The Night Of Series Finale: “The Call of the Wild” Episode Review

My neighbors Shannon and Natanya agreed with me: what we saw of The Night Of was Naz’s interpretation of events. The show lingered on surveillance footage to remind us to only trust what we see with our own eyes. But, in the end, it didn’t matter. That was not the story.

The story was, once again, crime fiction taking the Dead Girl Trope and using Andrea as a catalyst for a story about how she ruined a young man’s life by getting savagely murdered after luring him with sex and drugs. So, the undertaker Mr. Day was the one who was right in the end.

My disappointment is great. The characters are so strong and the storytelling so deft that I wanted them to dare to veer from the expected. The character we empathize with the least is the victim. While the writers take care not to have Naz’s defense attorneys slut-shame her or paint her as a Jezebel, they don’t have to. That’s the story we’re told. Don’t go home with strange women; they might set you up for murder—or rape and murder.

Perhaps what’s most aggravating is how the fearsome Detective Box follows up on the evidence Chandra and Stone present at trial and finds another suspect this late in the game. We’ve met him before; he’s Andrea’s financial advisor, Ray, who so gleefully pointed Stone at Don Taylor, the personal trainer and widow hunter who will gain a multimillion dollar fortune with Andrea’s death.

True, the police were handed a tailor-made suspect with Nasir Khan, fleeing the scene with a bloody weapon. But, they didn’t subpoena the victim’s phone records? All Box did with the plethora of surveillance footage was trace Naz’s route on the night of the murder, and not the victim’s?

It strained credibility. Maybe the trial was that much of a slam dunk, but once Muslim cabbies were getting beaten and the media circus descended (and evaporated as soon as Alison Crowe left the case), you would think they’d cover themselves just a little bit.

Maybe that’s how the D.A.’s office operates. I’ve read enough stories from The Innocence Project to believe it could happen in some cases, but when one is this high profile, it seems hard to believe. This is a case where a deadlocked jury would not satisfy the public, and the D.A. would not shrug off paneling a second jury so flippantly.

Box is retired, but hunts down Ray Halle at a casino. We learn he was shot in the groin by a pimp after beating a prostitute, giving us the next best guy to hate after violent, sleazy Don Taylor—a rich man who hurts women, who knows the suspect, who has a motive. The cameras show they had a secret relationship, and he either stole from her account or she loaned a hefty amount to him.

This all comes so late in the game that it can’t save Naz. But, it’s completely unnecessary. Between Dwayne Reed—the joke again falls flat—the scary undertaker, and, most importantly, the guy who’s set to gain millions if Andrea is dead, who conceivably has a key to the brownstone or knows how to get in because he once lived there, who had two restraining orders against him from women for violence, who is Taylor-made for Naz’s defense (every time he shows up, I wonder how the hell he wasn’t investigated, after his bloodless reaction to her death), there’s reasonable doubt that Naz was the killer without Ray.

They keep us guessing throughout the hundred-minute running time, long enough for a feature film. Chandra insists on Naz taking the stand, which we all know is suicide for a murder suspect and mostly only happens in fiction. Of course, it sinks him; it’s so bad that Stone returns the cat to the shelter. Really, Stone? You don’t have any clients who can take in a cat? That cat gets more sympathy than Andrea did.

Naz gets his revenge on the other sex when Freddy sends Stone camera footage of Chandra kissing him, which he hopes is enough for a mistrial. It isn’t, but it destroys Chandra’s career and gives Stone the spotlight for the closing statements. The stress brings back his skin condition, so he has to appeal to the jury wearing what looked like Mickey Mouse gloves. And yet, he sways them to deadlock. The prosecution and the police have mucked up a sure case so badly that he is set free and doesn’t even say goodbye to Freddy on his way out.

I kept waiting for something to surprise me as the story dragged on for twenty minutes past the trial. Box and Weiss decide to go after Ray, shrugging off the destruction of Naz’s family with aw shucks grins. Naz goes back to the spot overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge where he shared the beer with Andrea, smoking heroin and reminiscing. Maybe if Mr. Day had told Naz to read Judges 13 on his phone, he might have dumped Andrea home and been selling addies back at school while she was butchered by her ex.

We never learn what happened during Naz’s blackout. We know as much as we did about The Night Of as we did when we watched the first episode. And, that’s fine; it’s the job of a jury to examine the evidence and the probabilities, and they don’t truly know if they set free a killer or sent an innocent to jail. All they know is they judged what was presented, like we have with this story.

There’s enough reasonable doubt, and we don’t know who the killer is. Our choice may reflect our own biases. I’ve seen enough fresh-faced killers to believe Naz was capable, but with Taylor and Ray, maybe they all crept in and stabbed her eleven times each, like on the Orient Express.

I enjoyed the story and can take an ambiguous ending. Although, I wish Andrea had someone who cared about her, so we could too. We saw her on the worst night of her life, after an argument with a boyfriend, looking for companionship in the big lonely city. She deserved to be more than a cautionary tale and to garner at least as much sympathy as her cat received. Were all those flowers at her shrine Facebook likes from people she hardly knew? We met her drug dealer and her financial advisor, who may be her killer. We know her as well as Naz. Plausible, but not satisfying.

I’m not sure The Night Of will be the success HBO has been looking for, but I’d watch a second season about another crime—as long as it’s not about a barely-more-than-anonymous dead girl in the city ruining her maybe-rapist/killer’s life.

See also: The Night Of: “Ordinary Death” 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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