freddy's cell, the other inmates have set his bed on fire.
The fuse has been lit, and the city’s going to explode.
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.